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Climate Denial on the Left


Michael Moore’s “molotov cocktail to the system” movie, Fahrenheit 11/9, has a number of good things to say and good sections. I was particularly appreciative of the sections on lead poisoning criminality in Flint, Michigan, recent progressive electoral victories and campaigns within the Democratic Party, and the West Virginia teachers strike. His critique of the Clinton/corporate/dominant wing of the Democratic Party was also on target.

However, I was appalled that there was virtually nothing about the climate crisis. Out of the two hours, there might have been a literal total of 10 seconds of footage about something related to that huge, world-overarching issue.

For example, the struggle at Standing Rock was nowhere to be found in this progressive movie about US politics and progressive activism since 2016.

15 years ago I began my transformation from a progressive activist and organizer primarily working in the arena of independent politics into someone primarily working on the climate crisis. The impetus for that life-change was a disastrous heat wave in western Europe in August of 2003. 35,000 or more people died as a result of it. This unprecedented, massive human tragedy caused me to spend the next several months studying the reality of global heating, how bad it is, how relatively close we are to climate tipping points, and who was working against this looming world catastrophe.

I was disturbed to learn that almost no one on the left and not that many within the environmental community were doing so, at least on a consistent basis. And so, in January of 2004, I started doing work in this area, co-founding with Fr. Paul Mayer the Climate Crisis Coalition and staying active ever since.

It has been encouraging to see the growth of an activist climate movement, an anti-racist climate justice movement and an inclusion of the climate issue as a major one on the part of many groups within the progressive movement. It was very significant that in his history-making Presidential campaign in 2016 Bernie Sanders spoke about this issue consistently and strongly. And there could be other positive examples.

So is Michael Moore’s climate blindspot in this movie an exception to the prevailing reality on the left?

I think it’s more complicated. Moore does get it on the climate crisis on some level. In a tweet from him on March 28 last year he wrote, “Historians in the near future will mark today, March 28, 2017, as the day the extinction of human life on earth began, thanks 2 Donald Trump. Trump has signed orders killing all of Obama’s climate change regulations. The EPA is prohibited henceforth from focusing on climate change.”

Actually, the threat of “the extinction of human life on earth” began gathering steam (via coal burning on a mass scale) long before Donald Trump. And though Obama did things to move us in the right direction, they were in no way commensurate with the seriousness of our situation.

On a human level, I don’t understand how someone who appreciates this extinction threat, who understands how dire our situation is, how profoundly this is a societal and ecological crisis of the highest and most immediate magnitude, could “forget” to  incorporate this issue into a movie like Fahrenheit 11/9.

But in addition, the fact is that a huge majority of the U.S. American people, 80-85% consistently for many years, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, support wind and solar. Conservative landowners have joined forces with enviros, progressives and Indigenous people to oppose the taking of their and others’ land for oil and gas pipelines and infrastructure. And with all of the fires and storms and floods, extreme weather events, that just keep coming and will be doing so for a long, long time, there is a realistic basis for making political inroads among even conservatives if we are there with them to help them deal with these fossil fuel industry-fueled, destructive disasters.

There really is no excuse, and many good reasons, for this issue always being part of our work and our strategic and political thinking and action.

Maybe Michael Moore’s next movie could be on the climate crisis? Michael?

Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

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