Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 11:00 pm | Fair 42º


Kids Speaking Up: Welcome to the 21st Century, Mr. Gingrich

The former House speaker's view of the world is outdated and rooted in ignorance

“I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous.”

So spoke former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., at a recent Washington fundraiser to the applause of fellow Republicans in the room. Gingrich asserted that he doesn’t want to be part of North Korea, Zimbabwe or Russia, but rather will focus solely on the United States. However, there is a problem in thinking that it is us and us alone, that “we must strengthen our unique American civilization” (as he said in the same speech) rather than adopt a more global perspective.

Isabelle D'Arcy
Isabelle D’Arcy

Gingrich used his “citizen of the world” comment to dismiss the notion of a world government of sorts, with the same world laws, but within this dismissal is a “stunningly dangerous” and intellectually flawed way of looking at the world.

I would assert to Gingrich and those who agree with his position that many in my generation would disagree. For us, the fact that we are all citizens in our global community is actually a “no-duh” idea.

Everything travels the world these days. Our clothing, food and everyday goods are made in Ecuador, China, Bangladesh and Indonesia, assembled in Mexico, packaged in various U.S. states and shipped to local stores. Every year, an area the size of Wales is being cut down in an Indonesian rainforest so that palm oil can be produced. Last week, Shell was ordered to pay $15.5 million to the family of one of the many environmentalists in Nigeria who were hanged. The charge against Shell was complicity. It is a country rich in oil, rich in corruption and rich in human rights violations.

Brazilian rainforest is being cut down so that cattle can graze — although rainforest pulls CO2 (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and cattle release methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.

For a more directly American connection, air pollution from China (produced mainly from the burning of coal) is drifting across the Pacific Ocean, putting chemicals into Alaska’s air and food chains.

Lastly, in a time where freshwater is scarce and is being used at a rate much faster than it is being replenished, Sudan floods its Nile-bordering farms with water, which flows through wasteful and primitive irrigation systems. Meanwhile, the small amounts of salt that the water brings to the farm requires more water, in a positive feedback loop that wastes one of the Earth’s most valuable resources.

These are global problems that affect all of us. Whether through oil (transportation, local consumption, etc.) that leads to NO2 (acid rain and the acidification of our lakes), through the cheap labor and environmentally toxic means of producing much of what we consume (often powered by coal, in countries where environmental regulations are nonexistent or unenforceable), through climate change, a fast-moving threat that endangers us all (not just those in certain, non-American countries), through deforestation (that happens often when people are poor or malnourished, desperate for money even if it means the exploitation of natural resources), through the irresponsible use of fresh water (a crisis that, at some point, even America will grapple with), it is clear that our problems are global.

Thinking otherwise is naive. It is stunningly dangerous, because until we start addressing those problems as our problems, too, we will all suffer together — sooner or later. When it comes to the world, we are all tenants, citizens and caretakers, responsible for its maintenance. Otherwise, everyone feels the consequences.

Gingrich and his myriad followers represent an outdated mindset blossoming in ignorance, blind to the reality of our global situation.

I would like to leave you with this thought, one often repeated in my household and in my culture: It is not your job to save the world, but it is your job to try.

It falls on each of us to step outside American-mania and realize we are all one family, to the end.

Dos Pueblos High graduate Isabelle D’Arcy is co-founder of Kids Speaking Up, a local group working to educate youth on social, national and political issues and inspire them to write.

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