Please call it “climate crisis”, not “climate change,” the terminology is, shall we say, critical. Just as California was burning most of this autumn, so Australia has caught fire this December. Arsonists? Accidents? Forest fires have always occurred, but not on this scale. The undeniable cause is weather. With characteristic Nordic aplomb, Greta Thunberg begs us to realize that “our house is one fire.” Yet like deer mesmerized by headlights, we remain paralyzed, incapable of getting the buckets ready, sedated into consumer lethargy while absorbing what has unfortunately become the banality of climate catastrophes. The financial costs of the floods, fires, and other climate related disasters range in the billions, but in terms of the biosphere they are irredeemable. Disinformation is triumphing with the Big Lie, the refutation of climate science, financed by the major energy companies, in particular those associated with the Koch Brothers (since August one less), who each year pay more than $250 million to elect political representatives that deny climate crisis (1).
The US government, led by a probably unimpeachable privateer, whose name is a brand, yet who is allowed to govern without divesting (the most heinous conflict of interest since the Borgias), proudly tweets official denial, abandoning the 2015 COP 21 agreements like a Banana Republic dictator, reneging the legislation for limiting coal extraction, and overturning the previous administration’s policies for improving the clean air act--not to mention appointing virulent climate deniers to head the EPA, first the carbon guzzler Scott Pruitt and now a no less innocuous Andrew Wheeler. Currently they have cancelled or rolled back on 95 items of environmental legislation, determined to make the US the leading source of Green House Gases rather than the leader of climate action (2).
The Big Lie continues to make only a few people extremely wealthy, while impoverishing the rest of humanity’schances of survival. A class action suit was filed in 2015, Juliana, et al., v. the United States ofAmerica, on behalf of Our Children’s Trust, first accusing President Obama and now accusing thecurrent president, but it will probably end in failure. It has nonetheless inspired several other suitsby youths, including one by Greta against five signatories of the COP 21 agreements (3).
Greta made a dignified stand in Madrid, and we all must listen. We, the people of the planet, have done little of significance since the Paris COP 21 agreements of 2015, in which 195 countries signed optimistic commitments to lower carbon emissions. Even the conscientious countries, such as Finland and Denmark, have not completely fulfilled their vows of carbon neutrality. Everyone must take heed, the temperature has indeed risen 4% during the meantime, soon to reach the fatal limit of 1.5 extra degrees Celsius, after which there will be no turning back. The Giant Medusa Jellyfish is the only species that stands to benefit from this. The COP 25 meeting, which through last-minute reorganizing was held in Madrid from 2-12 December, 2019, could not take place as scheduled in Santiago, Chile, due to political turmoil, and thus became “Chile-Madrid.” Such a meeting would have had difficulty taking place in many other countries as well (try Iran, Irak, Lebanon, Lybia, or strike-ridden France). Instead of confronting the transcendent issue, the question of the endurance of the biosphere, national politics wrangle in the labyrinth of petty partisan disputes. The only intelligent result of COP25, should have been an international way to get at the source of the problem, and finally impose a Universal Carbon Tax, adjusted to the capacities of individual nations, redistributing the proceeds to renewables and education. Instead, the major polluters of the planet continue to dish out $500 billion annually in subsidies to energy companies (4).
So please, keep recycling, support your local bio-food producers, walk instead of taking your cars, but above all stop feeling guilty about the way you live: we should feel furious that the Koch Brothers and the very few people at the top of the energy chain have purloined the future and are permitted to continue to disseminate disinformation about the danger to the biosphere. Action, pressure, boycotts, teach-ins are in order. There is precious little time left before extinction kicks in, yet somehow the system of net gain fails to tally this into its accounts. A children’s crusade has taken to the streets, they are young and better informed than most adults, and we must act on their behalf or live in a world of eternal regrets. If Marx and Engels caught the wrath of the 19th century with the phrase, “workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains,” Greta and her generation are chanting “children of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your future.”
Credits © Richard Ingersoll