How often does Jon Stewart get choked up by something other than laughter?
Deposed President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives did it to him. Same way he did it to everyone at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Same way he’ll do it to you when you go see the new documentary about him, The Island President.
The movie is only screening in a few places now, but do yourself a favor and watch the Daily Show interview with him. Watch both parts.
The guy is mind-bogglingly humble, incredibly brave, smiling into the teeth of a coup and a climate crisis that is literally drowning the archipelago where he served as the first democratically elected President.
His call for America to be accountable is absolutely irresistible. He’s positive, solution-oriented, and unyielding. Of America’s failure to get a grip on climate reality, he says “Don’t be silly.” This is a seriously nice man.
His words rang in my ears as I read accounts this week of the political wrangling over gas prices during the Congressional recess. We have seen this movie over and over: gas prices spike, politicians point fingers, prices moderate a bit and we all go back to sleep.
This time, Democrats are focusing on speculators as the culprit. Reining in oil market speculation might help a little, but it diverts attention from the fundamental problem. Whether its speculators, rising global demand, Iran, OPEC, Big Oil’s greed, you name it; as long as we’re strung out on the stuff, we’ll be at somebody’s mercy, and we’ll keep taking high gas prices on the chin.
Republicans focus on the market fundamentals of supply and demand, but then they squander their effort on the half of that equation where we have the least leverage: supply. (Of course, they are not really wasting their time. They are doing their paymasters’ bidding as Steve Coll chillingly documents in the New Yorker.) Oil prices are set on world markets and no credible energy expert thinks expanding U.S. production will have a meaningful effect on them. And the idea that this oil is somehow more friendly because we drill it here is naive. I’m not drilling. You’re not drilling. No matter where they poke their holes, it’s Big Oil’s resource, not America’s.
And, of course, even if we could help consumers by expanding oil production, we’d be killing them that much faster with climate disruption. High gas prices tell a vital truth: fossil fuels are too damned costly and dangerous. We’re driving right up to the edge of runaway climate change now, and expanding investment in capital-intenstive fossil fuel infrastructure is, well, stepping on the gas, as the IEA has urgently warned.
Which brings us back to President Nasheed’s plea to end the silliness. Trying to drive down oil prices by expanding production is both ineffectual and wrong. It’s unconscionable that one of America’s great political parties completely rejects climate science. But is it that much better that the other one acknowledges the science and then pursues an “all of the above” energy strategy that essentially eliminates any hope of addressing the problem responsibly? When your country is drowning, you can’t afford that kind of politically calculated intellectual dishonesty.
There isn’t a leader on the planet who speaks to the climate crisis with more moral authority than Mohamed Nasheed. I repeat, do not miss this interview.