Beyond the Bubble – US Election Special

by jacobbhunter

Soap Bubble with Sky by Brocken Inaglory

Image by Brocken Inaglory, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

President Obama, Victory Speech, November 2012

Time seems to move fast these days, and already the US election has almost fallen off the news agenda, but it’s important to reflect on what Obama’s re-election means for global environmental challenges.

The USA is second only to China in the amount of carbon it emits (figures), indeed, as a nation they emit more CO2 than all the states of the European Union combined. As one of the world’s great powers they also have the potential to lead the rest of the world to a sustainable future, if they chose to do so. It’s therefore easy to see how the views of the President matter to the world. There is a lifetime’s worth of information on the candidates’ views on the environment and obviously I can only include a few below.

If you’re interested in making a comparison between the Obama and Romney positions on environmental issues there are a number of pre-election sources including a UK perspective which concludes that while both candidates appreciate climate-change is an issue, Obama is probably somewhat less keen on hydrocarbons-as-usual.

Perhaps the most interesting comparative piece I’ve seen is of the candidates’ answers to 14 science questions aggregated from scientists and citizens. Question 2 is about climate change and question 6 discusses energy policy. Obama’s answers are mercifully short, and well worth a read. There are also questions about food and biosecurity.

President Obama Returns to the White House after a Burger Run

Generally, the post-election consensus seems positive, USA Today for example has a few reflections, as does the ‘Environment News Service’  though the Guardian is more balanced in its analysis.

Whatever the candidates’ positions on environmental policy were, it seems sadly likely that they weren’t the first thing on many voters’ minds going to the polls with this survey demonstrating that, for their sample of voters, environmental policy was the least important of ten policy areas. That climate change was not mentioned in the presidential debates cannot have helped matters and is a worrying sign that economic concerns have distracted from other important issues still, at least Al Gore is pushing for it to be foremost in the agenda.

After all that text it’s only fair that I share a few videos and a podcast!

Anyone who attended the seminar today (Tuesday 13/11) will have heard John Burton make reference to our changing approach to nature over the last 50 years. In particular he mentioned the work of The World Land Trust patron, Sir David Attenborough. In the UK Attenborough has achieved ‘national treasure’ status for his decades of wildlife documentary making, and rightly so, but of course with a career so long committed to film he’s also inadvertently documented our changing approach to nature, and to some extent, habitat change and loss. There’s an excellent collection of some of the early work here and much of the more recent material is on YouTube, including the amazing Lyrebird which is an environmental story in itself.

My job for this week is finding a good, regular environment podcast. Today’s suggestion – at the risk of being a bit BBC-centric – is ‘Costing the Earth’. Scrolling through the available episodes I see several that are of relevance to our current classes, including one on salmon farming and several on various energy forms. If you’ve any better or alternative suggestions please do leave a comment!