The cheese stands alone
November 28, 2017
"The farmer in the dell. The farmer in the dell. Hi-ho, the derry-o, the farmer in the dell… The cheese stands alone. The cheese stands alone. Hi-ho, the derry-o, the cheese stands alone."
Many of us played this singing game when we were children. The basic idea is that everyone stands in a circle, holding hands, while one person in the center, the farmer, takes a wife, who then takes a child, and so on. The last character is the cheese, and at the end, the cheese is alone in the center of the circle, while everyone else is united holding hands.
The United States is now in the position of becoming the cheese. For those who may not know, in 2015 every country in the world except two signed an agreement called the Paris Climate Accords – Nicaragua, because the standards weren't strict enough, and Syria, because it's in the middle of a civil war.
The Paris Accords are an international agreement to fight global warming. The voluntary standards were carefully crafted and reviewed by scientists from all over the world. Each country sets its own goals and target dates, and creates its own plan on how to reach those goals. For whatever reason, President Donald Trump decided that international cooperation was not in the best interests of the U.S., and he started the process of pulling us out of the Accords.
Several months ago, Nicaragua signed on to the Accords. Syria has now signed on. And who is left standing alone? The United States. If Trump succeeds, we will be the only country in the world not working to fight global warming.
All the signatories to the Accords know we have to work together to alleviate the catastrophic effects of global warming. We've seen these effects in America in the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf Coast and in the unprecedented wildfires in the West. The number of climate catastrophes is increasing all over the world. One country alone can't stop these disasters. We have to unite.
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We know what can be accomplished when countries work together. For example, diseases that used to kill millions are being conquered. Smallpox has been eradicated. Polio is almost eliminated. Malaria is being defeated, as is diphtheria, whooping cough, and other deadly diseases. No country could have done any of this alone. It took many countries, working together, to make these advances and save lives.
In order to eradicate a disease, doctors and scientists don't just treat the symptoms. They work to find the cause of the disease and then find the cure. When I was young, polio was still a virulent disease that took many lives. My mother's best friend died from it when I was a toddler.
In 1953, the Salk vaccine against polio was successfully tested; vaccinations began in 1954-55. Today, all babies are vaccinated, and polio is virtually non-existent in the world. Parents no longer have to fear their children going to the public swimming pool or playing in the public park in the summer. Older folks know what I mean. Younger people probably have no idea what I'm talking about, and that is a victory in itself.
If doctors had just worked on treating the symptoms of polio, it would still be a dread disease taking lives and crippling thousands of children. Instead, scientists worked on finding the cause and attacking the disease there. In the same way, countries have to work together to find the causes of global warming and mitigate the effects of climate change, which are very real. This should not be a political issue, any more than curing polio was a political issue. This is a survival issue.
Climate change is happening. America won't be safe just because we pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords. Our suffering will be real. Fortunately, many state and local governments in the U.S. are creating their own standards, based on the Accords. They are working to reverse the damage we have done to our world. It would be more effective if we worked together as a country, but it's better than nothing.
Instead of making America great again, Trump is making America irrelevant globally, not only in climate issues, but in trade deals and international security. We are throwing away the world leadership we've held for over 70 years and becoming a laughingstock to the world. An isolated America is a weak America. As a person who loves my country, I find this immeasurably sad.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.