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King: Earth should be our No. 1 issue, priority
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What are your core values? You’re going to be asked this a lot as we approach Election Day. Think carefully before you answer. What motivates you? What do you hold dear? What institutions or beliefs are basic to your life and well being?

For most it is family. For many it will be religion. Some say science, others music or art. A lot of people insist the right to live in freedom is basic to everything else, whether that means freedom to drink or own guns, to have an abortion or do whatever they choose with their own property.

As long as none of this happens at someone else’s expense, I’m pretty much of a libertarian about it all, but none of the above are really basic values. Families can be dysfunctional. God and freedom are open to interpretation, but there are things we all share, basic values we all have whether we realize it or not.

We all depend on the earth to sustain us. We need air to breath, water to drink, and food to eat; yet how many people put these things at the top of the list when asked about core values? We simply take the Earth for granted. But we do so at our own peril.

I was talking about the coming election with my son. He is not particularly partisan or even very political, but to him it was all quite simple. He said there is really only one important issue when it comes to electing a leader: The environment.

The climate is changing. The earth is heating up. Drought and wildfires are increasing. When voters say the economy is their No. 1 concern, they forget that the economy depends on the environment.

Over 90 percent of the nation’s corn comes from the Midwest, which according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, is experiencing “extreme drought” conditions. Crops are drying up. Thousands of fish have died in what is “... one of the driest and warmest summers in history.”

According to the National Weather Service “... the constant heat and dryness are spawning the wildfires spreading through Oklahoma.”

Here in Georgia, the Chattahoochee River is on the endangered list. All of this undermines the economy.

If this continues, social structures will begin to break down. Neither political party seems to be doing much to stem the tide. But of the two, at least according to my son, Republicans are the worst. In fact, many Republicans still deny there even is a problem

Until recently, the official Republican line has been there is no global warming, or if there is, it’s a natural cycle of some sort. Man and modern technology have nothing to do with it. When the facts indicate otherwise, many Republicans claim that the science is flawed.

However, the evidence is now overwhelming, and more and more Republicans support “green” technology and believe we need to regulate CO2 emissions. It isn’t that Republicans aren’t doing anything, but protecting the environment is not a basic part of their platform. It is not a core Republican value.

It’s not exactly a core Democratic value, either, but statistically more Democrats believe global warming is a serious problem, that it endangers future generations, and that it must be addressed at the highest level. Democrats, my son says, simply have a better track record when it comes to environmental protection.

Yale University just produced an in-depth report on the politics surrounding global warming. It can be accessed at environment.yale.edu/climate. Politicians from both parties need to look at this. In the end, however, it is the general public who need to understand the problem and become involved.

A safe and sustainable environment needs to be everyone’s core value. We can fight about the other things after we have secured our future. Without clean water, without clean air, without food to nourish our bodies, we simply don’t have a future.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.

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