We Need to Make Climate Crisis Political
When events like Hurricane Ian happen, we should stop treating it as a sensational breaking news & start responding to it like the political, public policy & survival imperative that it is
As Hurricane Ian completes its pummeling of Florida and now heads toward South Carolina re-energizing itself into more hurricane force, the one thing that is as predictable as these destructive weather events is the steady diet of statements expressing shock. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) calls it a “one-in-500-year flood event [and that] we’ve never seen a flood event like this.” Ummm, 1) this is a regular thing now, governor and 2) yes, we have been seeing floods all over the world like this. Still, media outlets will converge on Florida and gawk at the devastation. There will be countless takes of people on social media, whether in Florida or not, describing how “unbelievable” this all is. It will be a news cycle that is lucky if it gets past a full week of coverage before any talk about apocalyptic hurricanes and the climate crisis that’s triggering them won’t happen until the next time another hurricane batters an American coast or territory.
The problem then becomes not so much the hurricane - as destructive and deadly as that is. The problem is the conversation around it: we still treat these as sensationalistic breaking news or “extreme weather events.” Even weather forecasters and meterologists, generally speaking, are afraid to even say the words “climate crisis” out of fear of losing their jobs. The general willing ignorance of this climate crisis is intensifying as much as these “extreme weather” events and our civilization’s inability to adequately respond. The sooner we get to a stage where we’re robustly mitigating climate crisis trends and impacts is the sooner we get to a place where it’s truly a manageable situation. There’s still time, too … but, it’s running out quick.
Some thoughts …
As the death toll from Ian rises, go with your first instinct: make it very political. Yes, this is the direct result of diabolical (and, yup, racist) politics, neglectful policymaking and bad governance that ends up in incalculable economic damage, lots of lives lost and further deterioration of our planet - period. This is appropriate and very relevant. We need to start treating climate crisis disasters the same way much of the public discourse is now treating horrific mass shootings in their aftermath: like the domestic terror events and public policy failures they are. When these events happen, we need to point blaming fingers at all responsible parties, including criminal corporations, institutions and elected officials.
We need to also stop calling events like Ian “a natural disaster.” It is not; it is a fossil fuel triggered disaster - the only thing that’s making it “natural” is the fact that nature is having a very severe global allergic reaction to the way it’s being mistreated.
Let’s stop saying “climate change,” and let’s transition to “climate crisis.” This massive scale of destruction is not a “change.” It’s not a minor inconvenience. It’s a crisis - let’s start acting like it. It’s safe to argue that terms like “climate change” drastically diminish just how bad this is, shrinking these planetary collapse patterns into something random and innocuous. Hence, the need to formally transition - for public discussion’s sake - to “climate crisis.” But, even that might be too soft.
Start demanding full and complete media acknowledgement and coverage of climate crisis as the threat that it is. This also includes us not treating this issue episodically and sensationistically. We need to stop just waiting for the next big disaster to show up and become a lot more preemptive in how we 1) know we’re in a climate crisis state and 2) we should then be expecting climate crisis catastrophes. The fossil fuel industrial complex is not the only culprit complicit in making climate crisis worse - it’s also the larger “mainstream” corporate media complex that supports the fossil fuel industry with almost blood-sibling allegiance. Public pressure on these outlets should intensify for all outlets, both mainstream and even smaller community outlets, to start acknowledging climate crisis regularly and to warn the public about it. As we’re doing that, we also need to force media outlets to stop covering these events as having exclusive impact on White middle-class beachside property owners. These events have a very destructive and long term economic and public health impact on low-income to moderate wealth Black communities that get hit and displaced the hardest.
This is not a “one-in-500-year flood.” None of these events are “unreal” or “unbelievable” or “shocking.” Stop that. They are totally predictable and they are more frequent now. The sooner we expect them as a reality is the faster we get to a point of better preparedness, response and policy solutions. Everyone from scientists to activists to some policymakers have been warning everyone else for years about this. Whatever the terminology, there’s a need for greater acknowledgement that we should expect hurricanes to become much more intense and devastating as a result of fossil fuel triggered and methane accelerating climate crisis. Abuse of the environment has accelerated the warming of oceans which is intensifying the hurricanes. More at Climate Central …
We also need to get crystal clear, as a human community, about the direct causes of climate crisis and who’s responsible. When we do that, we tackle the crisis at its source and we’re able to begin fixing it. Broadly speaking, centuries of unadulterated capitalism have now brought us to this catastrophic edge. So, we’ll need to completely reprogram this human addiction to ceaseless, wasteful and toxic growth as a virtue. Clearly it’s not. But, as far as an immediate response and realistic target, we need to understand how much the entire fossil fuel industrial complex is a direct threat to all of us. Other industries reliant on fossil fuels and abusive levels of irresponsible economic growth also must be reigned in or completely overhauled. We need to be very clear about how much fossil fuel companies and their unmitigated production of toxic oil and gas is killing the planet and producing events like Ian. A primer from the United Nations, which is ringing the alarms bells (but, not hard enough) is here …
Climate crisis should be a major issue motivating voters to the polls in 2022. But, right now, it doesn’t seem that way. We’ve been seeing the emergence of more “climate scientists” who are raising awareness, disrupting public conversation and chaining themselves up on the buildings of government institutions and agencies. But, what we’re not seeing is these same activist scientists pushing for a massive political movement; they have yet to find a way to mobilize voters around the issue of climate crisis. Just like the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year in the Dobbs’ decision was an electoral turning point that sparked one-issue reproductive rights voters, climate crisis should have also been triggering a wave of angry and enthusiastic eco-voters. An eco-voter movement is aware that …
There is a major election in the United States coming up
The U.S. is the world’s largest contributor of global greenhouse emissions and, that
It’s time to use all elections this year on the state and federal level to oust all incumbents who are climate crisis-deniers and major recipients of campaign contributions from climate crisis-triggering industries while electing or supporting all candidates and incumbents who acknowledge climate crisis and are ready to shape policy to fix it.
An eco-voter movement should also be shifting the political landscape on every level where there is an election, from Congressional (House and Senate) elections to state legislative elections to gubernatorial and other statewide races. Climate crisis should be a litmus test issue for all candidates, challengers and incumbents. The climate scientists and other environmentalists need to stop sleeping on this.