A few decades back my most significant other (that is to say, my wife) worked as an editor for a small organization called Environmental Action. Wags said it was dedicated to the promotion of physical intimacy in the woods. Actually, it was founded by the individuals who organized the first Earth Day in 1970, and it was best known--to the extent it was known at all--for its "Love Your Mother" T-shirts and poster [left].
As the editors of The Onion would have us believe these days, Mother Earth is feeling scorned and "doesn't know how to make it any clearer [she] wants everybody to leave," as one of its headlines blared a couple of weeks ago. Or as another magazine's blog put it this week, "Let's see: Today, it's a story about rising sea levels. Now, close your eyes, take a few seconds, and try to imagine what word or words could possibly go with such a story.... If 'faster,' 'far faster,' 'fastest,' or 'unprecedented' don't come to mind, then the odds are that you're not actually living on planet Earth in the year 2011."
That's just one sign of Mother Earth's self-professed defenders going into high dudgeon. In this week's Rolling Stone magazine, former vice president and presidential candidate Al Gore delivers an eloquent rant about the current state of climate politics, which he compares to a dirty Tennessee wrestling match. Gore takes President Obama to task for not going to bat for climate legislation and, still more sharply, for never presenting to the American people "the magnitude of the climate conference." He quotes the respected presidency expert Richard Neustadt to the effect that the president's most important single power is the power to persuade and gently rebukes Obama for not exercising that power.
More interesting than any of that, perhaps, is a chart accompanying the Gore article showing how the drought-afflicted Earth of the last decade compares with what a drought-ravaged Earth will look like in the last decade of this century.
A sharper bite may be coming from another Earth steward, Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's former minister of the environment, the former chairperson of the Copenhagen climate conference, and now the European Union's environmental commissioner. She has been defending the EU's controversial new rule governing airline emissions, which will require carriers starting January 1 to participate in Europe's emissions trading scheme. Both China and the United States have taken strong exception and are challenging the rule in European court. China has cancelled an order for Airbus A380 superjumbo jets in retaliation, and the U.S. government has told the EU it does not want its airlines participating in the trading scheme. The EU's leaders take the position that the rule represents European law and have said they will not back down.
At Copenhagen, Hedegaard first faced a rebellion from third-world countries that feared the conference was going to impose mandatory carbon cuts on them and then saw the principle of differential mandatory cuts virtually scuttled because of the combined opposition of China and the United States. (China refused to commit itself to any kind of mandatory limits, and the United States refused to get into step with Kyoto in any way, shape, or form.) At the very end, Hedegaard had to relinquish the chairmanship of the conference to the Danish prime minister.
Scorned, perhaps she is now getting her revenge.