Year 3, Month 11, Day 21: A Modest Proposal

The Chicago Tribune, on economics and climate change:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. droughts, floods and heat waves likely fueled by climate change in the last two years hit the people who can afford it the least – the poor and middle class, a report published on Friday said.

In affected areas of U.S. states hit by five or more extreme weather events in the last two years, the median annual household income was a bit over $48,000, or 7 percent below the national median, according to the report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House.

Floods hit lower-income households particularly hard. Families in areas hit by the largest floods this year and last, many near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, earned an average of 14 percent less than the U.S. median, said the report called “Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle and Lower Income Americans.”

“These findings reflect a cruel phenomenon sometimes called ‘the climate gap’” the concept that climate change has a disproportionate and unequal impact on society’s less fortunate,” said the report, which tapped U.S. data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Census and other agencies.

This letter doesn’t satisfy me, but after forty minutes of staring at the screen I just said the hell with it. Sent November 17:

Climate change’s disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest people is one of many ways in which environmental and economic issues are inextricably intertwined. Wealthy nations of course contribute the lion’s share of planetary greenhouse emissions, and wealthy individuals of course have more options and resources available when extreme weather threatens. But these facts are only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg.

Climate change is a direct symptom of the greenhouse effect, but an indirect symptom of something far more pervasive and problematic. Any economic paradigm predicated on the notion of continuous expansion will eventually run out of room and resources. Infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet; it’s as simple as that. While American market capitalism has brought us many benefits, it has encouraged us to ignore the repercussions of our heedless consumption. Now that those consequences include droughts, hurricanes and heat waves, can we change our ways?

Warren Senders

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