Curtain Raiser

What Comes After the Fire, Colltalers

Have we crossed the line? As the catastrophic realities of climate change become a global routine, a new class of man-made enemy emerges to disrupt efforts to save the planet: the sense of hopelessness. Have we already reached a point where any effort is to be rendered pointless?
Even seasoned environment warriors, who decades ago quit doubting about What Ifs, and focused on the Whens, are now pondering: isn’t time to direct resources to what’s still salvageable, or have not yet been attacked? Even more troublesome, who will we pick as winners?
The thought that complicates the matter is, of course, the wave of authoritarianism washing over world politics. Although most tyrants have invested interests in ignoring global warming, what if there’s a switch and it becomes another weaponized flag of xenophobia and exclusion?
Ever since rampant global warming has been observed, and properly diagnosed by the international scientific community, there’s always been a component of dread built-in in most potential solutions. Beyond a healthy pragmatic attitude, there was the all too common human fear that we were making too many assumptions about a positive outcome from our efforts, or that new technologies would come again to our rescue.
Many thought that when scientists and activists endorsed the Paris Agreement, they were doing so solely on its implied expectations that it could reverse climate change. In fact, what was remarkable was that 195 nations in the world could actually agree on something. As it turned out, they could but their ability to hold their side of the bargain hung on everybody else’s. And we all knew that it’d take a very long time.
Thus what if we lost the momentum, and such realization is taking a toll on our commitment to carry on because, clearly, not all is yet lost? Don’t sweat, nobody is saying that this is a necessary justification to feel despondent about our meager results, despite such a huge effort.
But if anything, the fight to re-balance the planet and keep it livable for at least a few generations has shown us that the obstacles are not just some powerful bad guys doing exceedingly bad things, and dragging us all into an inevitable whirlpool of escalating deadly extreme weather.
There are realistic thresholds that once crossed, make entire chains of interconnected efforts virtually moot. The aftermath of wild fires frying large swaths of California, Europe and Asia, for instance, will irreversibly change those badly depleted

ecosystems of the regions affected. And that may eventually hamper human survivability there for years to come. It’s no longer about how to kill the fires but what do after them.
The same about powerful hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Once the winds die down, or the waters recede, reconstruction may not be an option anymore. Speaking of rising waters, the need to address the new kind of refugees, those fleeing the weather, is already urgent and non negotiable. Besides wars, a traditional scourge for ousting people from their own land, add now raging waters washing away whole villages.
Questions are getting harder to answer. But few wouldn’t have at least an educated guess to offer as for what’s going to happen to the poor and native communities, and entire impoverished nations, if we can’t take our eyes of the burning forests and neighborhoods, and think about what’s next. It’ll surely be complicated, but people still need to seize the power to decide what to do about it. Otherwise, powers that be will.
When Al Gore introduced a simplified picture of what was to become the biggest issue of our time, in his Inconvenient Truth doc, he was understandably mercilessly mocked and vilified as presenting a slightly-leftist white-man approach to a global problem involving all races.
Because climate change, and that’s a fair criticism of an otherwise pretty decent intro to it, is indeed about race and class and money.
Now, picture the racial element economically subtracted from any self-determining role, and get at least part of the poor convinced that this is not their fight, and it becomes clear what’s really driving rising global temperatures causing increasing devastation all around: yes, our old foes, greed and unbound ambition, and the interest of markets and corporations in preserving a convenient status quo. But you knew that.
We’re passed the age of fighting deniers; at least in the U.S., they’ve got to positions of power already and no longer bother using the phony ‘unprove, n’ argument to justify ignoring the causes of global warming. They’re now blatantly saying what they meant all along: we don’t care.
But even if the Trump administration hadn’t quit the Paris Agreement and wasn’t now in fact leading the world back into restoring the status of fossil fuels as a driver of economic growth – which it ceased to be at least a decade ago – in some tragic ways, we did indeed cross the line.
We obviously stood a better chance of cutting down emissions with the agreement, specially in what it had as its best unintended outcome: countries coming together for a solution to a global problem. But even as some are still at it, that momentum too has unfortunately passed.
The coordinated, and increasingly costly, efforts necessary to restore areas devastated by wild fires, hurricanes, and floods will require long-time goals and they may never achieve a state of completely recovery. Massive relocation, likely to be heavily contested, will be needed, even without involving cross-border refugees. And political and economic adjustments will too inevitably alter demographics and geography.
However, just like the president’s infantile tweets distract us from tracking the profound transfer of wealthy to the rich of America he’s actually promoting, it is climate change’s potential for civilization-ending that we should be concerned the most about. It’ll take some heavy-duty planning to defend against it, even considering the extensive and immediately destructive collateral effects it is bringing down upon us.
73 years ago today, when the U.S. detonated an atomic bomb in Hiroshima, and three days after, another over Nagasaki, mankind was only awakening to a new terrifying reality of life on earth: we then had the potential to actually explode it out of existence. It’s appropriate to associate both threats to our survival on this planet, because they share an undeniable truth: they too are products of our own endless folly.
About 120 thousand Japanese perished during the attack that effectively ended WW2. Since then, countless others have fought hard to avoid a WW3, from which we’ve never been too far from starting, ever since we’ve adopted nuclear technology for solving military conflicts.
But everything that even the most optimist climatologists had expected to hit us but only by the mid century, is literally blowing on our faces now. And it has exponentially increased faster in the past two decades than at any time in 800,000 years. Again, that’s being upbeat about it.
It was only due to the advocacy of early survivors of the nuclear age, and peaceniks and honest scientists, that there hasn’t been yet another nuclear detonation of the magnitude that destroyed the two Japanese cities. That is, even as now we have the nukes to raze entire countries, it was the kind of resistance forces often demoted by the establishment media, and discredited by economic interests, that saved us from doom.
It’ll be the same kind of courage and persistence, embodied by the pacifist movement, what may prevent climate change from leading the world astray. But at this point, we’re clearly on the losing end, and need to regroup to decide what to save and how. More than ever, we need to empower new leaderships committed to those goals. By voting, by new laws, by any means necessary. That, or it’s just burn, baby, burn. WC

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