It is 2017 and the newly elected President of the United States of America is apologizing to the world for its contribution to environmental injustices at home and globally. Could this happen? Should it happen?
There is a long list of historic environmental injustices that the nation has inflicted upon its own peoples and cultures, and globally. Environmental racism, where environmental laws, policies and practices have differentially affected individuals, groups of communities based on race or colour, the watered down approach of American companies towards corporate social responsibility, and its significant contribution towards climate change all form part of a shameful record.
At home, over the last few decades, the nation has experienced unprecedented extreme weather conditions – droughts, floods, hurricanes. It doesn’t take much to see the strain on the faces of citizens who are having to move from their communities and sell their businesses. For some, the sense of helplessness is too much to bear. Do we really know the consequences for the nation on the mental health of its citizens?
The United States of America is a proud nation. A courageous nation. But it must be honest with itself. Its future must be based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. The damaging and dangerous notions, fantasies and myths of American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny that continue to influence political ideology must be confined to history.
The nation can look to its former Presidents for good examples of environmental leadership. It was Theodore Roosevelt who recognized that the environment had a direct connection to democratic ideals and that the conservation of natural resources was a duty we owe to our children and our children’s children.
Patriotism demands embracing a sense of belonging to a community and showing an allegiance through meeting its moral obligation to make amends for a nation’s past wrongs. Only by willingly acknowledging its responsibility for discharging its moral obligations to apologize can the nation take pride in itself, restore and maintain its dignity and self-esteem.
The nation’s courage must no diminish. This is not the time for soft mindedness. Through investing in, and redefining its spiritual and moral values, the nation can find new ways to communicate with the peoples of the world, to be better understood, and to right the wrongs of the past.