A call to arms

This week, our columnist Rob Brown talks about war

If a foreign power assaulted the United States of America leaving as much destruction in the wake of the attack as the recent tornado that ransacked Oklahoma did, the response would have been immediate and ferocious. Our next door neighbours are, after all, the most warlike, heavily armed nation in human history. They have fought in no fewer than 13 major wars and been intimately involved in literally hundreds of engagements.

After wiping out a few Indian Nations in what turned out to be a genocidal campaign lasting until modern times, kicking out the British, and waging a war with us, the Americans took advantage of the lull in the action to turn on each other in what turned out to be the most devastating war in their blood spattered history.

So prodigious at war are the Americans they quarterback conflicts between hostile factions in foreign lands to protect what they perceive to be in their best interests while simultaneously pursuing a war somewhere else. A terrorist cabal attacks the US and a war on terror is declared. Profits from the illicit drug trade are suspected to rival those made by pharmaceutical corporations and the war on drugs is launched. There have been wars on poverty, crime, and a host of other evils.

There have always been tornados in the Midwest US but the latest are unrivaled in their ferocity. Climatologists, who spend their working days, and probably much of their leisure time, pondering meteorological phenomena, tell us that warm oceans mean more powerful tornados.

Megatornados aren’t the only environmental indicator that the US (and the rest of us) are under siege. For years scientists have predicted an increase in carbon dioxide in the air and in the sea. Now, the rise in sea levels has been measured and the predictions have borne out. Record high temperatures have caused drought, wildfires and flooding, making it patently clear to all but religious kooks, apologists for the fossil fuel industries, and human ostriches that, as a result of our profligate ways, the climate is now waging war on us. The metaphor isn’t mine. A few years ago, I heard a British climatologist liken climate change to the Second World War.

Where we are now, he said solemnly, can be likened to where we were during the Battle of Britain.

The US has always accurately characterized itself as the leader of the free world. It’s still the most powerful nation, so why hasn’t its government declared a War on Climate Change? The majority of its citizenry (the Rational Majority) are concerned and given the immense powers of PR that could be mustered by the US Government it wouldn’t be long before most fence sitters and deniers were convinced of the problem’s urgency.

George Bush’s Coalition of the Willing could be revived. The concept was a good one. The cause, an illegal war, was bogus, which explains why only Poland the Netherlands and a couple of other inconsequential countries joined. If staving off the probable extinction of our species was the cause, almost every country on earth – including ours, which as a huge energy consumer per capita, has a deplorable record that rivals the US when it comes to dealing with climate change – would be scrambling to sign on.

Despite the irrational, paranoid fears of the radical right, large powerful governments are essential to the functioning and survival of a modern democratic society. When the global economy collapsed in the dirty thirties and our continent was in the midst of ecological calamity largely brought on by wasteful and misguided agricultural practices, the US government led by Franklin Delano Roosevelt intervened on a massive scale, sending agricultural experts to the heart of the dust bowl to teach the farmers how to farm correctly. At the same time, the government put the economy back on the rails with a huge far reaching initiative they called the New Deal.

The Second World War was run, and would not have been won, had it not been for Big Government.

When lack of stringent regulations and  adequate government oversight led to the recent global economic melt down. Total collapse was staved off when the US government bailed out large car corporations and the large banks.

Like it or not, a Big US Government must lead the war on climate change. Polls taken after Hurricane Sandy during the year of climate cataclysms that was 2012, show that about 40 per cent of Republicans are concerned about climate change. It would take only 17 Republican legislators to pass climate change legislation. Unfortunately, those elected representatives are so in the thrall of Big Oil, and so afraid of the Tea Party backlash, that they vote 100 per cent against any legislation that proposes action against climate change.

This must change. The war must begin. There’s more than a lot at stake. Everything’s at stake.