Not so long ago, we listened to the decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court with the hope that the Court’s decisions would reflect justice for all and a jurisprudence that was imbued with compassion and concern for the common good.
That hope now seems misplaced, if not quaint, in light of last week’s Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency. Bowing to political interests who are beholden to the support of the fossil fuel industry, by making the decision retrograde, the court abrogated any semblance of even-handedness in the fight against climate change.
The court’s decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency restricts the power of the EPA and other government agencies to limit carbon emissions in a “generational manner” unless Congress explicitly votes to support such action. This means congressional action is now needed to undo what the Supreme Court has done and to restore the government’s authority to enact and enforce regulations designed to reduce carbon emissions.
Even though the EPA hasn’t done all it can to reduce carbon emissions, as demanded by the Obama-era clean energy plan, the court ruling still represents a paradigm shift in reducing the efficiency and power of government in the future. its fight against climate change.
This and other recent Supreme Court decisions highlight a point that has become increasingly clear of late: the burden of being good environmental stewards and caring for the most vulnerable members of our society is increasingly incumbent upon each individual, household, community and state. Never in our lifetime has the well-being of the nation rested so heavily, and so palpably, on our collective shoulders.
The overarching existential question that each of us must now answer is found in the oft-quoted call to action that President John F. Kennedy shared during his inaugural address in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do. for your country. Although Kennedy’s call to action was meant to inspire a sense of national commitment, rather than highlight the US government’s failure to live up to its obligations to its citizens and the planet, it is eerily prescient. in light of the current situation in our country.
The Earth will soon cross the Rubicon beyond which there is no turning back in the progression of climate change. At this critical moment in the planet’s history, We the people are the bulwark against rapid global warming. We now represent the last and best hope in our fight against climate change. The existential question we face is: what are we going to do about it?
Michael Caduto is the founder of Programs for Environmental Awareness & Cultural Exchange, executive director of Sustainable Woodstock and lives in Reading.