Tropic of Chaos: Old Wars Never Die, but Rise Again to Feed on the Flesh of the Living

Chapter 3: War for a Small Planet

These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

General impression: This chapter concludes the introductory segment of the book, so it’s no surprise that it is solidly focused on the patterns of the last couple centuries that have laid the ground for the crises still to come. Its most chilling lesson for me, though, is how similar the goals and symptoms of counterinsurgency (COIN) are to the current state of both law enforcement and of tribalism in the United States.

All this really is, is an extension of the ancient tactic of “divide and conquer”. COIN takes it out of the battlefield, and employs it at every level of daily life, encouraging prejudices, feelings of aggrievement, worry about access to necessities, and so on. The question is what we do in response to that looming threat, and how, in the future, we can avoid the mistakes of the present and the past.

Soundtrack: ¡No Mas!, John McCutcheon

Click here for lyrics.

What can we do in response to this chapter? At risk of sounding like a broken record, study the history of the past couple hundred years, particularly from the point of view of the people at the receiving end of America’s “Greatness”. Many people have pointed out, over the last couple decades, how many Cold War-era figures are still shaping U.S. policy and politics. Oliver North’s recent reappearance in the public view stands as a grim monument to this trend, but it should also serve as a reminder that we’re not just saddled with the criminals of that era, but also the damage they did. Just as decades of U.S. meddling in Iran brought us the current crisis there, the refugees that the conservative movement is so eager to brutalize at our southern border are there, in part, because of U.S. meddling in South and Central America, and the instability we have cultivated there.

It is vital that we not only learn what happened, but also what justifications were made to support injustice and atrocities during that time. As was done during the Civil Rights Movement, people will claim that working for justice is a luxury that cannot be afforded during times of crisis. For those with unjust power and privilege, it will never be the right time for them give that up, and we will not be able to face any challenges as a united species for as long as we are defending injustice in the name of that unity.

Now on to the review!
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Attack of the Censorship Monkeys: Hear no science, see no science, speak no science.

If you watch no other video today, watch this one:

This is not a new video, but it’s an important one. NASA has been crucial in our understanding of how our climate works, and how it’s changing. The video is from 2014, and the data are from 2006. This may be one of the most important research efforts for the long-term survival of humanity, and of civilization (both as we know it, and as we’d like it to be).

And so, of course, the Trump administration has decided that this cannot stand.

[Read more…]

Tropic of Chaos Review: Military Soothsayers

Chapter 2: Military Soothsayers

These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

General impression: This chapter takes a look at how the global Military Industrial Complex, which should include the private prison industry, is preparing for climate change by planning for war. And war is made virtually inevitable by the instability and deprivation from the wars of the 20th century, combined with the exploitation and extraction of material resources from Africa in particular. Once again, we are reminded that history never really stays in the past.

Soundtrack: Marti’s Last Stand, Enter the Haggis

Click here for lyrics.

What can we do in response to this? Learn, spread the word, keep reminding people that the companies that profit off of war and repression are constantly lobbying lawmakers to keep creating profits for them, be it through war, or increasing arrests. With the intentional chaos engulfing our government, it’s easy to lose track of problems that aren’t making a lot of noise, so it’s worth amplifying them. If minds can change on religion, they can change on other ideologies, so don’t view efforts to get the message across as pointless!

Imprisoning Our Kids for a Profit

The Case for Outlawing For-Profit Prisons

The True Cost: Why the Private Prison Industry is About so Much More Than Prisons

Big money behind war: the military-industrial complex

Defense Contractors Spend Millions to Overturn Limits on Military Spending

And now on to my thoughts on the chapter: [Read more…]

Ethical Black Hole: Fossil Fuel Interests Still Use Astroturfing to Subvert Democracy

I suppose one could argue this isn’t really “news”, since fossil fuel interests have been funding misinformation campaigns for decades. Still, every year they continue working to prevent a shift to renewable energy sources is another example of just how little they care about their fellow humans. From Climate Progress:

The paid actors, who played the role of civic-minded residents, held signs about the power plant project’s job-creating potential at New Orleans City Council meetings. Some of the actors also gave speeches in favor of the proposed Entergy New Orleans LLC power plant during the public comment period.

Roughly 50 people turned out to support a $210 million effort to build a power plant in the city during an October 2017 meeting. Several of them told the Lens, a local New Orleans news outlet, they were paid $60 to wear orange shirts. Others were paid more to speak in front of the city council members.

In a vote of 6-1, the New Orleans City Council in March ended up voting in favor of Entergy’s proposed power plant.

In my opinion, doing that should be illegal, and punished by banning any company or person trying it from all political spending or lobbying for a period of time. 5 years sounds good for a first offense.

Comparisons are regularly drawn between the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation campaign, and the tactics used by tobacco companies to hide that danger. I think that comparison is no longer fair to the tobacco lobby. Their kind of evil is global in scale, but small in scope. They profit from the destruction of individuals.

Companies and people who lie to the public about climate science while making money off of fossil fuels are profiting off of the destruction of civilization. Whether or not we end this century with an intact civilization, the world as we know it will be gone, and replaced with a less stable, more hostile one.

It’s hard to think of a greater crime against humanity.

Book Reviews: Tropic of Chaos, Chapter 1

Section 1: Last Call for Illusions

Chapter 1: Who killed Ekaru Loruman?

These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

General impression: This chapter lays out Christian Parenti’s expectations for the coming decades in stark detail. This is made more alarming by the fact that this book was written in 2011, and we’ve seen things unfold in a manner very much like what Parenti forecasts. As with so many other things, we have met the enemy, and he is us. The most urgent danger is not rising seas, or killer heatwaves, or destructive storms; the most urgent danger from climate change is how humans react to scarcity, crisis, and refugees.

Soundtrack: Screwed, Janelle Monaé (I promise this won’t all be her, it just kept running through my mind while I was working on this)

Click here for lyrics.

What can we do in response to this? The idea bouncing around in my head currently is something I like to call “prosocial prepping”. Build and maintain a store of food and water. Then, when something happens, you’ll have that ready to use for yourself, or to help your neighbors if they need it more, or even to ship to a part of the country that needs it. Of the problems we’re going to face, all but a fraction will center on problems of resource distribution and humans desperate to survive. To the degree that you are able, position yourself so you can help things go smoothly.

And now on to the chapter review: [Read more…]