20 December 2008

Glory, Glory Halellujah!

I've held off on putting my own response to Obama's election down on virtual paper, mostly because so many other bloggers have been doing the same thing, and one thing we always try to avoid here at Nomadicity is being part of the crowd. Also, with so much being written about it, and so many facets to the political and historical significance of the event, I hesitate to implicitly suggest I have something to say about it that someone else hasn't already said, and said a bit more eloquently than I ever will. And, like many I am of course still holding my breath, unwilling let go of my final doubts that this isn't just yet another sophisticated plot by the capitalists and Washington insiders to create an illusion of change whilst continuing with the status quo. Progressives have noted with concern Obama cabinet choices, such as keeping Gates on in Defence, or his ill-advised appointment of Hilary Clinton to State. Yes, for a guy who ran on a platform of "change," he certainly seems to have surrounded himself with Beltway insiders: from his VP pick, Joe Biden, to Clinton, Gates and Tom Daschle for HHS. But most of his critics seemed to have overlooked many other choices. One traditional voice from the Left that has not is Mother Jones magazine, which devoted this article to cataloguing the numerous progressives that have been appointed to senior positions on the transition team.

But the concept of "change" that we projected onto Obama and his team became truly tangible for me for the first time today, when I read the article in today's New York Times entitled "Obama Appoints Climate Change Experts." With climate change being arguably the single biggest threat to our society (and indeed, our very survival), it should not of course be in the least bit remarkable that Obama has appointed some respected, knowledgable, capable and intelligent experts to be responsible for developing plans and formulating policy to address the problem. But of course it is very remarkable indeed, for the simple reason that for the last eight years, U.S. policy on climate change under Bush has been focussed around, a) pretending it doesn't exist, b) obstructing efforts by others to address the problem, and c) attempting to aggresively and viciously besmirch the reputation of anyone silly enough to note aloud the Emperor's lack of garments.

Many have noted the huge challenges Obama faces – cleaning up a whole range of tangled messes left by Bush and Cheney on everything from civil rights to foreign affairs to national finances. But perhaps no President has ever had it easier – Bush has lowered the bar so far that if Obama simply spent the next eight years ignoring problems – rather than exacerbating them – it would be a huge improvement. But for me at least, his choices for leadership on climate change indicate that even our highest hopes for this Administration have not been misplaced. But beyond the impeccable credentials of the two respected experts – John Holdren of Harvard as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Jane Lubchenco as head of the NOAA that Obama has chosen – for me it was his comments on these appointments that convinced me that we have indeed elected an individual who is truly committed to change:

''From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way,'' Obama said in announcing his selections in his weekly radio address. ''Leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.''''Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology,''

Ten years ago it would have been impossible for me to imagine that simple integrity amongst government scientists would seem so refreshing and different. Yet, thanks to Bush, that's where we are. The Truth is Marching On.

20 December 2008