Despair, hope, joy—in that order. These were the waves of emotion that barreled over me during the efforts to get the Inflation Reduction Act and its climate-change legislation through the US Congress. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Senator Manchin's initial refusal to sign brought to mind a book I’d read recently: Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, by Roy Scranton. The author predicted that the US government would never cooperate sufficiently to pass meaningful environmental legislation, and then we’d have to accept our fate. But cue the sun breaking through the clouds. They did it!
Actually, given the propensity of profit-driven leaders to consistently take the short view, I still find myself wondering if there's a way it could be hacked to death at the hands of politicians, whose wrangling has become our own brand of tribal warfare. But a friend sent me an article by National Geographic that unequivocally stated that this change is solid.
"In fact, this new legislation is expected to speed the transition to clean technology so much that non-polluting energy—solar, wind, nuclear power, geothermal energy, hydropower—could supply up to 81 percent of the country’s electricity by the end of this decade..."
Of course there's still work to do, but this does indeed feel like a moment to celebrate. For me that might mean I can learn how to sleep without the 2 a.m. startle of existential dread. I can see a beautiful landscape or wild animal and not wonder how long it or its kind has to live. So, starting now, I will let joy rule when I encounter unexpected beauty; such as in the sighting of a fox in the woods, or the opening of a summer blossom—like the small orange cosmos that reseeded and has just bloomed in my garden. Let us all drink in the wonder.
One often reads that governments and corporations have the biggest role to play in managing the climate, and that we individuals have very little impact, but I don't believe it. As we celebrate the passage of this bill we must recognize the role individuals played in this outcome. I do not think Democratic leaders would have hung on so tenaciously if they didn't know voters demanded meaningful action.
In the end, the new legislation is a start, but it still requires our participation. Getting emissions down more than 40 percent by 2030 (from 2005 levels) doesn't mean the battle's won, but it gives us a fighting chance. According to the Scientific American, former Obama White House official Julio Friedman explains it this way:
“This is massive legislation. Effectively, we will now have the technology and the money to act on climate. For the past 20 years, we haven’t had that. Now, we have all the tools we need. The rest is on us.”
In the upcoming weeks I will share more information on how this legislation can help individuals and families upgrade technology and reduce carbon emissions. Until then, what was your experience watching the process? Do you also have a renewed sense of hope? Please share!