Media Lens on Climate Collapse – The Grim Silence Of Our Leaders

15 Sep

The biosphere is dying,
and we are hurtling toward nuclear war,
and it is so very, very heartbreaking,
and yet even in the midst of that heartbreak
nature shines as majestically as ever,
and some moments all you can do is take in the beauty
and take it as your solemn, sacred duty to appreciate it while it lasts,
and look at the trees and the bugs and the birds and the critters
who never had anything to do with this madness,
and bow as deeply as your body can bow,
and say I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry.
Caitlin Johnstone

Today I had a comment from my friend Bryan Gocke on my September 2 post, Broken: the implicit contract between the rulers and the ruled. Part 2 of 2. That post began by quoting from a piece on Bryan’s website, OntheBrynk, about the funding of America’s war machine.

Early in his comment this morning, Bryan writes:

… climate change  … seems to be wedged solid in the ‘too difficult to deal with drawer.’ This is despite a growing consensus that this is a very real problem – but a consensus that seems unable to effect much in the way of meaningful change – a clear indication, if we need one, that the power of our ruling elites is self-serving (even if they will be taken down with us all) and impervious to rational argument. The recent weaponizing of ‘clean air zones’ in England by a Conservative government tottering along on its last legs and picked up and run by a Labour opposition predicted to win the next general election underlines how difficult it seems to be to enact even the most obvious measures that would improve the health of the general population. Having said that I have to acknowledge that I am not a small trader trying to keep a business afloat with an old transit van that I can’t afford to replace.

The only meaningful way forward, as your site has consistently argued, is to view climate change as essentially a product of a global capitalist mode of production – but then that consensus becomes a bit flaky and has even less potential to effect change ….. heigh ho!

Which brings us, rather downheartedly, to global economics and the decline of western imperialism as a system of super exploitation – an exploitation that has, in true ‘crumbs from the table’ fashion, provided many in the west outside of the ruling elite with a rather comfortable ‘carry-on’ in comparison to that experienced by the vast majority of the world’s population. As you rightly point out these crumbs are becoming scarcer and more desperately fought over – the contract is no longer deliverable. So in that sense alone it is difficult to see anything but ongoing economic pain for the collective West, which, as always will be felt most keenly by the poorest and most disadvantaged.

Even if ​our ruling elites will be taken down with us all…” ​  Bryan points to their criminal insanity. Criminal because they intend, as ruling classes always intend, to pass the bill for their excesses – which is to say, the excesses of a political economic system from which they most benefit – onto those least responsible and least able to pay.

Insane because some at least seem to think that buying bolt holes in New Zealand will save them.

Over to Media Lens, and an excellent piece of yesterday, September 14:

Climate Collapse – The Grim Silence Of Our Leaders

None of us has previously witnessed a barrage of extreme weather events of the kind that has been devastating lives across the globe this summer. Canadian wildfires the size of Austria, a Hawaiian town incinerated by a hurricane-fuelled firestorm, a Greek island devastated by three years of rainfall in a single day, a Libyan town washed into the sea after 40cm of rain fell in twenty-four hours leaving 20,000 dead, killer hurricanes fuelled by oceans overheated by climate change. And then there were the extraordinary heatwaves in Italy, Spain, France, Japan, China; the floods in Madrid, Barcelona, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Beijing, Manila, on and on, with temperature, wind and rainfall records shattered the world over.

Almost as astonishing has been the indifference of our leaders. The silence has been deafening. Where are they? Why is no-one joining the dots and demanding some kind of serious response?

Jeremy Corbyn, a rare exception, commented of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) this week:

‘Not one mention of the catastrophic flooding in Libya at PMQs. Where is the concern for the victims of fires in Europe or the droughts across Africa? Where is the outrage at fossil fuel giants destroying our planet? Where is the hope for future generations? Wake up!’

Broadcaster and author Stephen Fry said on the BBC:

‘Extraordinary that you can have a conversation with an economics minister in Labour who didn’t even mention the climate catastrophe coming, that there’s a tsunami coming towards us… yet everyone is talking about just doing the same thing only better. It’s catastrophic.’

When asked about the Maui fire death toll in Hawaii, US President Joe Biden replied:

‘No comment.’

Compare this silence with the prediction made this morning on Twitter/X by Professor Bill McGuire, Emeritus Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London:

‘I hope I am wrong and others may see things differently, but I am expecting effective societal collapse by mid-century, and planning – for my partner and I and our kids – accordingly.’

Or compare with NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus, previously arrested for defending the Earth:

‘Dear journalists of the world: We are at risk of losing basically everything. This – what we’re experiencing now – is how that process unfolds. The more fossil fuels we burn, the further in that process we go.

‘You MUST begin to tell 5 critical truths. Civilization depends on it.’

The Limits Of Propaganda

Despite the overwhelming evidence that climate catastrophe is not just a looming threat, it is here; despite the desperate pleading for help from climate scientists; and despite the surreal silence and indifference of Western political leaders, a stubborn rump of opinion continues to insist that the climate crisis is a cynical scam promoted by vested interests.

We know from our own interactions with all kinds of people in all walks of life that many still hold this view. Indeed, it is a grim irony that our work has been used to bolster these claims. Because we have spent two decades emphasising how state-corporate media distort and omit the truth, critics regularly write to us along these lines:

‘The BBC and the Guardian are a propaganda system serving elite power. They are focusing so intensively on climate change because doing so serves an elite agenda of increased taxation and control. How can you, of all people, not see this?’

I’ve experienced such boneheaded logic – a propaganda system must always and on all matters tell lies – myself, and am in full agreement with Media Lens’s response:

But we have never argued that everything that appears in state-corporate media is an elite-serving lie. These media are indeed part of a propaganda system, and they do work hard to further the interests of power. But they are communicating to an audience of thinking people in a world where reality has a habit of interfering with even the most fanatical propagandist’s best-laid plans.

If no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, if the powers that be are either unable or disinclined to fake the evidence, then the media has to tell at least some of the truth. Why? Because they have to report undeniable, propaganda-unfriendly facts to avoid being exposed as completely brazen propagandists – a revelation that would undermine their ability to manipulate public opinion …

Indeed. I see this as a different but related aspect of a point I made myself, in the opening paragraph of my Two short reads … post of September 7

Despite its systemic duplicity, I often scan The Guardian. (Ditto Economist, NYT, WSJ, CNN and other media … whose business model and market niche – and the need to establish credibility with ‘elite’ audiences – require them to speak truth to power on issues which are less pivotal to it, yes, but not trivial either.)

But moving on from propaganda in general, to catastrophic and man made climate change, do we simply stop using fossil fuels? When? Tomorrow? This afternoon? How?

Pass. All I know is that a political economic system – capitalism in the age of imperialism as defined repeatedly on this site – which must prioritise the pursuit of private profit and accumulation over every other consideration  is intrinsically incapable of saving us.

Conversely, if anything can  save us it would be a system of wealth creation planned by and for humankind. (Which would mean, by the way and through the mechanisms of enlightened self interest, a much better deal for the animal ‘kingdom’ we so arrogantly disregard.) In a word, a system of socialism or, if you like, the socialising of the means of production.

But I’m ahead of myself. For now let’s just stick with Media Lens and the grim silence of our leaders …

* * *

6 Replies to “Media Lens on Climate Collapse – The Grim Silence Of Our Leaders

  1. Well, we might make it . . . and we might not. It’s early days yet. After all the dinosaurs were around for nearly 200 million years – we, so far – 4 million to a few hundred thousand, depending on how you define ‘us’.

    But perhaps Media Lens hit the right note in

    E.g. “Worst case scenarios suggest that human-induced climate change might devastate most animal and plant species to such an extent that it could take five million years for life to recover. But 5 million years is a blink of the cosmic eye to old-timers like the Moon, Earth and Sun whose memories stretch back, not millions, but billions of years. And if things don’t work out here post-climate collapse, maybe they’ll go better among the billions and billions of stars out there – that’s a lot of stars, a lot of possibility. From this perspective, one might surmise that human despair at the prospect of human extinction is one more manifestation of an egotism that causes us to vastly overestimate our own importance.”

    Personally, I’m not looking forwards to coming back as a member of humanity in 2050 or so and having to cope with the results of human psychopathology, but I may be wrong about the possibility of that option.

  2. On a completely different note, I heard some sort of US NATOish spokesperson this morning on BBC Radio 4 describing the history of Libya and consequently why the floods were so devastating, without once mentioning the US/EU intervention which deposed Ghadaffi. It was really quite a feat, but of course, it went unquestioned by the stooge conducting the interview. I have to say that the smugness, arrogance and sheer gall exhibited by the BBC in moments like that is a tribute to the elite education process, which manages to churn out these drones in nauseating quantities

  3. A large part of the problem, as Robin McAlpine lays out here….

    ……is that the incompetents at the top (society is like a stew; if you don’t keep stirring it the scum rises to the top) have only one way of tackling any problem. Which is leave it to “The Market.”

    And like everywhere else – the NHS; the Utilities; Social Care; and so on – it doesn’t work when The State abdicates its responsibilities and becomes subordinate to the Oligarchy.

    As McAlpine observes:

    “The economic model we are following is an extractive model which uses long, complex ownership structures to enable powerful players to take the most possible out of the economy while putting the least possible back in.”

    For decades the oil giants and atomic energy lobby adjunct to the MIC stifled any and all alternative energy ideas and projects (remember Salter’s Duck?). Now they are the ones, along with their rentier model, put in charge of delivering the so called ‘Green New Deal’ using a not fit for purpose model – “The Market”.

    No wonder small traders like taxi drivers, builders et al are up in arms over the clean air zones and they are right to be so because they don’t have the capital to replace their vehicles like the corporate sector – who get all the tax breaks.

    As a result a lot of that sector will very definitely go under and be replaced by the big concerns. Just like all the independent cafe’s/sandwich shops in places like Sheffield City Center. Where once upon a time you could get a reasonably priced snack with a drink served in a proper cup in cafe’s like Fox’s opposite the Town Hall, or the place whose name I forget around the corner on Surrey Street. Now they have all been replaced by the big chains selling sub standard overpriced crap (even the shite coffee comes in plastic or paper cups) to consumer drone zombies because their lobbying power gets them tax breaks etc that the small independents don’t enjoy.

    Can you imagine how the smokeless zones (in which every Council House/Flat in the City had its coal fire replaced by the Council with a gas fire using North Sea Gas) would have been rolled out in the late fifties and early sixties under this model? We would still be cutting the smog with a knife and fork (if we still made them).

    If, like China, we had a State which was not subordinate to an all powerful Oligarchy, the small traders would have had their vehicles replaced or be given tax breaks sufficient to purchase a new vehicle which meets the environmental standards. Unfortunately, the sacrosanct market model is merely using the Climate Emergency to extract more rent.*

    *Sidebar: If anyone thinks the hue and cry from small traders on this matter is loud wait until the same sacred Market model is rolled out to the rest of us when petrol and diesel cars are “phased out” and we all have to replace our cars with electric ones. Because right now the price of even second hand cars are in the stratosphere never mind new ones (I kid you not the local second hand car lot at Deepcar has ten and twelve year old cars on the lot priced at around £10-12K – including an eleven year old mini at just under £10K). There’s no recession for these buggers!

    And the kicker in all this is that at the same time the very not fit for purpose Market model being used to supposedly “solve” the serious environmental problems caused by that very same Market Model is not getting the flack for this.

    Instead, as noted in the above article, it is the very concept of a climate and Environment crisis which is being questioned and put under critical scrutiny and portrayed as a “left wing” “woke” hoax and conspiracy in order for the real problem of the Market Model to remain untouchable.

    Whats that?

    The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

    How bleedin’ fast can they get here mate?

  4. We are not only challenged by climate change from global warming. It is the pollution and destruction of vast swathes of the natural world and whole ecosystems by the global industrial-military machine. It is the vast the insect Aramgeddon in which trillions of these essential creaetures have been destroyed. Yet just last week 36 of the pesticides and insecticides banned by the EU was made legal for use in the UK, including neonicotinoids that decimate the bee population. They tried to cover this terrible decision by saying – only for use in emergencies, yet DEFRA redefined emergency to include… loss of profit! It is the desertification of the soil – over 4 million square kilometers of land is being degraded every year. The UN recently stated this “ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our time.” Soil can be worth more than what grows in it yet we treat it like dirt. It is humanity’s collective addiction to material froms of ‘happiness’ which has turned the real paradise of our beautiful Earth into a consumer paradise where we buy things to make us happy rather than enjoy the natural bliss of being alive. It is bottom trawling fishing that destroys entire seafloor habitats that take millennia to develop. It is the hunting to extinction of apex predators at nine times the rate they can reproduce – and when you kill these you kill the whole eco-system. Oh I could go on and on – and have done in my book ‘Love In a Time of Extinction’ if you want to read more of this horror story. (Only £5 from Amazon. And with cartoons to alleviate the despair.) The reality is that we have left it all too late to reverse the apocalyptic 6th Mass Extinction now well underway. Yet even though false hope is now a form of denial there is another kind of hope. But to get there we have to first have ourhearts broken open by seeing that there is no more of the old hope. Good luck everyone – we’re going to need it.

    • This kind of approach doesn’t help:

      “[these] are attempts to carve out ideological sanctuaries that challenge our fundamental understanding of egalitarian society. And while their immediate impact may be confined to the echo chambers of libertarian forums and closed-door investment meetings, they offer a glimpse into a divisive future where community is commodified and citizenship is contingent upon ideological patronage. This should not merely pique our intellectual curiosity; it should prompt serious scrutiny…..

      …..For Thiel and the Praxis Society, then, capitalism is not just an economic system; it is a tool for cultural and even philosophical change, aimed at remaking society according to a very specific ideological blueprint. And at its essence, this is a philosophy that is willing to sever its roots — to essentially say: “Thanks for the billions, America; we’re off to build a sanctuary free from your regulatory clutches.” In doing so, its supporters paradoxically shun the very masses that made PayPal and Thiel’s other ventures successful.”

      • Thank you for this. I read the link but am not so adept at understanding the intellectual complexities of the arguments. I come more from feeling and instincts. Could it be however that different groups are taking care of different aspects of the whole? Let me be clear, my position is not to go off and find an escape in some back to the land utopia with solar panels or privileged enclave creaming off the best technologies created by the masses. My sense is there is no hope anywhere whatsoever. So my personal path is to love life, all life, while I can – honouring the whole damn show. And hope against hope that this love will create an energy field that can then do whatever it needs to for future life on earth. But I very much doubt it will not be this cycle of the mammals with their warm hearts and care for the weak and vulnerable. We are dying in this Anthropocene mass extinction. Yes we fucked it up with our ignorance and greed. Yes it was inevitable and all meant to be. Perhaps this hope for the energy field of love is not so far from your commitment to the masses of people whose toil is taken for granted and used and abused? I love beetles, whales and nature; you love the workers, the peasants and the millions of poor people who who hold up the world. We both love life. It takes sameness and common ground to meet yet our differences are what make that meeting worthwhile.

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