An Act establishing a climate change superfund and promoting polluter responsibility, aka Make Polluters Pay, HD3460 was filed this winter in the Massachusetts House by Representative Steven Owens and the Senate version, SD2366, by Senator Jamie Eldridge. No doubt, the title is a sentiment we can all agree on.
Until now, most polluters have gotten away with murder, figuratively and sometimes literally. Investigative reporting by both the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian prove that Exxon/Mobil has been well aware of the climate risks resulting from their products since the 1980s. What did they do when it became clear that burning fossil fuels endangers life on earth? They created The Global Climate Coalition, whose sole task was to plant doubt about well proven climate science in the minds of politicians and the populace. They were so successful that the company was able to continue drilling, refining, transporting and selling fossil fuels for decades with no respect as to their impacts on a living climate. So, hell yes, make them pay.
However, there are divisions in our climate community about what our action priorities should be. Many advocates take an institutional approach, that only very tough legislation and enforcement worldwide will bring us back to a livable climate. Others say the change must start on the ground, with the populations of industrialized nations changing how we live: Insulating our dwellings, switching off gas heating, installing air source heat pumps, ditching gas stoves and water heaters, pulling out our bicycles or walking to a bus line for transit needs, gardening organically, eating lower on the food chain, and trying to cut plastics out of our shopping list.
This call for sustainable living is often laughed at by the political advocates. They remind us that BP invented “the carbon footprint” so that we would look at our individual actions rather than the political landscape.
What we really need is a new paradigm that includes both of these approaches -- political action and sustainable lifestyle -- and opens a third option for living on earth. We need to create functional societies that ask this question about all our choices and governance: “What is in the long-term best interests of a living earth?” The answers must shape that paradigm.
Indigenous cultures have always known this. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) have lived as if the behaviors and decisions they make must support a sustainable world through the next seven generations.
As we pull the camera’s eye back from our individual lives, our town and state budgets for the fiscal year, and corporate “next quarter” thinking, let us envision and live differently. Let us be activist communities demanding that our political representatives take
significant and immediate action on the climate crisis. Let we, the people, isolate and de-fund banks, investment and insurance companies that support the fossil fuel industry. While we are doing this, let us transform our communities and our lives so they thrive within this new paradigm. Let us honor and live by our impact on the seventh generation.
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