Cherry Blossoms & Public Policy

UNITED STATES – March 30: Visitors gather to watch the sunrise under blooming Japanese cherry blossom trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington in 1912. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

In Washington, D.C. the cherry blossoms came early this year. Plenty was said, including on Texas Public Radio, about the implications related to climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert has this to say, pivoting from cherry blossoms to both environmental and economic policies in the USA:

Biden’s Jobs Plan Is Also a Climate Plan. Will It Make a Difference?

The Administration has an ambitious vision for combatting global warming, but it’s only a start.

Illustration by João Fazenda

The first known reference to Japan’s cherry blossoms comes from the country’s oldest surviving text, the Kojiki, completed in 712. Japan was trying to shrug off the influence of its more powerful neighbor, China, and cherry blossoms became a symbol of Japanese identity, in contrast to the plum blossoms of the Chinese. By the early ninth century, the practice of cherry-blossom viewing had become so well established that the date of the peak bloom appeared in Japanese poems and other literary works.

Based on these sources, researchers have pieced together more than a millennium of botanical history. The trees, the data show, have in recent decades been blooming earlier and earlier. Last month, they shattered records. In the city of Kyoto, peak bloom was the earliest it’s been in twelve hundred years, and ten days earlier than the thirty-year average. In the city of Hiroshima, the blossoms appeared eight days earlier than the previous record, which was set in 2004. In addition to being a sign of spring, the blossoms have now become, as the Washington Post put it, “a sign of climate change.”

Last week, as the blooms in Kyoto were prematurely fading, President Joe Biden travelled to Pennsylvania to pitch his latest spending plan, aimed, in part, at combatting global warming. The proposal, which the Administration has dubbed the American Jobs Plan, includes eighty-five billion dollars for mass-transit systems, another eighty billion dollars for Amtrak to expand service and make needed repairs, and a hundred billion to upgrade the nation’s electrical grid. It would allocate a hundred and seventy-four billion dollars to advance the transition to electric vehicles, thirty-five billion dollars for research in emissions-reducing and climate-resilience technologies, and ten billion to create a New Deal-style Civilian Climate Corps.

The plan will lead to “transformational progress in our effort to tackle climate change,” Biden declared, speaking at a carpenters’ training facility outside Pittsburgh.

The green spending Biden is proposing is contained in a two-trillion-dollar package so sprawling that it would affect just about every aspect of American life. This sprawl is, presumably, deliberate. The Administration is touting the proposal as a way to fight inequality, put millions of people to work, reduce carbon emissions, rebuild the country’s aging roads, bridges, and water systems, and—shades of the cherry blossoms—outcompete the Chinese. Implicit in the plan is the assumption that these goals are compatible. Whether or not this is the case, however, is very much an open question.

Read the whole essay here.

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