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A “State of the Planet” is Needed

Op/Ed  By George Payne –


rnew-george-payne-225x300In President Trump’s first State of the Union address he focused largely on jobs and the economy. In touting what he called a “new American moment,” the president proclaimed, “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” and “We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work; we want every child to be safe in their home at night, and we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love.”

Trump also championed his overhaul of the US tax code, which he signed into law in December. In his words, “Since we passed tax cuts, roughly three million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses many of them thousands of dollars per worker.” (Fact checked by Business Insider, “multiple industries including airlines, telecommunications, consumer electronics companies, and retail, among others have announced one-time payments in response to the new tax law.”)

Trump’s State of the Union was effective. It may even go down as one of his significant accomplishments. But what about the planet as a whole? Shouldn’t the leader of the free world be addressing more than the welfare of individual Americans? Earth is at stake.

Although Trump discussed much that matters to Americans, he said nothing about the planet that all Americans must inhabit and survive on. The president was silent when it came to the real facts that matter in the long run. Tax code tweaks and one-time bonuses will not matter if people have no access to clean drinking water, arable land to farm, forests to retreat to, and animals to companion with. The facts cannot be faked or ignored. Twenty percent of the world consumes 80 percent of the world’s resources. Five thousand people die each day because of dirty drinking water. One billion people are going hungry. Fifty percent of the grain traded around the world goes to cattle feed and bio-fuels. One mammal in four, one bird in eight, and one amphibian in three are threatened with extinction. Three quarters of the fishing grounds are not viable. Two hundred million climate refugees are anticipated by 2050.

We need our American president to speak for the planet. There is too much power invested in this hallowed office to merely shrug off the responsibilities of the world. That is not intelligence, but rather irrelevance; that is not ambition, but instead arrogance. That is not real leadership, but simply risk aversion.

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