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Monday, July 27, 2009

Climate Creationism

I've come to believe that many Republicans see the old Fritz Lang movie Metropolis not as a cautionary tale, but as a model for a perfect society. In that movie, most of humanity works constantly underground, while the privileged few enjoy the fruits of their labor. Set in the future, Metropolis depicts a world were the vast majority of the world's population exists solely to support that elite above ground. Those people live lives of luxury and excess, for the most part unaware that all these workers even exist. The mass of humanity is only a support system for these privileged, a world of de facto slaves whose existence is justified only by their ability to serve those few.

We see this in the economic policies they advocate. During the Bush administration, the top 1% of wage earners showed big gains, while the rest of us didn't do so well.

San Francisco Chronicle:

The rich-poor gap also widened with the nation's top one percent now collecting 23 percent of total income, the biggest disparity since 1928, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One side statistic supplied by the IRS: there are now 47,000 Americans worth $20 million or more, an all-time high.

From top to bottom, these are punishing numbers: a nation of great wealth with yawning economic disparities. At the least, Congress should try again to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which was extended only through March of 2009, after President Bush vetoed enlarging it.

Those numbers are from the Census Bureau from 2008. The next set of numbers will be released in August. The stupidity of these economic policies --and the resulting market crash -- might have leveled the playing field a little, but probably not enough to make much of a dent. We decided a long time ago that we'd make it almost completely impossible for the wealthy to go broke. While the poor must be punished for their economic mistakes and take responsibility for their place in the world, the rich are protected from their foolishness, because their place in the world is a matter of entitlement. We have socialism in reverse, where all the losses are public and the profits are private.

But this can't be the only explanation for the economic policies the right endorses. Sure, the wealthy can buy their way out of a lot of things, but dying isn't one of them. The "money above all" thinking seems to include obviously self-destructive environmental and military policies. These people have children who -- you've got to imagine -- they hope will enjoy the same privileged position in our society that they do. After all, they leave them staggering amounts of money when they die. If only the privileged can afford health care, what do they care? But if no one can afford to live, then what would be the point?

New images declassified by the Obama White House shows that the previous administration had proof that their policies were destructive -- and covered that knowledge up.

Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.

Here's the Barrow summer ice sheet in '06:

Summer ice sheet in '06

And here's the same summer ice sheet in '07:

Summer ice gone in '07

There isn't a Barrow summer ice sheet just a year later.

While saying that the science on global warming was kind of shaky, the Bush administration sat on thousands of images like these. These were classified by the administration, but there are clearly no state secrets, no security concerns, here. The only thing these show is that the Republican party and the Bush administration were wrong. And the fact that they classified them shows they knew it -- it's the only "secret" these could possibly protect. Never mind that they merely verify what everyone already knows.

Now don't get me wrong; there's obviously one helluva lot of money to be made in the destroying the world business. But, in the end, who collects? As I've said, these people have legacies and they obviously want their children to be as privileged as they are. But extinction benefits no one. There's no pay off. Destroying the world climate may make you a few bucks in the short term, but it's a really lousy long term business plan.

Here we come to a second aspect of conservative thought -- religious nuttery. History shows us that craziness is no impediment to power. This is especially true in the case of inherited wealth. You can be goofy as you want to be and your wealth and privilege protects you from the consequences.

If you take the position that the Bible is literally true, then you wind up with a very skewed view of reality. This is the mindset that gives us creationism and this is part of the mindset that denies global warming -- at least, the catastrophic consequences of it, anyway. Because when we take the Bible literally, we don't just get a distorted view of the past, but also of the future. Where prophecy is concerned, God ends the world, not man. If you take this as fact, it becomes logically certain that humanity can't destroy the world. Absolutely nothing we do can kill off humanity, because the Book of Revelations already tells us how the world ends and the terms "climate change" or "global warming" aren't in there. It's angels and trumpets and sealed vessels and stuff.

Like creationism, the "fact" that global warming can't possibly kill us all becomes an article of faith. No evidence can change that, no matter how convincing. So the evidence that global warming is currently and drastically underway must be kept secret -- it'll only confuse us.

The "only God can destroy the world" argument has been made. In March, Republican Rep. John Shimkus cited the flood narrative as evidence that global warming is no threat; "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

...the earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood... I appreciate having panelists here who are men of faith, and we can get into the theological discourse of that position, but I do believe God's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect...

Melting ice caps? Pffft! Can't do a thing. God promised that everything would cycle on perfectly until the end of time -- which, by the way, God ends, not man. It's just logic, people.

So what are the odds that we're going to change some biblical literalist's mind on this? Not good. While the evangelical movement is becoming more green, most of the people in power are not. It would be incorrect to say that these people have made up their minds on this issue. It's more accurate to say that their minds have been made up for them -- by people who not only never had to worry about a changing climate, but probably never stopped to wonder what climate even was, any more than they gave light or gravity a lot of thought.

We've got to stop listening to these nuts. I don't care how powerful they are or how successful -- they're squirrellier than a walnut grove. Some wizard pretended to tell the future centuries ago and that's good enough for them. That's who you want deciding the future of the planet, someone who thinks the future is already carved in stone? Someone who believes that a talking snake and a magic apple are historical fact, not metaphor?

Doesn't really describe someone with a good handle on the nature of reality, does it?


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vet said...

If the "Metropolis" vision appalls you, you could take comfort in H G Wells' "The Time Machine" - which shows the same society at a later stage, where the troglodyte Morlocks take their revenge on the elite Eloi by eating them.

Sadly, God's promise in Genesis doesn't actually preclude devastating effects from global warming. The whole "Day After Tomorrow" shtick could come to pass, and there would still be summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, just like God promised. See, global warming isn't the end of the world - just the deaths of a few billion people.

And who will be best equipped to survive it? That's right: the rich.

Anonymous said...

Do you wear a tinfoil hat when you write blog articles like that? Whatever you do, stay away from any line of work requiring logic, because you just massacred logic in a rather spectacular way.

Wisco said...

If Ann Ominous has a point, they're doing a good job of keeping it a secret. I know enough about logic to know that declarations like "this is all wrong, end of story" aren't worth the electrons it takes to display them.

Why don't you come back when you have some sort of argument, Annie?

I'm guessing that'd be a nice change of pace for you.