We are rapidly approaching the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the bloodiest few days in U.S, history. This will be a time of reenactments, strategic studies, and speeches about valour, honor, freedom defended and freedom lost.
There were fifty thousand casualties at Gettysburg. Most of them were young men who had holes shot through them from fairly close range. Most of them probably had little idea of exactly what the reason was for them to put their lives in danger. They were defending their land and their culture. They were brave, irrational and sucked in by peer pressure or fear of punishment for treason.
The underlying cause of that battle, and of the entire U.S. Civil War, had to do with the existence of slavery. Looking back on that, from a perspective of 150 years, there are few few people left, not even Paula Dean, who will defend the enslavement of other humans. It seems very generally accepted that it is inhumane, unjust, and that it should not be done.
But that does not mean that soldiers from the South, the slave owners, and all of the others who went to war, were callous, mean or inhuman. In truth that war, like many that have followed it, was due to changes in economic and energy policies. The Southern states depended upon slavery to keep it's economy profitable. If they had to pay people to built those beautiful houses in Charleston most of them would not have been built. If they had to pay a decent wage to plant and harvest cotton, the price would have been too high for the North, as well as the English and French to want to pay for it.
When almost any society is threatened with a complete loss of their comfortable lifestyle the most common reaction has been to go to war to save it. That's a good part of what caused the American Civil War.
Now, 150 years latter, there is another debate occurring about the U.S. energy policy. There is no threat of war because, at this time, there is no threat that anything is going to change that policy. There is a major threat ( it is already occurring) that if that policy does not change that we are radically altering the living conditions of the planet we live on. There is a large possibility that the number of casualties will be greater than the 800,000 of the Civil War. Due to the violent weather we have had just in the last five years, millions of people have been affected. Many have lost their homes, most of their possessions and their livelihood. Many across America have been injured and many have died in floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and fires or have been affected by some of the worst droughts in history.
Many across the world have been affected by floods and droughts that have ruined economies and resulted in starvation, refugees and wars.
In 150 years, in 2163, when people look back at what is happening today, I think that the lack of action on the energy policy that affects climate change will seem as unacceptable as slavery seems today. But people are defending it now for the same reasons they did then -- there are many people making a good living the way things are. Oil companies, car companies, electric companies, any company that uses a lot of power to do business does not want to pay for the changes that would be necessary if we began to eliminate fossil fuel. Most of us wouldn' t even be able to get to work.
It's very possible that some kind of new technology will save us from these catastrophes, but if that happens it won't be cheap.
But in 150 years, if many cities are under water, or billions of dollars are spend to prevent that from happening, if the weather patterns are consistently more violent than today and huge rains, long droughts and tornadoes become common, people then may be wondering that we were thinking.
We were thinking the same thing that the soldiers in Pickett's Charge were thinking: we are defending our way of life.