Demonstrators For Climate Controls
Will Nationalism Destroy Mankind?
In the movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” an alien being comes to earth with the intention of destroying humanity if the nations of our planet could not come together and agree to change their destructive ways. They decided to take action because, although human technology was primitive compared to that possessed by the aliens, humans had developed to the point where they were beginning to explore outer-space and their reckless behavior posed a danger to all life in the Solar system.
Although this was but a horrifying fiction, there is more than a grain of truth in this fable about destructive human behavior. Hence I believe it is a cautionary tale for our times. Not only does mankind have the means to destroy our planet in less than an hour by setting the world afire in an atomic holocaust, reckless human activity has already set forces in motion that will destroy our planet within the next century by decimating the natural environment if we don’t radically change course. This is the raison d’etre for the Copenhagen Conference on climate change that is clumsily deliberating on critical measures, actions which must be initiated immediately…if not sooner, if we are to have a fighting chance to stop this self-inflicted disaster for the human race. Alas, the conference is about to end in a fiasco as President Obama flies in to try and save the day.
President Obama Droppin Science
With his usual eloquence, intelligence and impeccable timing President Obama presented his case for taking immediate action to save our planet. I got the impression that it was a plea from the heart inspired by the sincere desire to lead the earth’s peoples in bequeathing to his children and theirs a livable planet and a better world. It was, as in many of his important addresses, an appeal to what Abe Lincoln elegantly identified as “the better angels of our nature.” After a meeting with a cabal of about twenty key leaders without whose support no effective agreement to save the earth is possible, President Obama mounted the podium and told the assembly “All of you would not be here unless you, like me, were convinced that this danger is real.
“This is not fiction; it is science. Unchecked, climate change will impose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies and our planet. This much we know. The question then before us is no longer the nature of the challenge; the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, I have to be honest…as the world watches us today, I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now: and it hangs in the balance. I believe we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of a common threat. That’s why I come here today not to talk…but to act!”
Having announced his intention to be judged by his deeds not merely his mastery of rhetoric, the President addressed head on America’s role in the pollution of our planet. “ As the world’s largest economy, and the world’s second largest emitter,” he said, “America bears it’s responsibility to address climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That’s why we renewed our leadership within international climate change negotiations.” The President went on to enumerate the bold steps his administration is taking, steps the he described as “ambitious.” And he assured the audience that America will continue to pursue these policies under his leadership “no matter what happens here in Copenhagen.”
Although the President’s vision is both moral and conforms to the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion, he will have to fight tooth and nail with the Republicans to realize it. Already some of the Republican leadership are vowing to kill any attempt to pass climate control legislation. Yet except for fools, fanatics, opportunistic politicians, and pseudo-scientific frauds who have entered into a Faustian bargain with the polluting industries to confuse the issue for personal gain, the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion support President Obama’s warning that we are rapidly reaching the point of no return. Our planet is in a state of emergency and if concerted action is not taken soon, dramatically reducing carbon pollution in the atmosphere, it will be too late to reverse our descent into the abyss.
Hence the challenge confronting the 192 world leaders assembled in Copenhagen is whether they can overcome their primitive tribal instincts, whose modern expression is the nation state, which are governed by such outmoded concepts as “national interests,” and think in global terms beyond geographical boundaries, viewing all mankind as one species with a common humanity, then take effective measures to save our species from extinction. Of course, given man’s selfishness and bad faith in conducting international relations, this is far easier said than done. Especially here at home, where the white Christian nationalists who dominate the Republican Party reject science and believe America should be excepted from the rules other nations must follow. These deluded philosophical Neanderthals are totally committed to the dangerous doctrine of American Exceptionalism. And if they manage to successfully filibuster a climate bill in Congress, or prevent the ratification of an international treaty legally binding the world’s nations to limiting carbon emissions, the Republicans will cease to be simply a problem to US stability and security and become a menace to the world.
The testimony given by representatives of the developing world provides a glimpse of the complexity of the problems confronting the negotiators. The harrowing tales told by East Africans about the chaos caused by widespread famines resulting from encroaching deserts and erratic rain fall, are rivaled by frightening predictions from Decima Williams of Grenada, who spoke for the Organization Of Island Nations, about the growing possibility that they will disappear beneath the seas as the ocean level rises due to melting glaciers. Even as I write, a massive glacier has broken it’s moorings at the South Pole and is floating toward Australia, imperiling traffic on the high seas en-route.
The Evidence is Unassailable!
The Magnificent Polar Bear Faces Extinction Due To Global Warming
Nevertheless, as the major industrialized nations responsible for this environmental destruction reach a stage of development where it is possible to consider pursuing clean technologies, the developing nations see the question differently. Emerging economic powers such as China and India are just now undergoing their industrial revolution, and they feel it is unfair to put the burden of environmental salvation on their shoulders. Although along with the US, the greatest offender of them all on a per capita basis, China is the foremost polluter of the atmosphere with carbon emissions. Yet the Chinese, skeptical about western intentions regarding their rapidly developing economy and jealous of it’s sovereignty, have stalled the negotiations over the question of allowing their emissions of pollutants to be monitored by international watchdogs.
When we frankly consider the difference in the standard of living enjoyed by the citizens of the economically overdeveloped western nations– whose wealth was built upon a world order based on the enslavement of millions of Africans, genocide against indigenous people in the Americans and elsewhere in the non-white world, and colonial exploitation of their resources and labor – it is easy enough to understand why they resent now being told that they must curb the rate of their development because it will aggravate a situation the western countries made in their mindless assaults on the environment during their industrial revolution. Although China’s affluent middle class – which is 300 million strong – equals the entire population of the US, as does India’s 250 million, China has a billion and a half people and India has a billion.
The hundreds of millions of their citizens who have not made it into the middle class live in a very different world, a world that belongs to another age. In rural China workers roam the countryside in search of work, and suicide among poor Indian farmers disgraced because they can no longer provide for their families has become a routine affair! This kind of desperation is common fare in rural villages and overcrowded urban centers all over the non-white developing world, as hundreds of millions go to bed hungry every night. For these people, the Darwinian struggle for bread consumes their every waking concern; many are given hope only through the consolation of religion.
This is no less true among the desperate unemployed workers of the US however, as can be witnessed in the insane antics of the so-called “Tea Party patriots,” who are mostly mindless dupes of the religious right and opportunistic Republican politicians. The marriage of John McCain, Sarah Palin and “Joe the Plumber” is a dramatic case in point. Although he was forced to retract it for political reasons, Barack Obama’s observation during the presidential race that poor unemployed whites were turning to God and Guns out of desperation was on the money.
This state of affairs is a prescription for the kind of social chaos that gives rise to religiously inspired messianic movements such as the Hindu nationalists, the Muslim Jihadists and the proliferating white Christian nationalist militias who are arming for a showdown with the federal government in order to “take their country back” from the communist fascist Muslim terrorist illegal alien who has presently commandeered the White House as their signs tell us. These misguided souls are egged on by sinister wingnut Republican politicians who seem all too willing to create chaos rather than allow the President to govern effectively – which is to say successfully conduct the nation’s business as he was elected to do.
Already we can predict that they will attempt to block any agreement that President Obama enters into with the other nations of the world to save our environment, just as they have confused the health care issue with outrageous propaganda paid for by a private Health care industry vehemently opposed to any form of public option – in spite of the fact that we know nearly fifty thousand people a year die in affluent America because they cannot afford the medical treatment they require!
When all the things are considered finding common ground in Copenhagen is no picayune affair; in fact it is no exaggeration to say that should they overcome nationalist imperatives and arrive at a meaningful agreement that can be codified in a treaty with the force of international law, it would be a minor diplomatic miracle. Yet if we don’t mend our ways Mother Nature will end our days. As the present custodians of the earth, our leaders owe future generations nothing less than to produce a treaty that will save our planet.
The peoples of the world should insist upon nothing less, and struggle by any means necessary to make it happen. In the USA this means starting a movement to oust the environmental reactionaries from office. This requires undertaking a mass education campaign to teach our fellow Americans why we must save the environment. The Prime Minister of Greece put it best: We have become like parasites that die out because they devour their host. Hence our survival as a species demands that we toss the politics of nationalism in the dust bin of history and put science in command, for we are literally in the fight of our lives!
The View from East Africa
Encroaching desert: A vision Of things to come
Harlem, New York
December 18, 2009