Super-Storm Sandy’s Teachable Moment

chris barackRex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, sees global climate change as an “engineering” problem to be managed. The guy in charge of a giant fossil fuel conglomerate thinks that human civilization can cope with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, unprecedented droughts, mass extinctions of fish and the choking of the oceans, by just moving people around to new geographical locales that will reap the windfalls of global warming.

Bill McKibben of 350.org has a better idea. We should begin naming “Super-Storms” and hurricanes after oil corporations: “Hurricane Chevron,” “Hurricane Exxon,” “Super-Storm BP,” and the like.

The dominant ideas of any society are those that benefit its ruling elites. Nothing signifies this fact more clearly than the pathetic “debate” we’ve had on global climate change over the last decade or so.

When Mitt Romney elicited laughter and guffaws from the audience during a presidential debate when he pointed out that President Obama in 2008 promised to “lower the oceans” it perfectly illustrated how far our national “dialogue” on global warming has devolved. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, currently the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has written a book denouncing the climate change science as a “hoax”; George Will, one of the mightiest and most influential minds on the Right, says weather happens so we should just “get over it.”

Millions of Americans still take as an article of faith the a priori assumption that “gov’mint” is “bad” and can’t do anything right. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was pumping this line as recently as a couple of weeks ago but he’s since changed his tune.

Yet when a “natural’ disaster like Sandy or a financial swindle gone bad like the 2008 meltdown slams the country – who are the first people we see heading to Washington to demand that the federal government save their asses? It’s the same members of the elite club who have nothing good to say about “gov’mint” when things appear to be chugging along.

It turns out the ruling elites that have spent so much time and money savaging the very idea of government or shared sacrifice (as well as the science of climate change) are not immune to the effects of anthropogenic global warming. In the early 20th Century, it wasn’t until the cholera and dysentery that afflicted the working poor in many American cities began wafting into the more affluent areas when a concerted federal and state effort was unleashed to better deal with what was then a public health emergency.

Joe Palermo[dcT[/dc]oday, we are facing our own public health emergency that is planetary in scope. The only option now is to sideline the Senator Inhofes and the George Wills of this world and mobilize the not-insane people and their governments to bring us back from the brink of this pending disaster that will profoundly change our Earth and our civilization.

Joseph Palermo
Joseph Palermo’s Blog

Posted: Wendesday, 31 October 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on October 31, 2012
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About Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo is Professor of History, California State University, Sacramento. Professor Palermo's most recent book is The Eighties (Pearson 2012). He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Columbia, 2001); and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism (Pearson, 2008). Before earning a Master's degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master's degree in History from San Jose State University. His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 (Scholarly Resources Press, 2003); and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon (CQ Press, 2004).