Note: This is something I wrote for a class and I decided to leave in the “Works Cited” page at the end. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. Also, I added in a sentence for clarity.
Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street begins with Amanda Wyss’s character, Tina Gray, running to escape an unseen force. She is wearing a white nightgown that is a stark contrast to the dark, steaming pipes dripping on her feet. A shadow of a man (played by Robert Englund) appears and slashes at her midsection. As his claws strike her, she jolts awake. It was a dream. Tina’s mother invades her daughter’s bedroom. Tina insists it was just a dream. A portly man steps behind Tina’s mother and beckons her back to bed. She sees four distinct cuts on her daughter’s nightgown and orders her daughter to cut her fingernails. Something is killing the kids on Elm Street and it’s the parents’ fault. Instead of listening to their children and fixing the problem, they dismiss their children’s concerns. They blame a Rod Lane, a poor kid with no parents, drug addiction, and delusion. The parents didn’t listen to their children, those adults will lose everything. This is climate change. The unnamed menace is climate change, the parents are politicians, and the children of Elm Street are the future generations who will suffer. Politicians are destroying the planet and the ones who are going to pay are our children and future generations. We need to revert back to Obama’s regulations or there won’t be a world to argue over.
Climate change is a process involving Carbon Dioxide, or CO₂, and how it interacts with the earth’s atmosphere. CO₂ is a chemical compound found in every living thing. When we exhale, we release CO₂. Plants take in CO₂ and convert it into breathable oxygen during photosynthesis. CO₂ also absorbs heat from the sun. If there is too much CO₂ in the air, it covers the earth like a blanket, trapping the heat on the earth’s surface. This raises temperatures, which affects crops, melts the polar ice caps, raising the sea level, and causing aberrant weather patterns (Zuckerman). The pattern of rising CO₂ is the catalyst for climate change and Tina’s death in A Nightmare on Elm Street is the catalyst for Freddy Krueger.
Tina has a sleepover with her boyfriend, Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia as Nick Corri), Tina’s best friend and protagonist of the movie, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), and Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz (a very young Johnny Depp). The teenagers confess to seeing the same burned man in their nightmares. The dreams are so powerful that Tina is afraid to fall asleep by herself, prompting the sleepover. Tina is killed that night and Nancy tells her father/police officer, Lt. Thompson (John Saxon) that there was another person in that room beside Tina and Rod. The police dismiss her claims as delusion and that the real culprit was Tina’s boyfriend. The police arrest Rod and close the case without due process. Just like the police on Elm Street, politicians dismissed scientists’ warnings about climate change and then they blamed the rise in CO₂ on something else. Something more mundane.
These non-scientists think this fluctuation in temperature is alarmist and that the earth’s temperature naturally changes. There is also the perception that CO₂ is always in the air so it can’t be coal or human error. While it is true that the earth’s temperature fluctuates over time, on average it’s relatively stable. And while CO₂ is natural and humans exhale CO₂ for plants to convert into breathable oxygen, the type of CO₂ rising in the air isn’t from humans exhaling too much (Zuckerman).
There are two types of carbon (the C in CO₂) – radioactive and nonradioactive. Every living thing has both kinds of carbon in their bodies. When something dies, the radioactive carbon decays over time – this is how Radiocarbon Dating works to determine the age of a fossil. Fossil fuels, such as coal, are basically the remains of the dead that lost their radioactive carbon. The nonradioactive carbon gets released when used for fuel. Finding radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is natural. However, finding nonradioactive carbon is not natural. That’s how scientists know that the rise in CO₂ emissions is man-made – not some natural cycle that Earth goes through once every few millennia (Zuckerman). Climate change cannot be dismissed as natural. So, politicians need a new scapegoat instead of dealing with the actual problem.
In March, Donald Trump signed an executive order to roll back the Obama environmental regulations in an attempt to save coal jobs (Worland). This course of action is predictable. Trump famously tweeted in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive” (Gross). Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas told the Texas Tribune in March 2015, “The satellite data demonstrates that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years” (qtd. in “Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?”). I don’t know what satellite data Cruz is referring to and he certainly doesn’t cite any specific data. However, people who actually study climate change and understand how the Scientific Method works (known colloquially as “scientists”), universally agree that the earth is getting warmer and it’s humans are to blame (Zuckerman). This all started when a scientist from the Scripps Institute, a nonprofit research facility based in San Diego, California, named David Keeling invented a machine to measure the air and atmosphere down to parts per million. He conducted the first test in 1958. By 1969, the machine was everywhere and Keeling noticed an “unmistakable” rise in CO₂. By the 1970’s, the average global surface temperature was rising as well – the earth was ½ degrees Celsius warmer than 100 years before – and it was rising exponentially (Zuckerman).
When Rod is incarcerated, the parents create a new scapegoat, just like politicians. Nancy develops insomnia after a near-death encounter with the burned man during an accidental bath nap. Her mother, Marge Thompson (Ronee Blakley), takes her to a sleep doctor in a futile attempt to learn why Nancy can’t sleep. Nancy flails violently until the doctors are able to pull her out of sleep. She finds a dirty hat in her bed. She had pulled the hat off the burned man’s head and brought it out of her dream and into reality. His name is stitched into the hat – Fred Krueger (he was called “Freddy” in the sequels). Her mother reveals that Krueger was a child murderer that the neighborhood parents killed after “someone forgot to sign the search warrant in the right place and Krueger was free just like that.” She assures Nancy that Krueger is dead and she shouldn’t worry about him anymore. Nancy pleads with her mother to help her, but Marge won’t hear it. She insists that Nancy is being paranoid and that Fred Krueger isn’t killing kids in their dreams. At the same time, Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen, has his own problems with his parents. They blame his relationship with Nancy on his sleep issues (A Nightmare on Elm Street).
Marge and the other adults blame something else, paranoia, Rod, drugs, too much time with a girlfriend, anything except themselves and what they did. And to divert their children’s attention on the real problem, they either leave the phone off the hook when their child’s girlfriend tries to call, or they put bars on the windows, trying to protect their children from a problem that doesn’t exist (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The same goes for the declining coal industry and the policies of the Republican party. They aren’t listening to scientists – they are attempting to divert our attention to another problem or they claim that getting rid of coal would destroy the economy (“Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?”). But the coal industry is dying for more reasons than overzealous environmentalists.
Trump proclaimed himself the “last shot for the miners” saying he would revive the coal industry (Worland). His executive order was meant to end the so-called “war on coal” and “allow our companies and our workers to thrive and compete on a level playing field” (Worland). Cutting funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and gutting Obama’s Clean Power Plan won’t bring coal jobs back and it won’t help the economy.
The coal industry has been in decline since the 1950’s. Is the EPA exerting its mighty power from a dark palace on the top of a steep hill and forcing innocent coal workers to conform to draconian laws? No. One of the biggest contributors to the coal industry’s decline is the thing that will put us all out of jobs eventually – automation. The New York Times reports that “In 1980, the industry employed about 242,000 people. By 2015, that figure had plunged 60 percent, to fewer than 100,000, even as coal production edged up 8 percent” (Tabuchi). But automation isn’t the only obstacle the coal industry has to compete with.
Coal’s biggest problem is the rise of natural gas production – commonly known as “fracking.” In the 1990’s, production surged. In 2003, coal accounted for half of all the United States’s power generation. In 2015, coal was only a third. Natural gas, as well as wind and solar, took coal’s share (Casselman).
And that brings us to wind and solar, both of which have become more efficient in recent years, especially with Obama’s Clean Power Plan (Casselman). According to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps, there are more than four and a half million clean energy or “green” jobs in the U.S., an increase from three million in 2011. Green jobs are growing at rates twelve times faster than the rest of the economy (Samuelson). If politicians really wanted to be “job creators,” then they should continue to invest in green collar jobs instead of trying to revitalize a dying industry.
What can happen if we don’t do anything? Our children will pay. According to the podcast SCIENCE VS, it’s host, Wendy Zuckerman, says, “If we keep living the way we are now, temperatures will rise by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century” (Zuckerman). What does this mean? In five hundred years, the sea levels will raise fifteen meters, or fifty feet (Zuckerman). The National Ocean Service says that 123.3 million people in the United States live on the coast, and that number is expected to rise eight percent by 2020 (“What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?”). That’s a lot of people who will be displaced. Also, important economic centers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City will be underwater.
We can see the effects of climate change before our eyes. The last three decades have been the hottest on record. The polar ice caps are melting and the oceans are rising. Wildfires are burning the west. Extreme weather events are common, and droughts and rainfall are more severe. Insect outbreaks. Reduced crop yield. Heat-related health concerns. Abnormal erosion. And that’s just the stuff we can see right now (“The consequences of climate change”).
So what can we do? There is a real possibility that we can help undo the damage we have done to the environment. The government should keep Obama’s Clean Power Plan by challenging Trump’s executive order in court, like Trump’s travel ban (Drange). Also, a process called Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) is a recent technology that can remove CO₂ from the atmosphere. This process needs thousands of facilities in order to limit global warming to less than two degrees and it’s been proven to work. World governments should invest in CSS as well as clean energy if they want the humans to be around for longer than a few more decades (Canadell).
At the end of the movie, Nancy turns and faces Fred Krueger. He killed her friends and murdered her mother. She tells him that she doesn’t believe in him. He has no power over her and she takes back any power she gave him. She wants her mother back. She wants her friends back. She has joined with the adults, who were insisting he was a delusion. She has given up and accepted the previous generation’s way of thinking – there’s nothing to do but admit that Fred Krueger is dead and hasn’t been killing her friends. She wakes up. Her mother is alive and it’s bright outside. Her friends drive up, ready to pick her up for school. It seems like insisting there is no problem has worked. But the car traps Nancy and her friends in a kind of Freddy-mobile, ready to eat them. A gloved hand with knives pulls Nancy’s mother through the window. Just saying the problem isn’t there doesn’t make it go away and Nancy’s submission to her parents’ thinking has permanently doomed her and her friends (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Luckily, we have a real opportunity to learn from Nancy’s mistake.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that mankind is the cause of global warming, also known as climate change. The atmosphere is filling with the wrong kind of CO₂, and we are seeing the effects right before our eyes. The coal industry is dying and should die to make way for more climate-friendly energy sources. Climate change can be mitigated if governments, businesses, and people put aside their politics, profits, and pettiness for the continued existence of human beings on planet earth. Instead of joining with the adults and pretending the problem isn’t there, like in the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, we should turn around and own up to our mistakes. We should work together to fix the damage we have done to our planet. If we don’t, climate change, or Freddy Krueger, won’t go away and it will consume our future.
A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. Perf. Heather Langenkamp. Robert Englund. John
Saxon. New Line Cinema, 1984. Netflix. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Canadell, Pep. “Global Warming and Climate Change Can Be Stopped If People Try Harder.”
Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Gale, 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
Casselman, Ben. “Trump’s Plan Won’t Reverse Coal’s Decline.” FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight, 28
Mar. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
“Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?” Issues
& Controversies. Infobase Learning, 18 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.
“Donald Trump Says He’ll Bring Back Coal. Here’s Why He Can’t.” Editorial. TIME. Time Inc., 14
Nov. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Drange, Matt. “Donald Trump’s New Travel Ban Faces Fresh Legal Challenges.” Forbes. Forbes, 6
Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
Gross, Terry. “The Trump Presidency’s Potential Impact On Climate Change.” Host Terry Gross. Fresh
Air. National Public Radio, 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
Samuelson, Kate. “Renewable Energy Is Creating Jobs 12 Times Faster Than the Rest of the
Economy.” Fortune. Time Inc., 27 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Coal Mining Jobs Trump Would Bring Back No Longer Exist.” The New York
Times. The New York Times Company, 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
“The consequences of climate change.” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Ed. Holly
Shaftel. NASA, 24 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
“What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?” Ocean Facts. National Ocean
Service, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Worland, Justin. “President Trump Signs Executive Order Rolling Back Obama-Era Environmental
Regulations.” TIME. Time Inc., 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Zuckerman, Wendy. “Climate Change…the Apocalypse?” Host Wendy Zuckerman. Science VS. Gimlet
Media, 16 Mar. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.