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America is facing an environmental crisis that is taking thousands of lives, costing us tens of billions a year, and causing tens of millions of people to attempt to migrate to countries where they believe they can survive.
We are not being helped by the fossil fuel industries whose bottom line and shareholder dividends take precedence over what they might be able to do to help avoid the planet’s diminishing capacity to support millions of people, especially in the global south.
“Many of the largest companies have engaged in massive fraud,” said former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in a harsh rebuke of the fossil fuel industry at the New York Times’ Climate Forward event on September 21. Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, criticized the industry for using their influence to lobby against effective climate action. “The fossil fuel companies, given their record today, are far more effective at capturing politicians than they are at capturing emissions,” he said.
“I was one of many who felt for a long time that the fossil fuel companies, or at least many of them, were sincere in saying that they wanted to be a meaningful part of bringing solutions to this crisis,” Gore said, as The Independent reported. “But I think that it’s now clear they are not. Fossil fuel industry speaks with forked tongue.”
While he acknowledged that it was not fair to expect the industry to solve a crisis its business model encouraged it to perpetuate, “it’s more than fair to ask them to get out of the way and stop blocking the efforts of everybody else to solve this crisis,” he said. “I think it’s time to call them out.”
The last time our country faced an environmental disaster of similar severity, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stepped up and dealt with it, Now the Biden administration is doing the same. On September 20 President Biden rolled out a new American Climate Corps.
In 1933, America was both in the depths of the Great Depression and facing an environmental disaster of national proportions. Sweeping from Texas to Nebraska, the Dust Bowl lifted 1.2 billion tons of soil from over 100 million acres, blowing it as far east as New York City, where it browned out the skies for weeks. The Dust Bowl killed around 7,000 people and left at least 2 million homeless.
The storms also had a cascade effect on U.S. agriculture. Wheat production fell by 36% and maize production plummeted by 48% during those years. On a single day, “Black Sunday” April 14, 1935, an estimated three million tons of topsoil were lost from the Great Plains.
“As best anybody knows,” writes Thom Hartmann in his Substack column, “the main cause of the Dust Bowl was the widespread deforestation of the central United States for cropland, combined with soil-destructive agricultural practices and a widespread drought through much of the 1930s.”
President Roosevelt ended it by starting the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which planted more than three billion trees; built trails and shelters in over 800 parks; planted over 200 million trees in a belt from Bismarck, North Dakota to Amarillo, Texas; and planted seedlings on marginal or abandoned farmlands.
President Biden committed to revisiting the CCC or something like it to deal with today’s climate emergency. On January 27, 2021, he issued an executive order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”
On September 18, Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with 49 colleagues, wrote a public letter encouraging the President to implement his executive order and create a modern-day CCC. In the letter they state “…your Administration can realize the vision of a Civilian Climate Corps that establishes a unified front in the face of climate change – one that looks like America, serves America, and puts good-paying union jobs within reach for more young adults.”
Markey and Ocasio-Cortez, along with 49 colleagues also introduced legislation, the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act of 2023, in both the House and Senate to bring such a program into existence. Over 25 environmental and other groups have endorsed this program.
President Biden has responded by rolling out the new Civilian Climate Corps. Its website American Climate Corps (https://www.whitehouse.gov/climatecorps/) states, “The American Climate Corps will put a new generation of Americans to work conserving our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, advancing environmental justice, deploying clean energy, implementing energy efficient technologies, and tackling climate change. American Climate Corps members will gain the skills necessary to have access to good-paying jobs that are aligned with high-quality employment opportunities after they complete their paid training or service program.”
The program President Biden rolled out through executive action is not as ambitious as the one Markey and Ocasio-Cortez envisioned, but at least it is a start.
John Bos is a regular contributor to Green Energy Times. He writes a regular column entitled “Connecting the Dots” for the Greenfield Recorder. His articles have appeared in the Springfield Republican, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Brattleboro Reformer and other regional newspapers. Comments and questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption: Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay.