The Next Monument to US Leaders Should Be Located at the Seashore, not on the Washington Mall

Wanted: Sculptor who works in bronze to construct life-sized group of statues of President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, all to be mounted at the high tide line below a high cliff in Maine’s Acadia National Park.

There what’s left of American posterity can watch as the seas rise inexorably over the coming years and decades, first lapping at the feet of the statues, then the knees, then the waists, then the chests and finally cover over the heads of these “leaders” in Washington who have cynically and foolishly squandered the last opportunity to take effective action to combat climate change.

Such a sculpture would give the lie to these climate deniers, as rise of the sea level due to warming of the ocean and to the melting of the polar caps and the mountain glaciers gradually swamps and submerges these images. It would also serve as a focal point for shaming those politicians who allowed short-term political and monetary gain to blind them to the need for true leadership and action in combatting the gravest threat to humanity and to life on the planet since a comet blasted the earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs.

We need a monument to catastrophic leadership failure on climate change. It should be at sea levelWe need a monument to catastrophic leadership failure on climate change. It should be located at sea level.

I imagine other people could be added to this sinking monument: the Koch Brothers, those oil industry magnates who have been funding fake studies and fake political movements like the Tea Party aimed at further enriching themselves while attacking the science of climate change, or the chief executives of the major oil companies, especially at Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron Texaco and Shell, and of the big US auto companies, Ford and GM, who have worked assiduously to buy presidents and members of Congress over the years to assure that no serious action would be taken to reduce the use of oil and gas by Americans and by American industry. There should also be room left along the beach front for sculptures of whoever may be America’s next president and congressional leaders, though it is the current set who had a chance to take truly significant action and let it slip away.

This sculpture should be composed of an alloy that will stand up to the ravages of angry mobs of visitors who will of course want to pelt the depicted leaders with everything from rotten vegetables to dead fish and seagull crap — actions which a permanent sign at the access parking lot should encourage tourists and pilgrims to participate in. It should also be designed to withstand the salt water, so that any people who manage to survive into future centuries will be able to visit this monument to unprecedented ignominy and leadership failure with the aid of diving gear, or a set of pearl divers’ lungs.

A marble plaque should be placed at least 225 feet up on the rocks, safely above the highest point that scientists expect the sea to rise once the ice has melted from Greenland, Siberia and northern Canada, and most of Antarctica. That plaque should briefly explain the sorry history of modern humanity, which became, in its final two centuries, in thrall to unparalleled greed and victim to a global civic religion that deified growth and personal aggrandizement. It should conclude with a brutal condemnation of the leaders depicted below in the water, who had in their hands all the facts about the developing disaster facing the planet and mankind, but chose to ignore them, encouraging a final headlong rush into the abyss.

As Noam Chomsky has just written so dramatically, even as a pair of Swiss scientists were announcing their finding that three-quarters of the global warming underway was being caused by human activity, even as the latest scientific report was warning that present energy use trends were making unavoidable a deadly 11° F global temperature rise by 2100 (within the lifetime of children already born!), even as it was reported that melting permafrost in the arctic, already underway, was releasing methane from prehistoric frozen peat bogs that would eventually, over the course of decades, equal all the carbon released by mankind over the last two centuries, and even as 2017 was being held out by scientists as the point of no return for climate change, the US, under the criminally insane leadership of Obama, Boehner and Reid, with assist from Pelosi and McConnell, was cynically blocking efforts at an international conference in Durban, South Africa to try and reach some international agreement at controlling and reducing carbon emissions. That criminal act should be the penultimate paragraph carved into the marble.

The last paragraph should be a warning to any future civilization not to let greed and self-interest be the dominant ideology of a society or to let capitalism be its central political and economic organizing principles.