COMMENTARY By Rick Gray I couldn’t possibly catch my old readers up on over a year of my life, so if you’ll permit me,...


By Rick Gray

Rick Gray

I couldn’t possibly catch my old readers up on over a year of my life, so if you’ll permit me, I’ll narrow it down to the first nine days of March, which I might call “Training Days.”

On March 1, I flew to Denver, where I joined a thousand other volunteers from 32 countries for three days of training by Al Gore and his Climate Reality team. As soon as we “graduated,” I caught a red-eye to West Palm Beach to see my St. Louis Cardinals play three spring training games.

A bucket list thing.

Then, finally, home – after nine crowded days and far too many airports.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to spring training, but it’s a lot of fun. Gorgeous weather. Good baseball. Not much tension. After all, the players are just getting into shape. A starter’s pitch count might go to 50. If there’s a tie after nine innings, it’s a tie.

I got to see three of the Cards’ top starters – Wainwright, Wacha, and Lynn – on consecutive days. They all looked sharp. Every game furnished at least one homer and one nifty double play. The Cards looked good enough to give the Cubs – as well as the Bucs, Reds, and Brew Crew – all they can handle this year.

Strangely, though, temperatures in Florida averaged only about five degrees warmer than those in Denver earlier that week. I’d packed for two different climates, but it didn’t prove necessary.

Which gets to the point of my time in Denver. Our planet is changing. Weather is getting weirder every year. It’s time we all acknowledged that we have a problem and that it’s our doing.
I understand the problem with this realization. Thus far, in America, climate change has been a partisan issue. Democrats acknowledge it and occasionally talk about it, though they really haven’t done much to address it. Republicans – those in office anyway – still question it, or even deny it.

In view of the scientific evidence, both Republican denial and Democratic incrementalism have become downright irresponsible.
To say nothing of the ruinous policies of the president, who – in his arrogance and blindness – is forfeiting America’s traditional role of leadership in order to gratify some dying industries and his billionaire buddies.

But here we are. For 75 years, the U.S. has led the world in meeting every great threat – Hitler, Japanese and Soviet expansionism, the hole in the ozone layer. Just as we’ve led in exploring every new frontier – space, hi-tech, the human genome, even rock ‘n’ roll.

Now, it seems, we’ve decided to forfeit that leadership. Our national paralysis – a product of two-party deadlock – seems destined to deprive us of global leadership on the greatest issue of this century.

Other countries, such as Germany, are fully prepared to step into the void. When America fails to lead, someone else will.

To be sure, a number of states – and many of our great cities – are doing their best to supply the leadership our national government has failed to provide. Within the federal government, the military and intelligence agencies are developing plans to address the predictable consequences of climate change. To ignore the security aspects of the problem would be treason.

But there’s no substitute for presidential leadership on an issue of such global importance. And that ain’t happening.
Climate change is, to be sure, only the most urgent area in which our present administration is failing to lead. President Trump is the least informed occupant of the White House since Warren G. Harding – the president who gave away the position of global leadership which Woodrow Wilson had won by defeating the Germans, negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, and founding the League of Nations.
History tends to repeat itself.

Still, it’s dismaying to think that, for the first time since I was born (under President Truman), the President of the United States simply cannot be considered the “Leader of the Free World.”

Vladimir Putin might find him useful, but what free nation regards Donald Trump with respect?

It’s hard to know who will fall heir to the title “Leader of the Free World.” Perhaps Angela Merkel. Perhaps Pope Francis. If Theresa May pulls off Brexit, she might stake a claim.

But it isn’t our president. When every advanced nation except the United States (and Australia) recognizes the threat of global climate change, a president who calls climate change “a hoax” has made himself and the nation he leads irrelevant.

Before I flew out to Denver, I was a lot more worried about this than I am now. What Mr. Gore showed us was that, while the threat is grave, many thoughtful people are addressing it. Even the business world is coming around. Increasingly, people who want to grow rich are investing in renewable energy. Those who don’t mind dying poor are sticking with coal and oil stocks. And building vacation houses on low-lying beachfront lots.

Anyway, for those who’ve missed my column, that’s how I spent the first nine days of March. I learned a lot and saw some baseball. Now I’m back in Staunton, preparing to show Al Gore’s slide show wherever I can find an audience.

And looking forward to the first game of the Staunton Braves – a summer league for good college players – at Gypsy Hill Park. Five bucks a ticket, three bucks for a bag of roasted peanuts.

Life can be good, even in dark times.