When I was a kid, I used to bike to Grant’s cottage once in awhile. The cottage, where General Grant finished his memoirs, was a long climb up Mount McGregor in Wilton, NY on my single-geared bike. A kindly curator would guide me through the cottage—the chairs placed together so Grant could sleep while being devoured by throat cancer, the clock on the mantle stopped at his death, and the funeral wreaths all about. At ten, I didn’t really know who Grant was, except that he was an exceptional general and a so-so president.
What I have come to learn over the years is the incredible tenacity that was Grant. Though he did not do well at West Point—both Robert E. Lee and General George McClellan were at the top of their class—he turned out to be the winning general in the US Civil War. Grant knew two things that most of the other generals did not, on either side of the war. He knew that it was more important to destroy the opposing side’s ability to wage war than it was to conqueror a place—like Richmond. He also knew that the North had more men and more materiel than the South and continued to press a battle when many other generals would have given up. Mary Lincoln, the president’s wife, used to call Grant “The Butcher” because of the horrible causalities his strategy inflicted on both sides.
I mention all this about Grant’s tenacity to make a point about fighting Climate Change. Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change looks hopeless. The fossil fuel industry, drunk with more money and US tax subsidies than any of the environmentalists opposing them can even dream of, appears on a juggernaut to get their man elected. Fracking is going to be rammed down New York State’s throat and the oil industry is set to drill for more fossil fuel in the Arctic that they helped warm. Mainstream media won’t connect the dots between Climate Change and the predictions made from a litany of expert Climate Change studies. A visage of a world dominated by extreme weather, drought, and incalculable suffering for those incapable of gating their communities against what’s coming looks inevitable. (To get an idea of what’s coming, read 2052 A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, and any one of these studies: Climate Change studies).
But what Grant had going for him was a realistic appraisal of the war’s probable outcome—what most other generals in the Civil War failed to grasp. So also do those who understand that despite the wealth of Climate Change deniers and the public’s disinclination to take responsibility for this manmade phenomenon, there can be no backing off in our efforts to inform the public and stop Climate Change. As more and more people, businesses, and governments realize that things are only getting worse doing business as usual, they will not be supporting those who told them Climate Change is a hoax. Their lies and denials will fall away as the predictions of a warmer planet become more obvious. It will be the efforts of those who have continued to warn about Climate Change, despite all those who became bored, hoodwinked by the press and lied to by the fossil fuel industry, who will prevail. Don’t give up, never surrender to the feeling that our efforts to change the direction of Climate Change are in vain.
Grant wasn’t a brilliant man, but a man who could hold to his objectives despite all odds. Unconditional Surrender Grant, as he was sometimes called, moved inexorably towards his goal of defeating the South because he knew the nature of war. The nature of Climate Change is such that no amount of money spent on making some individuals richer will defeat the reality we are headed for. Only a great change in collective human behavior will change that.
One way to make that change is to make sure our presidential elections don’t ignore Climate Change:
SIGN OUR PETITION TO ASK OBAMA AND ROMNEY AT THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: "HOW DO YOU PLAN TO ADDRESS THE CLIMATE CRISIS?" Put Climate Change on the Agenda in the First Presidential Debate: Dear Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer, In your role as moderator of the first presidential debate, you have the opportunity to ask questions about the most pressing issues facing our country. We urge you to ask President Obama and Governor Romney how they will confront the greatest challenge of our generation -- climate change. This summer, the climate crisis has fallen right into America's front yards--in some cases literally. With trees crashing through their windows, fires burning through their neighborhoods, water flooding under their doorsteps, and droughts destroying their crops, Americans have been hurting from the effects of weather extremes that climate scientists have predicted would happen as a result of global warming. " - League of Conservation Voters