David Cook: The deadliest silence

David Cook: The deadliest silence

October 26th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Tennessee's Secretary of State Tré Hargett has a patriotic idea. Before casting your November ballot, log onto a website - govoteTN.com/honor - and enter the name of a veteran, and then go vote in his or her honor.

Sorry, but I think this idea is an insult. Condescending to the challenges our military faces.

Want to honor veterans? Really honor and care for the military? Then stop waging war.

Want to stop waging war? Then start dealing with global climate change.

"Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment," states the 2010 Department of Defense Quadrennial Report.

As the climate continues to unhinge, our military will be called into action to defend and acquire natural resources we've for decades been gorging on like Halloween candy.

But to listen to the presidential debates, you'd think climate change didn't exist. Big Bird? Bayonets? The importance of coal? Yep. Talked about those.

But climate change? The candidates were more silent than mimes.

"Of the roughly 50,000 words spoken in this month's three presidential debates, none were 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'greenhouse gas,'" The Associated Press reported.

It was the first time since 1988 that climate change was not mentioned by candidates nor a moderator in presidential or vice presidential debates -- despite two recent polls that find nearly 70 percent of Americans recognize global warming as real and believe it should be a priority for Washington.

We continue to break weather records -- high temperature, extreme events, droughts, floods -- with each season appearing more unstable than the last.

Bill McKibben, who is becoming the environmental movement's Martin Luther King Jr., estimates that if global carbon emissions continue at the current rate, in 16 years, we'll have set the thermostat to a doomsday course, "which would create a planet straight out of science fiction," he wrote in the July 19 issue of "Rolling Stone."

Sometimes, part of the solution is simple: It's been estimated that between 20 and 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production, specifically highly intensive cattle ranches (don't picture bucolic farms in Dunlap).

The Amazon rain forest is being deforested at an alarming rate, paving down the Earth's lungs for cattle, which are then turned into leather and burgers. The end of the world, with extra cheese and a side order of fries.

"Climate change is for real. What we've been doing as humans has been affecting our climate and I will work diligently to make sure all our regulations address climate change," said Martin Pleasant, the Tennessee Green Party's candidate for U.S. Senate.

Pleasant, a 43-year-old environmental engineer in Knox County with about $3,000 in his campaign budget, wants to establish a new regulatory banking act, develop a comprehensive set of incentives for businesses and homeowners to incorporate energy efficiency, and overhaul our energy system through a New Green Deal. He speaks more knowledgeably about climate change than any local politician I've heard.

"This is a foreign policy [issue] also," he said. "Climate is not confined to our geographic boundaries or political borders."

There is hope. Carbon emissions in the U.S. were at the lowest level since 1992, according to the U.S. Energy Department. And no other country on Earth has cut carbon emissions more than we have in the last six years, said the International Energy Agency.

That's the way we honor veterans, and everyone else.