Climate Change Action Would Kill Imperialism


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Climate Change Action Would Kill Imperialism

Climate change action would kill imperialism, and that is why we can’t have it in America.

American political power is based on fossil fuels, and the US military is the engine that consumes those fuels to produce that power. So long as there is an American political elite that craves lucrative personal prestige and the ability to dominate internationally, the US economy will be fossil-fueled capitalism that maintains the military colossus that enables and protects those elite ambitions.

US military-enabled imperial power is of two varieties:

first: the hard power that overtly invades and seeks to control territory to impose American capitalist domination, as for example capturing pipeline routes south through Afghanistan and Pakistan – away from China – out of Central Asian oil fields; the guarding of sea lanes crucial for petroleum transport west, as at Suez and the Strait of Hormuz, and east to Japan, Korea and Australia (if they behave); and the securing of scarce metal ore and rare earth deposits in Afghanistan and Africa (for elements used in solid state electronics); and

second: the soft power of buying compliance to US hegemony from client states by gifting them with arms sales that enable them to exercise their own mini-imperialistic ambitions, as with Israel’s threat-projection in the Levant that is consistent with US aims of regional control, and Zionism’s own manifest destiny colonialist mania of persecuting the occupied Palestinians and shrinking their reservations; and with arms sales to Saudi Arabia enabling its genocidal war against Yemen, and giving the U.S. leverage to induce the opulent Saudi royalty to keep oil production high and oil prices low on the world market, so as to grease Western capitalism and also undercut the revenue streams supporting Venezuelan socialism and Iranian economic development.

Because of the fracking (oil shale) boom of the last two decades, the U.S. now produces as much oil as Saudi Arabia and is energy independent as a fossil fueled economy, but hegemonic ambition compels it to seek global control of petroleum distribution because to control the flow of oil around the globe is to throttle the imperial ambitions and economic development plans of all others.

American imperialism, mediated by its military, is intrinsically fossil fueled. It is impossible to power the trucks, tanks, gun-carriages, helicopters, airplanes, missiles, drones, ships and submarines of the US military with solar and wind power; only fossil fuels will do. Nuclear power – also based on a fossil fuel, fissile uranium – is used to propel particularly large destruction-projection platforms, specifically missile-carrying submarines and aircraft carriers. Military vehicles require high energy-density fuels, to provide a high amount of energy at a high rate of delivery from relatively small volumes of fuel-matter, in order to propel them quickly (and inefficiently) despite the weight of their armaments.

“Green” forms of energy – solar, wind, hydroelectric – are intrinsically of low energy-density; they are spread out over large areas from which they are collected rather slowly, rather than being chemically concentrated into relatively compact masses, like coal, petroleum, natural gas and fissile uranium, which can be ignited to release their stored energy explosively.

Local sources of “green” electrical energy can power civilian infrastructure almost anywhere, because solar, wind and even hydro power are widely available around the globe. All that is required is investment in and installation of appropriate energy collection technology, and a local area distribution network for electrical power. Green energy is intrinsically a socialist form of powering civilization, because the energy to be used locally can be collected locally, which frustrates the capitalist impulse to monopolize narrowly-defined sites of high energy-density fuel deposits – like coal and uranium mines, and oil and gas wells – and tightly confined electrical generation plants that meter out their electrical power through a web of long distance transmission lines.

The United States can only address the existential threat of global climate change by disavowing the imperialistic and self-aggrandizing ambitions of its political and corporate elite. That means deflating American militarism and its vast war industries complex by abandoning capitalism, which is exclusionary (privatized, extractive) fossil-fueled and speculation-dominated economics, and transforming the US economy to nationally and rationally planned green energy socialism: people over profits, an equalizing domestic solidarity over classist international gamesmanship.

Transforming the American political economy to green energy socialism would be very good for the American people, but it would be the death of American fossil-fueled capitalism, and thus of America’s rulers’ ambitions and privileges.

What we know today is that America’s political and corporate elite would rather see humanity end within a century than disavow its imperialistic and self-aggrandizing ambitions. Their obsession is to rule to the bitter end, a bitter end hastened by their obsession to remain in control. America does not have a robust permanent national commitment to contain, ameliorate and possibly reverse climate change and ecological deterioration because that would necessarily require the overthrow of Imperial America’s capitalist elite and its classist and racist mentality.

The revolution necessary to overthrow American capitalism and enable a national response to the climate change crisis would first require an amazing degree of popular consensus, psychological and intellectual maturity, moral courage, popular solidarity and personal commitment throughout the public, to sustain it through whatever struggle would be necessary to overpower its ruling capitalist paradigm.

Will this ever be possible?, or would any popular American eco-socialist uprising be snuffed out as pitilessly as was the Syrian Revolution? Regardless, is CO2-propelled climate change now so far advanced that it is beyond any human ability to stop? No one can really say.

We are each left with a choice between: defeatist acquiescence to capitalist-dominated climapocalypse, or the dignity of rebellious aspiration and activism for green socialism, regardless of whether or not it will ever be realized politically, and even if it is now precluded by Nature’s implacable geophysical forces that humanity’s blind self-absorption has set into karmic motion.

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Hurricane Florence, 9-11 Climate Change Terrorism

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Hurricane Florence, 9-11 Climate Change Terrorism

NEW 9-11 TERRORIST ATTACK!! Yes, it’s true! Today (11 September 2018), terrorists based in Washington D.C., and sponsored by the dinosaur bones mining, pumping and burning industries, have relaxed rules restricting methane emissions from mines and oil and gas wells (for privatized profits at socialized costs), which will result in enhanced hydrocarbon atmospheric pollution that will accelerate Global Warming.

AND JUST IN TIME! Because Hurricane Florence, currently a Category 4 hurricane (and possibly strengthening toward the maximum possible, Category 5) is barreling down on North Carolina (a good choice, they voted for Trump), and 1.5 MILLION people have been urged/ordered to evacuate from coastal areas.

Hurricane Florence is being amplified by Climate Change (Global Warming) because:

1) the sea level is now higher (by about 1 foot in the western Atlantic near the Carolinas) because of previous ice cap melting and runoff (and heat-induced expansion of seawater), so the “storm surge” (like an extra super duper high tide) flooding of coastal lowlands, swept in by the hurricane, will be more extensive (i.e. worse); and

2) because the ocean is warmer (by Global Warming) and thus has much more energy (heat) available to pump up wind speed/energy in hurricanes, and so they have more capacity to destroy structures and infrastructure (like telephone and power poles, and fallen power lines start fires; also to uproot trees, smash houses and lift off roofs); and

3) because Global Warming/Climate Change has altered the path of the Jet Stream —

the high-latitude, high-speed, high-altitude, west-to-east ring of wind current that normally pushes Atlantic hurricanes eastward back out into the Atlantic Ocean, away from the US East Coast —

(has altered the path of the Jet Stream) farther to the north, so it now DOES NOT push Atlantic hurricanes toward the east, away from the US East Coast. So Hurricane Florence will stall when it makes landfall, and dump humongous amounts of rain in the same spot (same localized region) of mainly North Carolina, which will cause huge inland flooding. This is exactly what happened last year (2017) with Hurricane Harvey over Houston, which resulted in the largest flooding event in US history.

We can expect fatalities of American citizens.

Since:

– all these coming effects of Hurricane Florence (and Hurricanes Helene and Isaac, right behind) were known to be inevitable, and

– since Global Warming/Climate Change is known to be the “natural” culprit (super-charging an already dangerous natural weather event), and

– since pollution by greenhouse gases is known (and has been known for over half a century) to be the human action producing the super-charged “natural culprit” of this approaching Climate-Weather Catastrophe, and

– since it is known that this human action has been committed by high U.S. government officials solely for the pecuniary advantage of the fossil fuels industries (who fund these pols’s kick-backs), and

– as it is known such action will directly harm — even kill — American citizens,

– then it is directly clear that said high U.S. government officials are committing premeditated murder (and at the very very minimum reckless endangerment including manslaughter).

This is all-out terrorism against millions of Americans on US soil.

The US War On Terror needs to focus all its forces on Washington D.C., and Wall Street, New York City (and its satellite corporate terrorist base camps, cash dumps and training centers lurking deep in the Uncle Sam Homeland), and capture and liberate that currently occupied — by neo-fascists — national capital city.

At this moment, murder charges could be filed in any state court against these still-at-large-criminals (hiding out in bought-elected federal and state offices) because of the direct linkage between their premeditated actions, their criminal intent to harm rather than protect American citizens (a direct violation of their oaths for government service, and their primary duty as members of American government: protecting the public) and the past and now impending and inevitable harm to be suffered by many members of the American public.

9-11 terror is here now, but on a continental scale, not just a citywide scale — with Hurricane Armageddon on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, Wildfire Armageddon west of the Great Plains, and more and bigger tornadoes inevitable for the Mississippi Watershed and Great Plains.

We are having our continent-wide mainland USA “Pearl Harbor” attack by Climate Change-amplified weather, which is state-sponsored terrorism that is caused directly by the fossil fuel industry-owned terrorist-capitalist network of Republican Party and corporatist Democratic Party pretenders and occupiers of U.S. Government (and states’ governments) Executive, Congressional and Judicial public offices.

This is treason, and demands a complete and thorough revolution.

Exhibit A (thanks to Norman T.):
https://www.democracynow.org/2018/9/11/climate_change_supercharges_hurricane_florence_as

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More about the image at the top:

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The eye of Hurricane Florence, photographed from the International Space Station (at 410km, 255 mile elevation), on 12 September 2018, by German astronaut Alexander Gerst.

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See comments (below) for additional/later estimates (calculations by MG,Jr.).

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A NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Florence as it made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

This is how the world ends: will we soon see category 6 hurricanes?
16 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/15/hurricane-category-6-this-is-how-world-ends-book-climate-change

Publicly Subsidized Climate Change Insurance for Big Oil

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My 14 August 2018 article, “Climate Change Bites Big Business” (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/08/14/climate-change-bites-big-business/), described the now evident large financial impacts on Big Business caused by climate change, for example:

— the bankrupting-level liabilities to one California electric utility company (PG&E) for causing massive wildfires in 2017,

— the threat of similar future liabilities to the entire electric utility industry, especially in Western America,

— huge losses to fire insurance companies in California during 2017-2018 (and similar possibilities wherever drought occurs in highly developed areas),

— huge losses to flood, hurricane and tornado insurance companies, because of the more violent rain-and-wind storms of recent years (like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the hurricanes since),

— the possible throttling of future commercial and real estate investment if insurance rates and bank loan interest rates increase sharply because wildfire and weather related destructive events are now permanently amplified by climate change.

In the article cited above, I concluded:

“I think that the pretense of climate change denialism by the Big Money has crumbled, and we are now entering a period of overt climate change acknowledgment coupled with fanatical efforts to gain public subsidies for private interests to both insure and indemnify them against climate change-related financial losses, and to also preserve the nature of their businesses even if they are major CO2 and organic vapor polluters, like the petrochemical and coal companies.”

Confirmation of the above conclusion is provided by The Associated Press article of 22 August 2018, “Big oil asks government to protect its Texas facilities from climate change” (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-protect-oil-facilities-from-climate-change-coastal-spine/), which describes:

“An ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile ‘spine’ of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast… to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it. The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.”

Capitalism is a combustion engine that burns fossil fuels to churn out privatized financial wealth, government power (by fueling the military) and socialized waste heat and greenhouse gas pollution whose accumulation in Nature creates and accelerates global warming-induced climate change.

The bald fact of the oil industry seeking to have the public subsidize the protection of its facilities — and its profitability — from the natural climate-changing consequences of its own operations must rank as one the most colossal combinations of blind greed, chutzpah, cognitive dissonance and inertia during this Oil Age.

But, this is where we are today in our collective response (if you can call it that) to the advancing threats posed by climate change to organized human life.

More polemics are pointless, and our existing politics is madness.

Note:

The phrase “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” is spoken by Prometheus in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Masque of Pandora” (1875).

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Climate Change Bites Big Business
14 August 2018
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/08/14/climate-change-bites-big-business/

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Now also at Counter Punch;

Publicly Subsidized Climate Change Insurance for Big Oil
27 August 2018
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/08/27/publicly-subsidized-climate-change-insurance-for-big-oil/

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You Can’t Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Climate Change

”Turns out cities can’t sue oil companies for climate change” reads the title of an article in Wired.Com magazine (https://www.wired.com/story/climate-lawsuits-dismissed/).* Well, obviously; the purpose of the US judiciary is to protect massed capital from popular democracy.

The truth is that climate change denial is primarily a failure of the U.S. Government (and other governments), from – at a minimum – the Reagan and then George H. W. Bush Administrations. Government scientists as well as government supported academics in the meteorological/atmospheric, oceanic, geological, and energy sciences all had combinations of observational data and computer models that clearly showed the advance and effects of global warming/climate change. The first definitive modern peer-reviewed scientific publication (in the journal Nature) describing the mechanism of CO2-caused global warming (the inability of the oceans to absorb all the CO2 being emitted, hence its buildup in the atmosphere, hence the growing heat retention by the CO2-laced atmosphere, hence the continuing rise in average air-ocean-earth temperature) was published in 1955.

By 1988, when James Edward Hansen (NASA’s chief scientist on atmospheric modeling and global warming at that time) gave his testimony to Congress – stating that global warming was man-made by CO2 emission – essentially all physically and mathematically reasonable computer models of the atmosphere and/or oceans, internationally, gave the same overall result: the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the higher the global average temperature; and the observed rise in global average temperature with time tracked the rate of increase of CO2 (and other organic gases and vapors) in the atmosphere. The National Academy of Sciences, as well as every real scientific and engineering professional society also agrees with this conclusion and states so.

The failure of protecting the public interest falls squarely on the political leadership class, who populate succeeding administrations of the USG and who collectively chose not to face the obvious facts presented by America’s (and the world’s) scientists, because that political leadership class did not want to accept or act on the clear societal implications of the scientific facts. Why? because the political leadership was more concerned to protect the financial self-interests of currently entrenched and very wealthy capitalist combines (in particular fossil fuel industries and the financial industries associated with them) than it was concerned to protect the long-term interests of the majority of the public for survival and well being (workers, wage earners, “ordinary people” relatively few of whom one could consider as “investors” in stocks, bonds and paper securities).

In brief, our politicians have for decades preferred to sell out the long term survival (and sustainable prosperity) of “the people” in favor of protecting the exploitative profitability of capital-intensive CO2-polluting industry and economic gamesmanship, and the super-wealthy (who are invariably corporatists and investor/speculators banking on those capital-intensive CO2-polluting industries). So, while it is true that the energy companies were very deceitful in funding P.R. campaigns of climate change denial while their own scientists/technologists knew that climate change was real and caused as a result of using their fossil fuels – just to keep raking in huge short-term profits – we had ample ways of knowing the truth without needing the fossil fuel companies to admit it, because we have had the publicly funded and publicly available scientific results of world-wide modern geo-science for decades.

American cities trying to sue energy companies for lying about climate change and hence “causing” damage to such municipalities has some legal logic to it as a way for these cities to “recover” financial compensation for their climate change-related “damages.” However, as noted here that is really a rather limited, petty, and at least partly hypocritical finger-pointing response to the accelerating climate change crisis, because that crisis is essentially the direct consequence of a willful (intentional!) failure of American (and other national) government, which was in cahoots with the CO2 polluter industries (and especially the Pentagon) and related finance capital industries.

Basically, capitalism is a fossil-fueled political-economic parasite feeding off the public good, both in its societal and environmental dimensions, and the US government (and others with similar energy and finance capital policies) is entirely in the business of protecting capitalism (the economic parasites) against the personal and societal interests of the majority of the national population (e.g., the ensuring of sustainable environmental security and long-term habitability, and having national political power controlled by popular and populist democracy rather than institutions of concentrated wealth).

And that’s where it stands today. We are on an accelerating plunge into extinction by climate change induced disasters (vast wildfires, collapsing agriculture, desertification and the poisoning of aquifers, the expanding range of disease pathogens, very destructive wind and rain storms) from the bottom up (first the poorest, last the richest) driven by a mad obsession to further concentrate the financial wealth of the wealthiest. It’s really all just a mass psychosis, and all our wars and military rivalries (nuclear armed no less) and political forms of oppression, repression and cruelty, and all our myopically fanatical exercises for maintaining control of factional and personal advantages parasitic to the public good are just ripples on the surface of the one great oceanic reality of our time: the survival of organized human life in the face of accelerating (and still out of our control) climate change.

Collectively, we humans just don’t want to face the fact that to have any useful (for our survival, and for social equity) impact on the present course of climate change we would have to change EVERYTHING, and NOW. Hypothetically, humanity has the capacity to do this, but realistically, based on the observation of past human behavior, it seems that the high degree of long-term cooperative altruism required to make such a complete change of world society (i.e., “the revolution,” or the “instant” conscious evolution of humanity’s super-ego) may be beyond the capacity of our collective social psychology. For now we each remain the randomly surprised victims of the sporadic disasters that erupt from our accumulating karma of obsessive-compulsive fossil-fueled climate change denial.

As an engineer, the only wild-ass guess of a solution that I can think of today is to hope for a miraculous “world satori” – a collective spontaneous and consensus-forming waking up of “everyone” to the same new vision of world society – and this then leading to our world buckling down to doing the numerous (and monumental) technical tasks of transforming all the structures of our civilization into a new paradigm in harmony with nature. Admittedly, this is an extremely fuzzy and rarefied engineering solution. What’s your idea?

*(Thanks to Michael Huff of Philadelphia, for the reference to the Wired article.)

See also:

Noam Chomsky: Survival of Organized Human Life is at Risk Due to Climate Change & Nuclear Weapons
30 July 2018
https://www.democracynow.org/2018/7/30/noam_chomsky_survival_of_organized_human

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American Deathwish

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The American people are the captives of and resources for the drive by its aristocracy, of super-wealth and corporate power, to fulfill its supreme desire for ultimate temporal power: to be the gods of the Earth. This beyond trillion dollar, fossil-fueled, multi-megaton nuclear-armed power-trip can only achieve its grandest capitalistic orgasm by causing a catastrophic global climate change that will inevitably collapse civilization, and possibly cause the extinction of humanity. The obsession for and complicity with this drive is the American Deathwish.

Noam Chomsky described this unbelievable situation very clearly in recent comments about the Trump Administration, which were video-recorded. (https://youtu.be/uQvig0KvUaE). Here is my transcript of that video:

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From the point of view of US power, he’s harming it. But from the point of view of US elites, he’s giving them everything they want. I mean, in fact what’s going on in the United States, if you think about it, is a kind of two-level wrecking ball, if you want to call it that. Trump, his role – whether this is conscious or not, I don’t know – but you can see what’s happening. Trump’s role is to ensure that the media and that public attention are always concentrated on him. So every time you turn on a television set, it’s Trump; open the front page of the newspaper: Trump.

 

And in order to maintain – he’s a conman, basically a showman – and in order to maintain public attention you have to do something crazy, otherwise nobody is going to pay attention to you. If you do normal things you’ll be, you know, way back somewhere. So every day there’s one insane thing after another and then, you know, he makes some crazy lie: you know, he had the biggest crowd in history, or something, and the media looks at it and says “No, that wasn’t the biggest crowd.” But meanwhile he’s onto something else and then you go to that one.

 

And while this show is going on in public, in the background the wrecking crew is working. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the guys in the Cabinet who write his executive orders, what they’re doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population. This goes from workers’ rights, to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, I mean, anything you can think of is being dismantled. And all efforts are being devoted, kind of almost with fanaticism, to enrich and empower their actual constituency, which is super-wealth and corporate power, who are delighted. That’s why the stock market goes up. The stock market has not much to do with the economy, but keeps booming because that’s the rich people, and they love being granted.

 

Now, the worst policies that he’s carried out, the most dangerous, are barely discussed. Those are the two existential threats that we face. We have to face the fact that humans are now in a situation which has never arisen in human history. This generation has to decide whether organized human existence is going to continue – and it’s not a joke. It’s global warming and nuclear war, those are the major issues. They ought to be big headlines every day. And Trump’s actions are making both of them much more dangerous.

 

In the case of nuclear war, the policies are significantly increasing the threat of nuclear war. In the case of global warming, it’s almost indescribable. Not only has the U.S. pulled out – uniquely alone in the world – it’s pulled out from the international efforts to do at least something about it. But, beyond that it’s – the Trump Administration is going out of its way to increase the threat. Look, listen to his State of the Union Address, the only phrase about global climate was to talk about “our beautiful clean coal,” the worst polluter there is, which we have 1,000 years of it, you know. And look at the new budget that’s coming out, sharply cuts research and support for any kind of renewable energy; more subsidies and support for the most polluting, destructive things.

 

And, it’s not just Trump, it’s the entire Republican leadership. So, if you look at the 2016 election, at the primaries, every single candidate, not a single exception, either denied that global warming is taking place or said “Maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it,” which I think is worse. They were called the moderates, like Kasich. So then, and if you look at Trump himself, or say Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, they know perfectly well that humans are causing global warming. In fact, Trump has golf courses all over; he hasn’t built a wall in Mexico yet but he’s building walls around his golf courses to make sure that the sea level doesn’t destroy them.

 

Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil – since the 1970s scientists at ExxonMobil have been – we now know, they been made public, forced to be made public – they’ve been producing severe warnings to the leadership about the effect of the use of petroleum on destroying the environment. So they all know about it but they’re not doing anything about it, which is a level of criminality that is almost hard to find words to describe. I mean, here are, you know, educated well-off rich people, upper elite, who know that what they’re doing is destroying the prospects for human – organized human life – and do it anyway because they make more profits tomorrow. Can you think of an analog for that in human history? I really can’t.

 

I mean, I’ve said sometimes, what’s considered an utterly outrageous comment, that today’s Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history. Sounds outrageous, but think about it for a moment. I mean, Hitler didn’t intend to destroy the prospects for human existence. Attila the Hun didn’t intend that, nobody has. But that’s what these guys intend. And it’s not ignorant, uneducated, you know, religious fundamentalists, whatever you want to blame people. These are the most educated, best supported people in the world. And they’re doing this eyes opened, because you make more profit tomorrow. It’s hard to imagine anything like it.

 

And it’s not just my opinion. Take, say, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – the Doomsday Clock – famous Doomsday Clock that’s set up by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists since 1947. Each year they gather distinguished physicists, political analysts, others to look at the state of the world and make a judgment of how far we are from terminal disaster; midnight is terminal disaster. In 1947, the clock was at 7 minutes to midnight, that’s after the atom bomb, moved up and back since. Now it’s at the closest it’s been to midnight ever. They just moved it to 2 minutes to midnight, that’s where it was in 1953 when the U.S. and later the USSR exploded thermonuclear weapons which were, could totally destroy the world; so it went to 2 minutes. Now it’s back to 2 minutes, and that’s the Republican Party. That’s the ones who are running the country and dominating the world. There’s never been a situation like this.

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Thank you, Professor Chomsky.

So, why are the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, their sucker-fish flunkies clinging on in hopes of getting scraps, and the super-wealthy and corporate sponsors, patrons and owners of them all so driven to pursue this American Deathwish?

They are each compulsively working on immorally rational schemes for satisfying their obsessions to experience the euphoria of having supreme power and unrivaled wealth: to be able to lavish their senses with opulent materiality, exult their egos with an unlimited supply of utterly subservient slaves and with a complete absence of responsibility and legal liability, and to command the envy and fear of multitudes as the confirmation of their personal victories in gaining domination over the rest of humanity.

I can think of four factors that, either separately or in combination, could make up the psychology of the American Deathwish obsession: competitiveness, delusions of invulnerability, a sociopathic religious vision, and malevolent nihilism.

Competitiveness:

This is the fascination with racing: to “win the race” for the most goodies, for first place, for the most glory and attention, to get the “good stuff” before as many other people as possible, before the supplies run out, and to keep them for oneself ‘forever’ after, to be able to monopolize them and sell them at whatever price you want. This is the obsessive compulsion to kill the last rhinoceros to capture the last rhino horn, acing out everyone else in the entire world who wants it, so you can profit monumentally and also ever after be known as The One who got this unique prize, to forever exclusively possess the glory of being the ultimate winner of a race no one can ever run again, your victory ensuring the eternal loser status of every other would-be contender after you: you will have become a god.

Delusions of Invulnerability:

Imagining that power to resist fate, or bend it to your will, is granted by virtue of possessing great wealth. In human societies that deify money, individuals who possess and control great stores of it are effectively venerated as gods: superior beings who can “save” or “condemn” you “eternally,” so far as your lifetime is concerned. The higher such temporal monied godlets are elevated, the easier it is for them to imagine that they are shielded from life’s hazards, and so the easier it is for them to take more daring risks and more destructive self-aggrandizing actions, because the painful consequences of those risks and the destructiveness of those actions will fall entirely on an anonymous mass of powerless and impoverished people.

Sociopathic Religious Vision:

When people are their own gods, there is no consciousness of any connection to Nature and to the rest of humanity, whether as individuals or en masse. The way to deify yourself without being nagged or embarrassed by the realization of your all-consuming selfishness and egotism, and by the evident void of compassion and empathy that you have become, is to present yourself as a “saint,” a fully committed worshipper, devotee and follower of a “supreme being” in whose “true” religion you are a faithful member, ‘obeying’ His commands (which are always of benefit to you) and exerting yourself in community with your saintly cohorts – the elect – to enforce His will and prosecute His punishments on an erring, sinful, and darkly debased humanity. In this way you are preferentially deserving because of your intimate and favored connection with the Ultimate Authority. You are a minister in the court of the King of Kings. Hallelujah! Whatever the Supreme Being chooses to do, you are assured of getting the message first and of being most favored in the consequences of His exercise of supernatural power, even if cataclysmic.

Malevolent Nihilism:

Some members of the über elite will not be susceptible to religious delusions, but will be hard-as-nails materialists and even nihilists. One form of nihilism can be a complete indifference to everyone and everything; you just do whatever you want whenever you want without ever a concern for the consequences even as regards your own life and death. This variety of nihilism could almost be seen as similar to the happy-go-lucky attitude of an itinerant Zen Buddhist poet, or a ronin samurai, except that it lacks any compassion and empathy for others, any sense of responsibility, and any valuing of grace, refinement and elegance. A much more likely attitude for a nihilistic über elitist would be malevolence: the pleasure derived from the confirmation of their über elitist status, and the acclaim for their über elitist victories, that confirmation and acclaim being in the form of the evident massive sufferings of others, which are consequent to the achievement of those victories. “If Earth is doomed, and we’re all going to die, I might as well get everything I can out of it as I piss my defiance on all of existence.”

Are We Destined For Extinction by Loss of Soul?

People at any level of wealth, power and social status who lose their souls and are sucked into the cult of the American Deathwish (or its analogs elsewhere around the globe) are moral weaklings, even moral vacuums, invertebrates as regards character. They are zombies being led, as Gustave Flaubert put it, “by their materialism and their instinctive worship of power.”

Can the Captains Ahab of our ships-of-state, and the barons of our latifundias of capitalism, ever be morally reformed or rationally converted?, ever be dissuaded from harpooning the great White Whale of their feverish fantasies? Billions of us so dearly hope so, but I fear: no. Yet, our vision of a better and – so easily achievable – compassionate world demands that we continue to pursue all the conscionable avenues available to us to gain those moral reformations and rational conversions, because the only other alternative to end the mad pursuit of the American Deathwish is the equivalent of a French Revolution with 21st century weaponry, probably on a global scale. Such an explosion of bloody, terrifying, desperate and chaotic violence would in itself seem like the end of the world, and perhaps it will be, as the ripened fruit of the American Deathwish.

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Choosing Dignity During Climapocalypse

As industrialized civilization plows majestically forward towards its climapocalypse future created by the waste products trailed in the wake of its obsessive-compulsive fossil-fueled power-trip, guided by its delusional capitalist compass, an increasing number of establishment academics in the physical and social sciences are publicly announcing their utter despair about the likelihood for the continuation of the species homo sapiens beyond this century.

In an article earlier this year, Top Climate Scientist: Humans Will Go Extinct if We Don’t Fix Climate Change by 2023 (19 February 2018, https://gritpost.com/humans-extinct-climate-change/), Professor James Anderson opined that:

Climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years. In a recent speech at the University of Chicago, James Anderson — a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University — warned that climate change is drastically pushing Earth back to the Eocene Epoch from 33 million BCE, when there was no ice on either pole. Anderson says current pollution levels have already catastrophically depleted atmospheric ozone levels, which absorb 98 percent of ultraviolet rays, to levels not seen in 12 million years. Anderson’s assessment of humanity’s timeline for action is likely accurate, given that his diagnosis and discovery of Antarctica’s ozone holes led to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. Anderson’s research was recognized by the United Nations in September of 1997. He subsequently received the United Nations Vienna Convention Award for Protection of the Ozone Layer in 2005, and has been recognized by numerous universities and academic bodies for his research.

In my previous article (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/30/societal-death-or-transfiguration-cinema-visions-of-humanity-facing-extinction/) I quoted Mayer Hillman at length. Mayer Hillman is an 86-year-old social scientist, urban planner and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute in England, whose fundamental conclusion is (see The Guardian on 26 April 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention):

“We’re doomed. — The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps.

So, what can we do individually, cooperatively and independently of the capitalist juggernaut to improve the prospects for our collective life and death on Planet Earth?

Idealistically, the best we might be able to do is to make our national and world societies fairer, more cooperative and more compassionate, so as to make the end-times (which I think are more likely to occur over a 200 year period) as “good” as we can manage; instead of uncooperatively and cruelly suffering the worst possible combinations of wars, refugee mass migrations-invasions, pandemics and natural catastrophes (e.g., violent weather, hurricanes, earthquakes) as the norm of humanity’s experience for decades to come.

Realistically, I don’t see humans having the capacity to cooperate globally to relinquish fossil fuels because combustion-based energy is the basis of economic power (capitalism) and military-political power (e.g., the US-DOD military-industrial complex, China, Russia, etc.).

I think it clear (based on acts versus talk during recent modern history) that the actual consensus of world opinion favors maintaining the hierarchies so individuals of all types can continue to contend to maintain their “rank” and try to advance it. This obsession ‘must’ continue forever (until our extinction), so there will never come a time when EVERYBODY agrees to transform world society (and by necessity their own little societies and even their own personalities and selves). Logically, I see no likelihood of a homo sapiens-wide rapid voluntary personal evolution and societal paradigm shift to world eco-socialism.

So, the best that the “willing volunteer eco-socialist segment of humanity” might be able to accomplish is to make humanity’s coming climapocalypse “less bad,” by helping to expand kinder social behaviors and societal policies (in the ideal extreme: ‘ending’ corruption, ‘ending’ authoritarianism, and normalizing democratic socialism), to reduce the extreme disparity between opulent selfishness and unconscionable suffering by the impoverished that exists now, and which disparity would otherwise expand.

There is so much greenhouse gas already in the climate-change pipeline that we are locked into continuing and accelerating climate change: a runaway train with no brakes. There is about a 30 year lag-time between new greenhouse gas/pollutants emission and their having GLOBAL climate-altering effects; today’s level of climate change is largely the effect of emissions prior to the 1990s!

Can that “willing volunteer eco-socialist segment of humanity” be vastly and quickly expanded into an overwhelming majority?

I always hope more people question and wonder, AND use critical thinking to study, read and learn more about important topics like climate change. This has motivated every word I’ve ever written on the subject. It just happens to be my observation that most people don’t do this. They get “bored” with factual, logical explanations of the science and the reality of climate change (and the reality of most everything else).

Technically speaking, there is much that could (should) be done to ameliorate the advancing stresses of climate change, but social-psychologically speaking it is the “mental inertia” of the masses and their “leaders” that is by far the most “hopeless” — and controlling — element in the entire human-geophysical complex called “climate change.” There is no physical law of nature that prohibits humanity from adapting, “evolving” to a new paradigm for world society in much greater balance with nature, but it is a simple fact they they haven’t, aren’t, and don’t seem inclined to do so in the future.

This is like a Greek Tragedy: the plot is clearly perceptible from the start but everyone continues implacably forward without alteration of their mindsets, so the tragic ending is programmed as the fate to be experienced. We are Titanics aimed straight at our icebergs with our eyes wide open, steaming at full speed ahead. A game theory (decision theory, Bayesian statistics example) abstraction of the whole mental-inertia dynamic described here is given by “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” (look it up).

However, it is also true that chaos erupts unexpectedly in our marvelously complex space-time-consciousness universe, and it is always (remotely) possible that we could experience future surprises in our benefit, which are logically unimaginable now.

In any case, it would be better to be guided by rational thought than by delusional hope for a quick-fix salvation from the workings of Nature, and to recognize that the best tools we have now for crafting a decent life-on-Earth and death-with-dignity for our species during the overwhelming climate change we are geophysically compelled to experience, are in the social dimensions rather than in any of our over-rated technological gimmickry.

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Societal Death or Transfiguration?, Cinema Visions of Humanity Facing Extinction

How should world society respond to the approach of human extinction compelled by implacable external forces, such as: radioactive fallout after a global nuclear war (as in Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach), or an alien invasion by a species of technologically superior beings from outer space, or an impending collision between Earth and a massive planetoid, or (as seems most likely today) by runaway and irreversible Climate Change?

The general question has long been the seed for spinning out entertaining speculations in fantasy novels and science-fiction movies, but now it has become a serious matter of immediate concern for an increasing number of geo- and social- scientists and social planners. Mayer Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist, urban planner and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute in England, says (in an article published by The Guardian on 26 April 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention):

“We’re doomed. — The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so. — I’m not going to write anymore [about the projected consequences of runaway Climate Change] because there’s nothing more that can be said. — With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport [instead of automobiles] is almost irrelevant. — We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on. [Hillman is amazed that our thinking rarely stretches beyond 2100 when discussing scientific predictions on the increase of average global temperature.] This is what I find so extraordinary when scientists warn that the temperature could rise to 5C or 8C. What?, and stop there? What legacies are we leaving for future generations? In the early 21st century, we did as good as nothing in response to Climate Change. Our children and grandchildren are going to be extraordinarily critical. — Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return. [Action by individuals to limit their ‘carbon footprint’ – their direct and indirect production of greenhouse gases is] as good as futile. [National action by the UK along the same lines is also irrelevant] because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero-carbon it would make almost no difference. — [The world as a whole would have to go zero-carbon, but can that be done without the collapse of civilization?] I don’t think so. Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families? — Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the world’s population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown. — [Few scientific, political; and religious leaders have been honest with the public on all this, in order to protect their own positions] I don’t think they can [be forthright] because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels. — [Can the now obvious signs of advancing Climate Change spark an epiphany in humanity’s collective mind, and cause it to relinquish its ultimately self-destructive fossil fueled binge?] It depends on what we are prepared to do. Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”

Now, let us consider the 2017 American movie Downsizing, given this context.

Downsizing is an intelligent and, by American standards, subtle cinematic science-fiction social satire about the individual’s problem of securing sufficient wealth to comfortably sustain their lives in a secure cosmopolitan community for the duration of their lifespan. This movie was conceived by Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor, and directed by Payne who has numerous successful movies to his credit: Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011) and Nebraska (2013). Downsizing was not well-received by the majority of the viewing public because it is a film about ideas, thus requiring thinking for its enjoyment, as opposed to being a cinematic delivery vehicle for emotive sensations and jolting stimuli to provide passive unthinking viewers with 135 minutes of thrilling distraction.

The central pit in Downsizing, around which the screenplay and the screenwriters’ implied social commentaries have been grown like the flesh of a stone-fruit, is that science has discovered a process for harmlessly shrinking living cells and organisms, enabling humans to be reduced to Lilliputian size so that their existing savings and equity in the “big world” can economically sustain them in lifetimes of luxury in the “small world,” because their “ecological footprints” – both for consumption and waste production – have been miniaturized. The attraction for “getting small” is basically a get-rich-quick scheme leading to an endlessly sustainable high-life coupled with the pleasurable sense of eliminating one’s big-world guilt over contributing to Climate Change and the environmental degradation of the planet, which is caused by its “overpopulation” with “big” capitalist-minded, wasteful and exploitative people. In brief: having it all.

The problem with making an expensive ($68M) artful cinematic work whose purpose is to stimulate thoughtful societal awareness – if you want to recoup your investment – is that you have to market it successfully to the masses of cinema-viewing yahoos. Downsizing was released on 22 December 2017, and as of 1 February 2018 (its theatrical closing) had only grossed $55M. It just didn’t hit the yahoo g-spot, and they hated it for boring them.

The “lesson” in the screenplay of Downsizing, which was delivered in a clear sedately-paced and understated way (which I like), is that the solution for achieving fulfilling individual lives in peaceful and comforting societies is for the people of such would-be societies to take care of one another: popular humanitarian socialism. Regardless of whether a society enjoys being situated in a natural or artificial paradise and is economically secure, or whether it is environmentally and economically stressed and doomed to extinction, the best that it can ever be for all of its inhabitants during its duration is entirely the result of its peoples’ commitment to construct mutually fulfilling lives of cooperation and compassion, instead of seeking to escape – from the masses of the less fortunate – into exclusive refuges and redoubts of enclosed privilege to continue with lives of egotistical self-centeredness and selfish indifference.

This message is ancient. It was part of the Buddha’s “Triple Jewel” teaching to his disciples and fellow monks and nuns (the Sangha), to ‘take care of one another’:

I will go to the Buddha for refuge.
I will go to the Dharma [the teachings of Buddha; the Buddhist way of life] for refuge.
I will go to the Sangha [harmonious community] for refuge.

The Buddhist sense of ‘taking refuge’ expressed here is not a running away from the rest of the world, but a commitment for living a truer life within it, based on Buddhist precepts.

There have been many book and movie stories centered on the idea of: individual fulfillment found through mutual help for securing group survival if possible, versus seeking individual escape from group peril, and from guilt over abandoning responsibility. Three such stories that came to my mind while pondering the movie Downsizing were the films: Lost Horizon (1937), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and Zardoz (1974).

Lost Horizon is Frank Capra’s film of the James Hilton fantasy novel about Shangri-La: a fabulous and peaceful Buddhist-style refuge from modern society and its torments, situated in a life-extending green valley that is hidden within the otherwise frigid and snowy expanse of the high Himalayas. But, can Shangri-La truly be an escape?

The Day the Earth Stood Still is Robert Wise’s movie of Edmund H. North’s screenplay of Harry Bates’s story of an alien ambassador, Klaatu, and his all-powerful robot, Gort (with a heat-ray beam-weapon dematerializer), who arrive in a Flying Saucer to deliver a message to humanity from an alien Federation of Planets: live peacefully on Earth and join our Federation as an independent planet, but do not militarize space with your rockets and nuclear bombs, because we would take that as a mortal threat and then our space-patrolling robot police, like Gort, would “reduce your Earth to a burned-out cinder.” Humanity’s escape to the good life, which is offered in this movie fantasy, would be achieved by forsaking war-making in all its forms to instead gain the advanced knowledge and technology of Klaatu’s interplanetary civilization, and that technology would vastly enhance the quality-of-life of the popular humanistic socialism that humanity would have to adopt as its new social paradigm.

Zardoz is John Boorman’s film about a far future post-apocalyptic immiscibly stratified static society that is suddenly ruptured by violence against its tiny elite, which results in a complete blending of humanity and a rebirth of human evolution. The Eternals are non-aging humans who live in a paradisal community, the Vortex, bubbled from the external misery by invisible force fields, and containing advanced endlessly-fueled hidden technology that automatically maintains the Eternals’ unending and idyllic existences. All the fruits of humanity’s previous achievements are now maintained in the Vortex, but the Eternals are all bored with their immortal lives of effortless omniscience and leisure. The vast expanse of the Outlands beyond the Vortex is a wasteland inhabited by the Brutals, people reduced to being isolated dumb animals without any civilization or social cohesion, scrounging through the wreckage of the previous world for each individual’s survival. Among the Brutals is a horse-riding semi-organized militia of enforcers, the Exterminators, who receive guns from Zardoz, a god in the form of a huge flying stone head that orders the Exterminators to enslave defenseless Brutals into chain-gangs to perform rudimentary agricultural labor, or other such work as mining, as might be required to supply the Vortex with what its denizens desire. The Exterminators punish any infraction and every failure by a Brutal – however trivial – with instant death by gunfire. The Exterminators, all men, also exult in their power and preference by their god, Zardoz, by freely raping and pillaging among the Brutals. Zardoz tells them: “The gun is good.” It is the hobby and amusement of Arthur Frayn, one of the Eternals, to carry on the charade of being Zardoz (piloting the stone head, and supplying the Exterminators with commands and cascades of firearms). It happens that through an instance of Arthur Frayn’s carelessness one of the Exterminators, Zed, manages to get into the Vortex and once there evolves despite an oppressive captivity, from Brutal ignorance to Eternal knowledge, and this leads to the complete and violent death of Vortex society, and transfiguration of humanity. The movie Zardoz is a dark – black – analog to the much gentler if still subtly sharp Downsizing.

The essential lesson of responding to the approach of a destructive inevitability beyond your society’s power is to engage in compassionate cooperation to make your society as good as it can be for as long as you and it can be made to last, and to find your life’s fulfillment in doing so.

This idea is captured visually so simply in the last moments of Downsizing that it remains invisible to the majority of the viewing public. And so our fractious collectivity cruises onward, untrammeled, towards its willfully unexpected collision with fate.

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Societal Death or Transfiguration?, Cinema Visions of Humanity Facing Extinction
30 April 2017
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/30/societal-death-or-transfiguration-cinema-visions-of-humanity-facing-extinction/

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Of related interest:

The Righteous And The Heathens of Climate And Capitalism
12 March 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci43.html

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