Of all the issues debated in the 2016 Presidential Race, climate change is of an entirely different class. Most scientists agree climate change is an existential threat with a non-negotiable deadline that is approaching in a matter of years. But what makes it unique is it shares it's urgency with nearly all the other issues on the table.
Climate change promises more refugees, more famine, and less resources to go around. In dealing with it we must grapple with racial, gender and economic inequality, immigration, and corruption because the most vulnerable, underprivileged, and exploited will be the first to pay for our unsustainable way of life.
For what this might look like domestically, look no further than the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to see what happens and who is sacrificed when resources are limited and the earth becomes too toxic to be habitable.
Pragmatism versus Idealism
Detractors of Bernie Sanders, and the views he's come to represent in the Democratic race, claim he is too idealistic. His severe criticism of the status quo will block him from being able to work with Congress to actually push progressive ideas forward. The establishment media frames his rise, along with Trump's, as the result of a nation that has grown weary of the establishment. They acknowledge the anger (because they must), but write off Sanders as a knee-jerk reaction, not the pragmatic choice.
Their assessment is based on what is politically feasible in Washington. But a different sort of pragmatism emerges when we consider what is feasible for the planet as a whole.
Given that the international community has come to agree that the planet's average temperature cannot rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius if we want to avoid catastrophe, which means we only have 17 years to switch to 100% renewable energy, it is not pragmatic to hesitate on blocking oil drilling in North America.
Given Exxon Mobile and other oil companies covered up their own research proving that fossil fuel causes global warming, it is not pragmatic to negotiate with politicians who deny climate change.
Given how much money the fossil fuel industry gives to climate denying politicians, it is not pragmatic to not take on big money in politics.
Bernie has proven to be the most uncompromising advocate for all of these points. But without compromising, how can he make the establishment change?
This is where we come in. We must put pressure on Washington from the outside. We must realign what's politically feasible in the Capitol to be in sync with what's feasible for all of us. After all, that's what democracy is supposed to be about. This is the most important part. If Bernie looses the election, it will be a tough setback. But if we loose the heart to fight and give into cynicism, Washington will not change, but the world will, for the worse.
A Knee-jerk Reaction
Among the difficult decisions facing the world, climate change is by far the most imminent and most existential. Humanity must act with the decisiveness of a single being. She is marching into a boiling sea. When we see the devastating floods of Chennai, the literally drowning country of The Maldives, and the chaotic weather patterns we've seen in America, that is her feet burning. The government of the United States, the most powerful nation on earth, sits at the head (even though, sometimes, it lacks a brain) controlling the direction the species moves.
We, as ordinary Americans, are gifted with the opportunity to influence the key decision makers of not just our nation, but the entire globe. Humanity's redirection cannot wait on negotiating with a few powerful interests that stand to loose from change. The time for that has passed. Our actions must be swift. They must be radical. To some, they might even seem like a knee-jerk reaction.