Summer 2010: Paralyzed

Picture: Getty Images / Julian Finney

This blog has gone dark since the end of June.  Why?  Every morning the heat rose trapping me in a vapor of thick intoxication. When the sun burned high in the sky the humidity coated my skin in a waxy sweat.  The news was no lighter. The every hour on the hour triviality emerging from the 24 hour news cycle bludgeoned my mind like high fever hallucinations. The summer that has seen the first effects of climate change has also been a summer of paralysis.

New York City weather is on track to have been the hottest and most humid summer ever, according to Bloomberg, msnbc, and treehugger .  Climate change appears to be happening, here and now.  Further, the country I have always believed in seems to be crumbling into some kind of molten pit of hypocrisy and hate. The corporation that runs Fox News contributed $1,000,000.00 to the Republican Party. One million dollars and the citizenry, save for a few members of the Democratic National Committee, is unfazed.  The economy is in a dangerous slowdown, either a double-dip recession or one really long one. Did I mention that the world will end in 2012, according to the Mayan calendar?  Yet, the riveting political issues have been terror babies, repealing the 14th amendment and the Muslim cultural center two blocks from ground zero. I like Josh Marshall’s tone here:  “In a dark moment like this when expediency and emotion are carrying the day, I’m thankful that we have a robust and growing political movement which supports a consistent and absolute adherence to the Constitution in all matters, everywhere and at all times.”

The latest poll numbers indicate the population holds President Obama responsible for our soporific summer.  The American people are rejecting the person most scholars consider the USA’s fifteenth best President after not even two years in office. David Plouffe said that Obama doesn’t care. He is not conducting himself in office for the purposes of a campaign. He is trying to live up to the President’s duties, responsibilities and ethical commitments.

As a person who spends most of my professional life analyzing the root cause of behavior I am confident that President Obama is not the real issue here. The issue is climate change.  Let me give you an example of an ordinary human behavior that symbolizes what seems to be transpiring in our collective human psyche.  Have you ever been stuck in an elevator for a really long time?  Or, caught in a traffic jam that transforms a highway into a parking lot?   There is a kind of neurotically anxious insanity that overcomes people when they lose a sense of space. It also happens to all animals when their territory is encroached upon, violated or destroyed.  All living beings require spatial freedom to maintain neurological balance. An awareness of environmental chaos – floods, heat fires, high temperatures – will shorten and restrict spatial and temporal perspectives causing the same type of anxiety and behavioral volatility that occurs among trapped people.

The reddish hue outlining the dusk horizon is a daily reminder of the earth’s shortening life span. We are too many, consuming too much, and transforming too fast. The minutia of technological time and possibility suffocates our thinking process, diverting attention only toward the obsessive interplay of facile communication while we neglect what is really happening around us.  When Sarah Palin’s tweets become newsworthy, it is a sign of a desperate need for distraction. When politicians from around the world decide to weigh-in on a non-mosque near NYC’s ground zero, it is a kind of international road rage.  When conservative Republicans and tea party supporters agree to obstruct the President’s work so that his failure today will become tomorrow’s political victory, it is quite similar to the guy trapped in an elevator who uses up all his oxygen by hyperventilating. 

Of course, there are always those Captain “Sulley” Sullenberger  moments when people think through a situation, make good decisions, and behave according to plan. They end up saving themselves and others.  The world then instantly becomes a better place. I’m wondering what will help people find the “Sulley” within themselves and collectively provide better guidance for our elected leaders to address climate change. There is a new growth economy waiting to be induced. Once we start taking action, it will be a bit like hearing the guys with the wrench outside the elevator door, or finally moving, once again travelling down an open road that leads toward tomorrow while a cool breeze firms our cheeks.

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