State of denial

March 10,2017

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I turned on the cable news at 3:00 pm last Friday. With a massive permafrost melt threatening the release of catastrophic levels of carbon and methane, with sections of the Antarctic ice sheet calving at an alarming rate, with a pandemic of sand mining threatening sea life and waterways throughout the planet, with shocking concentrations of pollutants threatening the delicate web of sea life even in the remotest depths of the world’s oceans, the lead story on both MSNBC and CNN was this: “Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be returning to The Apprentice.”

It’s no different on the nightly network newscasts, where the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) arbiters of public groupthink – along with their print confreres at The New York Times and Washington Post – have been frantically stoking a Hearst-like yellow journalism plague of lurid tales about the Russian Menace, Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Trump’s fresh round of Twitter storms about phone tapping, real or imagined, unto terminal stupor, as the world burns.

Let’s review the evidence for this de facto climate denialism from both the political and media liberal fronts for the past couple of years. Mostly because of perceived pressure from the Sanders campaign, 2016’s neoliberal standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton, flecked her standard stump speech of “stronger-together” identity-politics goo with a few cursory mentions of global warming, but she never relented in her support of methane-spewing fracking and never endorsed a carbon tax; she certainly never pushed anything close to the massive World War II-style mobilization most serious scientists and activists have urged as the only hope for averting near-term disaster (the official, worthless nonbinding Democratic Convention platform made passing mention of a global mobilization under pressure from the Sanders forces but then squelched every significant measure that might actually lead in that direction). In the sobering words of Bill McKibben,

In fact, one of the lowest points in my years of fighting climate change came in late June, when I sat on the commission appointed to draft the Democratic Party platform. (I was a Sanders appointee, alongside Cornel West and other luminaries.) At 11 p.m. on a Friday night, in a mostly deserted hotel ballroom in St. Louis, I was given an hour to offer nine amendments to the platform to address climate change. More bike paths passed by unanimous consent, but all the semi-hard things that might begin to make a real difference – a fracking ban, a carbon tax, a prohibition against drilling or mining fossil fuels on public lands, a climate litmus test for new developments, an end to World Bank financing of fossil fuel plants – were defeated by 7–6 tallies, with the Clinton appointees voting as a bloc. They were quite concerned about climate change, they insisted, but a “phased-down” approach would be best. There was the faintest whiff of Munich about it.

This thin gruel of low-cal rhetoric and penny-ante nonsolutions – an eyedropper applied to a raging inferno – is routinely served up by corporate Democrats seeking to rouse and gull the “base”: a cynical, soothing circumventing of the staggering investments and radical readjustments needed to provide even a sliver of hope against the steadily advancing juggernaut of climate feedback loops.

If the Democrats, with their fatuous oratory and “silly” proposals, claim to know the science, then they are willfully ignoring it; if they don’t really know it, then their paltry, insufficient knowledge will help us no more than the GOP’s abject ignorance. And judging by the near-blackout on this subject imposed by the corporate media, mass ignorance seems to be the preferred business model of a corporate elite more concerned about today’s profits than tomorrow’s life on earth.

The bottom line is this: following the path of either major party leaves us and the planet more or less dead, sooner or later. Both parties – along with the rest of the world’s political and media elites – are in catastrophic denial of both the depth of this gravest of all crises and the radicality of the solutions required now, when it may already be too late – not ten or twenty or fifty years from now. This is more than a dereliction or malfeasance of the conventional sort. It is an unprecedented crime against humanity.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Climate Change Denial, democratic-style’



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