Click through to read the whole interview from David Marchese. Here’s an excerpt:
Greta Thunberg has become so firmly entrenched as an icon — perhaps the icon — of ecological activism that it’s hard to believe it has been only two years since she first went on school strike to draw attention to the climate crisis. In that short time, Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swede, has become a figure of international standing, able to meet with sympathetic world leaders and rattle the unsympathetic. Her compelling clarity about the scale of the crisis and moral indignation at the inadequate political response have been hugely influential in shifting public opinion. An estimated four million people participated in the September 2019 global climate strikes that she helped inspire. “There’s this false image that I’m an angry, depressed teenager,” says Thunberg, whose rapid rise is the subject of “I Am Greta,” a new documentary on Hulu. “But why would I be depressed when I’m trying to do my best to change things?”
What do you see as the stakes for the U.S. presidential election? Is it a make-or-break ecological choice? We can’t predict what will happen. Maybe if Trump wins that will be the spark that makes people angry enough to start protesting and really demanding things for the climate crisis. I think we can safely say that if Trump wins it would threaten many things. But I’m not saying that Joe Biden is good or his policies are close to being enough. They are not…
I definitely understand that on some level it’s ridiculous to ask a 17-year-old about complicated geopolitical problems, but by the same token, you’re not 10 and you are a leader. Is there an age at which you would consider it reasonable for people to expect that you have ideas about solutions? Right now, I spend I don’t know how much of my time reading and trying to learn, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert. So I choose to hand over that debate to those who know more than I do. I know maybe more about communicating, so that’s what I’m going to stick to, where I can be most helpful. The mainstream communication strategy for the last decades has been positivity and spreading inspiration to motivate people to act. Like: “Things are bad, but we can change. Just switch your light bulb.” You always had to be positive, even though it was false hope. We still need to communicate the positive things, but above that we need to communicate reality. In order to be able to change things we need to understand where we are at. We can’t spread false hope. That’s practically not a very wise thing to do. Also, it’s morally wrong that people are building on false hope. So I’ve tried to communicate the climate crisis as it is.
Firefighters on the march: The Pine Gulch Fire, smoke of which shown here, was started by alighting strike on July 31, 2020, approximately 18 miles north of Grand Junction, Colorado. According to InciWeb, as of August 27 2020, the Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado State history, surpassing Hayman Fire that burned near Colorado Springs in the summer of 2002. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Mangement-Colorado, via InciWeb and National Interagency Fire Center.
East Troublesome Fire October 21, 2020 via Wildfire Today.
Scenes of the CalWood Oct. 17, 2020 (Jivan West/CU Independent)
The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun
Much has been written about the U.S. coronavirus response. Media accounts frequently turn to experts for their insights – commonly, epidemiologists or physicians. Countless surveys have also queried Americans and individuals from around the world about how the pandemic has affected them and their attitudes and opinions.
Yet little is known about the views of a group of people particularly well qualified to render judgment on the U.S.‘s response and offer policy solutions: academic health policy and politics researchers. These researchers, like the two of us, come from a diverse set of disciplines, including public health and public policy. Their research focuses on the intricate linkages between politics, the U.S. health system and health policy. They are trained to combine applied and academic knowledge, take broader views and be fluent across multiple disciplines.
To explore this scholarly community’s opinions and perceptions, we surveyed hundreds of U.S.-based researchers, first in April 2020 and then again in September. Specifically, we asked them about the U.S. COVID-19 response, the upcoming elections and the long-term implications of the pandemic and response for the future of U.S. health policy and the broader political system.
Overall, the results of our survey – with 400 responses, which have been published in full in our recent academic article – paint a picture of a damaged reputation to government institutions. Surveyed scholars also believe the poor government response will shift the politics of health care. At the same time, our findings don’t show strong belief in major policy changes on health.
Parceling out the blame
We first asked respondents how much responsibility various actors bear for the lack of preparedness in the U.S. Here scholars overwhelming assign blame to one source: 93% of respondents blamed President Trump for the overall lack of preparedness “a lot” or “a great deal.” Moreover, 94% in April and 98% in September saw political motivations as the main drivers of the president’s actions.
Notably, perceptions grew significantly more negative for all entities between April and September. This likely reflects frustrations with the continued inability to rein in the spread of the virus.
Effects on the political system and health policy
Respondents also offered a particularly grim view of the long-term implications of the failed coronavirus response for the United States.
Survey after survey has shown that partisanship influences individuals’ perceptions of the coronavirus pandemic. Early research indicates that right-leaning media and presidential communication may have significantly contributed to these discrepancies and increased polarization.
And according to scholars in our study, these stirred-up partisan differences may lead to increases in distrust in government, a lack of faith in political institutions and even further growth in political polarization in the long term.
Overall, scholars were generally skeptical about any major progressive changes like the adoption of universal health care, paid sick leave, or basic income in the aftermath of the pandemic. At the same time, they also do not expect popular conservative changes like the privatization of Medicare or block grant Medicaid, which restricts expenditures from the federal government to states to a set lump sum.
Once more, hyperpartisanship, combined with the cumbersome political process, is seen as the major culprit here.
There is one major exception: adoption of a federal public option, a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers. Here, more than 60% of scholars initially thought that adoption would be somewhat or very likely in the next five years; however, this number dropped to 50% by September. This expectation appears to be driven by the expectation of a Biden presidency.
Two-thirds of respondents expected public health, health infrastructure, and pandemic preparedness to take on more prominent roles going forward. Just under half expected a larger focus on inequalities and inequities. Yet, with major reforms unlikely, scholars are generally skeptical about much progress on the issues.
There is ampleevidence that the U.S. has fared significantly worse than its peers in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
In our view, no matter the outcome of the elections, the impacts of the failed coronavirus response will likely reverberate through the U.S. political system for decades. Much rebuilding will need to be done.
The long-term forecast for Colorado doesn’t look good, but experts say context is necessary
November in Colorado is usually a time for hyping up the winter powder season, speculating on how many snow days students will get and generally looking forward to flaky, fluffy precipitation.
But with almost 25% of the state classified in “exceptional” drought status, as of the latest drought monitor report released Thursday, and little reprieve on the horizon, snow enthusiasts might not want to get their hopes up just yet.
There is a nugget of good news in this week’s report: The snowstorm a couple weeks ago meant the drought status for some of southern Colorado shifted to “severe” from “extreme,” or to “moderate” from “severe.”
Still, Colorado has been completely in drought, to varying degrees, since mid-October. The state has had at least some drought since August of 2019, and this November is starting out worse compared to last year. Lackluster snowfall last winter coupled with this summer’s below-average rain have been some of the main factors…
…the drought monitor report isn’t the end-all document for how the state’s climate is doing. Peter Goble, a service climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center, cautioned against assuming too much from any one weekly report.
This is especially true for November. By fall, the most water-intensive operations of the year — namely, irrigating crops — are finished, and a dry winter won’t have the same detrimental impacts as summer drought. As a result, this month is a sort of “wait and see” season for Colorado, as Goble called it, as it’s still too early to tell what the winter will bring.
The analysis also doesn’t factor in seasonality, especially on regional scales, so future reports may show improvement compared to this week. But the general drought trend — and its long-term impacts, such as dry soils and vegetation — will likely continue until there’s significant precipitation.
Historically, “exceptional” drought — the worst category — is supposed to indicate drought conditions so severe that they occur no more frequently than once every 50 years. The last time a drought was this pervasive across the state was in the summer of 2013, but that was followed by record-breaking floods in September that devastated many communities, especially on the Front Range.
“Of course, that’s not really the way you want to come out of a drought either,” Goble said.
Weather predictions for the next few months in Colorado are not optimistic, to put it lightly — Colorado is forecast to continue its drought-heavy status — but Goble said it’s hard to see much further out than a year. And even forecasts for this winter might not hold true. The region is currently in a La Niña year, and in Colorado, that has tended to correlate with a drier-than-normal winter.
But with climate change making weather patterns more unpredictable, this year may not follow history’s footsteps.
Western Slope voters have overwhelmingly passed a proposal by the Colorado River Water Conservation District to raise property taxes across its 15-county region.
According to preliminary results as of 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, encompassing about 246,245 ballots, about 72% of voters said yes to the measure. Saguache County was the lone county to vote against the measure.
Pitkin County voters passed ballot question 7A with 80% in favor, despite three of five county commissioners and Pitkin County’s representative to the River District board John Ely opposing the measure. Nearly 69% of voters in Mesa County, which has the largest population base in the district, supported the measure.
The River District announced that the measure had received voter approval in a news release at 7:55 p.m. Tuesday, saying the organization is ready to get to work implementing water projects across the district.
River District general manager Andy Mueller said the results prove that water is the one issue that can unite voters in western Colorado.
“It was the one issue that’s not partisan, that was about uniting a very politically diverse region,” he said. “Everybody is so sick of the nasty, divisive, partisan politics. People with (Donald) Trump signs and (Joe) Biden signs voted for the same thing.”
Ballot measure 7A raises property taxes by a half-mill, or an extra $1.90 per year for every $100,000 of residential home value. The measure will raise nearly an additional $5 million annually for the River District, which says it will use the money for fighting to keep water on the Western Slope, protecting water supplies for Western Slope farmers and ranchers, protecting drinking water for Western Slope communities, and protecting fish, wildlife and recreation.
According to numbers provided by the River District, the mill levy will increase to $40.28 from $18.93 annually for Pitkin County’s median home value, which at $1.13 million is the highest in the district. In Eagle County, where the median home value is $660,979, the mill levy will increase to $23.63 from $11.11 annually.
Property owners can expect to see the mill-levy increase on their 2021 tax bill.
The proposal received wide support among county commissioners, agricultural organizations and environmental groups.
Eagle County Commissioner and River District board member Kathy Chandler-Henry, who also served as vice-chair of the political action committee Yes on 7A, said it would have been nearly impossible for the River District to protect Western Slope water without the tax increase.
“I’m glad people throughout the district saw the value in that, even though it’s a tough time to be asking for a tax increase,” she said. “I think that’s a huge win and a huge vote of confidence in the work the River District’s been doing.”
The River District, based in Glenwood Springs and created by the state legislature in 1937 to develop and protect water supplies in western Colorado, spans Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Gunnison, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat, Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale and Saguache counties.
The River District’s fiscal implementation plan for the revenue that would be raised by the tax hike says 86% would go toward funding water projects backed by roundtables and local communities. Those projects would fall into five categories: productive agriculture; infrastructure; healthy rivers; watershed health and water quality; and conservation and efficiency.
This story ran in The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Summit Daily News, the Vail Daily, the Steamboat Pilot and Today and the Sky-Hi News.