Recently I sent a letter to several Wyoming state legislators begging them to take a few small steps toward combating the global climate disaster.
One sent me the following response, from which not one word has been omitted: “Susie, Thanks for forwarding me the letter. I do actually care, but realistically there is not an opportunity in Wyoming to take any kind of action related to global warming. Regretfully yours, ...”
That hurt me deeply, not because it was terse and dismissive but because it means that this person has given up.
He truly believes that he has not a single colleague in Wyoming’s Legislature he can work with on the only long-term threat to our very existence. He truly believes that no elected official in Wyoming and, by extension, no single member of the Republican Party, has any interest in providing the children of today with a habitable planet.
He believes that no rancher in Wyoming is interested in saving life as we know it while also raising twice as much stock on the same acreage; that none of the over 50 Bondurant families who lost their homes last summer is interested in forestry practices that will reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and minimize deadly forest fires; that none of the farmers and fishermen of this and neighboring states would like to preserve the fresh water that flows from Wyoming’s glaciers and snow fields; that no entrepreneur would like to profit by Wyoming’s abundant sources of renewable energy; and that no Wyoming worker would like a job building dams, installing solar panels, refitting buildings, selling electric cars, improving roads or even herding cows and protecting trees.
And he believes that no Wyoming legislator would like to provide this prosperity to Wyoming’s people.
He believes that every single member of the Republican Party, every executive in the extractive industry and the vast majority of Wyoming’s voters would literally rather kill their own descendants than simply not kill them.
Studies suggest that every time we even just talk about the dangers of and solutions to the climate crisis we are helping to solve the problem, yet this legislator says he won’t even try to talk to the very people who can make the most difference.
I’m 35. We’ve had longer than I’ve been alive to solve this problem through relying on plain human decency and Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand,” while letting companies make humanity itself pay for their “externalities,” propagandists spread lies and the people wallow in ignorance. It’s time to try a little legislation.
I don’t know what you need to hear to make you start acting.
I can scare you: Global warming does not mean just hot summers and snowy winters and flooded coastal cities. Global warming means a catastrophic shift in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere to something that cannot be breathed by most known life.
I can shame you: Children like Greta Thunberg are walking out of school by the thousands begging the adults of today to ensure that they have that most basic right: the right to live.
I can educate you: Ninety-seven percent of climate experts believe we have 10 years to begin a net reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gases before we fall off the precipice and start irreversibly hurtling toward a mass extinction on a scale unseen for more than 250 million years — extinction that our own species cannot survive.
I can give you hope: Right now, today, we have all the technology and knowledge that we need to reverse global temperature rise and prevent the end not just of this country but of human civilization and even life itself.
Survival is not something that only one political party can care about. Loving our children and grandchildren is not something only members of one political party can do. Wanting a good life is not determined by party affiliation.
Can we truly find no common ground on this, an issue that affects every single human being on the planet, as well as every animal and every plant?
Can I appeal to your love of dogs? Flowers? Gourmet food? Sports? Sex? Sudoku?
The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today, minuscule as they sound, are already affecting us. Food is less nutritious because plant tissues have a higher sugar-to-protein ratio, water — from rain to the oceans — is more acidic, and even our own brains are processing information up to 10 percent slower than they would have 300 years ago.
Perhaps the legislator is correct, and humanity is already too stupid to save itself, especially here in our state. After all, most of Wyoming is significantly above sea level, and temperatures are rising here faster than at lower elevations.
Or maybe this is something we actually can all agree on.