The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Even for somebody whose job it is to keep up with the news, some stories are just too upsetting. So it was with the recent release of a United Nations scientific report on biodiversity. A week after the fact, I had to force myself to go back and read the story. Headlined “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace” in the New York Times, the 1500-page study documents nothing less than the destruction of creation as we know it.
I use the term “creation” advisedly. As a species, we are desecrating the earth, a sacrilege against any God we can imagine.  
 Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben calls the U.N. report “as depressing a document as humans have ever produced.” According to the scientists who wrote it, absent drastic, planet-wide action climate change and habitat destruction will bring about mass extinctions worldwide over coming decades. Along with severe warming, deforestation, air and water pollution, promiscuous use of pesticides, over-fishing, even widespread poaching are all contributing to the accelerating catastrophe.   
Already, the current rate of global extinction is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” Absent drastic action, roughly 1 million species of plants, animals, reptiles, insects and fish will vanish from the earth forever within decades. Animals such as elephants, lions and bears will live only, if at all, in zoos. The effects on human civilization—such as it is—are unimaginable.
Think you won’t miss most insects, for example? Then who’s going to pollinate food crops that human diets depend upon?
Already, impoverished peasants worldwide are fleeing places where traditional agricultural practices have been rendered impossible. Persistent drought, for example, has ruined coffee plantations in the highlands of Guatemala: refugees are showing up at the Mexican border.
The temptation is to resignation. Or to denial, another word for despair. After all, I won’t be around decades hence to witness the worst of it. So why should I care?
In this country, one of our two major political parties has gone anti-science, indeed anti-reason in a big way. The president of the United States describes climate change as a Chinese hoax—as if a worldwide cabal of scientists from dozens of disciplines ranging from atmospheric physics to plant cell biology was even possible. To anybody with even the slightest grasp of the scientific method, such a thing can’t happen. Alas, that excludes Trump.
Historically, the blame lies mostly with the oil, natural gas and coal industries. Adopting techniques borrowed from the tobacco companies’ campaign to deny the link between cigarettes and cancer, outfits like Koch Industries have peddled climate denialism with great success.
Today’s GOP has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry. “That’s what happens,” author McKibben told the New Yorker, “when you have the biggest industry in the world all in behind the most consequential lie in human history.” 
If there’s hope, it’s that the accelerating pace of climate-driven disasters has put denialists on the defensive. Wildfires, floods and increasingly destructive hurricanes have gotten peoples’ attention. Last summer, the ironically-named city of Paradise, California was consumed by flames. The summer before, Santa Rosa burned. Where will it be this summer?
How many 500-year flood events can Houston, TX have in a three year period before much of the city becomes uninhabitable? New Orleans? Coastal Florida narrowly avoided disaster last year. Will Trump live to see the Atlantic Ocean roll across his Mar-a-Lago resort? You’d have to say the odds are favorable.
Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history. What Trump pretends to believe doesn’t matter. It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of geophysics. It’s going to get hotter. Temperatures in the Arctic reached the 80s last weekend.
Polls are beginning to show an aroused populace. According to a recent CNN survey of 1,007 registered voters, fully 96 percent said it’s important that a presidential candidate propose “aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change.” Even 56 percent of Republicans in another poll agreed that government should limit carbon emissions from power plants, and levy carbon taxes.
Public attitudes, in short, are changing fast. Even faster across Europe. But can they change fast enough to bring about the kind of vast, planet-wide effort necessary to stave off a rapidly-encroaching catastrophe? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine human beings putting aside narrow self-interest and hard-wired tribal enmities for the common good. Put that way, I’d say no way.
But then last night at dusk, Jesse, my 13-year-old Great Pyrenees and I—two old duffers out walking before bedtime—encountered a red fox at the edge of a wooded thicket here in the middle of town. He paused and stared at us, impossibly beautiful, a survivor. A sign.
IMAGE: The Aletsch Glacier is pictured from the Eggishorn summit in Fiesch, Switzerland, August 22, 2015. One of Europe’s biggest glaciers, the Great Aletsch coils 23 km (14 miles) through the Swiss Alps – and yet this mighty river of ice could almost vanish in the lifetimes of people born today because of climate change. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump, right

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is examined in a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}