Month 4, Day 20: Their Cash, Our Trash

A version of yesterday’s letter, this one to Harry Reid.

Dear Majority Leader Reid,

As financial reform legislation comes to the floor of the Senate, it’s important to recognize that the gutting of America’s economy is deeply and powerfully linked with the destruction of America’s environment. Irresponsible short-term thinking, motivated entirely by considerations of immediate profit, is at the root of both our financial crisis and our climate emergency.

Only a vigorous regulatory regime can keep giant corporate interests from exploiting legislative loopholes to the detriment of our financial and environmental health. Economically and environmentally destructive behavior is rooted in a systemic bias toward short-term economic thinking. As long as it is based on a model of unregulated consumption, our economy will remain unsustainable. Big banks buying and selling incomprehensible credit derivatives; cheap plastic junk that winds up in oceanic garbage patches — this is the face of unrestrained and short-sighted consumption, and it’s profoundly damaging to our country and to the world.

We need our corporations to focus on long-term thinking, something which is currently discouraged by the terms of corporate charters. We only have a little time left to determine whether we will leave our descendants a meaningful future or an exploitative dystopia. To fix the climate, we must transform our economy, making it essential that the largest economic forces in the country give back more to the Earth than they take out.

We can’t afford to lose this one.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 26: I’m Just Semi-Wild About Harry

As promised, a reprise of my note to Nancy Pelosi. Harry Reid has finally roused himself from his stupor of timidity and now appears to be showing a modest amount of spine. Perhaps we should all encourage him.

Dear Senator Reid,

Congratulations on the final passage of the health care bill. It has been a pleasure to see you standing up to the egregious misbehavior of the Senate Republican Caucus. Don’t back down; they deserve a far harsher scolding than you have thus far given them!

But this letter is not about that. I’m writing to urge you to bring similar passion and strength to the passage of meaningful climate legislation in the coming years. The bill that Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham are working on is only a start, and it looks like it’s going to get watered down with extensive giveaways to the world’s biggest polluters. We are going to need much stronger and more robust approaches to the climate crisis in the next few years, or the consequences to our nation and our planet will be unimaginable.

This is a harder sell, I know. Persuading members of an elected body to support legislation that addresses problems which are only beginning to happen is contrary to the usual practice of American politics, which is to wait until things are at crisis point until doing anything. Unfortunately, that won’t work with the Earth’s climate, which doesn’t care about the exigencies of American politics. By the time things are at a crisis point, it will be too late.

For a century we’ve heard from timid politicians and pundits that “it’s not the right time to fix health care.” They’ve been proved wrong by a newly resolute and determined Democratic Party.

We’ve also been hearing that it’s not the right time to address climate change, for there are so many other priorities that occupy our political attention. But it will never be “the right time” to address climate change, because the lag between climate action and climate response is greater than the electoral cycle of a U.S. Senator.

While it may not be “the right time” to tackle the climate crisis — it’s the only time we’ve got. This problem can’t be kicked down the road for a future Congress to handle.

Thank you for all that you have done for our nation.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 28: Senate Action? Really?

So I learned that Harry Reid has told Kerry to get a climate bill to him as soon as possible. That’s good news. On the other hand, Harry Reid has not exactly been an inspirational figure recently. A Harry Reid Action Figure would fall down when you made a face at it.

I wrote him a letter. I hope he reads it.

Dear Senator Reid,

I read a recent report in the Washington Post that noted your strong commitment to passing climate-change legislation as rapidly as possible. I’m glad to hear this. Global climate change is the most pressing threat humanity has ever faced, and America needs to assume the lead in this matter.

I wish to make two points to you about this legislation.

First, we need to recognize that the cap-and-trade system is fundamentally flawed, subject to innumerable sorts of market manipulation and evasion of regulation. A stronger mechanism would be a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which would reduce emissions as well as provide incentives for research and development in alternative energy sources.

Second, it is absolutely crucial that you not give in to Republican demands as the climate bill approaches the floor of the Senate. The long prelude to the Health Care bill is an example of what I mean; over and over it seemed that you and the rest of Democratic leadership capitulated, not to an actual Republican threat, but to the threat that a threat might be forthcoming.

When our party’s Senate leader seems timid and conflict-averse, it demoralizes the people in the Party who have worked the hardest to secure us our current majority. We need Senators who are going to stand up for what is right, and a strong climate bill is both right and necessary. Do what you need to do to get coal-state Democrats on board with this bill. Give them some earmarks! Promise them green-job development funds! Twist some arms!

We need a fighter in this struggle; there is no time to lose, and none to waste.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 15: Prodding Harry Reid

Thought I’d send Harry Reid something. I knew when I first read about him that he would be trouble for the Democratic Party. It seems hard to believe he was once a boxer. Maybe he took too many punches to the head? It’s really unbelievable that he’s the point guy for our party in the Senate.

Dear Majority Leader Reid,

Although as a Massachusetts resident I am not one of your constituents, I am a lifelong Democrat — one who has followed your tenure as Majority Leader with interest and frustration in equal measure.

It was obvious from the start to me that the Republican minority would be utterly and completely focused on obstructing Democratic legislation — and it’s unbelievable that it wasn’t obvious to you and your colleagues in the Senate. The fact that it’s taken many Democrats this long to recognize that the G.O.P. has no intention of cooperating on anything does not reassure me.

Nowhere does this obstructionism have further-reaching consequences than in our unwillingness to tackle a meaningful climate-change bill. With denialism rampant on both sides of the aisle, with Health Care and Jobs initiatives currently on the menu for Democratic delay and Republican blocking — it’s “not the right time” to deal with a climate bill.

Unfortunately the laws of nature pay little heed to the laws of man, and even less heed to the blinkered behavior of U.S. Senators. Regardless of what Fox News’ talking heads may say, a freak snowstorm in Washington is not irrefutable evidence that global warming is a myth. Scientists predict more such extreme weather events as the climate spirals past tipping point after tipping point — but as long as the gap between climate action and climate effect is five or six times longer than the election cycle that rules the life of a U.S. Senator, we can expect change-averse lawmakers to avoid dealing with the issue.

Failure to confront this looming disaster is not just a failure of governance. It is a moral failure, and our grandchildren will not be kind to the 210th Congress. On the other hand, our great-great-great grandchildren will be too busy trying to survive to spend much time assigning blame for the catastrophes we could have averted, but didn’t. And who knows? Maybe James Hansen’s “Venus Syndrome” will come to pass — in which case there will be nobody left to do any blaming.

Mr. Reid, it is time for you to confront Republican obstructionism head-on. They and their collaborators on the Democratic side are playing political games while the largest existential crisis humanity has ever faced is unfolding outside their windows. I know that you are risk-averse and prefer not to seek controversy — but in this case, it’s time to stand up and throw a few punches at those who would trade the lives of our descendants for the promise of a Senatorial sinecure.

Please support Bernie Sanders’ “10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act.” This is an idea whose time has come. And please do something to reform the use of the filibuster. We need to get this done. There is no time to waste.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders