Curtain Raiser

Mourning a​ Green Colossus​​, Colltalers

‘The sun shall be turned into darkness…’ As the Amazon burns, perhaps beyond recovery, there’s suddenly the realization that a catastrophic climate collapse – and more biblical quotes – may be all but inevitable. Worst: mankind doesn’t even have a plan yet.
A key to understanding how we got here may be this Women’s Equality Day. It’s the 99th-year from the U.S. Women’s Right to Vote and we’re still far from equality, ruled by a mostly ignorant minority belonging in gender to less than half of the population.
The evidence supporting the realities of these two headlines is overwhelming and frightening. So is the ineffectiveness of the Group of Seven’s annual gatherings. Over the weekend, leaders of Canada, U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Japan, the U.S., and E.U. officials, wined and dined in Biarritz, France, and beyond some vague assertions, offered no practical solutions. As usual.
The 2018 summit at least produced a photo – of said leaders and others, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel, staring at a cross-armed, impervious, Trump – which encapsulated what really went on in closed doors. Still, nothing memorable came out of it.
Trade and Iran, whose Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was a surprise guest, were supposed to dominate the G-7’s concerns this year, that is, until climate emergency kicked the conference doors down and threatened, as France’s Emmanuel Macron would put it, ‘to burn down our house.’ The ‘chosen one’ (his quote) however had his own agenda: to readmit ‘terrific person’ Vladimir Putin to the bloc. It won’t happen.
His insistence on praising the Russian president, who was expelled for invading and annexing Crimea, verges on the pathetic.

After all, the entire world witnessed him being had, not just by the spymaster, but also North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and now, China’s Xi Jinping. In France, he first claimed to have ‘second thoughts’ about his ill-advised trade war with China but took it all back afterward. The U.S. economy’s already been harmed, though, and if a recession’s coming, he’s guilty of having triggered it.
Ancient forests burning; wildfires, floods, and ever more powerful hurricanes; the staggering succession of ‘hottest month ever,’ of which July was just the latest. Nothing seems to make climate-change deniers forget their phony, self-serving ardor. Neither the Democratic National Committee, apparently, which has voted down having its presidential candidates debate the climate.
The decision is not just a blow to progressive groups, struggling to come up with a plan, the Green New Deal, perhaps, to reverse climate change, but to the party’s own credibility. Someone needs to remind the DNC that without a planet, there won’t be such thing as ‘victory,’ ‘free healthcare for all,’ or ‘livable wages,’ to fight for. Millions simply won’t show up at the polls at all. Again.
More optimistic is the theme for this years’ Burning Man, the annual fest in the Nevada desert’s temporary Black Rock city: ‘Everything changes, nothing perishes,’ by first-century Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The week-long, 30-year gathering went from hippie happening to a giant outdoor art show, and it’s now, mostly a billionaire’s display of wealth and trophy wives.
Speaking of billionaires, Charlie Koch’s death on Aug. 23 was ironically timed. For along with his brothers, he spent billions and decades undermining democracy and denying climate change, and the nefarious results of his appalling life were never more in evidence than what’s going on in South America right now. ‘Where are you spending your dough now, Mr. Koch?’ Rest in hell.
The malodorous wave of far-right populism, which has spread out for the past two years and is funded by the likes of Koch and others, bears responsibility for our impending doom. It’s what fuels Trump’s anti-democratic, anti-environment policies, clearly endorsed by a U.K.’s blowhard, and a second-tier of inept despots already wreaking havoc in Europe, Asia, and South America.
The miserable difference may be that, while no one knows how many dissidents Rodrigo Duterte has murdered, or how much worst the new Italian cabinet may be to immigrants, what Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is doing immediately impacts the world; as in, ending of civilization impact. Warnings? Seeing the day turned into night in São Paulo at 3:00 pm is all that should be needed.
But alas it’s not: voting is what brings about change and accountability in society. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was a crucial tool to support social and progressive causes in the U.S. through the ‘American century.’ Topless parades will celebrate it. Let’s hope that for its 100th year, women not just break poll station records, but also elect the first mother as a U.S. president.
This has been an unusually chockfull-of-quotes letter, here to help follow the week’s narrative. For it’s not only most Brazilians and Americans, but the entire world that’s grieving over the burning of the magnificent Amazon, and not just for the air. We’re mourning also our loss of confidence that humans will do the right thing, that we will do the right thing. So here’s another one.
‘We can’t tear out a single page of our life, but we can throw the whole book in the fire.’ Despite her pen name, George Sand was a woman, writer, and proto-feminist born over 200 years ago. She’s also known for her ascetic relationship with Frédéric Chopin. Unlike her, we can afford neither throwing away the book nor losing the Amazon forest. Time to jump-start the revolt. Cheers WC

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