Year 2, Month 12, Day 24: Of Course I Believe In Free Will; I Have No Choice.

The Philippines got whacked with some serious weather recently. A lot of deaths, a lot of damage, a lot of tragedy. The Philippine Sun-Times runs an editorial titled “Tempting Fate”:

TWO interesting points in the latest tragedy to hit the country: Sendong poured a month’s worth of rainfall in 24 hours in certain regions, including the worst-hit areas of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, and tropical storms do not hit Mindanao often.

The first point presupposes a calamity, the second complacency. When the two are in one brew, the result is deadly.

“Mindanao is usually not a typhoon-prone area,” Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross, was quoted by an Agence France Presse (AFP) report as saying, “that is why most residents were caught unprepared.”

“Climate is changing. We must also change the way we address climate issues,” she added. That’s another way of saying people everywhere, including places that feel safe by tradition, should be complacent no longer.

That can be done if officials dust off warnings left rotting in old files and wield political will to address them.

Meanwhile, American politicians are obsessing about your freedom to buy shitty light bulbs. Sent December 20:

Human-caused climate change is not something looming in the intangible future, but a phenomenon that is unfolding everywhere, right now. Human civilization is rooted in the stable and predictable weather our planet has experienced for the past twelve thousand years or so; it is during this comparatively short span of Earth’s history that agriculture was developed, and that industrialization transformed the world.

Now the atmospheric transformations brought about by the carbon-burning industrialized nations are bringing this time to an end. Consistent weather patterns will soon be a thing of the past; complacency in the face of this transforming climate is a very dangerous attitude.

Politicians from the developed world seem unable to imagine the world we are entering, or to conceive a culture that is not powered by burning coal and oil. Their failure to take responsibility for the disaster they have wrought has grave repercussions for the international community.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 23: Shaken, Not Stirred

In the July 7 L.A. Times, the brilliant and prescient Naomi Klein turns her eye to the interlocked disasters currently unfolding in the American West, in this case Montana — with floods and oil spills competing for the attention of the rescue and cleanup crews.

“We’re a disaster area,” Alexis Bonogofsky told me, “and it’s going to take a long time to get over it.”

Bonogofsky and her partner, Mike Scott, are all over the news this week, telling the world about how Montana’s Exxon Mobil pipeline spill has fouled their goat ranch and is threatening the health of their animals.

But my conversation with Bonogofsky was four full days before the pipeline began pouring oil into the Yellowstone River. And no, it’s not that she’s psychic; she was talking about this year’s historic flooding.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my lifetime. It destroyed houses; people died; crops didn’t get in the fields…. We barely were able to get our hay crop in.”

Everyone agrees that the two disasters — the flooding of the Yellowstone River and the oil spill in the riverbed — are connected. According to Exxon officials, the high and fast-moving river has four times its usual flow this year, which has hampered cleanup and prevented their workers from reaching the exact source of the spill. Also thanks to the flooding, the oiled water has breached the riverbanks, inundating farmland, endangering animals, killing crops and contaminating surface water. And the rush of water appears to be carrying the oil toward North Dakota.

This letter was subsequently published by the LA Times with some editing. Yay, me.

Naomi Klein’s discussion of climate change’s repercussions in Montana leaves unaddressed the concept of “disaster capitalism,” her crucial contribution to contemporary economic analysis. As climate change’s catastrophic effects become more widespread, our already-crumbling infrastructure will no longer be up to the challenge of an adequate response; the inevitable result will be more human misery — which will in turn trigger ever-more-egregious corporate encroachments on both the lives of individuals and their communities. We can confidently expect more lenient enforcement of existing emissions and pollution law in the wake of climatic crises, along with legislative weakening of troublesome and unprofitable regulations. And let’s not forget more tax breaks to help multinational corporations (many of which facilitated global warming in the first place) reap further benefits from the havoc they’ve helped bring about. “Disaster capitalism” was bad enough already. With climate change added to the mix, it’s a poisonous recipe for humanity.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 20: Lie Back And Think Of An Island Nation

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs an AP piece on the reality of climate refugees. Yow:

OSLO, Norway (AP) — About 42 million people were forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world in 2010, more than double the number during the previous year, experts said Monday.

One reason for the increase in the figure could be climate change, and the international community should be doing more to contain it, the experts said.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said the increase from 17 million displaced people in 2009 was mainly due to the impact of “mega-disasters” such as the massive floods in China and Pakistan and the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.

This letter is part of my ongoing “total capitulation to the forces of evil” theme. Sent June 6:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the climate-change denialists are going to change their tune. As the atmosphere warms it’ll hold more moisture, which means more precipitation: snow, rain, sleet, hail. More extreme weather events will mean more climate refugees; as people’s homes and regional economies are destroyed, they’ll have to move elsewhere. And the GOP, the engine of climate denial, will be faced with the consequences of its anti-science policies: more refugees crossing borders, more emergencies requiring intervention, more jobs lost and economies undermined. But what changes denialists’ minds will be the realization on the part of their corporate sponsors that the multiple crises emerging from a runaway greenhouse effect offer enormous opportunities for graft, corruption and profiteering. If offering a license to steal is the only way to get the world’s largest corporations to bring all their resources to bear on climate change, I’m all for it.

Warren Senders