The Planted Row: Time to recognize the problem

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

This week I was prompted to think of times in the past when our country made major changes to our society in order to avert disaster. All the instances I can think of were in response to an immediate threat. Most of the time that threat was a war.

One time, though, was a reaction to a different kind of threat — the Great Depression. In response, the government made sweeping reforms and a costly investment in its own citizens. It pumped money into infrastructure development, and in so doing, it put hungry, destitute people to work.

We called it the New Deal. The plan faced opponents in its day, but it pulled us out of the Great Depression and created a fantastically productive middle class. Some of its programs are still in place today.

The plan had one advantage to help its proponents enact it — the Great Depression was already here, already killing people. If we had a time machine and could warn Americans in 1910 or even 1920 that it was coming, could we convince them to enact the reforms of the New Deal 10 or 20 years in advance so the Great Depression would never happen?

I don’t think so.

The reason is simple. We find ourselves in almost the same position today.

Our scientists are telling us right now that if we don’t make major changes in the next 10 years, climate change will wreak havoc on our society. We’re not talking about a few crazy extremists. We’re talking about 97 percent of publishing climate scientists. (When is the last time 97 percent of any large group agreed on anything?)

The Fourth National Climate Assessment released in November 2018 notes, “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

So we’ve got a little lead time, time to make some changes to avoid the worst of the impending crisis. What are we doing about it? Not a whole heck of a lot.

Enter the Green New Deal — a resolution put forth by Democratic members of Congress to make changes necessary to combat climate change, improve our national infrastructure, improve our quality of life and provide jobs and opportunity for the most at-risk citizens.

It’s a lot like the old New Deal in that way.

You’ve probably heard some scary stories about how the resolution wants to eliminate all cattle. Let me ease your fears a bit. I’ve read the entire Green New Deal, and there’s nothing in there about eliminating cattle. In fact, it says the government should support family farms and work with farmers and ranchers.

All the hand-wringing about cattle comes from an erroneously released, since-rescinded FAQ about the Green New Deal with unfinished language, and even that language admitted that eliminating cattle wouldn’t be possible. So, no one is coming for your cows.

Also, the Green New Deal isn’t really a complete plan of action. It’s more like a statement of the problem and list of goals to address it. That’s important — the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem.

Even if the resolution doesn’t pass, it has achieved one important goal — we’re all talking about it.

And now we have a choice to make. Are we going to make the historically rare decision to recognize an impending threat and act to prevent it before it can cause us serious harm?

Your congressional delegations await your decision.