It’s time for all of us to collectively kick the cash out of Washington

Kurt Nelson

I was listening to the news the other day, more alarming reports on dramatic changes in our planet’s climate system.

The Arctic is now warming seven times faster than the global average, tipping points are tipping, self-reinforcing feedback loops are strengthening, and there was something about mass migrations.

Then one of the news commentators said, “But you can’t give up hope because the opposite of hope is despair”.

I’d have to agree that despair often results when hopes go astray, but despair and desperation are not the opposite of hope, hopelessness is. I may be splitting hairs here, but it got me thinking a lot about hope, what it is that we are hoping for, and how to go about making those hopes become true.

Hope can be broken down into two general categories, “true hope” and “false hope,” each with a few sub-categories.  Of the two, true hope is easier to recognize, at least once it proves itself to be so.  But “true” is only half of true hope. The other half, the hope, is the driving force that makes it become true (hopefully). The problem is that false hope has hope in it too.  In fact, as hopes go, false hope often has even more hope in it, albeit false, than true hope.

While true hope is based mostly on one thing (things that are true), false hope comes in many different forms and often with significant quantities of “half-truths” in the mix. In fact, the sum of all the of half-truths can actually make up more than the whole, and yet still there is room for all that hope that ends up being false anyway. It’s sort of like hoping for things that are true, but that in truth have very little or no impact on what it is that you are actually hoping for.

One of the reasons false hopes are so popular and prolific is that false hopes always seem to be much more achievable (easy). You’ve probably heard about the guy walking around under a streetlight looking for his car keys, right?  He dropped them in the parking lot across the street but it’s too dark to see anything over there.

Worse yet, false hopes are self-reinforcing and form a very strong bond to those who hope them. We become heavily invested in our hopes, some of which are sold to us at enormous costs and with obscene profits. Add to this a social media network that feeds ravenously on false hopes, multiplies them exponentially and adds in a great soundtrack.

It’s also worth noting the difference between hoping for something that can’t be or can’t happen, and hoping for something that just won’t happen. Things that won’t happen usually don’t because of some insurmountable obstacle that we perceive as standing in the way of that happening, and when we waste our hopes on the false things that can’t happen, there may be very little hope left to make happen those things that seemed like they wouldn’t, but maybe could, and really should.

What can we hope for regarding the climate calamity? Unfortunately, individual actions (reduce, recycle, ride a bike, eat vegan) ain’t going to cut it. Neither is just doing everything we currently do, but doing it with solar, wind and in electric cars. 

It’s a much bigger problem, more like a predicament, systemic to the core, and in need of a rapid and radical response from a fully functional government with all branches on board and focused on the task at hand. Now it sounds even more hopeless, eh?  Maybe even a little despair creeping in?

But there is one superpower that just may help to save the day. It draws on the invisible forces of what is known in the quantum world as similarities.  The forces and failures of hope are the same for climate action as they are for gun control, as well as many of the other important issues facing us today.  But perhaps more importantly, they all share one seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

When young children and their teachers are murdered in their classrooms, we may hope for laws limiting the number of bullets a magazine can hold and that mandate background checks to identify those who are insane and mentally unfit to own a gun. Laws that hopefully will at least curtail the senseless violence.

Not permitting a person who is insane to own an AR-15 with a high-capacity clip seems like a good idea (although Congress might split down the middle isle on what actually constitutes insanity), but how about hoping for a world that is less insane?  As added benefit, in a saner world it would become much easier to identify those who are truly insane, as they would no longer look so much like all the rest of us.

But there is a common obstacle that stands in the way of many things sensible and sane, and it’s the giant pipeline of dollars that flow into our nation’s capital each and every day. With more than 1,200 registered lobbyists working DC, and more than $3.5 billion dollars passing through their hands in 2020 alone, no truly meaningful legislation will be coming out of DC on anything as important as climate change until there is campaign finance reform.

Big money and corporate interests have absconded with our democratic political system, and as long as the money flows, the bullets will fly, the temperature will rise, and we will have a supreme court that, just within the last couple weeks, slashed women’s rights and ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency no longer has the authority to regulate emissions from power plants.

But can we truly hope to get big money out of politics? It would take a miracle.

But, if all the climate activists, and all who oppose senseless gun violence, and all those fighting for women’s rights and all the MADD mothers and Earth First’ers, could all momentarily put aside their individual causes and come together in superpower formation to kick the cash out of Congress, there may be hope.