Political tribalism has divided our country, and arguably it will take a crisis approaching 9/11 dimensions to restore some semblance of national unity.
There is a prime candidate for this unification mission, and it is the environmental threat to Planet Earth. The threat is most conspicuously manifested by the increasing intensity of climate change from sea levels to record-breaking heatwaves.
Climate change’s extreme weather events are equal opportunity scourges to society, regardless of political persuasions or economic status. Consequently, climate change’s scope creates the potential for a shared mitigating response (e.g. rationing energy use). Mutual sacrifice can instill a sense of camaraderie that can foster understanding, and sometimes agreement, concerning pressing issues of the day.
Many examples exist of environmental considerations (abetted by economic benefits) already narrowing the partisan divide. In Georgia, environmentalists in the Sierra Club Chapter teamed with the right-wing Tea Party to oppose legislative efforts that would have discouraged the spread of solar energy. The pragmatic attraction of harvesting the sun’s power transcended political differences.
Public health concerns have prompted organized labor and the environmental movement to form alliances. It is a trend that has foiled corporate America, which originally sought to divide the two parties by falsely maintaining that the “Greens” cared more about butterflies than people.
Speaking of Corporate America, an increasing number of its members have begun collaborating with environmentalists. They have done so not out of ecological fidelity but for economic salvation. Adaptation to the increasingly unruly elements is the anticipatory order of the day.
Concern about climate change shows signs of uniting disparate demographic segments of American society. The largest cohort closing ranks involves gender. Polls reveal that women of all political persuasions and economic strata are more likely to display concern about climate change and what to do about it than men.
The venerable shibboleth that women, because of child-bearing, instinctively feel closer to nature than males may just have some merit.
School curricula that educate students on the environmental threat from human-exacerbated climate change and ways to combat it cultivate a common frame of reference in the next generation. The courses lay the groundwork for a more tolerant if not harmonious relationship among the populace in their adult years.
It is a shame that it takes being backed against a wall to arouse a national esprit de corps, but that is the nature of the human animal.