I’m writing this from New Delhi, thousands of miles away from the tragically polluted Gulf Coast, and I’m crying. This crisis has felt so far away from me over the past few weeks, as I’m sure the droughts of Andhra Pradesh and the water crises in Karnataka have felt far from people in Washington D.C. for so many years. Last night, someone asked me why the United States was so slow to act when a global crisis was already affecting so many people here. That’s just it — it’s affecting people here. Climate change isn’t affecting Americans in the same way, yet.
But the Gulf Coast oil spill IS. So why don’t they get it? When Barack Obama sent Organizing for America an email this morning, why did he first make me cry with the sadness of the real impact of communities there – the destruction of ecosystems, of livelihoods, of entire communities – and then make me cry with the deep sadness of his misunderstanding of what the real crisis is. The email said, “That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis.” He’s wrong:
I have not seen a real response. I have not seen ambitious energy policy that will remove America from fossil fuels. I have not seen a ban on offshore drilling (which cannot be done without risks, no matter what BP says). I have not seen fierce speed in responding to a leak, nor fire in response to a company which did not plan for a disaster. This same email said, “If laws are inadequate, they will be changed.” All laws are inadequate that do not get the United States towards an clean energy economy and off of our fossil fuel addiction.
However, last night, on World Environment Day, I heard Farooq Abdullah, India’s Minister of New and Renewable Energy, (remind me why the US doesn’t have one?) say very clearly: You’ve seen the crisis in the Gulf Coast, and while it is far away, the same crisis could happen close to us if we continue our dependence on oil. “The time has come that our dependence on fossil fuels must end.”
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made a bold step, committing to 20,000 MW of solar in the next 10 years. Why can’t Obama? As Friedman said really nicely, “Mr. President, this is your time, this is your moment. Seize it. A disaster is an inexcusable thing to waste.” If Manmohan isn’t wasting the oil spill, why is Obama? If Farooq Abdullah gets it, why can’t America?