In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster which many reference as climate change intensifies, there was a rash of white vigilante violence visited on black residents. A number of blacks, like Donnell Herrington, were "shot with impunity," by white perpetrators, left to bleed on the street. As a result of systemic racism, the undeserved black community of New Orleans had already been abandoned to squalid, post storm conditions, where dead bodies were literally left to rot in the street, while wealthy whites hired private contractors like Black Water to protect their gated communities. In segments of racist America, this brief glimpse of an already broken system did not paint a picture of historical injustice that runs up into the present moment. Rather, the hurricane merely served to reinforce hateful preconceptions of black neighborhoods.
That line of thought is far from extraordinary in the United States, and it is unfolding in yet another, more recent story. The National Guard has been put on notice to restore order for the anticipated handing down of a grand jury decision to not prosecute police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black teen, Michael Brown. Blacks have long decried the ongoing police harassment, heavy handed tactics, and outright murder that they endure under a racist police system that profiles people of color and incarcerates disproportionate numbers of blacks relative to the actual rates of criminality. These cries are largely ignored, and brushed aside by the white adherents of a so-called "post racial" society, who, by claiming to not see color, fail to recognize and properly address the violence, prejudice, and criminal treatment that people of color contend with on a daily basis.
Shortly after Michael Brown was murdered by officer Darren Wilson, police further provoked residents by allowing a police dog to urinate on a makeshift memorial, which was then run over by police cruisers. Such raw disregard for the humanity of community members was emblematic of a pattern of police abuse that saw outraged protesters in the streets. Protesters were met by a heavy handed police response, leading to the assaults and arrests of demonstrators as well as a member of the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, lending further credence to the notion that the rights of individuals were being trampled. Donned in military surplus gear that had been garnered through taxpayer funded government handouts, the police attacked protesters and members of the press, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at Al Jazeera English reporters. One police officer resigned after pointing a rifle at protesters and threatening to kill them, telling protesters to "go fuck yourself." (see video below). Another officer was fired for stating on social media that protesters should be "put down like rabid dogs."
Police violence is not limited of course to minorities and activists, but it is typically those who are viewed as relatively powerless, who are then targeted for their brutality. Studies have shown that police are 2-4 times more likely to commit acts of domestic violence than the national average. Their victims have no where to turn, since their armed abusers literally work for the corrupt system known to shield its members from punishment. As the National Center for Women & Policing points out, women victimized by officers are uniquely vulnerable in that the officer
- has a gun,
- knows the location of battered women's shelters, and
- knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim
Bubbling below the glittering American facade is a nation on the brink. Social tensions are palpable. Gun sales have skyrocketed in response to perceptions of government overreach. The country is deeply in debt and rushing headlong with the rest of the world into economic disruption and climate chaos, and yet its leaders remain committed to maintaining their imperial mission and the farcical global war on terror. Americans are increasingly poor and desperate, while government officials unapologetically preside over the disintegration of deeply enshrined rights.
How, then, will a violent and traumatized American society cope with the collapse of civilization, a scary proposition which is getting even mainstream play in reports like the one funded by NASA, which predicts mass social breakdown in the not so distant future? It is a question, which given just a few moments of consideration, conjures seemingly obvious and horrific scenarios, and yet faced with this potential, most Americans dismiss the possibility, chalking it up to unrealistic negativity, before moving on to the next distraction.
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It is as if much of the overworked, ill informed, zombie and pop culture obsessed nation has decided at some subconscious level to simply die off and take the planet with it.
In the face of such apathy, atmospheric CO2 is now at a level not seen in at least 800,000 years, if not several million. The gas concentration is actually increasing at an accelerating rate, jumping 3 parts per million in 2013. The rapidity of its increase will outpace our ability to adapt, and even conservative
scientists are saying we are now on track for the worst case scenario for planetary warming. But these projections ignore the possibility of catastrophic, runaway climate change fueled by the release of methane from the melting arctic sea bed. This kind of rapid feedback loop could trigger a sudden climate shift with disastrous consequences. Some scientists predict this scenario could be triggered by a 1.5 degree rise in global average temperatures, a mere .7 degrees beyond the .8 we've already witnessed, (see video left), while a few scientists, having considered the vast plumes of methane already coming out of the arctic, have even postulated that the runaway climate scenario is currently underway.If Katrina and Ferguson are indicators of what climate breakdown may look like an a social level, we will likely see pockets of both lawlessness and State crackdowns, where the boundaries between police and military become nearly indistinguishable, while in the later stages of decline, bands of disaffected violent males, often former police or military
The exact shape of this descent is impossible to predict, as we are now swimming in uncharted waters. A rapid methane release could spell the end of human life on earth, as could the push toward a third world war. The same sociopathic forces that are undermining planetary integrity are pushing the US to the brink of war with Russia, while supporting the violent government overthrow in Russian partner states Syria and Iran. The contours of a gradual, decadal decline, however, will be partly defined by ongoing external wars and hysterical, violent, and paranoid elements within society, further enraged by perceived personal failures as well as the failures of the government and corporate elites to produce earth-saving technology, a stable economy, and just governance.
As the Republican Party has retrenched its efforts at "climate obstructionism" after the 2014 midterm elections, the reality of climate change will none the less bear down on even the most denialist portions of the electorate. Yet given their penchant for ignoring science, the response for some will likely be fueled by the brand of religious extremism that blames gays, feminists, immigrants, abortionists, and intellectuals, to name a few, for natural disasters (see above video). Climate change won't just be a time of shortages. For some, it will be a time of retribution.
Former Gilberton police chief Mark Kessler, and the scores of un-uniformed men who support him, are likely candidates for such climate fueled vigilantism. Though his gun filled rant (video above), which implicitly indicates the desire to assassinate "libtards," is shocking in its candor, especially for a public official, it none the less represents just the tip of the iceberg of the thuggish mentality and autocratic tendencies seen within places of authority, as well as within segments of the population who blame liberals for the destruction of their nation. Online hactivist group Anonymous sought to "unhood" KKK members in response to their calls for blood in Ferguson, and in so doing, exposed at least one Klansman who was a former police officer. A statement coming from Anonymous suggests that killer cop Wilson himself may have ties to the KKK.
During the Occupy Protests which arose from widespread and unaddressed government and corporate corruption, investigative journalist Naomi Wolf revealed in a redacted FBI document a plot by Texas authorities to potentially assassinate the leadership of the movement with snipers. Activists are increasingly being viewed as domestic terrorists by both authorities and nervous members of the public, while Americans have become aware of a vast surveillance network blanketing the country and much of the world. The implications of tracking and quashing demonized social movements responding to the reality of climate change has been largely ignored. What's also missing from the discussion is the way this violent system which is already felt by minorities, as well as women, will likely capitalize on social breakdown for intensified predation..
This is the pathological unfolding of mass trauma and Machiavellian dynamics in an increasingly unstable world. To believe that such dire conditions are perpetuated by one individual or political party over another is to be duped by this system's propensity toward divide and conquer and sociopathic deceit.
At a cultural center in Jakarta in 2013, Senator John Kerry suggested that climate change should be viewed as a weapon of mass destruction. In framing this symptom of deep human disconnect as a matter of national security, he indicated the likelihood of social unrest and climate refugees as the ability for people to feed themselves breaks down. This sentiment was echoed in a 2014 report issued by the US department of defense, which stated that
The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability. These developments could undermine already-‐fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-‐stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism. Here in the U.S., state and local governments responding to the effects of extreme weather may seek increased DSCA. [Defense Support to Civil Authorities]
Kerry's dire warning of climate change destabilization, rather than being a breath of fresh air in the land of climate denial, should be viewed then as a cynical attempt to manage public perception in the face of looming disaster. We're supposed to believe that these honest bearers of climate realities are working in our best interest, sounding the alarm for an unsure world to hear. But the world has known of these realities for years, and in some cases, decades, and the Obama administration has been anything but honest and forthright. While in 2014 his administration tries to take the helm of climate leadership, and pry it from the jaws of so-called GOP "obstructionism," just a few years ago in 2011 at the UN climate talks in Durbin, the administration itself was being accused of "startling levels of obstructionism" coming from within the State Department, in its desire to delay the watered down process of climate reforms for another five to ten years. For those who still believe the climate change situation is or was solvable, the window of opportunity that presented itself was discarded as readily by the Obama administration as a Pakistani wedding party targeted by his drone fire.
In the realm of geopolitics, in a devastating piece by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hirsch, Secretary of State Kerry was revealed to be yet another mendacious figure in American empire, who in 2013 was manipulating evidence to make a case for war in Syria, much as the Bush administration had lied and cherry picked evidence in the lead up to the Iraq war. Rather than being a separate issue from climate change, the state of liquid war spilling across borders is part of a larger phenomenon of destabilization occurring at the economic, social, and environmental levels. The money spent on destroying lives and infrastructure abroad is the very definition of barbaric and unsustainable practices, and Kerry has a direct role in setting the tone for how monetary resources will be allocated. The same drive for power found in this continual geostrategic positioning both fuels and is fueled by the increasing demands on the natural world to produce the raw materials for both warfare and consumer society. In an insane logical loop, the growing death machine necessitates itself, and taxpayer funded global conquest is at the heart of the planet devouring, ruthless progress of our technological worldview.
Further, Kerry heads a State Department whose environmental impact assessment of the Keystone XL concluded that the pipeline's construction would have minimal effects on green house gases. This assessment came under fire by environmental groups, who criticized the report for being produced by firms which have worked for TransCanada. Even as Obama has been lauded for his acknowledgement of climate change, it was in 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma that he boasted that his administration had " added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the earth.” His tip of the hat to big industry indicated the record amount of domestic oil production occurring under his watch, and laid bare his true intentions, when he said
Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.
Obama criticized the project during a trip to Asia late last week, saying it would not lower fuel prices for drivers, but would allow Canada to "pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else."
Further, Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy, which includes heavy reliance on natural gas fracking for the production of the so called "bridge fuel," has been blasted by scientific findings that demonstrate it could actually intensify climate forcing. Meanwhile, Obama has promised to send 1,500 troops to Iraq and has maintained domestically a policy of recruiting former military personnel into police forces. His call to re-examine military style policing post Ferguson was in reality a PR stunt that will only further legitimize the use of military hardware in policing the climate destabilized "homeland." The gilding of such destructive policies with a veneer of civility and reform will only deepen denial in the short term, and simultaneously intensify the potential for violent repression and backlash.
The internet has been abuzz with Obama's sudden push for environmental reform and talk of his climate legacy in the last two years of his presidency. But Obama already has a climate legacy, and while he may be celebrated for his recent "successes," the actual effects of the policies he has implemented will not be window dressed. Ultimately, what must be understood is that civilization as we understand it is not sustainable, and yet the leaders of that civilization continue to push forward aggressive global stratagems and meaningless solutions obfuscated in rhetoric. The Keystone Pipeline issue, though handled with typical imperial deceit, is in fact a red herring in pipeline production America. For years, this de-contextualized issue has been sapping energy from any broad based movement to make more fundamental challenges to the system itself. And such efforts have been rewarded with hollow statements and empty promises.
This is the two faced incarnation of empire. Even when the "embattled champions" of climate in Washington are spotlighted in the media, their words must be checked against a larger backdrop of behind-th-scenes wrangling and building climate chaos. The sugar coating of our problems and the diversion of attention from radical critiques of civilization has proven to be a death sentence. Kerry, Obama, and military planners understand the likelihood of global violence in the face of mass privation which the very system they represent is already creating. Similarly, given the growing certainty of scientists and the increasingly observable phenomenon of extreme weather, it seems quite likely that Republicans may secretly believe in the reality of human induced climate change, a notion I have recently come to intuit, and which has been somewhat substantiated in an article of Business Week.
Not all Republicans are as wedded to climate-change denial as their public statements suggest, according to retired military officials and Republican Hill staff. “If you talk with them privately, without any media around, the vast majority of congressional Republicans know perfectly well that climate change is real,” Titley says. “But they won’t say so publicly because they don’t want to end up like Bob Inglis.”
Senator Lindsey Graham was right when he said, in regard to section 1021 of the NDAA, which authorizes the indefinite military detention of US citizens on US soil without trial, that "The world is the battlefield, including the homeland." Climate change, like the war on terror, is a man made disaster, producing conflict without borders in space and time. The war on terror morphs into a war on life itself. Under such circumstances, social violence is seen as a tragic and yet unavoidable consequence of modernity, and the brutality of police and military
Within the speeches of high placed government officials who regard climate change as a threat, therefore, there is no true break from the momentum of this industrial death machine, just clever turns of phrase while global leaders march in lockstep to the self reinforcing and suicidal mandates of permanent war and infinite economic growth. By appearing to be the reasonable voices of empire as a counter to outright climate denialism (a presented belief which itself may be yet another charade), such actors are in fact ensuring our demise. A false dichotomy has been presented to us, keeping average Americans misdirected with empty solutions and meaningless political carnivals, as many struggle with the violence of abusive authorities and individuals from within a system that already denies them basic needs. In such a context, the false political rhetoric of climate change on both sides of the aisle is itself an act of violence against us all, contained in both its contempt for the truth and the current and coming violence that it invites, yet seeks to hide.