By Saul Landau
Viscerally, only those who get paid off or have no sensibilities don’t sense the climate change phenomenon. I look out at San Francisco Bay after a night’s rain and see pelicans diving and snowy egrets spearing insects, thousands of sandpipers and sea and shore birds chattering and peeping away. I almost forget about polar bears in danger or scary-looking insects under threat.
I suck in clean air and erase from my mind – well almost -- the fact that the Andes and Mt. Kilimanjaro don’t wear their usual snowcaps. A trickle of fear drips down from my brain into the outlying senses that the house I live in could disappear – under water – in twenty-five years.
Every month or so, some newspaper or magazine cites an ever more ominous scientific study about ice melting in Greenland, the swelling of oceans and I think: “What can I do?” Recycle more, buy more efficient light bulbs, drive less and generally reduce my carbon footprint, which I can’t even see, much less understand?
Even some Republicans admit either they can no longer ignore or dismiss as poppycock, the bleak climactic conclusion of the vast majority of the world’s scientists. The Rush Limbaugh-Glenn Beck-Sean Hannity gang encourages disciples – listeners and viewers – to buy more gas-guzzling hummers for the highway and to scoff at the global warming crowd.
Attack this liberal myth by showing off your new SUVs, they say. Leave the lights on and eat a porterhouse. Let the pinko-veggie-tree hugger crowd suffer with tofu and fair trade ginseng root. Real Americans -- Christians, not rag heads – know God will take care of our special country. That’s why He wants us all to carry guns and shoot anyone who trespasses on private property – which, if I recall Genesis, once belonged to Him; if the Bible is correct.
I wonder about the future of cities when I see monster-sized office buildings that identify the skylines of New York, Chicago, San Francisco and cities around the world. I ask myself if anything good gets produced – or even thought about -- in the 40 or 60 floor offices that require cooling or heating 24/7.
Each weekday morning millions of brokers, derivatives dealers, accountants, and corporate lawyers drive or catch trains from affluent suburbs to downtowns to play with other people’s money. Advertising executives and eager underlings spend their days figuring out how to sell an infinite number of commodities that don’t relate to basic human needs, but do contribute heavily to the carbon footprint.
Advertising, the vanguard of sales uses clever college graduates as proponents of the corporate philosophy: each individual who sees or hears or reads an ad is encouraged to think of him/herself as the world’s most important person. If everyone thinks that focusing on improving themselves by buying stuff produced by the corporate complex and serviced by other corporate agencies the economy will thrive. Magic!
The banks, of course, finance these activities – and lots of others we dare not discuss -- and the political apparatus represents them: Parties, Parliaments, and the infinite agencies of government assume the large corporation represents the best and only interest of the nation and the world, the means and ends of all policy, the highest economic form of organization – not the essence of a destructive engine whose very existence now threatens future human life.
If current notions of the good life – cities, cars, trucks, buses, gadgets – and “development” prevail, the greenhouse gasses will continue to multiply and climate change will proceed apace. At least that’s what the scientists say.
In 1997, representatives of most nations met in Kyoto and agreed to fight global warming. One hundred forty nations ratified the Kyoto treaty, but the United States refused to sign because the large corporations prove over and over again that we have the best Congress money can buy.
Like the Fox noise makers and other right wing radio and TV blasters sponsored by big energy companies, the energy lobby itself mocked U.S. reps at Kyoto whose job was to find a way for Washington to join other nations to limit CO2 production. Clinton, the lobby charged, “had already chosen the most extreme of all options presented to him by his panel of experts. He then sent environmental extremist Al Gore to urge the U.S. negotiators to ‘be flexible’."
In 2010, the United States, responsible for 36.1% of the 1990 emission levels of big industrial powers, still refuses to sign an agreement to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases that would lead to "stabilization and reconstruction of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
In 2010, in Cancun, the nations’ reps met again and did not reach meaningful consensus to take serious steps to reduce emissions of gasses that the scientists say will destroy the environment needed to sustain human life – sometime in the future. “A legally binding accord to combat climate change isn’t likely soon, though nations can take steps to curb global greenhouse-gas emissions,” U.S. negotiator Todd Stern said. (Bloomberg December 14, 2010)
Never, screamed the deniers – led by oil and gas company money.
So, Happy New Year everyone and take a step on the great Egyptian River in Washington.
Saul Landau’s new film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP premiered at the Havana Film Festival.