In another country

For many years the blog always felt a bit of displacement when travelling to and from the US. Even when your travels tend to be limited to the east and west coasts there is no doubt that the US – its politics, culture, gross inequalities, eating habits and social problems – was always a stark contrast to Australia.

Indeed, in the US you are always likely to run across someone such as the person one of the blog’s friends did recently. This American remarked to the blog’s friend, when they found out that the friend came from Ireland, how much he must appreciate the changes in Europe as a result of the US bringing Christianity there after the Second World War. Equally while Obamacare was still making its progress through Congress the blog was assured that if it went ahead the US “would introduce ‘death panels’ just like you have in Australia.”

It was always nice to return to Australia where, for all its faults, the political system was vaguely rational, we had a social welfare system which reduced inequality and some civility was still practised in the country. Equally if the trip also included Canada it was refreshing to see memorials to the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars and to know that you were in a country which had made a serious commitment to international peace-keeping. Now things have changed in both Canada and Australia where the politics are increasingly mimicking the nasty craziness of the US and the bizarre media environment fostered by Fox News and where the US obesity epidemic has become endemic. The Canadian government is following the Australian lead of always wanting to get involved in someone else’s wars and even perhaps plan for one of their own in the Arctic. However, in Canada there is a real chance that our Tony Abbott’s soul mate, Prime Minister Harper, might be defeated as many Canadians express the view that they can no longer be as proud of their country as they once were. The seismic shift in the recent Alberta provincial elections was a manifestation of the risks Harper now faces. In Australia there is also the prospect of Tony Abbott going but probably more because of his ineptness and incompetence than because of the increasing nasty craziness of the Australian version of Tea Party politics.

Nevertheless – despite Australia, and Canada, picking up on some of the worst of US politics and society – it is always re-assuring to know that there is still the best of US politics, culture and society. The blog’s attention was drawn to an indication of that in a recent George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication newsletter flagging of a Climate Nexus blog which said: “A winning position on climate is emerging for Republicans and new pro-climate voices are now emerging on the right.”

The blog argued that “New pro-climate voices are now emerging on the right” and cited conservative businessman Jay Faison’s announcement that he was committing $175 million to persuading conservatives to care about climate change. Faison’s plan is to put a price on carbon while using the proceeds to lower other taxes – an idea which conservatives in Oz abhor.

Climate Nexus said a recent poll from the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future found that two-thirds of Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who campaigns on fighting climate change. Even among Republicans, nearly half say they are more likely to support a candidate committed to taking action on climate. This confirms Centre for Climate Change Communication research the blog has referred to previously. The finding is supported by a poll commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters which suggested that more than half of Republicans under the age of 35 would describe climate change deniers as “ignorant,” “out of touch” or “crazy.”

That view is not, obviously reflected in the thinking of current Republican Presidential contenders with Lindsey Graham, the only GOP presidential candidate to embrace climate action. Climate Nexus cites a Graham interview on Late Night With Seth Meyers  when he said: “Here’s the problem I’ve got with some people in my party: When you ask the scientists what’s going on, why don’t you believe them? If I went to 10 doctors and nine said, ‘Hey, you’re gonna die,’ and one says ‘You’re fine,’ why would I believe the one guy?”

The Republican candidates generally can’t afford such honesty, if only because the average rank and file GOP primary voter is seriously ‘ignorant’, ‘out of touch’ or ‘crazy’ – just as a significant number of Liberal-National Party people, including the Prime Minister and some of his closest advisers, are on this issue.

Nevertheless, if there is hope for America there surely can be hope for Australia and Canada – even if we never had the benefit of US troops bringing Christianity to our shores.