“All in a dream, all in a dream,
The loading had begun,
Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed
To a new home in the sun.
Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed
To a new home…”
“After the Gold Rush” by Neil Young
Recently, in the midst of record-setting heat waves sweeping across the Eastern United States and Central Europe and Siberia, scientific articles as well as opinion pieces have reinforced how global climate chaos is an undeniable reality which will catastrophically affect how we humans live for the remaining decades of this very crucial 21st century.
See, for example, “Scientists: New Study Affirms Climate Change Is ‘Undeniable’-AP” – WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100728-721770.html), “Global warming pushes 2010 temperatures to record highs” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/28/global-temperatures-2010-record), “Global Emissions Targets Will Lead to 4C Temperature Rise, Say Studies” by Juliette Jowit and Christine Ottery (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/06-0), “Climate Change Means More Heatwaves, Premature Deaths, Scientists Warn” (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/10), “Rate of Arctic Sea Ice Melt Heats Up” by Randy Boswell (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/12-4), “Last Month Was the Hottest June Recorded Worldwide, Figures Show” (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/16-1), “Who Cooked the Planet?” By Paul Krugman (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/opinion/26krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), and “Calling All Future-Eaters” by Chris Hedges (https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/calling-all-future-eaters-by-chris-hedges/).
It seems that, even if we magically stopped, this very instant, using all fossil fuels and adding excess carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere, what we have added in the past, especially over the last 100 years, will continue to disrupt the delicate ecological balance humans (and most other species) have evolved in and flourished in for millennia. Just as Soviet-style communism was both deadly to humans and toxic to the natural environment in Russia, all its satellite states (the “Soviet Republics”), China, North Korea, Cambodia, and many other countries, so western-style (mostly U.S.) predatory capitalism (corporate imperialism) has revealed itself as both dangerous (if not yet fatal) to all humans and extremely destructive to nature everywhere on the planet where it is perpetrated. By its very nature, predatory corporate capitalism must always be ultra-consumptive, in every worst meaning of that word. See http://www.globalfootprint.org/ to find out how consumptive, including your own carbon footprint.
What is desperately needed ASAP, is not mere “reforms” of our current socio-political-economic system (which corporate-capitalists Obama, Congress and the Supremes will water down or oppose anyway), but systemic change on all three fronts, and the ruling class and their pet politicians will never allow that. In fact, the ruling class’ main, unofficial “Ministry of Propaganda”, what I now call the “corpstream media” (meaning both corporate and fixated on bodies, both sexualized and mangled/bloodied), will do everything in its unparalleled power to keep us from ever realizing any of these “inconvenient truths”.
Perhaps that realization, that little to nothing we do now will significantly change the devastation headed for most regions of the earth now inhabited by humans, accounts for the relative inaction to effectively halt global warming by the ruling class throughout most of the world who control, or at least influence, so much of what causes anthropogenic climate change. For instance, last year’s Copenhagen Climate Conference and the recent climate legislation in Congress, compromised as much as possible by lobbying and influence from dirty and unsustainable fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries, are pathetic, failed, too-little/too late attempts to do anything meaningful to halt global warming. In fact, as of this writing, that too-weakened climate bill has been pronounced “dead”, due mostly to Republican and Democratic Blue Dog opposition (apparently it wasn’t weak enough for their corporate-lobbying patrons), with no plans to resurrect it any time soon.
And this realization of unavoidable doom may also explain the accelerated, if not historically unprecedented, attempts, through completely avoidable, illegal wars of aggression for resources, or predatory commerce, politics, and other means, by this ruling class, to gain as much wealth and power as they can, regardless of the destructive consequences to other people and to the planet’s ecosystem. As political theorist Sheldon S. Wolin describes it so well in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, corporations now run our government for their own enrichment. And the ruling class runs these corporations.
For example, in the United States, in spite of the highest unemployment since the 1930’s and increasing poverty, of record numbers of people depending on food stamps, of growing millions of foreclosed homes, of crumbling infrastructure, of failing and increasingly test-obsessed and privatized public schools, of alarmingly-increasing rates of obesity, and of the pervasiveness of untested and pesticide-drenched, agribusiness-produced, genetically-modified food, Congress and the President continue to fund endless, unwinnable foreign wars and the largest military and foreign empire of global bases (more than 800 bases in over 130 countries) in history.
And these wars, bases, massive fleets on every ocean, and frequent war games held with various allies to “project power”, only add to climate change. Not only is the United States one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, but the Pentagon is the largest single source of pollution on earth and one of the largest users of petroleum as well. For example, one B-52 bomber uses 47,000 gallons of jet fuel per mission, at a cost of more than $100,000. In addition:
The U.S. Air Force uses 2.6 billion gallons of jet fuel per year, 10% of the total U.S. domestic market usage. As of 2007, U.S. forces in Iraq consumed 40,000 barrels of oil a day.
By the end of 2007, … the Iraq War had put at least 141 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, as much as adding [the equivalent of] twenty-five million cars to the roads. The Iraq War by itself added more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere than 60 percent of the world’s nations…
Fighter jets’ typical subsonic fuel consumption is 300 to 400 gallons per hour at full thrust (or 100 gallons per hour at cruising speed) during hundreds of hours’ training, or combat missions. Blasting to supersonic speed on its afterburners, an F-15 Fighter can burn as much as four gallons of fuel per second. (“The Carbon Footprint of War” by Bruce E. Johansen, The Progressive, October, 2009)
President Obama’s first military budget increased Bush’s largest one by more than $20 billion dollars. It is much larger, at $741.2 billion, even adjusting for inflation, than any military budget since World War II. Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate who pledged the abolition of nuclear weapons, also increased the nuclear weapons budget by more than 40%, from $6.4 Billion in FY 2010 to $9 billion by 2018.
Meanwhile, five years after the warned-about collapse of levees, New Orleans is still not back to where it was, and the Gulf of Mexico is a petroleum-contaminated disaster area due to the negligent, irresponsible, and probably criminal complicity of BP and both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Yet corporate profits and executive bonuses continue to rise, and the Wall Street investment banks are doing very well, indeed, thanks to the Bush and Obama bailouts, with Congress’ support, in one of the largest transfers of wealth from the poor and middle class to the ruling class in U.S. history, despite widespread, majority popular opposition to these Wall Street bailouts. By contrast, Main Street has received relatively little assistance.
Since the late 1970’s, the middle class in the U.S. has been under siege. Wages have stagnated, jobs are still being outsourced and off-shored, and the wealth-income gap between the ruling class and everyone else is the largest and worst in the developed world. As Chis Hedges reminds us: “There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called ‘near poverty.’ One in eight Americans – and one in four children – depend on food stamps to eat.” (“American Psychosis” by Chris Hedges http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/90/hedges-american-psychosis.html).
Such inequality is deeply immoral and always detrimental, if not fatal, to any hope of true democracy. With the passage of NAFTA, Democrats as well as Republicans have been responsible for the nearly complete dismantling of that middle class that, at one time, was the pathway for generations to have better lives than their parents.
For more in-depth looks at this crisis, see the following: “No To Oligarchy” by Bernie Sanders (http://www.thenation.com/article/37889/no-oligarchy), “Record U.S. Income Gap Widening Again” (http://www.perrspectives.com/blog/archives/001908.htm), “Income Inequality: A Deeper Look” (http://modeledbehavior.com/2010/07/22/income-inequality-a-deeper-look/), and “Why has the Post series created so little reaction?” by Glenn Greenwald (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/07/23/intelligence/index.html).
Of course, the downside of the once constantly-improving middle class U.S. lifestyle has always been that it was based on the unquestioned, ever-increasing over-consumption of natural resources and extensive and brutal, inhumane exploitation of poorly-paid Third World labor (predatory corporate capitalism and globalization at their worst), with little popular regard for, or even consciousness of, the human rights of Third World people or the environmental consequences of that over-consumption until the Environmental Movement began in the late 1960’s and the Anti-Sweatshop Movement began in the 1980’s..
But, regardless of how much more conscious most people say they are today about the need to “go Green”, all one need do is watch U.S. or European TV for ten minutes to see how things have essentially not changed. Commercials as well as programs (both fiction and “reality”), most of which feature upper-middle class to wealthy class lifestyles, still extol the “joy” and necessity of buying new, more sophisticated, more expensive objects to supposedly realize our inalienable American right to “the pursuit of happiness.” And the ruling class, in addition to living the most outlandish lifestyle themselves, controls the corporations which market this ultra-consumptive way of living to everyone, everywhere, regardless of the disastrous environmental consequences of everyone attempting to live the way middle class, let alone wealthy, Americans do. It has been calculated that if all the world’s people had an American standard of living, which means middle to upper-middle class as featured in most TV shows and commercials, at least two more planets the size of Earth would be needed to support them.
Again, Chris Hedges in “American Psychosis”:
The decline of American empire began long before the current economic meltdown or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It began before the first Gulf War or Ronald Reagan. It began when we shifted, in the words of Harvard historian Charles Maier, from an “empire of production” to an “empire of consumption.” By the end of the Vietnam War, when the costs of the war ate away at Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and domestic oil production began its steady, inexorable decline, we saw our country transformed from one that primarily produced to one that primarily consumed. We started borrowing to maintain a level of consumption as well as an empire we could no longer afford. We began to use force, especially in the Middle East, to feed our insatiable thirst for cheap oil. We substituted the illusion of growth and prosperity for real growth and prosperity. The bill is now due. America’s most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the very foundations of our society. In the 17th century these speculators would have been hung. Today they run the government and consume billions in taxpayer subsidies.
The ruling class’ “game” seems to be to use electronic media’s ultra-sophisticated marketing/advertising techniques, perfected since Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, misused his uncle’s psychological insights to make the “public relations” industry more effective than ever, to not only distract the poor, working, and middle classes from the truly terrible effects of endless wars, corporate/Wall Street greed, and the coming climate catastrophe, but to keep them on the over-consumption treadmill which actually accelerates that catastrophe while continuing to enrich the Wall Street/corporate ruling class.
So are these ruling class “Masters of the Universe” oblivious to the climate catastrophe rolling toward all of us later this century? Are they anti-science, like the creationists, “intelligent designers”, and climate change deniers? Are they coldly callous toward the future lives of their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will inhabit a blighted planet for the rest of this century? Or is there another explanation for their inaction to slow down or reverse catastrophic climate change?
For the most part, the members of the ruling class are well-educated, scientifically-aware people not usually given to belief in fads, fantasies, or myths (except that of the self-serving “unfettered free market”). They tend to be hard-nosed and very practical. They would tend to be very aware of the current warnings and plans of the U.S. Department of Defense to combat (that is the appropriate word) mass social-economic turmoil, including hundreds of millions of environmental refugees, due to climate change. In the Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the effects of global warming/climate change are identified as a “threat multiplier” around the globe. The Review states, “While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”
They would also be aware of the very likely real-life scenarios presented in such current books as Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats by Gwynne Dyer and Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change by Clive Hamilton. In fact, their awareness of the coming climate-caused domestic turmoil is one major reason for the unprecedented stationing and assigning, no doubt at the urging of the ruling class, of active-duty U.S. Army units in the continental U.S. (NorthCom) as their area of command, and for the United States moving beyond the National Security State it has been since 1947 to the increasingly-privatized (Blackwater mercenaries were sent to New Orleans after the levees collapsed) National Surveillance State it is now.
So why does the ruling class still do little, if anything, to help avert the coming climate disasters?
The answer, I believe, is that they are indulging in a very cynical version of carpe diem. They know that the next 90 years will be a horror for most humans, so they are “getting all they can” now, while the getting is good. They will live “high on the hog” for as long as they can, and pass this wealth and its attendant comforts down to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as long as it lasts, so their heirs can hold out and “live the good life” in luxury as long as possible, while the climate catastrophe devastates most other, less-powerful, less-privileged people. Their attitude seems to be, “Après moi, le déluge”, and sadly, for many less fortunate humans and other species, that will be literally true in coming decades.
The 95% or so of Americans who are not members of the ruling class will suffer increasingly miserable lives or else, having no other recourse and driven by the “poverty draft”, will enlist in the U.S. empire’s military or mercenary forces where they can at least get food and potable water, housing, and medical care, if they are not killed, mangled, or psychologically deranged in combat for the collapsing empire. The U.S. Class War has all but ended, and the ruling class has finally won, hands down. But it may ultimately be a Pyrrhic victory once the catastrophic effects of climate change finally begin to affect even their lavish, exclusive lifestyles.
This 21st century Gold Rush seems to be the only plausible explanation for the way the ruling class, which includes corporate CEO’s, the President, most other heads of state, Congress, and other members of national legislative bodies, are doing virtually nothing as glaciers melt, islands and lowlands are flooded, droughts and heat waves intensify and spread, species are eliminated, tropic zones spread well beyond the tropics, environmental refugees are already on the move, deaths due to climate change increase yearly, and climate extremes become more prevalent everywhere.
If, as more and more of us are coming to believe, we have reached, if not already passed, the “tipping point” from which it will be nearly impossible to reverse or slow the deadly effects of climate change, then responsible people of conscience should be doing all they can to mitigate these effects, rather than using any wealth, power, and influence they have to hoard riches and comforts for themselves and their heirs. The fact that the ruling class is only interested in accumulating more and more says everything one needs to know about the type of people they are.
As Barbara Kingsolver put it in her novel Animal Dreams, “It’s what you do that makes you who you are”. People who have no regard for others and only use others, without any pangs of conscience, for their own selfish gains, have a specific name: sociopaths. It is increasingly clear from their behavior, regardless of the fine rhetoric they may publicly emit, that most rulers and corporate CEO’s are sociopathic, and there is no reasoning or compromising with a sociopath.
So, barring a miraculous change of heart on the part of the ruling class, and immediate, worldwide remedial action to reverse global warming (if it was still possible), what are we to do? Unfortunately, there is no “new home in the sun”, as Neil Young saw in his dream. We only have one home, on this fragile planet, and if we have made it impossible for our species to continue to thrive on it, we must all, eventually, suffer the dire consequences. The global-wide system of corporatist-militarist predatory capitalism and empire, run by a rapacious ruling class with its willing accomplices in our increasingly “soft-totalitarian” government, video-surveilling us, listening to our phone calls, and reading our emails, all impervious to any influence by ordinary people, has brought us to the present inextricably-intertwined economic-military-environmental crisis threatening all of us. We only have each other to help get us through whatever is ahead:
The goal will no longer be the possibility of reforming the system but of protecting truth, civility and culture from mass contamination. It will require the kind of schizophrenic lifestyle that characterizes all totalitarian societies. Our private and public demeanors will often have to stand in stark contrast. Acts of defiance will often be subtle and nuanced. They will be carried out not for short term gain but the assertion of our integrity. Rebellion will have an ultimate if not easily definable purpose. The more we retreat from the culture at large the more room we will have to carve out lives of meaning, the more we will be able to wall off the flood of illusions disseminated by mass culture and the more we will retain sanity in an insane world. The goal will become the ability to endure. (“American Psychosis” by Chris Hedges)
And if, as Samuel Beckett has Didi say more than once in Waiting for Godot, there really is “Nothing to be done” because Godot, the one who will save us from our miserable existence never comes, then it behooves those of us with consciences who still believe in social justice as a prime value to do whatever we can not only to try to survive the coming catastrophic years, but, living more simply and locally, to help our neighbors cope with those catastrophes as best we can.
It is what we do that makes us who we are.