Opinion: Climate Change Omitted from State of the Union

(Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

(Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

By Lauren Sherman, Guest Columnist

Listening to the State of the Union Address given by President Trump, my priorities were different from those of most Americans. I didn’t take intensive notes about his manner of speech or stand by my social media accounts ready to take phrases out of context and wage war among my Facebook friends or to take a stance on the white apparel of many Democratic women; that being said, I can’t blame them – Trump is an easy target, and people love a good debate. Instead, I chose to listen to what he didn’t say. Behind all the absurd tweets and controversial statements that get the public riled up, many real issues are being discarded for sexier news stories of scandal and outrage and walls.

I personally find global warming to be a much hotter topic. Any reader who knows me can predict my direction of concern and may be thinking to themselves, “will she ever shut up about the environment?” No. It disgusts me, among other things, to know that the United States is the only country in the world to reject the Paris Agreement; a country whose history proudly displays scientific advancements, including the moon landing fifty years ago mentioned in the State of the Union by President Trump himself. We, as a country, have so much potential to do good and make strides in implementing climate change solutions. Rather than bragging about oil and natural gas production, we could be boasting about alternative energy sources and our efforts to create jobs in fields of sustainability. Unemployment, food stamps, and healthcare are all vital issues, but when put in the context of a dying world, does the comfort and prosperity of people right now surpass the health and survival of future generations? Will we ever be in a position where it’s convenient to take care of the planet?

It’s naive to believe that this isn’t a human issue. Our country, along with every country of the world, is surrounded by rising waters, devastating coastal communities whose cries for help have been muted in favor of quick-fix issues that prominently display American “success.” Natural disasters demolish cities with such frequency now that no one stops to consider the individual lives ruined, shaken, and sometimes even lost. This isn’t natural, and the disaster extends beyond physical damage. Our government sweeps these tragedies aside, avoiding the root of the problem and denying that climate change even exists. We have done horrific things to the environment – making the air toxic with our chemicals, destroying wildlife populations in droves, and filling the oceans with our own waste. We’re like a kid who cheats on a test, knowing it’s wrong but also desperate for the short-term benefits; we cheat more, it becomes easier.  On paper we may look smart, but we will always be dumb and lazy until we choose hard work over temporary praise. Now is the time to take responsibility for what has been done and begin reversing our deep-rooted bad habits, even if it means putting in effort and surrendering some of the luxuries gained through decades of environmental abuse.

I’m sure most people (myself included) aren’t surprised about the president’s exclusion of this issue from the State of the Union, but we can’t allow it to be forgotten in political discussion. We can’t afford to make this a partisan or taboo topic anymore; if anything is going to be accomplished, it will happen by listening carefully, choosing not to become hysterical, and instead considering that which is not being addressed.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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