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The Fierce Urgency of Later

September 24, 2019

Jumping off of this Streetsblog editorial about the mayor’s response, or lack thereof, to the urgency of climate change, I wanted to add a few thoughts.

De Blasio obviously thinks Greta Thunberg is talking to Trump and other people who don’t “believe” in climate change, but she’s really talking to politicians like him. This is what she said:

“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am I do not want to believe that because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”

You say you hear us and understand the urgency. This couldn’t be more clear. Thunberg aimed her speech squarely at the otherwise good people who probably identify as liberals and progressives, not the radical Republicans who are very much a lost cause. What many allegedly progressive politicians like de Blasio don’t understand is that our children and grandchildren will judge all of us, not just defiant conservatives, solely by what we did or didn’t do to fight for their future. (And ours. Climate change is killing people now.) That’s it. No one is going to erect statues to you for instituting universal pre-K in a city or on a planet that’s uninhabitable. That a term-limited, lame-duck mayor with no hope of holding higher office can’t be bolder in the face of environmental collapse and a drastic remaking of human civilization is beyond pathetic. It’s a crime against the planet.

I know, I know. Another post blasting the mayor. I get it. I’m a tough critic of de Blasio because he runs the city in which I live, a place where I’d like spend the remainder of mine and my children’s years, a prospect that seems far less likely with each new report from the IPCC. I can’t do much about Trump, Republican Senators, or oil company executives from my perch in Brooklyn, but I can press my mayor and local elected officials to do more, much more, than what they are doing now. Plus, New York is practically a nation unto itself, with one of the world’s largest economies and a population only slightly smaller than Greta Thunberg’s native Sweden. Our city, and the people who lead it, have a moral duty to rise to the level of their rhetoric and tackle this problem directly.

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