A Tale of Two Calamities

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

Oh, the irony! This is the week that my husband and I were scheduled to be in Alaska. The purpose of the cruise on a small ship was to learn from expert lecturers and see firsthand the devastation of climate change on the animals and environment. We felt a sense of urgency to make this trip while the locale was still viable. Obviously, the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19.

We were supposed to meet the tour guide and group in Seattle, where the air quality a few days ago was rated the third worst in the world.

In the scheme of things, I’m certainly not complaining about our lost vacation. We are safe in our home.

But in the larger sense…

The Washington Post headlined that the western wildfires destroying large swaths of California, Oregon, and Washington are “An ‘unprecedented’ climate change-ruled event, experts say.”

There are, of course, varying contributory factors. Wildfires are to some extent routine in these areas, a natural revitalization process. And in some cases, human carelessness has been the impetus.

But nothing like this has ever been seen before. Surely those who hold on to the belief that climate change is part of a natural cycle must at least pause and consider when the word “unprecedented” is repeatedly used.

According to the Post,

“These wildfires are what is known as a compound disaster, in which more than one extreme event takes place at the same time, across a varied geography. 

“While climate scientists have been warning that compound disasters are an inevitable result of human-caused climate change, a spate of simultaneously burning, rapidly expanding fires spanning the entire West Coast was not expected for several more decades if greenhouse gas emissions remain high.”

I have read any number of newspaper letters and tweets from people caught in the disasters consuming the West Coast who seem to feel abandoned by the rest of the country. As far as I’m concerned, they couldn’t be more wrong.

My heart is filled with grief at the destruction, death, and ongoing misery wrought by these fires. It is tough enough being confined due to the pandemic; now there are many thousands of people who, if they’re fortunate enough to still have their homes–or lives–are forced to stay inside, unable to open the windows.

And I am angry, very angry—though the only action that’s within my control is to send donations to charities helping those who’ve lost everything. 

And these fires—a horrific blend of drought, then harsh storms in which the lightning transforms the dried trees into accelerants—and winds that morph the flames into huge torches rapidly leveling everything in their paths, are just one vast manifestation of what we’ve seen taking its toll throughout our country.  

There have been so many hurricanes already this season, one forecaster reported, that after “Sally,” there’s only one name left in the hurricane alphabet list. And we’re only halfway through the season. 

My Weather Channel just told me “Condos have been ripped to shreds in Sally’s wake.”

Flooding has followed these hurricanes, wreaking its own havoc.

Tornadoes are appearing in areas that have never seen them before.

I’m angry because it didn’t have to be this way! Do those words sound familiar?

The New York Times reports:

“It’s interesting to draw the parallels between Covid and climate change,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, who served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the National Climate Assessment. “In both of those cases, Trump personally has refused to recognize the threat. In both cases, there is no plan to deal with crisis,” he added.

In fact, in both cases, the Trump administration has made things worse.

Just as he publicly denied that COVID-19 existed—though we now know from his own recorded words to Bob Woodward that he understood the danger of the virus early on—so has he denied the existence of climate change.

Most of the California fires are on federally owned land that is technically Trump’s responsibility. But  at a meeting with California officials seeking federal help, his response was: “It’ll get colder.” When he was told that’s not what the science says, he was emphatic. “Science doesn’t know.”

Just as he is in court trying to lessen people’s health care coverage in the midst of the pandemic, so has he withdrawn the US from the Paris Accords—the international effort to combat climate change. 

Just as he has touted unproven and even dangerous therapies for combatting COVID-19 (hydroxychloroquine, household bleach!)—and thrust all responsibility on the governors—so is he pushing the responsibility onto California for failing to “clean your floors” of leaves, and threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

And just as he has politicized the FDA, CDC, and NIH—hiring incompetent people who will do his bidding despite what the science and the scientists say—he has just appointed a climate change denier for a leading position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

In fact, in his anti-regulation zeal, Trump has even rolled back regulations against the wishes of the big oil companies and car manufacturers. 

Reports The Times:

“The president’s record is also more consequential, experts say, because the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere has now passed the point at which scientists say it would be possible to avert many of the worst effects of global warming—even if tough emissions policies are later enacted.”

It’s been clear to many of us for some time that if this man gets another four years in the White House, it could very well mean the end of our democracy. And the COVID-19 death toll will continue to climb.

I hope it’s now clear even to those who have been climate change skeptics that if this man gets another four years in the White House, it could very well mean the end of sustainable life on our planet.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

One piece of evidence concerning how dire that potential with Trump is viewed comes from the prestigious publication Scientific American, which will endorse Joe Biden in its October issue. This is the first presidential endorsement it has made in 175 years.

The editorial is direct and specific about both the President’s failures and Biden’s plans on a range of issues, including the pandemic and climate change. Here’s the opening:

“Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

“The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September.

“He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.

“That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.”

I urge you to read the editorial in its entirety here.

I’m looking forward to a Biden-Harris administration beginning the long, hard work of collaborating with the other forward-looking world leaders to begin to reverse the damage done. This effort will take years, I know, but the important thing is that a serious, meaningful, coordinated campaign begins—yesterday!

And in two years, with COVID-19 well under control, I hope my husband and I can make that journey to Alaska—and return to tell you about some early, albeit extremely small, reports of progress.

Annie

35 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Calamities

  1. Not only must Biden-Harris win the election, but so must enough Democrats to take control of of the Senate and hold control of Congress.Otherwise, bills to broadly increase taxes on the wealthy (combating climate change requires, among other things, massive amounts of money) will not pass. There is so much riding on this election that a Trump victory should be unthinkable….but make no mistake, the unthinkable is possible if we don’t VOTE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right you are, mistermuse! No matter how, we must vote as early as we can for the entire Dem ticket—and help others do the same. And I hope anyone reading this who is even thinking about not voting or casting a third party vote will read “The Choice,” the excellent essay I reposted recently. Or if you know anyone in either of those categories, I hope you’ll share the contents with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Scientific American says it all. But hardly anybody reads SA. What’s truly needed are similar statements from widely-read publications, and also from some Republicans (George W. Bush, for example) that right-wingers maybe pay attention to.

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  3. I just heard that some of trump’s followers are no longer sure it’s worth voting because he’s persuaded them the election is rigged!

    I think if there are die-hards who can be persuaded by anything, it’ll be their direct experiences—with both Covid-19 and climate change.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My heart is filled with grief at the destruction, death, and ongoing misery wrought by these fires.

    Speaking as one of those people who has been hardly able to open a window for a week, I appreciate the thoughts and the donations. I donated to the Red Cross fund for fire victims a few days ago. For me it’s a lack of ventilation, but at least two thousand people have had their homes destroyed in other parts of the state, so they’re far worse off.

    Surely those who hold on to the belief that climate change is part of a natural cycle must at least pause and consider when the word “unprecedented” is repeatedly used

    These are, by and large, the same people who believe that a pandemic which has killed 200,000 people is a “hoax”, that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and that dinosaur bones are remains of monsters that missed the Ark. Their numbers are gradually dwindling, but among those who cling to such views, evidence seems unlikely to have much effect. Our only hope is to out-vote them.

    It’s worth keeping in mind that while the United States has been mired in idiocy for the last four years, the other 96% of the world has continued to deal with the problem. India, Germany, and the Arab countries have been extensively developing solar power, the UK has been developing wind power, and so on and so on. It’s just that the US has been an obstacle to be worked around, rather than a leader. I don’t know if the rest of the world will ever accept us as a leader again after the Trump mess, but with Biden and Harris we can at least become participants in the effort again. And we’ll be able to finally start getting covid-19 under control, as the rest of the developed world has largely done already, leaving us as a plague spot shunned by other nations.

    some of trump’s followers are no longer sure it’s worth voting because he’s persuaded them the election is rigged!

    If the flaming idiot is discouraging his own supporters from voting, fine with me.

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  5. Infidel: I’m a bit more sanguine than you are that some people’s minds can be changed. And in a previous post, I cited a poll that found 70 percent of Americans believe climate change is real and human-made. I do think leadership will make a difference.

    It’s true that the world isn’t waiting for us—though I expect Biden will be heartily welcomed by many anxious heads of state. Even China has been on course in reducing their emissions, though their target is apparently too modest. Of considerable interest is the fact that individual US states have continued trying to reach their own goals despite trump’s opposition to the treaty.

    If trump’s antics dissuade some of his acolytes from voting, some might view that as karma with a capital K.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent, well-researched post, Annie! My thoughts are that if Trump is re-elected, other nations who are diligently attempting to address climate change will turn on the U.S. We are working hard under Trump to negate the efforts of nearly every other country on the planet. The only other world leader who is as destructive is Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Think about it … if you’re spending half of your days trying to clean up the neighborhood, and just one neighbor is throwing his trash down everywhere … sooner or later, you’re going to take action against that nasty neighbor. We are that nasty neighbor. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Jill. It’s a good analogy—and just another reason for us to be ashamed and appalled by what a disaster our country is under trump’s anti-leadership.

      I hope you haven’t forgotten about the two links I sent you in the hopes of influencing voters. I didn’t originate either (though I compiled one), but I find them both compelling and would like to see them gain a wider audience. Thx.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aargh! I’ve not been well for the past week or so, and it’s been a struggle to keep up with everything and so yes, I did forget! Thank you for the reminder. I just read both and they are excellent … I couldn’t choose between the two, so I am going to re-blog both this afternoon, starting with Infidel’s in just a little while. Thanks again, Annie! Great work!

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  7. This Canadian is waiting with baited breath to see the American people toss this so-called president…. it is so maddening, frightening and disheartening to watch him in action. Thank you for keeping everyone informed, Annie!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very hopeful that after January 20th, I won’t feel compelled to write about him and his crowd of miscreants any longer!

      I know people worldwide share your views. Many of us scratch our heads in disbelief that we’ve reached this point. Thx.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Annie,
    Really well written. I can feel your pain and empathy. What a mess we’re in but very hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel come November.
    DtD

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Not only did the disastrous electoral college give us Trump, it stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, a committed environmentalist, and left us with the planet-destroying climate change deniers.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Late to this discussion, but am appreciative of the post, for sure! In our little state of Vermont, there’s a small (in jest?) movement afoot to petition Canada to annex us. Ha! Tempting, but what we need is Trump defeated and sent packing along with the other bad actors ruining our country and globe. If ever there was a one-world moment, it’s now. Thanks, Annie, as always, for the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, we do need to send trump, et al—especially Barr, who may well be the instigator in these nefarious plots—packing, as well as scrutinized for their wrongdoing and treated appropriately. And thank you, Denise, for your continuing support.

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    1. Wow! You really did that? Yes; environmental and human catastrophes do not concern him. And he doesn’t even realize there’s an economic toll to all this—except to tell Blue State governors it’s all their fault and don’t expect his help.

      Like

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