Curtain Raiser

There’s an Alarm Going Off, Colltalers

“Catastrophic.” Alok Sharma, U.K.’s minister for the next climate change conference, used an appropriate word for the U.N. report on raging wildfires going on around the world. But his personal footprint has been criticized. Another study found that the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream current may collapse.
The tragedy of a resurging Covid goes beyond another wave of casualties and continuous inequality in vaccine distribution. Ignorance is its biggest ally now; it’s too bad that the Biden administration continues to use it to refuse asylum to thousands fleeing from it. Speaking of ignorance, there’s Sturgis.
We start in Peru, where the 1-week-old government of Pedro Castillo is already under relentless pressure from conservatives. Media coverage has been mostly unfavorable to the former rural teacher, for either being too humble or too sympathetic to issues dear to the poor. In the week he planned to nominate his cabinet and announce reforms, the news was mostly about his left leanings and supposed plan for an alliance with Cuba and Venezuela.
The opposition has already organized rallies to call for Castillo’s removal and it’s clear that he won’t have many friends in the White House. But it’d be groundbreaking for the U.S., historically askew about Latin American politics, to support the new government and make new friendships in the region.
In Burma, Min Augh Hlaing, head of the military junta that seized power six months ago, is not even near the same kind of pressure to resign that Castillo is. In fact, he’s just named himself Prime Minister. Despite widespread condemnation and global calls for China, the U.S., and other nations to act, the dictatorship continues to deny the Burmese their democratic rights. On the last count, the military’s killed near a thousand people since Feb.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N., U Kyaw Moe Tun, said that the U.S. has increased his security following death threats. The junta, believed to be behind the threats, doesn’t recognize the National Unity Government formed in exile, but the U.N. still considers him his country’s only representative.
In Brazil, a fire caused irreplaceable losses at a storage facility of the Cinemateca Brasileira, São Paulo’s legendary fund-depleted film archives. The warehouse, plagued since the 1950s by fires and floods, had copious files from state-owned Embrafilme and about 250,000 Brazilian films in storage.
“It’s really staring us in the face,” said the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology Dr. Heleen de Coninck, about the U.N.’s “Summary for Policymakers” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “This is just the start,” said Dr. de Coninck, one of the lead authors of the study.
The next U.N conference on climate will be held in Glasgow in Nov. and there’s already intense discussion about the 1.5C temperature target set in Paris in 2015. It’s now obvious that even such a modest goal to limit the rise in global temperatures from pre-industrial times has been utterly ignored by the rich and most pollutant nations. They can’t expect the other 170+ nations to reduce their own emissions when so little has been done by the G20.
Thus the next summit may match the trend-setting, meme-generating, feel-good blessings of the previous one and not much else. There’s also rising mistrust of government officials unconcerned about increasing their own carbon footprint while crossing the world to preach environmental restrain.
Sharma for instance has been criticized for traveling to 30 countries since Feb., some 200,000 miles or the equivalent to eight times around the Earth, in what many believe to be a wasteful way of conducting climate change negotiations. Plus, he’s also accused of using his position to avoid quarantine after visiting “red list” countries, that is, places like Brazil where he is now where Covid and its variants would require at least some form of isolation.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is a large system of currents, part of the Gulf Stream, that carries warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic. It dramatically impacts the Northern Hemisphere and it now may be at risk of collapsing, according to a Natural Climate Change study of sea-surface temperature and salinity data. That’d cool the hemisphere, raise sea levels, and reduce rainfall amounts over Europe and North America.
There are over 200 million Covid cases but only a few nations have vaccines enough even for an eventual “booster shot.” As influential nations and the U.N. fail to lift patents to allow poor nations to make and distribute their own vaccines, Pfizer and Modena just announced they’re raising their prices. That’s callous and uncalled for as they’ve both posted record profits. While they reward shareholders while the virus keeps spreading out and killing.
To years of chaotic, unfair, and downright cruel immigration policy, the Biden administration has added its own twisted rehash of old policies and new absurdities. Amid a lethal surge of Covid-related death and violence around the world, those desperately seeking help from misery had met the iced stare of America, telling them to go away. Never mind that it’s illegal to deny asylum and that U.S. own policies have contributed much to that misery.
South Dakota local law enforcement expects the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to be the “busiest in decades.” Thousands of bikers are attending the 81st edition of this noise affair, but this year’s event may be marked by a somber note: the people who will die in consequence. That’s because we’re going through the worst pandemics in a century and to hold such an event with no basic measures of protection means that this is a potential superspreader.
The Olympic Games in Tokyo became a demoralizing display of power by the corporate sports establishment which includes international committees with absolute authority over the tournament. The games went on despite increased Covid cases and large opposition in Japan. Still, glorious feats were on display, stories of resilience were told, new records were reached. In the end, Brazil won the soccer competition again. The human spirit is intact.
Speaking of football, the great Lionel Messi was unceremoniously ousted of Barcelona. It was an undignified exit for one of the most complete players to ever grace the game. Now as small clubs around the world (unrealistically) dream of having him scoring for their teams, the reserved superstar will be mobbed by fans and impresarios about his future. At 36, he may still have one last chance to win the 2022 World Cup for Argentina. But it’s unlike.
Hieronymus Bosch would’ve been 565 or 571 years old today. Five centuries later, his Garden of Earthly Delights remains a startling depiction of our worst nightmares, bathed in religiosity and conflicted faith and probably worshipped by serial killers. Bosch also speaks to millions under the threat of wildfires today by adding blazes raging in the background of his paintings, little reminders of the one that raged through his ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 1463.
Leave it to a thinking person to define the mores of society at any given moment and the answer may astonish you. The Internet contains humanity’s knowledge as well as reasons for us to self-destruct. But it’s easier to follow the latter than learning anything about the former. Leave it to Carl Sagan: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” Ditto. WC


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