Month 10, Day 5: Pulling Out All The Stops

The New Yorker ran a beautifully written and profoundly depressing piece by Ryan Lizza outlining all the contributing factors to the failure of climate change legislation in this Congress. It’s a must-read…but if you give a shit, it’ll make you furious and depressed.

I employed maximum possible erudition in my letter, the better to tickle their editorial fancy. As far as I could ascertain, they have no length limit, so I ran well over my usual 150 words. Let’s see; maybe I’ll get lucky!

Ryan Lizza’s exposition of our politicians’ failure to address climate change is gutwrenching. Responsibility for this potentially species-fatal incapacity can be assigned to many factors, including the ludicrously attenuated attention span of the average American consumer, the profit-fixated corporate entities which seek ever-greater control over all aspects of our distorted version of market capitalism, the pathologically negative response patterns of Republican politicians, the Big Lies peddled every day by Fox News, and the readiness of politicians of all ideological stripes to embrace what the liberal blogger “Digby” once pithily summed up as “Irrational Fear of Hippies.”

We have never encountered anything like this before in human history. In the past, existential threats to our nation, our allies or our species were effectively immediate: a civil war, an epidemic, a crazed dictator, a nuclear Armageddon. Now, confronting a danger which many respected scientists predict could end in a vast planetary die-off, we are stymied — because our politics is incompetent, structurally unable to respond to events which move on time-scales grander than those underlying our elections.

Our media establishment’s handling of this issue, by contrast, is perfectly competent, but shamefully disingenuous. By hewing to a specious doctrine of false equivalence, in which evidence compiled and correlated by hundreds of working scientists must be “balanced” by the dismissive pronunciamenti of a paid corporate shill, print and broadcast outlets have buried the threats we face from global climate chaos under a pile of irrelevancies, statistical misinterpretations, ad hominem attacks, strawmen and flat-out lies. “Those who can make you believe absurdities,” goes Voltaire’s apothegm, “can make you commit atrocities.” It seems, alas, that those who can make us disbelieve reason and evidence are making inevitable an atrocity of planetary dimensions.

Our descendants, if descendants there be, will not be kind in their assessments of our politicians, our media, and ourselves. On the other hand, given the likelihood of increasingly hostile climatic conditions in the new Anthropocene Epoch, they’ll probably be far too preoccupied with the daily struggle to survive to spend much time assigning blame.  That is comfort, I suppose, of a sort.

Warren Senders

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