Everyone who wants global warming to be true — raise your hand. Of course, I mean the whole idea that burning fossil fuels has led to a rapid increase in the earth’s temperature which is causing a climate crisis that is escalating in its destruction and scientists say we have only a few years to avert worldwide cataclysmic devastation.
Again, raise your hand if you want that to be true. No sane person has his hand up.
About 15 years ago I realized that this crisis was a political issue. Teaching science to about 40 fifth-graders, using simple chalkboard diagrams, I explained fossil fuels, alternative energy sources, and how global warming occurs. I showed a video on the consequences of a too warm Earth (in fact, it predicted the very things that are happening now); the next day a student asked in what political party I was registered. Her dad wanted to know. I was stunned.
A few days later with urgency, I asked my principal if the video could be shown at a PTA meeting. “No, that’s a controversial subject,” was her flat response.
I knew we were in trouble; I just didn’t know how much.
How in the world did scientific research become so politicized, particularly when it’s about the havoc of extreme weather events which is killing humans, destroying homes, forests, animal species, and our ability to get food in the oceans and from drought and flood-ravaged farmland?
It was only after I quit teaching in 2012 to pursue a second career that I took the time to understand the answer to that question. And it’s simple. The fossil fuel companies that produce oil, natural gas, and coal, and the companies that benefit from those extracted products (like refineries that take oil and produce gasoline) have spent billions and billions of dollars to do two things:
- Spread lies to the American people that these fuels do not cause global warming, and
- Influence politicians with campaign donations and lavish gifts through lobbyists and other means. The politicians are then willing to promote the same lies (See #1), write legislation that makes it easier for the companies to extract their products and hide the damage they’re doing, as well as, give them subsidies … yes, Congress gives our taxpayer money to these high-powered, massive billion-dollar businesses and provides multiple opportunities for them to avoid paying taxes on their enormous profits.
And think about it: When a region is destroyed by one of these extreme weather events (that scientists say is a result of climate change), who pays to rebuild? Well, of course, the American taxpayer, not the industries that knowingly caused the damage. There’s proof that fossil fuel companies knew in the 1980s what was happening as a result of burning their products, but their greed was too great to sound the alarm. They did the opposite.
I’m writing about the climate crisis, but look at a few other issues. The massive amounts of money going to a bloated defense budget so we can continue endless destructive wars that destroy American soldiers’ lives and blow up other human beings (often civilians) while the military-industrial complex gets richer and richer. Congress is passing a $738 billion defense budget, which is a $120 billion increase over the Obama administration’s last budget. And according to Sen. Bernie Sanders in his recent op-ed in the Washington Post, “… the $120 billion increase in Pentagon spending — compared with the final year of the Obama administration — could have made every public college, university, trade school and apprenticeship program in the United States tuition-free, eliminated homelessness and provided universal school meals to every kid in our nation’s public schools.”
What else? Drug companies are gouging sick people. Insurance companies are making billions in profit, often denying coverage to those that need it most. There are chemical corporations polluting our own West Virginia water. I urge you to see the movie “Dark Waters” about DuPont poisoning its workers and the waters around Parkersburg because the product, Teflon, brought them $1 billion a year in profits.
It’s easy to spot the politicians taking these incentives. Here’s what to look for: denying the climate crisis or wanting a slow response to the problem; supporting more and more defense spending; voting for more poison being released in our water; pushing hard for no changes to our gun laws; purporting that a living wage for American workers is unreasonable; taking and taking from our public school systems.
Get on a computer and do research on climate change. This is an “All hands on deck!” moment. Figure out how you can help; at the very least, vote for uncorrupted candidates who take this problem seriously. Your children and grandchildren’s future depend on it.