The Other Threat
In the last WIR I dealt with a timely assessment of the danger of nuclear war as one of two overarching threats to the survival of human civilization. Its horror would be swift and decisive, wiping out all human accomplishments and rendering chances of restoration virtually impossible. The recognition that there could be no winners in such a war has so far stayed doomsday–but there’s no guarantees that such catastrophe won’t result from miscalculation or accident. Concern about recent events has led the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ to advance their iconic Doomsday Clock thirty seconds closer to Midnight. This menace will remain until the world’s working class disarms the war-making class.
I had already promised to return to the other threat this time, expecting to base my comments on an important new government report on the state of climate change in the USA that is a new milestone in climate science.
But then, of course, came Harvey. As I write nine fatalities have been confirmed with many more likely to follow. Weather forecasters expect fifty inches of rain will fall on Houston before this monster finally moves on to clobber Louisiana too.
Hurricanes were around long before capitalism and all scientists agree there can be no conclusive direct link between any particular weather event and anthropogenic (human caused) global warming. But that warming has created the conditions for more, and more severe such storms and that has once again been verified in Harvey. Telltale signs at work include:
* Rising sea levels resulting from global warming are registering a foot above 1960 measures in the Gulf Coast of Texas.
* Warmer water temperatures lead to much wetter storms. The more than 80F temps in the Gulf ranged from 2-7º higher than typical before Harvey.
* The warmer water also intensifies the ferocity of storms and led to a vicious loop of Harvey picking up power as it moved from land to water—and back again.
Any area would be devastated by such a deluge. But the unplanned and irrational rapid growth of Houston in to America’s fourth largest city is magnifying the impact even more. The concrete that has replaced former green spaces is impervious to the rain and the water overwhelms what little drainage remains. The streets become raging rivers.
We take no joy in the bitter irony that the brunt of Harvey, at least so far, has fallen on the biggest concentration of refining and shipping oil and gas. It is a minor annoyance to the giant corporations. It will mean years of hardship for the working class of the Houston region.
Many are in desperate straits now. As usual, the American Red Cross responded rapidly—to collect money. But their track record for using these funds to benefit victims is atrocious—as I can personally testify from experiences in the 1951 Kaw River Flood and 1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado, in Kansas City.
Without intending to do so, the same capitalist class brandishing weapons of mass destruction also created the other more gradual but just as insidious threat of climate change since they launched the Industrial Revolution dependent on fossil fuels more than two centuries ago. The bosses, bankers and brass hats have known about human-caused global warming for many decades. They successfully suppressed what they knew until some brave, principled scientists, like NASA’s James Hansen, started spilling the beans in the 1980s.
Some of the ruling class—including their man in the White House–still denounce climate science as “job-killing junk science.” Others, including major players in the oil and natural gas sectors, are trying to shape climate policies to allow them to profit from climate-wrecking investments until they have exhausted their useful life—and today’s rulers are spending their ill-gotten gains in retirement. Even some who at times have told some inconvenient truths about climate change, such as Al Gore and Michael Bloomberg, cannot accept that capitalism itself must be swept in to the dust bin of history to join its slavery and feudal predecessors.
Scientists continue to amass evidence about the damage of climate change spreading far wider and faster than initially forecast. The fifth and final peer reviewed draft of the 673 page most recent study focusing on the USA was published in the New York Times. Trump has since dissolved the government advisory committee that oversaw this work by 52 scientists and it likely will not be published by the government that paid for it.
Reading scientific papers can be a daunting task for even college educated workers. A few media sources, like the Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the Washington Post, often carry useful summaries of climate stories in lay vocabulary. Another helpful source is Inside Climate News.
Most workers get their news and information from other sources. But even those who tune in to Fox News hear about “natural” storm disasters like Katrina, Sandy—and now Harvey on the scale of Old Testament divine retribution. They know of the massive wildfires that have ravaged the western U.S. for years. Even with the dominating story of Harvey many have also heard of the record-breaking heat wave now scorching Southern California.
The cumulative impact of events in line with predilections of climate scientists has finally persuaded a majority of Americans to recognize global warming is real, that it is caused by human activity, and we need to do something about it. Workers in other industrialized country’s have a more advanced understanding, and are beginning to take action—but at least we’ve made a start.
In coming editions of the WIR I will focus more on how we can further educate the working class about the need to embrace the fight for climate justice and integrate it in to a revamped program of class justice.
Labor Day 2017
A Wikipedia article gave a good nutshell history of how Labor Day became a national holiday in the USA,
“Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday; President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the previous several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent socialist and anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in International Workers’ Day. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.”
There are few union-organized Labor Day parades or picnics these days. More than ever have to work on “their” holiday. Others take advantage of a three-day weekend for a chance to travel or spend time in outdoor activities at lakes and parks. Merchants who love all holidays feature Labor Day Sales offering everything from shotguns to bed sheets.
But this year there will be significant working class events in which nearly all North American—and even British—readers can and should participate. Fast food workers will strike, supported by demonstrations of adjunct professors, and others showing solidarity in 300 U.S. locations and at least two in the UK. In Kansas City, there will be a pre-march assembly at 8:30AM Labor Day at 33 & Southwest Trafficway.
That’s all for this week.
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