The Planet is Melting

Many of us are understandably depressed over the perilous return engagement obscenely granted to our Messianic Militarist Fortunate Son President and hiscorporate-fascist Uncle Darth Cheney.

We are naturally demoralized to see yet another sorry example of what happens when we play by the rules of a dangerously authoritarian system of elite-managed “democracy” that infantilizes mass consciousness and pushes critical and moral issues of empire, inequality, and planetary sustainability (see below) to the distant margins of serious debate.

We are discouraged almost beyond words to again see how the people’s input into “their” public policy is reduced to a carefully risk-managed narrow-spectrum 30-second fling that stands in pale contrast to the long dark year-round rape of government, society, and ecosphere perpetrated by concentrated wealth and power in the “advanced” world’s most unequal and wealth-top-heavy nation.

It’s enough to make you want to leave politics and retreat from the public sphere altogether, yes?

Get over it. Withdrawal from politics is not a responsible option right now. There’s too much at stake.

For example, the planet is melting under US hegemony. All during the last year, as we argued with our fellow Americans and with each other (on the left) over how to best respond to the asters’ intentionally idiotic — idiotic for us, not for the bipartisan (in campaign contributions as well as votes) ruling class — electoral regime and upcoming quadrennial “extravaganza” (Noam Chomsky’s term), we know that the illegal and unjust occupation of Iraq (supported by both of the official candidates though not by the majority of Kerry’s voters) continued to butcher tens of thousands.

Also worth noting and also directly related to the rapacious global petro-capitalism that haunts the 21st century, the planet’s vital ice caps continued to melt under the withering pressure of dangerously under-regulated carbon emissions. In a New York Time story that appeared and was rapidly forgotten on the Saturday before the big election, we learned some of the findings of a major forthcoming 4-year study commisioned by the governments of 8 nations with Arctic territory, including the United States. The study shows that dangerous humanity-generated Arctic warming is well underway and likely to become more “fast-paced” in future years, with grave implications for human beings and other living things. According to the Times:

” A comprehensive four-year study of warming in the Arctic shows that heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks around the world are contributing to profound environmental changes, including sharp retreats of glaciers and sea ice, thawing of permafrost and shifts in the weather, the oceans and the atmosphere. The study, commissioned by eight nations with Arctic territory….was conducted by nearly 300 scientists [and] support[s] the broad but politically controversial scientific consensus that global warming is caused mainly by rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, The report says that ‘while some historical changes in climate have resulted from natural causes and variations, the strength of the trends and the patterns of change that have emerged in recent decades indicate that human influences, resulting primarily from increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, have now become the dominant factor.’ The Arctic ‘is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth,’ the report says, adding, ‘Over the next 100 years, climate change is expected to accelerate, contributing to major physical, ecological, social and economic changes, many of which have already begun.’ The potential benefits of the changes include projected growth in marine fish stocks and improved prospects for agriculture and timber harvests in some regions, as well as expanded access to Arctic waters” but “the list of potential harms is far longer….The report concludes that the consequences of the fast-paced Arctic warming will be global. In particular, the accelerated melting of Greenland’s two-mile-high sheets of ice will cause sea levels to rise around the world” (Andrew S. Revkin, “Big Arctic Perils Seen in Warming, Survey Finds,” New York Times, October 30, 2004, A1).

The report is supposed to be released on Nov. 9, but portions were provided to The New York Times by European participants in the project. The Bush administration, which has an especially bad environmental record (of course), appears to have worked to delay its release until after the election.

While I have no doubt that Bush will be worse by some factor than Kerry would have been on this issue, I submit that this hugely significant problem — “rapid and severe” climate change leading to the retreat of polar ice, numerous species extinctions, and significant increase in global sea-levels —-would continue largely unabated under a Kerry White House and that it is ultimately a function of the inherently cancerous capitalist system.

That system must be abolished and transcended if humanity wants to retain a long-term biological presence on this planet. As the old Hungarian Marxist Ivan Meszaros likes to say, playing off Rosa Luxembourg’s pithy old slogan (“socialism or barbarism”): “it’s socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky.”

The barbarism is well underway.

Gee, I wonder if we might be able to get dominant US media, falsely labeled “mainstream” (I don’t remember Soviet state television being called “mainstream”) to frame the salvation of a life-tolerant ecosphere as a “MORAL ISSUE.” Could they perhaps even begin to grasp this as a “PRO-LIFE” issue?!

For my part, I have written droves of articles since 9/11, most of them about domestic socioeconomic and racial inequality, global inequality, imperialism, and (often) the intimate, dialectically inseparable relationship between empire and social hierarchy. I think I’ve mentioned ecological issues 4 or 5 times, at most.

That’s one-thing, at least, that I’m going to change in the chilling new era of warming we now inhabit. What’s the point of more equally sharing up a poison pie?

Paul Street ([email protected]) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, October 2004).

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