US President Barack Obama’s rhetoric on climate change and the need to act is increasingly smouthered in ethics with a nod to the moral pressure of securing a liveable world for future generations.

I’ve written a piece on this and Obama’s simpler framing of the need to act over on my Planet Oz blog at The Guardian. Basically, it’s just right versus wrong. If you haven’t seen Obama’s recent climate change speech in full, it’s well worth a watch.

Don’t get too carried away with the rhetoric though, which is no substitute for solid policy responses. But here are a couple of excerpts.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future, and they challenged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers.

Some day our children and our children’s children will look us in the eye and they will ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer and more stable world? I want to be able to say yes, we did. Don’t you want that?

One thing that jumped out at me after hearing that bit, was the similarity to a poem by US-based writer Drew Dellinger (we shared a beer once.. actually, we had one each.. but anyway) called Hieroglyphic Stairway. Here’s a bit of it

My great, great, great grandchildren ask me in dreams

What did you do when the planet was plundered?

What did you do when the Earth was unravelling?

Surely you did something when the seasons started failing

As the mammals, reptiles birds were all dying

Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?

What did you do, once you knew?

Incidentally, Dellinger’s work was once quoted by another US Democrat, then Congresswoman for Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin.

Back in 2009 during a congressional hearing, Baldwin offered part of that Dellinger quote above to Al Gore to try and explain some of the moral questions of acting on climate change. Baldwin made history last year as the first openly gay candidate to be elected into the US Senate.

Dellinger Poem in Congress from Drew Dellinger on Vimeo.

PrintShare