This has been on my mind for a few days now. It was sparked by an article in VOX about why we’re stuck in neutral vis a vis the gun violence in this country. And it’s also why (COP21 Paris notwithstanding) we won’t come up with anything that can realistically be called a ‘plan’ to deal with climate change/ Global warming. IMHO, the assertion that there could even be a plan to deal with runaway warming is suspect in the first place as you might suspect from reading all my posts about near term human extinction. But skip that for a moment. The ‘plan’ that came out of Paris is no better than a squirt of Bactine on a sucking chest wound. You might feel better for squirting it on the victim, and it feels like you’re doing SOMETHING, but it won’t save them.
And speaking of climate, a few days ago more information came out about Exxon’s knowledge of the damage that c02 was doing to the world. You’ll recall from this post that Exxon’s scientists knew by 1978 that carbon from fossil fuels was damaging the planet in irreversible ways. And the memos for this fact were widely circulated internally. But starting the the late 1980’s, Exxon changed the game–they became a central player in the denying of the science. And the latest news is perhaps the most devastating. Exxon started bidding on drilling rights for the Arctic long before it was physically possible to drill. To those of us who are big on conspiracy theories, one must conclude they knew long before the rest of us that the most likely sites for drilling wouldn’t have ice covering them for much longer.
But at least there’s an upside to all this, right? If we now have documents from TWO OIL COMPANIES that they know their product causes warming, doesn’t that blow up the denialists’ case?
Umm… no. Exxon has gone into full denial mode and they kept the story off the front pages during the COP21 meetings. The most useful thing the group 350 dot org did during the Paris conferences was a People’s Tribunal VS Exxon chaired by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. There were a cool 86 views of the Exxon Tribunal video on YouTube as of 12/17/2015. It ain’t going viral.
What seems to be going viral is climate change denial. The haters are even more ubiquitous now that they were prior to Paris. The discredited memes about ‘eighteen years of no warming’ are even more present on the general interest blogs I look at. Maybe this is just a last gasp for the deniers. Maybe Exxon realizes this is the last hurrah for denial. Maybe the pay for the denialist trolls has gone up to a dime a post.
Or maybe it’s more than that. I referenced the VOX article about gun control above. Their take is that there’s no longer any room for logical argument in the debate over limitations on ownership or use of firearms, even to the point of ‘open carry‘. The open carry argument is relevant to what’s happened over mass shootings and gun violence. From VOX: This (the proliferation of guns and our inability to do anything about it in the face of a mass shooting every day in America) has taken place in the context of a broader and deeper polarization of the country, as Red America and Blue America have become more ideologically homogeneous and distant from one another. The two sides are now composed of people who quite literally think and feel differently — and are less and less able to communicate. The gun issue is a salient example, but far from the only one.
And this is why I’m a bit jealous of the gun freaks–While all us good lefties wring our hands and plan candlelight marches, they really know what to do after a mass shooting. They make sure they’ve got a lot of extra ammo, and they might even stockpile another rifle or two against the day the violence comes to them. There is no reasonable argument that can be made against them doing this, because gun ownership is an emotional issue for them. You can quote JAMA stats that show that guns will get more owners killed than bad guys or the number of firearms homicides in the US Per week outnumbering the number of such homicides PER YEAR in Japan, France and England combined–it won’t make any difference in their opinions. But (again thanks to VOX), it doesn’t matter. And they lay out the case for people hanging onto guns for emotional reasons like this:
Let us imagine, then, a conservative gun owner — an older white gentleman, let’s say, in his 50s, living in the Rust Belt somewhere. When he was growing up, there was living memory of a familiar order: men working in honorable trade or manufacturing jobs, women tending home and children, Sundays at church, hard work yielding a steady rise up the ladder to a well-earned house, yard, and car.
That order was crumbling just as our gun owner inherited it. The honorable jobs are gone, or going. It’s hell to find work, benefits are for shit, and there isn’t much put aside for retirement. The kids are struggling with debt and low-paying jobs. They know, and our gun owner knows, that they probably aren’t going to have a better life than he did — that the very core of the American promise has proven false for them, for the first time in generations.
It’s a bitter, helpless feeling. And for someone naturally attuned to “order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity,” it’s scary. The role he thought he was meant to play in the world, the privileges and respect that came along with it, have been thrown into doubt. Everything is shifting under his feet.
Sound familiar? Substitute ‘climate denier’ for ‘conservative gun owner’ in the above. Same issue. And anybody who’s studied the problem seriously knows that modern people in industrialized societies will have to make the biggest sacrifices of all if we’re going to avoid extinction. Americans are over a quarter of the fossil fuel used on the planet and we’re only four percent of the population. And changing out the diet to less meat or changing out our transport modes to emulate Denmark, where 24% of all work commuting is by bicycle—as draconian as that sounds to Red State America, it doesn’t begin to address the radical changes in lifestyle we’d need to make in order to head off runaway global warming. Meanwhile, we can’t even get some lazy Americans to leave the Walmart scooters for disabled people. Do you want to take away hamburgers, rolling coal and suburban sprawl from this same aggrieved group? Hell no–they all have guns and they’re p*ssed.
That’s the darkness I’m feeling right now. I don’t think ‘The Bern‘ can fix it. And if he tries, we’re going to be back at 1861.
By the way, I’m tired of people telling me to ‘cheer up’. I understand there’s a purpose for ‘grateful Mondays‘, and I love my friends who post these bromides. But sometimes you just need to be sad. Or even Angry.
PS: here’s my favorite nativity scene in NY, at the magic store ABACADABRA. hAPPY hOLIDAY.