With three presidential debates in the can, the loser is…

By Tom Yulsman | October 20, 2016 12:07 am

Earth was hardly mentioned, and that means the loser is actually . . . us

NASA's EPIC camera aboard NOAA's DSCOVR spacecraft acquired this image of the home planet on Oct. 17, 2016 at 11:01:20 GMT. The spacecraft was 902,561 miles from Earth at the time. (Source: NASA EPIC Team)

NASA’s EPIC camera aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft acquired this image of the home planet on Oct. 17, 2016 at 11:01:20 GMT. The spacecraft was 902,561 miles from Earth at the time. (Source: NASA EPIC Team)

The pundits will no doubt be yammering on for days about who won and who lost the final U.S. presidential debate.

But I’d say that we don’t need the pundits to tell us who the overall loser was. I think it was humanity.

During the debates, we heard a lot of shouting, but almost nothing about the most profound, long-term issue all of us confront: How 7 billion of us, probably growing to 9 billion in relatively short order, can live sustainably on the home planet. Perhaps I missed it, but during all three debates, not one of the journalist moderators asked a question related to this question. It took a citizen in a red sweater named Ken Bone to sort of bring up the issue.

It wasn’t exactly the sustainability question I had in mind. But at least it was in the ballpark. Maybe he should get a Pulitzer.

Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, should have a robust debate about the best policies for responding to the sustainability challenges humanity confronts.  These include a warming climate, rising sea level, and increases in extreme weather events. They also include degradation of the ecosystems we depend on for clean air and water, healthy food, and materials to build our homes and economies.

But we’ll never discuss these issues and work towards solutions if during presidential debates they are deemed off-limits by the journalist moderators. Perhaps they were listening to polls that find environmental issues to be a low priority among voters. But how will these issues ever become a higher priority if we don’t challenge politicians to address them?

What a missed opportunity. What a deep and abiding shame.

  • http://ratedwriting.com/ Michelle Rated

    Thank for sharing. I totally agree with the author. All these debates thoroughly imbued with promises and empty chatter. In fact, we get only small sketches with minimal specifics of what we will have to wait. So, we can only wait for the final results.

  • OWilson

    This was a U.S. Debate on the future direction of the country.

    The important questions facing the voters, border security, our current wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, an unsustainable debt left to future generations, SCOTUS appointments, were compiled by a progressive leaning MSM (Wallace is a registered Democrat from a line of Democrats) and, we are told, from questions submitted by the voters at large.

    That man made climate change, “clean air”, healthy food” and “materials to build housing”. didn’t make the A-List in any of the debates, is a pragmatic reminder of what is really important to folks outside the “echo chamber bubble” of journalism, academia and politics.

    (On the other hand, the U.S. is seen by most average folks as a leader among world nations in providing “clean air”, healthy food” and “materials to build housing”)

    My own grave concerns, government corruption at the highest levels, inner city education, inner city riots and looting, inner city gang murders, the drug culture that rivals the above ground economy, and domestic terrorism were also not addressed.

    With politicians that spend the first 2 years paying back their donors, and the last 2 years raising money and campaigning for re-election, the vicious cycle of corruption continues, and the uneven handed destruction of Trump by the establishment, tells you just how deeply ingrained the status quo corruption really is!

    • Mike Richardson

      LOL… Destruction of Trump by the establishment! Sorry, but the man’s worst enemy looks at him every morning in the mirror. Ignorant, arrogant, and blind to his own faults and inconsistencies. But you don’t have a problem with that, do you?

      • OWilson


        Aren’t you a government employee?

        A part of that establishment status quo?

        I can see why any threat to the gravy train, is met with such transparent anger, and even desperation if the polls aren’t right. :)

        But don’t worry, your establishment will prevail. It’s too ingrained to ever be overturned in one election.

        Your pension is secure, the money they keep borrowing to pay you won’t have to be paid back until long after you are dead.

        So, relax, like Hillary, Obama, and your hero Bernie (nice new beach house), you have beat the system, without ever having to produce anything of value, except enforcing regulation for others, using THEIR own money. :)

        • Mike Richardson

          Now who seems unhappy? Yeah, you’re projecting a lot of anger there, buddy. And lavishing praise and defense on someone who himself has taken advantage of workers, consumers, and the government, and who speaks of women in a way I’d hope you never speak of your wife. No, the guy I look at in the mirror accepts and deals with reality, and adapts his view accordingly, rather than pretending a misogynistic, narcissistic-possibly psychotic-con man is the better option in this election. I’ll agree with the moderator, though, in that I’d like to see Mrs. Clinton discuss more what she’d do regarding climate change, to continue the progress made during the current administration. We know better than to expect that from Trump, a climate change denier and profiteer who couldn’t care less about the environment. At least we know his opponent might listen to reason.

          • OWilson

            More left wing knee jerk babble!

            I “lavished praise and defence” of Donald Trump?

            That’s just another delusion you lefties pull out of your …..?


          • Mike Richardson

            You might be done, but I’m not. You talk about “Slick Willy,” who isn’t the one running for President now? How about a guy who’s approaching Bill Cosby territory for women reporting sexual assault? Who married 2 former mistresses from former marriages? Who settled a lawsuit (despite claiming he NEVER settles a lawsuit) with the family of a 13 year old reporting sexual assault? Who brags about “inspecting” the dressing rooms of Miss Universe contestants (including the Miss Teen USA pageants)? Yeah, you don’t have much problem with hypocrisy, that’s clear. 😉 If you think this sexual predator and con-man, as well as global warming denier, is a good choice to lead the most powerful nation on Earth, then you’ve shown us just another far-right conservative delusion (one among many, I might add). Thanks for playing, but as usual, you lose. 😀

          • OWilson

            I know civil society is a little strange for you socialist government employees to understand, but out here in polite society we are a tad more democratic, out here we let the readers decide for themselves.:)

            Use the last word to make your point, but there are no “executive orders” or “summary judgments” here!

            You’re in the wrong country, pal! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            So you provide no good reply, other than the same tired hyperbolic comparisons to political extremists. But I did get a good laugh at you referring to yourself as “polite society!” Oh, I quite look forward to democracy in action on November 8. More and more, it’s a rejection of reactionary far-right conservatism for more rational leadership, and that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

          • OWilson

            I think you finally might be getting the hang of this offer of last word thing :)

            You don’t ask a series of questions, requiring an answer, then summarily declare or make a summary that you “won”!

            This is a free and frank exchange of views which only the reader, in his wisdom, will adjudicate!

            Want to try again?

          • Mike Richardson

            Nope, I didn’t ask leading questions, so you’re “you have the last word,” was, as suspected, another promise you’d no intention of keeping. But feel free to exercise that apparent compulsion to have the last word. You’ve not provided anything of substance to counter my reasons for why one candidate is better than the other, despite the fact that neither has made climate change a major part of their platform. And I’ve no reason to expect better. But at least one lives in a world of reality, unlike the more orange one, and his admirers.

          • OWilson

            That’s better!

            No questions, no overt insults, and no self awarded victory trophies.

            Keep that up and you’ll always get the last word with me!

    • http://www.oikonomiajes.blogspot.com/ wooster6

      OWilson, I appreciate your response which makes the good point that the debates and the campaign needs to reflect what is important to the American voter. The down side to this reality as you may agree is the fact that because America has for at least 8 years lacked leadership that can pilot the ship of our nation with moral and ethical clarity, the election discussion becomes what “seems right in the eyes of the people.” As I have suggested in a response to “Chris H” (https://disqus.com/by/Chrismjh/) below, if Americans had not lost the concept of “stewardship” we would be able to have civil dialog about all of the issues you mention, but have the added benefit of an age-old belief that man is not the ultimate “captain of the ship, Earth” but is the “servant” who has been assigned to steward the Earth (manage wisely that which we do not own) under the authority of the Creator of the Universe. See Genesis 1:26 and 2:15; and, a sample of its application at http://oikonomiajes.blogspot.com/2015/08/individual-accountability-and-spiritual.html
      I would welcome further comments here or on my blog articles (Search articles under “Stewardship”) Thank you for reading.

  • http://www.unsigned.com/SuperPredator Chris H

    we all know how to be good stewarts of the Earth, & yet, I still see people iddeling fo long periods, littering, wasting, and being not good stewadrs of the Earth.

    Why does a gov need to fix this.
    smack some one is they litter, or at least call them out, make it embarassing to be rude again.

    It’s on us, to stand up for the Planet against the litterbugs and wasters.

    Trump/Pence 2016/2020

    • http://www.oikonomiajes.blogspot.com/ wooster6

      Chris H., you’ve entered to the discussion a fundamental concept that seems to be lost these days whether the concern is climate change or littering in the park—stewardship. Unfortunately, we can use the word, but our society has largely rejected the foundation for teaching and implementing the concept of being stewards; namely, the ethical foundation provided by the Judeo-Christian teachings of the Bible. Before you “turn me off” please read a sample of my blog (Oikonomia, Gr. “stewardship”): http://oikonomiajes.blogspot.com/2015/08/individual-accountability-and-spiritual.html

  • kapnlogos

    Typical left wing babble. The country is in the grip of cynical politicians and international corporations and we are supposed to be worried about global warming? Never mind that the country is being looted, overrun with immigrants from foreign countries who are incapable of maintaining a civilization, or if we are are the verge of a third world war; let’s worry about Climate Change AND assume it will be a bad thing.

    • Ex Tempore

      …go to Toronto, and you will see that this city is, quickly, becoming a 3rd world cesspool (of mostly Muslim migrants),who don’t work (nor do they care to!), get provincial welfare cheques, free government sponsored medi-care and education, leap frogged for entrance into city low income housing (which can take at least 20 years, through normal application procedures!), and the Canadian government has a special heritage fund, that builds a mosque according to their tribal specifications! From, 31 December 2015, until 31 December 2016, at least (officially), 100,000 Syrian migrants are flown into Canada, mostly to Toronto, and placed on welfare, sponsored as government sponsored migrants, which means ..”DO NOT WORK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!”. As (Sir) Peter Ustinov once quipped..”Toronto is like New York City run by the Swiss!”…bullshit, as in 20 years, America won’t have to worry about the problems coming South of the Rio Grande, but for the “Islamic Republic of Canada”!
      ..the final collapse of the West and the science that goes with it!

      • OWilson

        Trudeau is just another lying politician that has backed away from his promises now he’s actually elected.

        That electoral reform? Limiting the deficit?
        Transparency in government? All shelved.

        And the complicit media who give him a pass.

        (They cynically equate the promises he has kept, like increasing income taxes, more refugees, and more generous child credits – for that growing segment of society who are still having lots of babies :)

        All Western governments are under attack by “liberal” progressive who see the road to socialism can be achieved by subterfuge and lies, rather than messy revolution.

        The populace are “Gruberized” and from school on are forced to admire , and even describe, the Emperor’s New Clothes. Lies are no longer lies. Newspeak.

        Legally writing off past losses against future income is now a national outrage.(Trump)

        Amassing a $3,000,000,000.00 Global “family” Empire, with private jets, hotels, jobs for family friends, supporters, While Secretary of State, is considered “charity”. (Clinton)

        Lenin and Kruschev were right. “We will bury you”.

        • Ex Tempore

          …Justin Trudeau (actually he has only a high school diploma, with no science and math courses!), was born into privilege and weened by his useless daddy, (WW2 objector, Pierre), and if not for him, Justin would by working at some hardware store in Montreal! And since Canada is run from the centre (Toronto is the “Vatican City” of Canada!), as the city will collapse in 20 years, so will the rest of the country! The East coast Maritimes, the people are dying, leaving, not procreating, and so is the same in Quebec, where so many churches and schools are closing! The collapse of the west, and a permanent Dark Age will rule the day, as after the collapse of the Roman Empire! …But this time, since the white caucasians are dying off, this collapse will be PERMANENT!

          • OWilson

            Immigrant are generally overwhelmingly left leaning (Western Muslims, overwhelmingly support left wing secular parties (including Hillary and Bernie), so it is in the interest of socialist governments to dilute the 2 party system, by massively importing immigrants, and extending their welfare benefits, right to vote, and incentives for child bearing.

            Trudeau (and Obama) are following the well worn European socialist script to the letter.

            But it is only recently that the U.S. has been able to be so compromised.

            As Trudeau the elder wrote years ago, “North Americans would never knowingly elect socialists. Socialists will come to power only through co-opting an existing party”

            Looks like they have succeeded!

          • Ex Tempore

            …good show!

          • OWilson

            Thank you!

          • Mike Richardson

            Xenophobic and bigoted much? Yeah, looks like.

          • OWilson

            Wash out your little socialist mouth!

            When I came to Canada as an immigrant, many years ago, I was conscripted and pursuaded to advance my job prospects by volunteering to work for Tommy Douglas NDP, in a national election, although I couldn’t vote.(the only time I ever worked for a political party)

            We were for “free” heath care and nationalized auto insurance. We got one them.

            I saw this stuff from the underbelly of the beast, when I realized that our young idealism had been cynically exploited by hard left organizers who encouraged us to cheat at every opportunity. – Europe redux.

            I still have respect for Tommy, the old leftie who had genuine good intentions, but he was just a tool and a spearhead for the hard socialists (and their name calling demagogues like you) that followed. :)

          • Mike Richardson

            That’s a nice way of rationalizing your selling out some pretty good ideals for your current positions. Kinda like the supposed “environmental advocacy” of the past, now replaced with climate change denial and minimizing the actual damage caused by polluting industries. But at least you closed with your trademark irony, bemoaning name calling while engaging in it so frequently yourself. Some things never change, at least.

          • OWilson

            Someone wise paraphrased the old axiom:

            “If you aren’t a socialist at twenty, you have no heart, and if you are a socialist at forty, you have no brain.”

          • Mike Richardson

            Someone without consistent values, something you can appreciate, I suppose. 😉

          • OWilson

            That part about the brain seems right on here :)

          • Mike Richardson

            Should I bring up other, more biological, correlations between age and apparent inability to reason in a consistent manner? There’s no reason to significantly change a position in youth that is born out by facts and circumstances with time, I’ve found. Although greed and selfishness do sometimes win out over altruism in the end, with some folks, I suppose. Trump apparently never developed maturity or wisdom with age, but he’s obviously not alone in that regard.

          • OWilson

            Like his much maligned predecessor, George Bush, Trump is simply a citizen who achieved success. Created jobs!

            Trump is a preeminent builder who’s landmarks can be seen all over the world. He’s never been the consistent target of the country’s Special Prosecutors, FBI, and Justice Department going back 30 years.

            Bush, a graduate from Harvard AND Yale was twice elected as Governor of the country’s most populous state, Texas. He flew fighter jets, solo. He ran a MLB team. His father was the youngest airman (19) shot down in WW2.

            You are a socialist government employee living off the public teat.

            Your world is so much different from these people.

            Those that can, do!

            Those that can’t, work for the government.

            Al Gore, a failed divinity student, the Clantons, (two for one, remember?) failed, fined, Impeached, disbarred. Obama the street organizer, all on the public teat, like you, all their lives :)

            It’s only natural that a socialist would hate success!

            It is after all, known as “the politics of envy”, :)

          • Mike Richardson

            I don’t envy con men, failed presidents, or those too delusional to recognize what they are. :) But I do at least pity the last.

          • OWilson

            So, just a friendly question, why do you continue to live off their earnings? :)

          • Mike Richardson

            Because as a public servant, I’ve sworn to help people regardless of their views on me, the government, or society in general. And as with anyone who performs a professional service, I reasonably expect to be able to earn a living doing so.

          • OWilson

            Then as a public servant you should thank those who create jobs, and pay your wages, not constantly berate them?

            The cash cow providing milk should be treated humanely, lest it stop giving milk!

          • Mike Richardson

            I still have free speech, something you’re always advocating so much for when it comes to your own viewpoints. Why have a different set of standards for yourself than others? But back to the topic at hand, I feel it a necessary part of citizenship to criticize what fails and advocate for what works, which is why I favor electing as President someone who claim climate change is a Chinese plot.

          • OWilson

            To the extent that China is a communist country, in league with other socialist leaning politicians, it IS a “hoax”. (his actual word)

            It is a hoax designed to further the goal (oft stated) of destroying Western Industrialized nations in general, and American Capitalism in particular.

            Look up it’s ahderents, some of the most radical leftist the world has ever seen, See Wiki for their exploits, Friends of the Earth is a good start)

            They see America as The Great Satan, I see America as the great hope for civilization.

            A matter of (informed) opinion.

          • Mike Richardson

            Not terribly informed if you think that science involving climate change is a Chinese hoax, apparently.

          • OWilson

            Millions were spent on “models”, “predicting” the election outcome.

            Your left leaning experts were professionals, the best in their field. They were on TV every night for two years, telling you what was going to happen.

            They laughed at and attacked those poor suckers they managed to get to come on and be insulted. They threw their “consensus” polls of polls at them. Sound familiar?

            When you are that arrogant, you’d better be right!

            Turns out, not only were they wrong, they weren’t even slightly wrong, they had it completely backwards!

            Reality bites!

          • Mike Richardson

            No, what bites is realizing how much hatred and bigotry continues to exist in this country, to produce and raise up such an avatar as Trump. Well, as much as you seem to enjoy the misery of your fellow human beings, you should be in for a real feast now. Just hope you don’t become part of the menu.

  • Ex Tempore

    . .an off the cuff comment, but an important one, for the advancement of science in America and elsewhere….!

    ….Michael Paulkovich (Nasa systems engineer and historian), claims that the biblical Jesus NEVER existed!…..Paulkovich sites that there 126 authors in that part of the Mid east, during the time of this purported Jesus, and yet, not ONE of them mentions him!
    ….Paulkovich theorizes that Jesus was based upon on self-deluded rabbi preacher, preaching in the backwater of the Roman empire or just some urban legend!
    ..Michael Paulkovich was commenting about his forthcoming book…”No Meek Messiah” (2014)

    • OWilson

      “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him” – Voltaire

      • Ex Tempore

        …good show!

        • OWilson

          Thank you!



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar