Sunday, September 17, 2017
Think of an Ark for the 21st Century
Let's recycle the fable of Noah and his Ark. Only this 21st century ark isn't intended to hold mating pairs of creatures, two by two. It's intended strictly for a human cargo. Not just any humans either. It is reserved for the most advantaged, affluent individuals and families. The rest, and, yes, that includes you, need not apply.
You're not getting on the ark. It's not for you.
We know from who's not getting on the ark and from what those who are keep doing that construction is well underway.
A good many people wonder how a scientific issue such as climate change became such a political football in the United States. How did it become an issue of right and left. After all, surely no one will be immune from its impacts, right? Yes, no one will be immune from climate change impacts but that doesn't mean that everyone will be in the same boat either. Some, in fact, have a reserved cabin on the ark and, for them, climate change is a different matter altogether.
Think of it as a "just not yet" approach to a looming crisis. The mine may be in danger of collapsing but there's still a rich vein of ore to be exploited, enormous wealth just waiting to be brought to the surface. It's getting increasingly more dangerous for the hard rock miners but their peril isn't shared by the guys at Head Office counting the cash.
If you want to pursue the "just not yet" approach to wealth extraction you need someone who's on your side and definitely not on the side of those ungrateful, undeserving miners. And that's where political capture - legislative, regulatory and executive - pays off "bigly." It facilitates wealth extraction, it facilitates wealth accumulation and it does it all within an "everyday low taxes" platform. It's win, win, win for the People of the Ark.
If everything works out as planned, climate change will morph from a political issue into a class problem. The process is already well underway.
As we've witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina and Sandy, Harvey and Irma, it's not the rich wading chest deep through water full of sewage and toxic chemical waste. The People of the Ark don't have to fret about boil water advisories. If God had wanted them to suffer those indignities He wouldn't have given them helicopters and executive jets.
It's the poor that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of floods, droughts and every imaginable hammer blow of severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. The poor get to flail about, reeling from dislocation and worsening poverty, rotating through toxic FEMA trailers, powerless over their fate. It's a plague visited upon them by their betters for the sake of chasing that last vein of ore in the mine. The bigger irony is that those few who played such a significant role in shaping this future for the many know they have reserved accommodation on that ark.
And yet it would be condescending to the poorest and most vulnerable to cast this as an "us versus them" issue. The People of the Ark are very much the "them" but there really is no "us." If there was such a thing, our political caste would respond far differently than what we've experienced to date. We would have a voice and unassailable political power if we had even a modicum of coherence and that's simply not a factor. There is no common will, no universal voice. We are as the people of the tower of Babel.
Ask yourself what common bond you feel to the people you see wading through waste water. You may sympathize with them and their plight but you almost certainly don't feel "of" them. You don't carry anxiety for their uncertainty, their loss of whatever power and dignity they once might have had. You don't see yourself in their shoes, ever. You have faith in some superior resilience. You count on never experiencing their fate. You bet the farm on it. A good many of us are far less charitable and caring, more ready to blame those who have been overwhelmed for their fate. Many more of us are simply too busy or distracted to feel much of anything.
The "us versus them" threat ceases to be of much significance if the "us" is so fractured, so divided, so at odds with itself as to present a challenge much less a threat to "them." And that, I fear, is where it's going to remain until we come to see ourselves, to make ourselves, part of "us," to reach down until we form some sort of human chain. We're a long way from that right now.