The two top news stories in recent days have been the Kentucky county clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licenses and the migrant refugees arriving in Europe. The former is only blather designed to keep mindless conservatives and Christians tuned in. But the second is very serious in its immediacy and particularly in what it portends.
There is a rapidly growing consensus among climatologists that the proximal cause of the Syrian civil war is a three- to four-year drought, induced by climate change, that drove virtually all Syrian farmers off the land and into the cities where the Bashar Assad regime — because of stupidity, ignorance, arrogance, inability or indifference — offered no respite. Of course, the Bush-Cheney-Bremer policy of disenfranchising the entire Sunni population of Iraq is why that country is a failed state and has triggered and fomented the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This is entirely a neocon disaster.
The main point of all this, though, if one can get past the anguish of the now, is that wars and migrations as a result of climate change are going to consume the world. Europe can’t deal with 150,000 migrants today? What will it do with 150,000,000? This is our future, and it’s not conjecture. We can recycle, compost, become vegan and use public transit until we’re blue in the face, and it will change nothing. The solution lies with our governments and with reorganizing our economic systems, and those systems today are controlled by those who benefit from destruction and depletion.
Oil is the most fabulous substance known. It has enabled us to emerge from the dank and dark coal and iron-ore mines when everything was made of steel or wood. Following is a sample of the more than 6,000 products we use daily made from petroleum. Imagine your life without this stuff:
Solvents; diesel; motor oil; bearing grease; ink; floor wax; ballpoint pens; football cleats; upholstery; sweaters; boats; insecticides; bicycle tires; sports-car bodies; nail polish; fishing rods and lures; dresses; tires; golf bags and balls; perfumes; cassettes and CDs; dishwashers; toolboxes; shoe polish; motorcycle and football helmets; footballs and basketballs; caulking; petroleum jelly; transparent tape; faucet washers; antiseptics; clotheslines; curtains; food preservatives; soap; vitamin capsules; antihistamines; purses; shoes; dashboards; cortisone; deodorant; putty; pantyhose; refrigerant; percolators; life jackets; rubbing alcohol; linings; skis; TV cabinets; shag rugs; electrician’s tape; tool racks; car battery cases; epoxy; mops; slacks; insect repellent; oil filters; umbrellas; yarn; fertilizers; hair coloring; roofing; toilet seats; lipstick; denture adhesive; linoleum; ice cube trays; synthetic rubber; speakers; electric blankets; glycerin; tennis rackets; rubber cement; dice; nylon rope; candles; trash bags; house paint, brushes and rollers; water pipes; hand lotion; roller skates; surfboards; shampoo; wheels; shower curtains; guitar strings; luggage; aspirin; safety glasses; antifreeze; awnings; eyeglasses; ice chests; detergents; vaporizers; balloons; sunglasses; tents; heart valves; crayons; parachutes; telephones; enamel; pillows; dishes; cameras; anesthetics; artificial turf; artificial limbs; bandages; model cars; folding doors; hair curlers; cold cream; movie film; soft contact lenses; drinking cups; fan belts; shaving cream; gasoline; ink; sound insulation; pantyhose; disposable diapers; pajamas, salad bowls; garden hose; credit cards.
So we have this most fabulous material on Earth, a miracle material, one over which we wage endless wars, and what do we do? We burn it up as fast as we can. Doesn’t that strike you as stupid? There is only a certain amount on the planet, and only a fraction of that is and ever will be available to us. Destruction and depletion. That’s how we live, and that’s how we’ll perish. This is all about us. The planet doesn’t care. We’re just one of millions of species who lived and died — who will live and die. You know how we think, or at least should think, of the Kentucky clerk story as mindless blather? That’s how the planet thinks of us.
Ron Paul is worried about another economic downturn. Ted Cruz is worried about the Iran deal. Donald Trump is worried his gardener will become a citizen. Jeb Bush wants to lower tax rates, because it worked so well when his brother did it. Mike Huckabee waits for the rapture. Hillary Clinton is worried someone might discover she’s actually a woman. And Bernie Sanders is just plain worried. None of them is talking about climate change and the catastrophe that is coming. That’s because they all think we’re stupid and that we don’t know anything the media doesn’t tell us.
Our only hope, our civilization’s only hope, is that they’re wrong. The next, and arguably last, international climate summit is in Paris in November. I suggest we all go and let the oligarchs of destruction and depletion know they’re out — one way or another. It’s time to put it on the line.
Steven Boyer, of St. Paul, is a retired chemical engineer.