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Big Bird has more to worry about than the fate of PBS
October 4, 2012
On Wednesday night, Jim Lehrer moderated a 90 minute presidential debate that included a reference to Big Bird, but no mention of climate change, the environment, or any meaningful discussion of energy. While it is easy to dismiss the debates as one more part of the "silly season" of elections, this is one of the most significant opportunities that our political leaders have to shape our national discourse and educate the broader public. By virtue of not asking a single question or follow-up related to the environment, Lehrer made an implicit statement that those concerns are not important to the decision that Americans will make on November 6th.
Worse, neither Presidential candidate have made those issues key to this campaign. Far from it. Both President Obama and Governor Romney appear to be fighting to see who can endorse "clean coal" the most. To hear their stump speeches, the boom of natural gas is an unqualified success, climate change is a non-issue, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster never happened.
While the absence of any discussion about the environment was bad enough, I was also left wondering about how little time was spent on the upcoming fiscal cliff debate in Congress. There was no meaningful discussion of the Budget Control Act and the choices inherent in those automatic cuts. As both candidates repeatedly described how Americans are struggling, neither addressed the ~54.7 billion dollars that will be cut annually from non-defense spending - much of which provides for essential human needs. That means less food, less health insurance, and less education for those that need it the most and during a time where people have little else to rely on.
One thing I learned from Big Bird growing up was the importance of persistence. Big Bird knew Snuffleupagus was real and a friend despite what most around him were saying. When others finally came around and realized Big Bird was right, I remember celebrating in my Transformers pajamas. While last evening's debate was a step in the wrong direction, this fight is not finished. With your help, we will keep pressing against the inertia that sustains dirty and unsafe energy and I look forward to the day that we can celebrate together too. In Transformers PJs even.