Mankind has been speculating about the end of the world for centuries. Everyone from the ancient Babylonians to Nostradamus to Cormac McCarthy have predicted man’s destruction of his environment, citing everything from the apocalypse to nuclear war as the cause for our inevitable capitulation, and with scientists predicting the resultant horrors of global warming, it seems that now, more than ever, something has to be done in order to challenge that inevitability.
In recent years, sections of the world’s government have become open to the subject of reversing what carbon emissions have set into action, and for the first time leaders have begun to contemplate what scientists have been warning us about for almost a quarter of a century. Key to our progress is the involvement of the United States of America. Spending more than $560,000,000 dollars annually, the US has the most powerful military in the world, dominating the world’s economic and political systems. When it comes to the United Nations, the US president holds all the cards.
Last week, Donald Trump acquired that mantle, and our ecological optimisms died a napalm death. According to the former reality TV star and property magnate, global warming simply does not exist, and we really have nothing to panic about, in spite of what the world’s leading experts might tell us. Contrary to widely accepted scientific hypotheses, the cocksure billionaire claims that fears about the planet’s ecological meltdown are the stuff of fiction, a bargaining tool for his Chinese rivals with designs on usurping the States as the world’s foremost economic superpower. On Dec. 30, 2015, at a rally in Hilton Head S.C. Trump boasted, “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and…a lot of it’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
A bold statement, particularly from a man with no technical insight or reasoned facts to support his argument, but who needs facts when you’re appealing to a majority who don’t want to believe that life as we know it is under serious threat? It is much easier to bury your head in the Malibu sands and treat the sun as your own personal tanning bed than contemplate the chaos it will soon unleash on the earth’s ecosystem. Such is the scope of media filtration that the warnings have only recently begun to surface, in spite of the fact that we are already well beyond crisis point. Still we continue to suppress the facts, and the likes of Donald are only too happy to reassure us that everything will be okay.
The question is, does Trump truly believe in his blinkered assumptions? Based on his crazed viewpoints regarding race, sexuality, women’s rights, and anything else he feels may pose a threat to his fragile ego, you would think that he probably does. But you don’t conquer America by sailing on a boat of ignorance, and you certainly don’t lay claim to the most powerful administrative seat in the world by having such a groundless and myopic outlook, even if you deign to base your winning campaign on such crowd-baiting behaviour. Given the facts, there must be something he is not telling us, some kind of hidden agenda to which going green poses a threat.
That something is deregulated capitalism, the economic system of the elite minority that Trump personifies, and one which continues to operate in direct opposition with our potential to reverse the effects of global warming. Doubters can argue that 2004’s Tsunami, which killed an astonishing 250,000 people in a single day, was not directly related to climate change, as they might Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans a year later, killing at least 1,245 more as well as highlighting the fact that the most powerful government in the world was either unable or unwilling to react in a manner that was sufficient to save the lives of its citizens. But the fact is, these disasters are becoming more and more frequent, and it is predicted that an upsurge in global temperature will lead to an increased intensity of storms, including tropical cyclones with higher wind speeds and more intense mid-latitude storms, as well as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, giant landslides and tsunamis.
According to a report by the World Bank as far back as 2012, “As global warming approaches and exceeds 2-degrees Celsius, there is a risk of triggering non-linear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production and livelihoods.’ Pretty scary. What’s scarier is that experts now believe we are heading for a world that will be 4 degrees warmer by the end of the century, leading to “extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea-level rise.” They even suggest that, “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible” as it will prove “incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community.’
In spite of these damning predictions, the cogs of globalisation continue to turn at an accelerated rate, the demands of international commerce pushing toxic emissions to new heights. It’s not for the lack of alternatives that we continue to ignore the earth’s plight. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass energy are all viable, clean, renewable energy alternatives. So what is standing in our way? Cost. Unless policy measures are enacted established energy monopolies will continue to impose barriers that will limit the potential of renewable energy, through commercialization, price distortions and unequal tax burdens. It seems that some would rather run the planet into the ground than cut its losses, careening towards disaster like a steam train on an unfinished track.
As social activist Naomi Klein so aptly proclaimed in her 2014 book This Changes Everything:
“When historians look back on the past quarter century of international negotiations, two defining processes will stand out. There will be the climate process: struggling, sputtering, failing utterly to achieve its goals. And there will be the corporate globalisation process, zooming from victory to victory: from the first free trade deal to the creation of the World Trade Organization to the mass privatisation of the former Soviet economies to the transformation of large parts of Asia into sprawling free trade zones to the “structural adjusting of Africa.””
Contrary to public declarations describing global warming as a hoax, the world’s elite are in fact more than aware of the consequences of their wanton greed, and are already preparing for an era of ecological chaos which will one day leave the population in a desperate and unorganised frenzy.
In fact, the corporate elite spend billions funding right-wing think tanks whose sole purpose is to smear the reputations of global warming campaigners and the science upon which their concerns are based. At the same time, they are preparing for the consequences of the issues their enemies are campaigning for by figuring out how to get rich off the warped ecological landscapes they are contriving to manufacture, selling technological securities against the growing threat of natural disasters and investing in those companies which will provide such goods and services. And what happens when, inevitably, those goods and services begin to prove ineffective? If you think the world’s elite have been ruthless in their quest to monopolise the planet’s natural resources, just imagine what will happen when those resources grow ever scarcer.
Does all of this explain America’s sudden and aggressive championing of protectionism during the presidential campaign? Trump has won the backing of large sections of America based on fear and resentment for those foreign immigrants who have ‘stolen’ the livelihoods of white working class America. Right now his proposal to build a wall between the US and Mexico seems extreme, like something from the pages of a science fiction novel, a genre which is widely perceived as less of an art form due to its apparent sensationalism and extreme scenarios.
But perhaps such suggestions are merely a way to shape the US population’s mindset, to thicken their skins for a world which might require such extreme self-preservation. When staple crops perish and sections of the world become uninhabitable, the earth will be unable to cater for its population, and people will have to be sacrificed, first in the poorer countries, and finally in poorer regions closer to home. It is a scenario which is likely to label the majority of us as terrorists, if by definition terrorism is a threat to established power.
Speculative fiction or extreme possibility? I’ll let you decide.