America is between a rock and a hard place. The choices in the 2016 presidential elections are essentially between two intensely disliked candidates with more warts than you can reasonably expect their spin doctors to erase, and two candidates burdened by the history of Ralph Nader, who is widely believed to have lost Al Gore the 2000 election.
Actual policy has been given short shrift in this sorry election season, at least by the media. But that doesn't mean that voters aren't paying attention.
Amid all the scandals, the week before the election on November 8 has seen the release of no fewer than three documentaries on climate change.
The truth is that in this age of globalisation, "domestic" applies to affairs on the planetary scale. The jobs go where they are cheapest, whether that's China, Brazil or India. The price of oil and coal is determined by global demand. And the policies of all nations make a difference to our largest commons, the atmosphere that makes our planet so beautiful and so hospitable to life as we know it, in contrast to our bare moon which has no atmosphere (speaking both literally and figuratively).
Those policies are set by the people we elect to represent us. Which is why it's so important that everyone who has the right to vote, actually casts that vote.
We all have our priorities: There's the economy to consider, healthcare options, the cost of education, national security. Not many people use climate change as a yard stick by which to measure candidates, but if you think about it, you should. Because climate change has an impact on most of those things that people care about, and that sway their vote. Climate change will make healthcare more expensive. A single hurricane can wreak economic damage in the tens of billions of dollars. In the not too distant future, the upheaval caused by climate displacement will become a real national security issue. Addressing these needs policy on a national scale: they are not things you can influence by changing a light bulb in your living room.
And that is why these documentaries are released on the eve of the 2016 US elections. Which shows you that James Comey, the beleaguered director of the FBI, is not the only one with a sense of timing.
The Doubt Machine: Inside the Koch Brothers' War on Climate Science (30 mins) is a documentary produced by the Real News Network, that sets out to expose how the Koch brothers are working to expand their coal-based empire by manipulating the public's views on climate change. To rub that in: they are trying to tell you and me what to think, and they have been disquietingly successful.
The brothers are also throwing their vast wealth behind political campaigns, in a barely veiled attempt to buy government officials who will be friendly to their business. Nobody has run afoul of EPA regulations more than the companies controlled by the Koch brothers, and they would love to see the EPA crippled, if not dismantled altogether.
Or as the climate scientist Michael Mann says, "They have polluted our public discourse; they have skewed media coverage of climate change; they have paid off politicians."
The documentary is narrated by Emma Thompson, whose voice manages to convey controlled anger even as she goes through the factual narration.
Before The Flood (90 mins) is Leonardo DiCaprio's powerful and deeply personal account of climate change. DiCaprio talks to climate scientists, politicians, even Pope Francis, on his quest to get to the bottom of the causes and effects of climate change, and the solutions. It is a National Geographic release, but you can watch it for free everywhere. Including right here!
Last Sunday also saw the premiere of Years Of Living Dangerously, the second season of James Cameron's acclaimed documentary series, in which celebrities report on specific topics of climate change. You can watch it on the National Geographic channel Wednesdays at 8pm (ET, 7pm central) and through selected online distributors. Here's the trailer:
And while you are waiting for the new episodes to air, you can go through the first season of Years of Living Dangerously. Most good public libraries will have it in their audio-visual collections.
So go ahead: get yourself a cup of tea (or a stiff drink) and watch these.Get informed. Get mad. Get out and vote.
(And please share these movies with your friends).