Death by Stupidity

“Nuclear, ecological, chemical, economic — our arsenal of Death by Stupidity is impressive for a species as smart as Homo sapiens” — Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times, September 17, 2009[1]

The hurricanes, the typhoons, the heat waves … the droughts, the heavy rains, the floods … ever more powerful, ever new records being set. Something must be done, of course. Except if you don’t believe at all that it’s man-made. But if there’s even a small chance that the greenhouse effect is driving the changes, is it not plain that, at a minimum, we have to err on the side of caution? There’s too much at stake. Like civilization as we know it. Carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere must be greatly curtailed.

The three greatest problems facing the beleaguered, fragile inhabitants of this lonely planet are climate change, economic crisis, and the violence of war. It is my sad duty to report that the United States of America is the main culprit in each case. Is that not remarkable?

Why does Barack Obama not pursue the battle against climate change with the same intensity he pursues war? Why does he not seek to punish the American bankers and stockbrokers responsible for the financial calamity as much as he seeks to punish Julian Assange and Bradley Manning?

In both cases he’s putting the interests of the corporate world before anything else. No amount of fines or penalties will induce corporate leaders to modify their behavior. Only spending some hard time in a prison cellblock might cause the growth in them of their missing part, the part that’s shaped like a social conscience.

Only prosecuting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their partners in bombing and torture will discourage future American war lovers from following in their bloody footsteps.

The recent election result can only embolden Obama. He likely took it as an affirmation of his policies, although only 29.3% of those eligible to vote actually voted for him. And an unknown, but certainly significant, number of those who did so held their nose while voting for the supposed lesser of two evils. Hardly indicative of impassioned support for his policies.

Last week the United Nations Climate Summit was held in Doha, Qatar. The comments which came from many of the activists (as opposed to various government officials) were doomsdayish … “Time is running out … time has already run out … the climate has already changed … Hurricane Sandy, rising sea levels, the worst is yet to come.” The Kyoto protocol is still the only international treaty stipulating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a touchstone for many environmentalists. But the United States has never ratified it. At the previous conferences in Copenhagen and Durban, the US blocked important global action and failed to honor vital pledges.

At the Doha conference, the US was acutely criticized for failing to take the lead on planet protection, especially in light of its standing as the largest historic contributor to the current levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. (“The most obdurate bully in the room”, declared the Indian environmentalist, Sunita Narain.[2])

What motivates the American representatives, now as before, as ever, is concern about corporate profits. Cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions can hurt the bottom line. A suitable epitaph for the earth’s tombstone. Shamus Cooke, writing on ZSpace, sums it up well: “Thus, if renewable energy is not as profitable as oil — and it isn’t — then the majority of capitalist investing will continue to go towards destroying the planet. It really is that simple. Even the best-intentioned capitalists do not throw their money away on non-growth investments.”

Notes

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/books/review/Winterson-t.html

[2] Democracy Now!, December 7, 2012

William Blum

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William Blum
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of numerous books, including "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower". 

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