Call It a Crisis
Sometimes I like the think of this column as “news about the news.” Since leaving the Democratic party, I’ve found myself hyper-aware of the language various news sources use to talk about politics and science and the events of the world. I’m a poet, for god’s sake, not a doctor. Much less a scientist. But as a poet, I’m conscious of how powerfully words shape our viewpoints, always and in all ways. Information forms us. And words are the main way we process information.
One of the biggest problems in the field of climate change, on the scientific side but even more so on the side of political action, is the name “climate change” itself. This phrase is vague, for one thing. It conveys no sense of urgency, not even a problem, really. Change is good, right? As I’ve written before, whether we call it a crisis or a catastrophe does matter. I sometimes find myself leaning to the expletive and melodramatic side, with phrases like “it’s going to fookin’ kill us all!” But I respect journalists for refraining from the linguistic excesses of barflies and surrealistic political poets.
A deeper problem I’ve had with the phrase “climate change” is that it tends to focus environmental discussion around the single issue of climate (as all encompassing as that one issue is). But habitat destruction and extinction of species, pollution of ten thousand kinds, and the exponential growth of the human population all combine into a far greater environmental collapse than is contained even in the stronger phrases like “climate crisis.” We’re in the middle of a world-wide ecological breakdown of biblical proportions, and we should use language that reflects that.
This article analyses the intentional shift in the language used to discuss environmental issues by British news outlet, The Guardian. You can see this change in use in the Guardian article about hurricanes linked below.
Since environmental scientists now routinely use language like “existential” (translate that as “we’re all going to fookin’ die!”) to describe climate change, it’s time for the media to begin using appropriate language to describe the situation we’re in.
It is, of course, deeply ironic to accuse the corporate media— whose shrieking, click-bait-headlines over-state and exaggerate almost every other issue in the most extreme ways— of under-statement when it comes to environmental issues. You would almost think that they were owned by corporations who profit from destroying the environment. Nah, that would be unethical.
With all this in mind, I’ll call this list Fookin’ Environmental Catastrophe! Links:
Elizabeth Kolbert literally wrote the book on extinction. This short piece by her in the New Yorker points out a simple truth. More humans equals less of everything else. And there are a whole lot of us.
It’s never a real surprise that tornadoes would strike tornado alley. But this week’s outbreak is extreme even for the tornado capitol of the world.
A number of studies are showing that climate change– excuse me the climate fookin’ catastrophe!– is moving tornado alley to the east. Where a lot more big cities are.
And Summer Hurricane Season, which now extends from May to November, is opening up in the Atlantic. Git yer tickets before it’s too late! Does climate change make hurricanes worse? You can bet on it, if you are a gambler.
Scientists generally seem to love techno-fix solutions to philosophical problems. But here, New Scientist shows they are skeptical about geo-engineering as a solution to the climate crisis. Thank goodness for that! From the side, about the only thing that worries me more than the current environmental catastrophe is trying to “repair” it through geo-engineering. First, we should stop destroying the world. Then we can worry about “fixing” it.
What we should be thinking about is how to “repair” our thinking, our civilization, and ourselves.
In the USA, we’re in the midst of multiple, simultaneous crises, which makes this a truly epochal moment for America. While tornadoes are pounding the heartland, impeachment is blowing in the wind all around the nation.
The most immediate, truly the only fix for the constitutional crisis we are facing is impeachment. That techno-fix is built into the computer code of the US Constitution. The View from the Side continues to side with anyone, Democrat, Republican or metamodernist, who hollers “Yes!” to impeachment. Even if that argument relies on some fairly different historical circumstances. This NYT piece looks back to the first impeachment, its reasons and consequences.
Justin Amash has become the first Republican in Congress to speak out for impeachment. Of course, he’s under attack from the Trump cultists, who rightly fear that he may signal a trend toward Republicans actually standing up for the Constitution. Trumpists charge in to squash that idea. No surprise there.
But I am surprised that even supposedly progressive Slate continues to try to squash impeachment hope. I wonder why. Are they fully owned by Pelosi-Dems, Inc.?
From the side, it looks like Justin Amash might just be the tip of an iceberg calving off the glacier of Trump’s Neon-orange Republicans. His example gives me some hope that Trump will not succeed in Killing the Elephant.
We’ll just have to wait for the next exciting episode of “Game of Clowns” to see…