On the Fence

December 19th 2019

by Gary Munkhoff

In these chaotic times of climate change and political upheaval, making simple New Year’s resolutions can hardly be seen as a way to make a difference. I mean really, what power does anyone of us have? Judging from the rapidly rising atmospheric CO2 levels, it’s obvious that most people have decided that it’s easier to sit on the fence rather than take action. 

Fence sitting is nothing new for Americans. During the struggle for independence, historians estimate that between 30% and 45% of the colonists were neither loyalists nor patriots. Fortunately, the Patriots were much more successful at attracting support, and so they won the war of propaganda. Committees of Correspondence (Google this) persuaded many fence-sitters to join the patriot cause. Writings such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” stirred newfound American nationalism. 

A recent Washington Post-Kaiser poll indicated that among Americans: 

  • About 80 percent say human activity is fueling climate change. 
  • About 40 percent say climate change is a “crisis,” which is “up from less than a quarter five years ago,” The Post reported. 
  • About 40 percent say action to combat climate change must come in the next decade to avoid the worst consequences. 
  • About 12 percent believe it’s too late to avoid the disasters of climate change. 

On the whole, the results suggest that an increasing share of Americans recognize climate change as a real and salient problem. If this is so, and if the 80% is anywhere near accurate, then why doesn’t that 80% do something? Why are electric vehicle sales only 2.1% of total sales? Why is only 17% of our electricity generated from renewable sources? Why is only 30% of our waste recycled? Why do we continue to search for more oil? 

Saying we believe in climate change and deciding to do something about it is just too far apart. Too many of us would rather sit on the fence, waiting for someone else (the government? business? anyone?) to take action and fix the problem. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as the CO2 levels continue to rise.

So, we can continue to sit on the fence, or we can all make a New Year’s resolution to do something. Anything. 

If the question “What can I do about it?” is still our reason for fence-sitting, we should look to 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. If she can start a worldwide movement, surely we can make a resolution. 

 To read more of the Winter issue of the Green Living Journal, visit greenlivingpdx.com