Whew! you might be thinking. Glad that’s over. It’s hard to remember a calendar year more dreadful in the United States than 2017, which produced a steady stream of suffering and grief.
The weather, for instance. Hurricanes, floods and record-breaking, wind-driven wildfires.
Hurricane Harvey dumped more rain on Houston than the country’s fourth largest city had ever seen before.
Irma slammed into the Caribbean islands before punishing the oft-abused state of Florida.
Maria wiped out the power infrastructure in Puerto Rico and killed, as recounts eventually revealed, more than 1,000 people.
Meanwhile, the federal government essentially told local communities that we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to making the Earth a safer place to inhabit in the future.
Evidence that climate change raises the risk for severe weather events continued to mount in the scientific community, but President Trump, in one of many gestures aimed at his predecessor’s accomplishments, pulled the U.S. out of participation in an international effort to reduce the pace of global warming and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect the environment.
The year also brought more horror in the form of more than 300 mass shootings, including the nightmare in Las Vegas, when a gunman opened fire from a nearby hotel room window, using guns modified to operate like automatic weapons, and snuffed out 58 lives at a nearby country music concert.
Another madman expressed his anger about how poorly things were going in his life by showing up at a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, slaying 26 worshippers with weapons that he should never have been allowed to possess.
Congress’s Republican majority and the president offered their condolences but continued to insist that nothing should be done about the ease at which just about anyone can acquire deadly weapons in the U.S.
The opioid addiction epidemic continued to wreak havoc on local communities. And a last-minute wound inflicted on the Affordable Care Act (although the threat to eliminate it altogether didn’t pan out) is expected to make it more difficult and costly for low-income families to get health insurance this year.
Again, the responsibility for taking action against threats to human lives is being passed down.
Climate change provides one of the most difficult but important challenges for state and local governments as long as the federal government continues to prioritize private industry profits over the future of the planet and its inhabitants.
Hopefully, 2018 will bring attempts by other states and local governments to follow the lead of California, where efforts are under way to increase renewable electricity production to 50 percent, cut vehicular petroleum use by 50 percent, double electricity conservation in existing buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take other steps to reduce that state’s contributions to global warming.
But meanwhile, Congress and the White House have left future generations of Americans with an environmental cleanup that will be much more difficult than it should be and, thanks to new tax policies enacted in 2017, with a national debt that will complicate anything they might try to accomplish.
Good luck with that, kids. Happy New Year indeed.