Will superstorm break the silence?
Neither Obama, Romney can fix capitalism
Protest hits media, election silence on climate change,
Times Square, Oct. 29.
Photo: Adam Welz/350.org
October 31, 2012
After ravaging much of the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy has hit the United
States. As of this writing, more than 8 million people here are without power,
38 are reported dead and still counting, and the damage is reckoned at many
tens of billions of dollars. No numbers have been put on personal losses of the
masses of people in terms of their homes, cars, household possessions, let
alone irreplaceable personal items of precious, sentimental value.
As bad as this storm has been, its devastation would have been immeasurably
worse had it not been for the extraordinary accomplishments of modern
meteorological science, which was able to warn public authorities and people
about the timing, the path, the intensity and breadth of the storm with a
remarkable degree of accuracy.
It is, however, a major contradiction that while the warnings of
meteorological science about this extreme weather event saturated the media,
not a word was said about the warnings made by climate scientists. Their
voices, which grow ever more desperate, have been under attack by an array of
the most powerful corporate polluters in the world.
This seeming contradiction can only be explained by the profit motive.
On the one hand, meteorological science is needed by agribusiness, shipping,
maritime, airlines, off-shore oil drillers, power companies, insurance
companies, the commodities markets, the tourist industry, and numerous other
capitalist interests. All these parties need to know about the weather in order
to maximize their profits and minimize their losses. This list should include
the Pentagon, which has a strong military interest in climate prediction.
On the other hand, the vast majority of climate scientists around the world
concur and have proven that climate change is produced by global warming, which
in turn is caused by the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The
result is increasingly extreme weather events — like Hurricane Sandy.
Thus to deny the findings of climate science is in the interests of the oil
and gas companies, the coal industry, the power-generating businesses, and
other giant industrial polluters who profit from processes that spew carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere. They refuse to take measures to curb these
emissions because that would eat into their profits.
Thus, both the advancement of meteorological science and the denial of
climate science can be traced directly to the biggest and most powerful
capitalists. This illuminates the complete irrationality of the capitalist
In fact, the terms “climate change” and “global
warming” have been virtually banned from corporate mass media news
broadcasts. During the three-month drought in the Midwest this summer, which
damaged three quarters of the U.S. corn and grain crop, report after report on
this drastic situation failed to mention climate change or global warming. The
same is true of the round-the-clock coverage of Hurricane Sandy.
Such is the power of the giant polluters, who actually include most of the
ruling class of the U.S. They have spent untold millions to finance
anti-scientific lobbyists, fund politicians who will vote against any attempt
to make the polluters fix the problem or pay the bills, and find corrupt
scientists who will swear that all the findings of their tens of thousands of
colleagues around the world are false.
The U.S. government has gone to international environmental conferences year
after year and used its financial and political power to block any global
consensus that would bind the giant transnational corporations to concrete
steps to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
The acute crisis caused by the dramatic wind and tidal events of Hurricane
Sandy in the U.S. is only an intense manifestation of a much more widespread
and gradually developing environmental crisis that is global in character. The
same temperature rises that led to Sandy are melting glaciers and ice caps,
raising the ocean levels and endangering island and coastal civilizations as
well as inland rivers.
This, in turn, is part of an even more widespread process of environmental
devastation poisoning the land, water and air caused by mining conglomerates,
logging companies, agribusiness, oil corporations and so on which are depleting
or poisoning the aquifers, promoting the desertification of vast stretches of
the earth’s territories, destroying the rain forests which are the lungs
of the earth, and much more.
Wall Street suffered directly as a result of Hurricane Sandy. And capitalist
interests have also suffered losses from the dislocation caused by the storm.
This may cause a lot of hand wringing and reevaluation by the bosses
themselves. But don’t count on them to combat climate change. There is
too much profit involved. To paraphrase a citation by Karl Marx, for a
sufficient profit a capitalist will even risk death.
Most impacted by these environmental predators are the masses of people, the
workers and peasants, the poor and oppressed of the world.
As one commentator said, referring to Sandy: We are having a
once-in-a-hundred-year storm every two years now.
The only way to reduce events like Hurricanes Sandy, Irene and Katrina is
for the workers to take the means of pollution away from the polluters. But the
means of pollution are actually the means of production under capitalism. It
will take the destruction of the profit system itself to chart a new course
that can save the environment by restructuring production to serve the
people’s needs rather than capitalists’ profit greed.