Many consider themselves political independents. Presumably, they exhibit two characteristics. First, they vote. Otherwise, they’re essentially apolitical.

Second, they think independently.

They’re less likely to vote based only upon a candidate’s party or personality. More likely, they vote based upon how candidates address one or more issues important to the voter.

There are many important issues: health care, education, immigration, the economy and jobs, national security, equal treatment and more. Or, consider climate change, which directly impacts several of the others mentioned.

Think of the global environment supporting civilization as a passenger ship. Climate change is an iceberg that’s already ripping a hole in its side. It doesn’t matter whether the ship’s crew was negligent or could have avoided collision. It matters little whether the iceberg should be there, or how big it is. And no, we can’t predict exactly how much damage it might do; there’s no historical precedent to inform us.

But, by many meaningful measures (rising sea levels and temperatures, shrinking ice fields, species extinctions, more severe storms and wildfires, disease spread), there’s a gash in the hull, and it’s growing.

So, who’s steering? Everyone, potentially. The United States, with less than one-twentieth of the world’s population, but responsible for more than one-seventh of the global economy, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, has heavy hands on the wheel, and the influence of our elected leaders is especially strong.

On the lower decks, countries with fragile economies and populations living or dependent on food produced in coastal lowlands will be among the first to suffer greatly. They’ll understandably seek to crowd onto the upper decks.

In the worst case, civilization founders. Those of us “lucky” enough to survive could be left struggling to stay atop the keel after the ship rolls over.

But, we can mitigate the damage by steering away from the iceberg. Some of our leaders and candidates — from both parties — recognize the peril and are trying to turn the ship. However, some are basically lounging on the promenade deck, refusing to acknowledge that the ship is starting to list.

And some, incredibly, are on the bridge trying to steer the ship toward the iceberg, by reducing environmental monitoring and protections and favoring fossil fuels over alternative energy sources.

We need to put our hands on the wheel to help turn the ship now, with this election and in those to come. This will take time and effort. Ships don’t turn on a dime. It’ll take creative problem solving to stabilize the ship, let alone repair it at sea.

There are no nearby ports or ships for help. We’re all stuck on this ship. Together. Innovation and entrepreneurship will be essential. We can also pitch in through our individual efforts and consumer choices. The challenge is enormous, only comparable, within some of our experience, to World War II. But this time there’s good reason for every nation to be on the same side.

Research candidates’ stands on issues important to you and vote.

Jack Evins lives in Galveston.

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