Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Class and Climate

Stephen Marche at Esquire begins his article, "We Are Not Created Equal":

"There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here's one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you're gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you're gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can't bear to tell themselves isn't real. It's the most dangerous lie the country tells itself."

There's lots of support for his major contention of a pretty rigid American class system, the 1% v. the 99%, including one new anecdotal: when the New York Times asked members of Congress whether even a friend or relative has suffered from the Great Recession, fewer than 20 even replied.  Congress, suggests the article, is on average comprised of "rank and file millionaires," many of whom became wealthy or increased their wealth while "serving." 

But Marche is wrong about one thing: this is not necessarily the "most dangerous lie the country tells itself."  The most dangerous lie is that global heating isn't real, there is no Climate Crisis.  The two lies are not unrelated, but the future of civilization and life as we know it on planet earth, with suffering and destruction spread throughout generations of humanity and many other species, is at stake with that second lie. 

We are not dealing with the causes of the Climate Crisis, and so the future prospects continue to get worse.  We are not even prepared to deal with the effects.  Of our major institutions, only the military is taking it seriously, and so is preparing to fight wars that may result, which will only hasten the onrushing New Dark Ages. 

Our scientific institutions and their often courageous scientists are openly mocked, vilified, ignored, and now perhaps worst of all, being prevented from doing their work.  Another NY Times article asserts that scientists could be doing a better job figuring out if and how the unprecedented spate of spectacular weather-related disasters of 2011 and 2010 are related to the Climate Crisis.  The reason they aren't doing as much as they could be doing is not only that there's no political urgency, but that there is an active political hostility to Climate Crisis research that results in less funding.

Such disasters usually result in damages that might add up to $3 or $4 billion in any given year in the U.S..  In 2011, they added up to at least $50 billion.  So far, apparently a small price to pay for the payoff of denial--psychologically to many, but in money to a very few of the few at the top of the American class system.  

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