On Medium August 31, 2020
Among the many outrageous lines and lies that came out of the most unconventional Republican National Convention (R.N.C. for Really No Clue?) the most egregious is what was not said.
Over four nights of speeches, while several un-natural disasters were wreaking havoc in Louisiana, Texas, and California — not a word was mentioned about what is making these weather events more hellacious.
Aside from the obligatory “thoughts and prayers go out to hurricane victims” — with zero mention of the devastating California fires (Blue state bias?) — the only time the words “climate change” were uttered was when VP Mike Pence denounced climate regulations that Joe Biden would purportedly impose if elected.
The next night, in his acceptance speech, President Trump boasted about pulling out of “the very costly and unfair Paris Climate Accord,” a global agreement that scientific experts say didn’t go far enough in keeping warming below two degrees.That, as hundreds of thousands of Americans, were fleeing for their lives in triple-digit heat amidst a deadly pandemic with ecological origins, just weeks after Iowans were hit with an unprecedented “land hurricane,” or derecho.
In addition to U.S. refusal to participate in the Paris agreement under Trump — setting back critically needed progress and America’s role as a leader — even after the last several years of near-constant climate catastrophes on his watch, there’s been no change in the administration’s industry-friendly position. Instead, the Trump administration has knowingly made things worse with ongoing environmental rollbacks to loosen fuel economy standards, open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, weaken restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, air, and water pollution, all with negative impacts to human health and safety, today, and in the future.
Hell Bent on Destruction
As the planet convulses, species struggle to survive, oceans warm, and rain forests burn, Republican leadership is hastening the dismantling of our fragile eco-sphere. From the start, Trump and company have been determined to destroy President Obama’s environmental legacy, appointing industry lobbyists to head agencies tasked with protecting public and planetary health, all the while giving a middle finger to science — and citizens. And they have the gall to continue their anti-environment agenda even in the wake of increasingly dire climate warnings. It’s a bad nightmare being made worse and now they’ve gone on record as not even pretending to care about the biggest crisis of our time, let alone its millions of victims!
For the hundreds of thousands of Americans impacted by just the most recent carbon-fueled disasters, it would surely have been surreal to watch the Republicans’ rosy view of life under Trump. His regressive administration is not only downplaying the scope of these mega catastrophes — in addition to ignoring what’s causing weather events on steroids — but also diminishing the staggering human toll of the COVID pandemic which has underlying ecological drivers.
Can you imagine the stress levels of being left with a damaged home without power, water, and A.C. in the midst of a heatwave AND worried about contracting coronavirus? Officials in the hard-hit Lake Charles area and more than a dozen Louisiana parishes say electricity will be out for a month or more — how can residents remove and repair damage without power? To add insult to injury a chemical plant caught fire in the storm, releasing toxins into the hot and muggy air.
So perhaps it’s just as well that thousands have been without television or in evacuation centers where they couldn’t watch the R.N.C. Otherwise, they surely would have felt invisible during the out of touch and tone-deaf convention. But while it may sound harsh, Republican sanctioned climate negligence goes far beyond tone deafness; instead, it reflects a deaf, dumb and blind approach, given the indisputable scientific and evidentiary facts.
One has to wonder how many of the latest climate refugees even realize that this man-made crisis is fueling more fire-nados, “horror-canes,” floods, and derechos. One hurricane victim wearing a MAGA hat was interviewed on TV, seemingly clueless about the link to climate change which his candidate is deliberately making worse.
The fact that there continues to be a shocking disconnect between carbon emissions and global warming in 2020 is largely a result of the fossil fuel industry continuing to fund denial. And too much of the corporate-owned news media has been complicit in doing too little too late by failing to connect the common denominator climate dots, as well as refusing game-changing content on eco-solutions.
As someone who left an on-air job with CBS News over a decade ago to cover the environmental beat full time, I’ve watched, aghast, as this double-headed monster (The Denial Industrial complex — or D.I.C. — combined with years of broadcast and cable news outlets providing scant coverage of our worsening ecological crises) has slowed progress. After kicking the carbon can down the road too long, we simply cannot afford any more delays.
Deja Vu All Over Again
Fifteen years ago, when Hurricane Katrina — followed by Rita — hit the Gulf Coast, I recall being on-air and declaring the arrival of climate change on U.S. shores.Although that reality has been plain to see for anyone looking, the continuing campaign to downplay and diminish this existential threat has been a smashing success. As in smashing structures, solutions, lives, livelihoods and even hope that we’ll be able to turn the tide in time.
As Laura was growing into a Category 4 hurricane last week — at a frighteningly rapid rate — I was getting deja vu. History is still repeating itself with lessons seemingly unlearned. With the federal government’s now routine declarations of emergency after the fact, we are not doing nearly enough as a nation on the prevention, mitigation, or adaptation fronts.
That’s tragic, inexcusable, and at this late stage, I’d add criminal. These are not random acts of God. Rather, these weather events on steroids are part of a pattern of man-made disasters, resulting from the continued and subsidized burning of fossil fuels. As long as we elect fossil fools to lead us, we will be sealing our fate. And every day counts. Want more of this? Vote Republican!
When President Trump stopped to survey the damage in Louisiana and Texas over the weekend, there was, of course, no mention of climate change. While more than 15 victims lost their lives and thousands of residents were left without homes, water, and electricity in 100+ degree heat, Trump spent his time joking with local officials and praising FEMA’s “tremendous response.”
The astonishing disconnect would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. Americans have been misinformed — actually disinformed intentionally — by the administration and long amplified by the under-educated, but highly overpaid, “deny-o-saurs” on Fox “News.” Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh are lying and literally getting away with murder and theft of our future, while laughing all the way to the bank! They’ve done it again by downplaying the seriousness of COVID from the same playbook.
There has also been little connection made in mainstream media about the underlying environmental causes of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the world’s top virologists, Dr. Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, has been quoted as saying “as long as we are making the planet sicker, people are going to get sicker.”
He and other experts have identified habitat destruction and climate change as contributing factors to the spread of virus’ — from wildlife to humans — as development increasingly encroaches into nature, including forests where virus-carrying animals like bats are getting squeezed out of treetops and into populated areas. Dr. Daszak says a vaccine won’t stop this nightmare because there are more than one-and-a-half million virus’ present in wildlife populations! Until we start taking better care of nature, he says, humans will continue to see ever more deadly viral pandemics, vaccines or not.
Time to Wake Up and Smell the Carbon
Our nation’s low rate of eco-literacy allows for misinformation and ignorance to prevail. It’s no coincidence that the U.S. is the only developed country not in the Paris Climate Accord AND has had the worst response to COVID. The dumbing down of America — aided and abetted by special interests — is no coincidence. It should now be painfully clear that the tremendous cost of continued attacks on science — perpetuated primarily by Republican conservatives and right wing media personalities— are making it nearly impossible to make progress.
The stark reality is that even without the well-funded deny-o-sphere, humanity faces an uphill battle and epic challenge. Add in forces deliberately thwarting action and reversing progress — as the current administration is doing — and you have failure. And failing to preserve a habitable planet does not bode well for ANYthing or ANYone in the future. Want more pandemics? Vote Republican!
While there is a growing faction of young Republicans concerned about the climate crisis, the party leadership has yet to embrace their views. Some fear the continued ostrich approach adopted by the party symbolized by an elephant, will prove to be the “giant elephant in the room” that makes Republican candidates appear to be out of touch with reality,.
If ever there was a time for all politicians, the news media, and greater public to “wake up and smell the carbon” it is right now so we can begin to work together to “get off our gasses.” Most immediately this warning must get out between now and the election.
As evidenced at the R.N.C., the Republican party is choosing to remain clueless, actively and selectively so. If that’s the type of leadership anyone thinks we can afford in this era of ecosystem collapse with so many clear signs of earth out of balance — from destructive weather to viral pandemics — they should be prepared for more of the same, increasingly making Earth an extremely dangerous place, not conducive to human life.
If nothing else, the COVID crisis should teach us three important lessons:
1) We live on a small interconnected planet where nature is in charge.
2) Humans can change their behavior if properly informed and motivated
3) Individual actions have a collective impact, positive or negative.
Perhaps most importantly, we have seen the terrible price paid by ignoring scientific warnings and not being prepared for oncoming crises. And also how quickly and dramatically our lives can go south, from normal to not recognizable, seemingly overnight.
The ultimate takeaway is a reminder of the universal truth that we “don’t know what we got till it’s gone.”
We have only two noisy and newsy months to go until the most consequential election of our time when we will get the opportunity to have a say in our future by voting. Before it’s too late to go back, let’s think long and hard about what four more years of head-in-the-sand politics will do to the planet, our only home. Some things are not reversible, including ecocide.
I urge you not to be distracted by all the Red rhetoric on display at the R.N.C. and Trump’s mean and manic tweets. More than ever before, there is a black and white difference between the two parties, a life and death difference for our kids, country, and planet.
There is only one policy color that matters right now, and that’s the color Green. Only Joe Biden’s Blue party, the Democrats, have a plan to tackle climate change, build back better with a green recovery — addressing both the ecological and economic crises — and create jobs that put us on a sustainable path.
Only one party understands that without racial justice and income equality, none of the fixes needed will work. We are all connected, it is all connected, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know how to connect all these dots to move our country, and world, forward.