This book, Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It, by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert, will probably be the most important book published anywhere in 2021, on the most important issue facing all Life on Earth—why we must end the prevailing human economic and industrial practices and the anthropocentric cultural worldviews. It will probably also be the most reviled, attacked, suppressed, censored, dismissed, misrepresented, and slandered book published this year, as well, for some of the same reasons that many people virulently attacked and censored the documentary film, “Planet of the Humans,” last year. Why?
The authors answer the question of why these facts are so difficult to hear, and why they are also so difficult for many of us reluctant messengers to tell, at many points throughout their book, including this passage from the chapter on green energy storage:
“We are being sold a story, and we are buying it because we like it. We want it to be true. We want to believe that our lives can go on with all the ease and comfort we accept as our due. How painless to believe that a simple switch of wind for oil and solar for coal and we can go on with our air conditioning and cell phones and suburbs. Every time we hit a trip wire of unsettling facts or basic math, we soothe ourselves with our faith in technology. If all that stands between us and the end of the world is a battery that can store 46 MJ/kg, surely someone is working on it.”
Most modern humans have been taught all of their lives, by most of the voices of their culture, that their own comfort, pleasure, purpose, social standing, legacy, avoidance of pain, and continued survival depend upon the perpetuation of, and their conformity to, western industrial technological capitalist civilization. That teaching has been reinforced within their psyches by a long series of painful and pleasurable personal experiences. Therefore, they do not want to hear convincing, factual arguments which clearly demonstrate that nearly everything that they have been taught to value and have devoted their lives to is intertwined within a path toward the imminent destruction, collapse, and extinction of not only their so-called “way of life,” but also the real, natural world upon which all biological life on Earth depends. Besides that, most humans of this culture and era do not want to hear that there is no viable and actually existing technological “fix” for this predicament—which the authors of Bright Green Lies make painfully clear—and many do not want anybody else to hear or declare that either. In addition to all of that, most modern, capitalist, technophile humans are not (yet) prepared to engage with the solutions offered in this book: ending most industrial technological activities and allowing Nature and the few humans who still have such knowledge to teach us how to live without those destructive entities, by her truly sustainable laws and systems, (like we did for 97% of the time of our species’ existence), thus enabling all that remains of natural Life to heal and continue. Bright Green Lies also asks its readers—especially those who identify themselves as “environmentalists” or “environmental activists”—to face up to the fact that they must choose whether they value and seek to protect what the authors refer to as the “real world” (the natural, life-giving, life-sustaining world), or, instead, protect the human-made civilizations that order and constrain their lives, because, with what the world has now come to, we cannot save both. Is such a potentially life-shattering choice more than most people can deal with, even when presented with an overwhelming preponderance of factual evidence persuading them that the choice is unavoidable?
Putting aside (for now) the human tendencies toward acting on faith, auto-conformity, or the herd mentality, and assuming that when making the most serious, life or death, joy-or-perpetual-misery types of decisions, most people will still place some value in actual facts and bother to do a little research, we should expect such people to proceed with such appropriate caution when determining how to answer the challenges presented in this book. Knowing that, and being acutely familiar with the reactions of many politically moderate/liberal, save-civilization-first (before the natural world) people to their previous publications and to similar publications by others, such as Ozzie Zehner’s Green Illusions, back in 2012, and to Jeff Gibbs’ Planet of the Humans documentary, the authors of Bright Green Lies obviously “did their homework,” while drawing also from their decades of expertise on these topics. Nearly every one of the 478 pages in this illuminating volume contain several footnotes citing a variety of relevant and reliable sources for the multitude of little-known, seldom-mentioned facts about the extent of toxic destruction and ecocide that are routine impacts from our commonly-engaged industrial technologies, as well as from the production of solar panels, wind turbines, lithium batteries and other products that are alleged to be “green” and even “100% renewable!” Beginning with solar power, and moving on from there to wind turbines, “green energy” storage (especially lithium), “efficiency,” recycling, “green” cities, “green” electric grids, hydropower, carbon capture, geoengineering, and several other false and misrepresented “solutions,” Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert repeatedly and clearly assist us in the difficult process of discerning and untangling truth from lies.
Here is a summary outline of some of the more potent revelations (for the not-yet-informed) brought forth in this book:
Promoters of solar, wind and other allegedly “green” technologies have repeatedly and misleadingly conflated the words “energy” and “electricity” when making their claims. The reason that is significant is that electric grid production, which is what solar, wind, hydropower and biofuels are primarily used for, makes up only about 20% (in Germany, the “green” energy technology advocates’ favorite showcase, 15% in the U.S., and ranging between 12 and 35 % elsewhere) of the actual total energy used to power the machinery of modern industrial society. So when they give a figure for how much of Germany’s “energy” is provided by “green renewables,” that figure has to be reduced by 80%–and that still might be too high, due to other falsehoods.
Of the 20% of energy use that goes to electricity (in Germany), only about 14.8% comes from “green renewables,” with wind accounting for 3.5 % and 1.6 % for solar, for a total of 5.1 % between them. (These are 2019 statistics, the most recent available when the book went to press.) Biomass (including logged forests) provides 7.6 % of Germany’s electricity; waste products incinerated along with the biomass provide another 1%; 0.5% comes from geothermal heat pumps; and 0.6% comes from hydro power. In addition to those “renewables,” Germany gets 6.4 % of its electricity from nuclear power. Those are the actual figures for the “green showcase” nation, and the renewable electricity figures are generally lower for the rest of the world. Solar and wind enthusiasts have sometimes claimed that Germany gets as much as 75% of its “energy” from renewables.
Elon Musk, multi-billionaire producer of the Tesla electric car, admitted to a broadcast journalist in July of 2020 that he supported the coup that overthrew Bolivian President Evo Morales in November of 2019. The Tesla car runs on rechargeable lithium batteries and Bolivia has one of the largest lithium deposits on the planet, which many industrialists, including Musk, hope to mine under terms favorable to their interests. Morales is a socialist whose interest is in what is best for his people and their homeland, and who led an international conference in 2010 that produced the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth. Musk told the journalist, “We’ll coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” (TeleSUR English, July 25, 2020 https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/elon-musk-confesses-to-lithium-coup-in-bolivia-20200725-0010.html )
Lithium mining is just one of scores of very toxic industrial activities described in gory detail in this book, along with the names of the chemicals involved in these processes and the various harms and damages that they inflict upon many species of life, human and non-human. The processes involved in producing so-called “green energy” devices, including mining the raw materials, transporting them to factories, refining and forming the materials into more machines and consumable products, transporting it all over the world, clearing the land of the living beings who already live where the devices are to be installed, operation, maintenance, removal after expiration, and replacement, are all just as destructive to Life on Earth as most other modern industrial activities. None of that activity is truly “green” or beneficial to natural ecosystems or living organisms.
Biofuel, a renewable energy source that is much more widely in use than wind turbines or solar panels, depends mostly on deforestation and the creation of vast monoculture tree farms that replace biodiverse natural habitat, causing death, misery and extinction for many species of life, just to grow trees that will be burned for fuel. And what are they fueling? Very often it is energy for industrial factories that will produce more machines to make more toxic and unnecessary consumer products. All “green” energy devices will continue to contribute energy to the rest of the industrial infrastructure, by the dictates and customs of the current economic system and culture.
In their chapter questioning the value to life on Earth of “efficiency,” the authors clearly demonstrate how and why efficiency is no incentive for the reduction of CO2 and other harmful by-products of modern industrialism, when carried out within an economic system devoted to unlimited growth and competition (capitalism) and a culture devoted to maximizing convenience and consumption. Using examples based on Jevon’s paradox (basically that efficiency in manufacture and/or use tends to increase the production and consumption of that thing, rather than providing us more time to do other things besides producing and consuming) and on the facts regarding what has actually occurred with the gradual increases in renewable energy devices—not replacing, but, instead, accompanying continued increases in fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions—their point is made clear, as seen in the following chart:
(If you look for charts like this on the internet, you will have a hard time finding ones that end at 2019. Instead, you will see many charts that project beyond, usually up to 2050, showing that somehow the dismal reality portrayed above will magically explode into a dramatic increase in the use of solar and wind technology, even with industrial capitalism remaining intact. They do concede, though, that fossil fuel use—and, of course, CO2 emissions—will still be a considerable part of the picture by then, because of the energy “needs” of industrial capitalism that renewables just cannot provide. That is a difficult fact to admit, but the main reason that it must be faced is found in a combination of basic physics and the capitalist imperative for the maximization of profit. The physics can be summed up in the fact that the average energy density for fossil fuels is 46 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) and “the best lithium battery can only store 1 MJ/kg.” The authors also report that “a diesel semi-tractor can haul 60,000 pounds of freight 600 miles before refueling. To get a similar range [with an imaginary, not-yet-invented electric semi-truck], that tractor would have to have about 55,000 pounds of batteries.” So, which truck would any capitalist distributor of products who wants to maximize efficiency and profit prefer to use? In addition to all that, many climate scientists now say that still using fossil fuels past 2030 means unstoppable bio-system collapse. But people have to have something they can believe in, right? And they cannot be allowed to believe in an end to capitalism or replacing that system with many local, truly democratic, community economic systems that are based in cooperation with Earth ecosystems and Nature’s laws.)
One of the grandest forms of deception, exposed repeatedly in several parts of Bright Green Lies, especially the chapter titled, “The Green City Lie,” revolves around a practice called “pollution outsourcing” or “carbon footprint outsourcing.” When measuring a country or city’s pollution or CO2 output, it is common practice to only count what is emitted locally, within the city or nation’s boundaries, omitting completely the emissions made in other countries around the world (typically in relatively poor countries outside of Europe and the U.S.) by citizens and corporations residing in the nation or city being measured. Examples include the facts that the U.S. “annually imports about $500 billion worth of products from China,” and Seattle (considered by many to be possibly the “greenest” city in the U.S.) imports “more than 60% of its food” from countries outside the U.S. After describing the horrific amount of pollution and CO2 emissions created by shipping, trucking and train transport, the authors report that when we do “account for imported products and services, cities are responsible for 60 percent higher carbon emissions than previously thought.” The failure to measure the impacts to other ecosystems of this kind of outsourcing, “allows a city to exist without its occupants coming into contact with the land they depend on, building, in essence, a ‘phantom carrying capacity’ based on the consumption of soil, forests, grasslands, water, and so on from other locations.”
The last example of “bright green lying” given in this book that I will mention here (although there are so many more!) involves the horrific potential impacts to life on Earth from attempting to implement green energy technologies at the scale required to run this ever-expanding, long-ago-overshot, capitalist industrial economic system, replacing the use of fossil fuels. The necessary infrastructure creation for that alone is not only mind-boggling and physically impossible, but also clearly ecocidal. For example, “12 percent of the continental United States would have to be covered in windfarms to meet current electricity demands. But electricity is only one-sixth of the nation’s energy consumption. To provide for the U.S.A.’s total energy consumption, fully 72 percent of the continent would have to be devoted to wind farms.” A slightly more conservative estimate is given in a recent report by a pro-green-energy team of researchers, stating that, if we combined wind farms and solar panel installations to replace all fossil fuel electricity production, we would only have to cover 10 % of the surface of the U.S. (The Race to Zero: can America reach net-zero emissions by 2050?, by Oliver Milman, Alvin Chang and Rashida Kamal, The Guardian, March 15, 2021) That figure does not take into account the amount of additional land surface (and habitat destruction) required for all of the necessary increase in transmission lines, which the authors of the Race to Zero… report estimate would be “enough new transmission lines to wrap around Earth 19 times.” (and that’s just for the U.S.!) To put that amount of Earth surface destruction into some familiar perspective, currently about 2% of the surface of the U.S. is covered with asphalt and concrete pavement. We all have some sense of what that much pavement (on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, freeways, etc.) looks like. Imagine then, 10 to 70 times that much ground covered with wind turbines and solar panels, and much more land than that converted to accommodate new power transmission lines. Do you need any more material than that for new nightmares to keep you awake at night? And I didn’t mention all of the resulting dead birds, tortoises, trees and other wildlife, which Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert also describe in painful detail. Who needs horror movies when we have these kinds of visions springing up all around us? Would such a repulsive scenario be worth submitting ourselves to just to preserve a so-called “way of life” for just a little while longer? It would not last long with most of the natural ecosystems and species of life that keep us all alive destroyed or extinct.
I cannot end this book review without mentioning the love for all inter-connected natural Life that is a continual thread throughout its pages and is clearly the supreme motivating force behind the book’s creation. Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert are what I would call “old school” environmentalists—people who put Earth and all of her interconnected Life first, and have no fondness for any human system or culture that must continually harm and even destroy our living world in order to exist. I also appreciate the authors’ acknowledgement, in their “Real Solutions” chapter, that traditional Indigenous peoples have known the answers to our predicament all along. By following the first ways and the guidance of our natural Earth relatives (of all species), we can help the living world to heal all of our interrelated beings. I will close here with a few top quotes from the book:
“So many indigenous people have said that the first and most important thing we must do is decolonize our hearts and minds. We must grow, they’ve told me, to see the dominant culture for what it is: not as the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to human beings, but instead as a way of life that provides conveniences—luxuries—to one set of humans at the expense of everyone else—human and non-human.”
“Because the earth is the source of all life, the health of the earth must be the primary consideration in our decision-making processes.”
“Often people are so shocked by the idea of their lifestyle disappearing completely that they honestly can’t imagine what could come next. They care deeply about the planet, but what they want to know is: ‘Can’t we find a solution that leaves our way of life intact?’”
“’How can we continue to harvest industrial quantities of energy without causing harm?’ is the wrong question. The correct question is: What can we do to help the earth repair the damage caused by this culture?”
“The truth is that we can debunk each and every piece of bright green technology, and ultimately it won’t make a bit of difference to bright greens or anyone else whose loyalty is not to the earth but to the economic and social system that is dismantling the earth.”
“The best way to prepare for this [systemic collapse] is also the best way to prepare to bring about just human societies after collapse: not by leaning even more into industry, but by building communities based on self-sufficiency, biological integrity, and human rights. This is work anyone can support.”
At 1:05 to 1:08 in this video, a little earthworm forms the shape of a heart. We are Earth and Earth is love. Earth is alive and all life is inter-connected and inter-dependent. I read recently that there are approximately five billion organisms (most of them microorganisms, of course) in every teaspoon of healthy, fertile soil. The elements of our bodies are the same elements that we find in the soil, rocks and water. Biologists and geologists have listed all of those elements and chemicals and it is easy to look that up and see for yourself. Two thirds of Earth is water and so is two thirds of our bodies. Our skin colors are not the mythical red, yellow, black and white, they are the beautiful multitude of the colors of Earth. We humans and the other species, as well, are all one substance and substantially the same essential beings.
This really happened (the message from the little earthworm). I was getting the soil ready to plant the popcorn seeds and I just wanted to record how the soil is so full of life. I could see and feel the micro-life, too. It was like “seeing” the wind: we can see things moving through the air, and feel the wind on our skin, even though we can’t see wind herself. In that same way, I can see the soil being moved by the life within her.
Sometimes the greenhouse is the only place where a person can get much gardening done in the winter, especially when the ground outside the greenhouse is frozen. One thing that I should add to what I said in this video is that it is real important to keep some of the rough and woody materials from the old dirt and from the new manure that you are mixing in and resist the temptation to weed that stuff out or make the ground more smooth. The rough stuff–stems, root pieces, twigs, wood chips, etc.–help to keep the soil loose and provide feed for the helpful worms, insects and micro-critters who keep the soil in good health.
Springtime Update just before planting the popcorn, we do a little more prep work:
This is the follow-up to my video on de-cobbing corn with my MayaPedal bicimaquina. Here I show how I sort the kernels for flour, for seed, and for chicken feed. I’m not quite as picky about which jars the seeds go in as it might seem in the video. It is really an enjoyable winter indoor gardening activity. I should also point out that I only use the plastic jar for the chicken feed kernels and always use glass jars or paper envelopes for storing seeds of all kinds.
Just another activity we do on the farm in the winter. After the braided husks of Navajo Red corn have been hung to dry for about two months, I de-cob the ears with my MayaPedal combination decobber/corn grinder bicimaquina. In this video, I am grinding for chicken feed, but I also use the grinder to make corn meal. (I use an electric grinding mill to make flour.) One of my granddaughters (Cora Phoenix-Price) did most of the video camera work here. Our “seed library” seed storage shelves are behind me on the right side of the thumbnail photo.
When we look in the rearview mirrors of our cars, we don’t usually see very much of all that we just passed. Normally, we just glance back there now and then to see if it is safe to change lanes and pass somebody or to see if there are any police cars behind us when we want to go a little faster than the law allows. In a similar fashion, this look back at the year 2020 will not attempt to deal with everything that came to pass, just those things that did the most to catch my attention and give me something to think about. This is the first time that I have ever written one of these things. I thought about writing one back in June, before we were even halfway through the year, because so many things of higher significance than we usually see in a whole year had already transpired. After giving it much thought, I decided to wait until the year was over. I worked on it over a period of 37 days, researching and writing, and had no idea when I started that I would learn so much by diving in and doing this. I realize that now, in February, 2021, many of us seem to want to forget all about the year 2020. Maybe it is just too soon to deal with what happened during that notable fragment of the time continuum, and that is completely understandable. It was, and is still, very painful. This essay will still be sitting right here for you whenever you are ready for it. It is also one of those pieces of writing that does not necessarily have to be read in its chronological order–you can jump in and out of it at any points that you wish. It is my hope that the thoughts and analyses of those events that I describe here, and the many vital questions raised, will contribute to us humans taking the corrective, life-nurturing, natural life-preserving actions that we so urgently need to take in 2021 and during whatever time after that which we will still have in our hands.
Something different that you will probably notice about this review of the year, from most others that you may read, is that I pay more attention to and attach more significance to events and phenomena that significantly impacted those fellow beings whom I call “the innocents”: our non-human relations (all other species and every part of our natural habitats) and those humans around the world who do not engage in the modern industrial technological toxic production and over-consumption that we are so accustomed to here in the U.S., and in similar countries. I also include with the innocents the little children who did not ask to be born into over-consumptive, toxic, wasteful industrial societies and, at this point in their lives, “know not what they do.” Most of these stories are rather grim and painful, but, if we can learn from them how to better live and be better humans, then, hopefully, all that we suffered last year will not be in vain.
First, a few major events that rolled on, in continuity, from 2019. Over in the Siberian Arctic, because the climate-warmed permafrost had continued to melt and collapse in large sections that year, people who used to be farmers before their lands became unstable and swampy, continued to engage in their newest occupation: scavenging. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-siberia/ They search the recently-melted and collapsed former permafrost lands for mammoth and mastodon tusks, from the carcasses which are now exposed, thawing out, and decaying, after being buried deep and frozen for over 10,000 years. Who knows what microbial entities have been released from their ancient slumber among all of the various decaying bodies of long-extinct animals and plants? Perhaps some potentially pandemic viruses? The scavenging residents of the Siberian Arctic sell the mammoth and mastodon tusks that they find to brokers and buyers throughout the world who believe that “medicines” made from these tusks can restore men’s fading or lost virility. About 90% of their customer base consists of men in China, where such beliefs in the power of ivory are more common. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-mammoth-problem-emerges-in-siberia-11562763878https://www.boredpanda.com/mammoth-tusk-hunting-russia/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic I am not claiming that Covid-19 came from the thawing Siberian permafrost. Scientists don’t know for sure where it originated but their consensus theory is that it first came to humans in China from a particular species of bat that is common there. One of the favorite foods of bats is the mosquito and there is now a veritable plague of mosquitos in Siberia, which borders with northern China. Mosquitos are also able to pass viruses from animals to humans.
Also rolling on from the end of 2019 to begin the new year of 2020, was the feigned attempt by members of the Democratic Party serving in the House and Senate of the United States to impeach what should have been the most easily impeachable (but not by that much) President in the entire history of that miserable nation. The estimated number of impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump during his first three years in office (January 2017 through January 2020) ranges wildly from about ten to over one hundred, depending on whether one counts each individual violation of the same law or just the number of laws themselves that he violated. Constitutional scholar and former senior official in the Department of Justice, Bruce Fein, concluded that there were twelve separate laws (nine articles of the U.S. Constitution and three other federal laws) which Donald Trump had broken by the time that the impeachment investigation began, and that he committed multiple violations of some of those laws, even dozens of violations of two of them (Abuse of the Powers of the President and Abuse of Public Trust). https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/11/25/end-rule-law-12-impeachable-offenses-committed-trump Even so, the Democratic legislators chose to only impeach him on two of the multitude of Trump’s criminal offenses: Abuse of Power, and Obstruction of Congress (https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres755/BILLS-116hres755enr.pdf ). Disregarding most of the many examples of violations by Trump within those two categories, the Democrats chose to focus only on actions by Trump related to his attempt to get the Ukrainian government to dig up evidence of impropriety against his already apparent future opponent in the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden. The natural question that arises from that choice is, why choose only that one example of those two major infractions when they had roughly one hundred other impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they could have used? Was this impeachment trial really an attempt to impeach Donald Trump, or was it actually the first public event in the 2020 Democratic presidential election campaign, designed to promote their long-before-chosen candidate? In the article cited above, Bruce Fein and Chris Hedges provide us with evidence for a very plausible explanation. It would not serve the Biden presidential campaign well to attempt to impeach Trump for crimes that were also committed by the Obama/Biden administration, such as sending U.S. troops into wars that were not declared by Congress, or carrying out illegal surveillance against U.S. citizens, along with several other illegal, power-abusing, impeachable acts. Although the consequences of the failure to impeach Donald Trump may have ended up being nearly the same had Mike Pence become Trump’s replacement, we will never really know how many thousands fewer lives would have been lost to Covid-19 had they actually impeached Trump on something that would have also got him convicted in the Senate. The losses suffered in 2020 by the rest of the natural world due to Trump’s prioritizing of capitalist industrial production and consumption over our natural life-sustaining ecosystems would probably have been no different under Pence, and will probably continue at nearly the same level under Biden.
On January 7th, China announced that they had identified a new (or “novel”) coronavirus that had sickened some people in Wuhan. The World Health Organization initially named the virus “2019-nCoV,” but later changed the name to “Covid-19.” Two days later, the first person to die of the disease, a 61-year old man, died in Wuhan.
I have not seen any numbers on the Australian Indigenous traditional medicine and food plants that were destroyed or possibly made extinct in those fires. I do not know how people calculate and translate all of this loss into monetary values, but of course they tried to (mostly measuring “property damage,” including the 3,500 human homes that were destroyed), and that figure came out to $103 billion Australian dollars, and thus the “costliest” natural disaster of any kind in Australian history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E2%80%9320_Australian_bushfire_season Has anybody ever measured the cost to inter-connected Life itself from a disaster like this, or the cost to Life created by bringing English colonialism and industrial capitalism to Australia in the first place? How about the long-term psychological damage incurred during and after the fires from hearing the screams and tending to the wounded, of all species?
Bernie Sanders learned in 2016 that the Democratic Party leaders would never allow him or any other self-identified democratic socialist to become their party’s nominee for President, and that they would prevent that from happening by any means possible, fair or foul, legal or illegal. So, why did he run again, in the Democratic Party primary in 2020? Did he think that if a large enough number of voters enthusiastically supported him the Democratic National Committee would come to see the light and begin to accept and support the will of the people? Or, was somebody or something else pulling his strings? Well, whatever the reason, he sure got off to a great start in the February primaries. After some days of confusion and delay in counting the votes in Iowa, Bernie won that first primary (I know, “caucus”) of the season (although the party later gave the victory to Pete Buttigieg, without any reasonable explanation, and Joe Biden was given the most delegates in Iowa, even though he came in fourth place). https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/04/us/elections/results-iowa-caucus.html Bernie ended up winning 3 out of the 4 February primary contests, until the switcheroo was pulled on him, regarding Iowa. He won in New Hampshire and Nevada, while Joe Biden won the last February primary in South Carolina, making the delegate count at the end of the month come out to 62 delegates for Biden and 60 for Bernie. Millions of Bernie’s supporters were enormously pleased with his much better performance in those early primaries than expected, but apparently that delegate count and all of that progressive enthusiasm was way too close for comfort for the DNC. On February 21st, the Washington Post published a story, citing anonymous “U.S. officials,” saying that the Russians were assisting Bernie Sanders’ campaign in order to help Donald Trump win the 2020 election and remain in office. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/bernie-sanders-briefed-by-us-officials-that-russia-is-trying-to-help-his-presidential-campaign/2020/02/21/5ad396a6-54bd-11ea-929a-64efa7482a77_story.html
Meanwhile, the fires in Australia gradually diminished in February, due largely to some strong rains, and on February 9th Antarctica experienced its hottest day ever recorded, hitting a high of 69.35 degrees Fahrenheit (20.75 degrees Celsius) at Marambio research base, on Seymour Island, a team of Argentine researchers reported. Massive icebergs continue to break off of the continent at an increasing rate and journey out into the warming seas. https://www.livescience.com/antarctica-record-high-temperature.html
On February 27th, Donald Trump said about the Covid-19 virus: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.”
March 3rd was “Super Tuesday” for the Democratic Presidential Primary contest, which was called that because there were 15 primaries in that one day. Bernie Sanders won five of them, including California (the largest one in the nation, by delegate count), Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Utah and Vermont. He also came in a close second in a few of the other contests, picking up significant amounts of delegates there, too. Joe Biden won the other 10. After all of the Super Tuesday votes were counted, Bernie had a total of 623 delegates and Biden had 746, with the vast majority of primaries still to come and nearly three thousand delegates still to be voted for and counted toward the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination. A victory for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary election was still easily mathematically possible. Even so, within the next week after Super Tuesday, mainstream corporate media outlets were harmoniously declaring Joe Biden to be “the presumptive Democratic nominee,” in spite of the math and the many outraged objections to that from campaigners for Sanders. https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Joe_Biden By Thursday, March 5th, the other three leading contenders had all dropped out of the race: Pete Buttigieg on Sunday, the 1st; Amy Klobuchar on Monday, the 2nd; and Elizabeth Warren on Thursday. Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsed Biden immediately upon their exits, and Warren waited until April 15th to endorse him. On the last day of that momentous week, Saturday the 7th, Bernie Sanders announced that he and his campaign organizers were considering the cancellation of all of their currently-scheduled campaign rallies, due to their concerns about the rapidly growing Covid-19 pandemic and their desire to not help spread it further. Bernie’s campaign rallies were the largest of any presidential candidate (including the Republican candidate’s rallies) and a major promotional force for his campaign.
Coinciding with this major shift in the Democratic primary dynamics was the rapid increase in the spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19. On March 15th, the total number of cases of Covid 19 in the U.S. was 4,191, which put the U.S. in eighth place among all the nations of the world in active cases. Just eleven days later, on March 26th, the U.S. leaped over China into first place in number of active cases in the world, with 86,613 cases and 1,206 deaths! The nation has remained in first place for number of cases and number of deaths ever since, far ahead of the second and third place nations (India and Brazil) and many times more than all of the other nations, and is still surging further and further away from them all, as I write this in mid-January of 2021.
During those first two weeks of March, two very credible investigative journalists for CNN, Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, counted 33 different lies and misleading statements that Donald Trump told to the American people about Covid-19, in what Trump claims was an attempt by him to keep the people from panicking. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/22/politics/fact-check-trump-coronavirus-false-claims-march/index.htmlhttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/09/trump-bob-woodward-book-rage-coronavirus The lies, twists, and spins from Trump included statements such as: “We have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers are lower than just about anybody.” (March 6th, to reporters at signing of a coronavirus appropriations bill, when the U.S. was ranked tenth among all nations in the world in numbers of cases, and relatively few Americans were being tested); “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” (March 6th, when doctors all over the country were saying that there were not enough testing kits available, and there were many restrictions and limitations on who could get tested); “..we’re having to fix a problem that, four weeks ago, nobody ever thought would be a problem.” (March 11th to reporters at a coronavirus meeting with bankers. Trump had been briefed as early as late January on the seriousness and potential disaster that the pandemic could be to the U.S. and the world.); “This is a very contagious–this is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control of.” (March 15th, at a coronavirus press conference). That is just four out of thirty-three examples over a period of two weeks. On March 19th, Trump told Bob Woodward in an interview, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
This intentional deception was possibly Trump’s most serious crime committed while in office (with the continued enabling of the genocide in Yemen—initiated under Obama—possibly worse, in number of lives lost, which is very difficult to measure) https://www.mintpressnews.com/yemen-genocide/243247/ , and ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Of course, I am not saying that Trump is responsible for all of the Covid-19 deaths in the U.S.. I am not sure how to go about doing the math to compute what percentage of the total deaths (over 425,000, as I am writing this now) can be reasonably attributed to Trump’s lies, deception, lack of leadership, lack of concern for the danger of the virus and for the sufferings of people other than himself, but surely some significant percentage exists. Whoever takes on that grand mathematical puzzle would not only have to figure out how many people contracted Covid-19 because they believed Trump’s lies and didn’t take precautions, but also how many people who did not believe Trump and did take precautions were infected due to the actions of Trump’s followers. Another big factor that makes the puzzle even more complex, is the historical and systemic circumstances, in existence since long before Trump was even born, that surely contributed to the U.S. Covid-19 death rate, rooted in the health disparities created by vast economic inequality, racial discrimination, and all the ravages of unrestrained predatory capitalism itself. The repeated refusal of U.S. politicians to even seriously consider and discuss adapting a universal health care system, like the ones that helped bring much better results in the battle against the pandemic to most of the other industrialized nations of the world, is a prime example of that. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/02/11/lancet-commission-donald-trump-covid-19-health-medicare-for-all/4453762001/ We could also try to figure out how many lives might have been saved if Bob Woodward would have revealed what Trump told him about his reckless disregard for the danger of the coronavirus, and his intentional misleading of the people he was sworn to protect, back then, in March, instead of waiting until his book was published in August.
After the world, including the U.S., began to respond to the pandemic with shutdowns of business as usual, and the U.S. stock market took its deepest dive ever on March 9th, the U.S. Congress began to formulate and debate some sort of action for economic relief and the salvation of capitalism. Realizing that this was no time to resist a little emergency socialism (although they didn’t dare use that word for it), the House created and passed the first Coronavirus relief bill, the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and sent it on to the Senate for further debate and tweakage, where it finally passed again on March 25th. That bill provided for $1,200 checks to Americans making under $75,000, families to receive $500 for each dependent child, an additional $600 per week for four weeks for people who had been laid off, to supplement their unemployment checks, $100 billion for the nation’s hospitals, $150 billion in relief funds for all the states, and a $500 billion loan program to give “relief” to allegedly “struggling” corporations like those in the airline industry. https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2020-03-26/senate-passes-historic-2-trillion-relief-to-combat-coronavirus-pandemic
In this country, socialism of various sorts is considered allowable in cases of emergency, such as FEMA assistance after a hurricane or devastating wildfires, or, in normal conditions, to fund fire and police departments, or even for non-emergency essential public services, such as public schools and public libraries. In most other “western,” “civilized” countries, free public health care would also be included among those last examples. But, in the U.S., the largest non-emergency government spending from the common treasury of all Americans (which is a form of socialism) goes in the form of subsidies and tax breaks to the largest corporate business entities, along with funding military activities that are mostly not related to the constitutionally-ordained purpose of the military: to protect and defend the nation from both foreign and domestic attackers, in wars declared by Congress. So, in summary, the acceptable practice is minimal, mostly emergency socialism for the working class majority of Americans, and the maximum socialism (or raiding of the common treasury) that the ruling class can get away with for the most wealthy and powerful Americans. The Congresspersons, the President, and the Supreme Court members also get 100% of their medical needs covered from the common treasury for the rest of their lives, after gaining office. Bernie Sanders spoke strongly in the Senate for the Coronavirus Relief Bill, but did not take advantage of that amazingly “teachable moment” to say at least a few words about how this great bill that they were passing to meet so many dire needs of the American people (and a couple of not-so-dire “needs” of the corporate elites) in a time of crisis was a form of socialism. Why not?
As Covid 19 rapidly surged throughout the world during the months of March and April, many nations began to respond to it in ways similar to China’s successful response back in January and February. Restrictions on normal activities of all kinds were put into place by about 54% of the world’s human population, from total lockdowns to reductions of varying degrees on travel, work, shopping, and in-person socializing. A study published at the end of April by the International Energy Agency https://www.iea.org/reports/global-energy-review-2020 revealed that the impacts of these shutdowns and reductions produced the only example of humans actually doing what really needs to be done to resolve the climate crisis that we have ever witnessed! The data compiled by the IEA clearly shows us the only likely way that we will accomplish the 7.6% reduction in CO2 output per year for the rest of this decade that was urged by the IPCC. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ Basically, what their findings revealed was that the reductions in industrial production, consumption, and travel that the industrialized world carried out between January (beginning in China) and April 28th, when they completed their report, reduced CO2 output by an estimated 8% worldwide!!
As the above chart shows us, we have never seen anything close to this level of CO2 and energy output reduction in the entire modern industrial era! Even with all of the wind turbine and solar panel installations around the world, over the last few decades, CO2 levels have continued on a steady rise, until now. This is a profound illustration of what many of us have been saying for years: to resolve the climate, biosphere, and extinction crisis, we will have to actually stop or dramatically reduce the activities and habits that have created the problem. Unfortunately, what happened next—in May, June, and ever since then—masses of people in the U.S. and elsewhere refusing to continue with restrictions once they saw a little improvement in the Covid-19 crisis, shows us how unlikely it is that enough humans are willing to sacrifice some of their personal comfort and consumption habits even to save themselves and their offspring from deadly disease or biosphere collapse.
It was reported on April 7th that, “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has experienced its most widespread bleaching event on record, with the south of the reef bleaching extensively for the first time. This marks the third mass bleaching event on the reef in just the last five years and scientists say that the rapid warming of the planet due to human emissions of heat-trapping gases are to blame.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/australia/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-intl-hnk/index.html
On April 8th, the day after the number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 400,000, and the number of dead had grown to 12,790, Bernie Sanders announced that he was suspending his campaign for president. Bernie explained that the deadly seriousness of the pandemic had much to do with his decision and that it would be a better use of his time and abilities to fight that battle. “As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership, and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us,” Sanders said. Even though he said that he “cannot win,” he assured everybody that his name would remain on the ballot throughout the rest of the primaries, in hope that he would gain enough votes to show the considerable popular support for his policy goals and help push the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. At that point in time there were still 26 primaries left (about half of them) and 1,506 delegates still up for grabs, so it still seemed like anything was possible before the primaries would end in June. But, less than a week later, on April 13th, Bernie publicly endorsed Joe Biden for president. How many of his supporters did he think would then continue to show up and vote for him in the primaries? Did he really think that this early surrender to Joe Biden and the DNC would even nudge the party one micro-millimeter to the left of anything? So, we come back to the question, “Why did Bernie run in 2020?” Who or what entity actually benefitted from all of that extraordinary effort and enthusiasm from so many determined and hopeful people who energetically campaigned for him and from the millions who voted for him?
Innocent, “naïve” child: “Mommy, why don’t the farmers just give all of those onions to the hungry and starving people, instead of just throwing them away?
“Well-adjusted,” “sensible” mother: “That’s not how capitalism works, honey. To give the food away could destroy capitalism.”
Innocent, “naïve” child: “Well, it sounds to me like capitalism doesn’t work. Maybe it SHOULD be destroyed.”
At around that same time, the middle of April, the closing of most restaurants in the country due to the pandemic, along with the increased purchasing of foods from grocery stores as more people ate at home, caused some severe economic difficulties in the commercial food supply chain. Many farmers, processed food manufacturers, and freight transportation companies were not able to adjust to the changes in demand and distribution in ways that would allow them to make sufficient profits. That led to people sitting in their cars in very long lines waiting to pick up food (either purchased or freely distributed) and farmers having to dump large quantities of produce that they could not sell or transport at a profit, rather than distributing it to free food distribution centers. That would have been a great opportunity for Bernie Sanders to talk to people about the necessity for some socialistic intervention by the government to assist those industries as well as the millions of Americans then experiencing food insecurity, while teaching them a little bit about what socialism really is. https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-nw-nyt-coronavirus-food-waste-20200413-x5n6sbmrh5an3cilo6hxozrkj4-story.html?fbclid=IwAR1_h32r_D-tgcajt2KSmM7p9kuz7hb09whMWhouMEM5dAxwzrSC5ryZ_fw Does anybody remember hearing Bernie say one word about the meaning of socialism while he was allegedly trying to push the Democratic Party further to the left?
On the last day of April, inspired by, and with the vocal support of their president, both heavily-armed and unarmed citizens of the state of Michigan, were allowed into the state capitol building by police (but not into the actual legislative chamber) to protest and shout down a state legislative hearing on whether to continue the Covid-19 safety regulations that they had put into place a little over one month earlier, during the initial surge of the pandemic. Many in the crowd seemed to be primarily concerned about the economic ramifications of the partial shutdown, while some of them seemed more concerned about government taking away their liberty to just do whatever the heck they want to. The fact that very few in the crowd of hundreds wore masks or distanced themselves indicated that the actual dangers of Covid-19 were of as little concern to them as to their commander-in-chief. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/4/30/21243462/armed-protesters-michigan-capitol-rally-stay-at-home-order
In mid-April, a team of scientists from Columbia University published a long-term analytical research report showing that the mega-drought (an extremely dry, wide-spread pattern that endures over two decades or longer) in the western U.S. is nearly equal to the worst mega-drought in the last 1,200 years, and on course, due to climate change, to soon become the worst ever on record. This current mega-drought began in 2000. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-drought-california-western-united-states-study/
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22nd, a new documentary film was released called, “Planet of the Humans,” which caused much debate, antagonism, and even calls by some environmentalists to censor or ban the film. There were many reasons for the turmoil, one being that the filmmakers dared to reveal that switching to solar and wind power while still using fossil fuels to mine the materials, transport them, manufacture the “green energy” devices from those materials, and transport the devices to their markets and installation sites, would not reduce CO2 emissions sufficiently for meeting even the modest Paris Accord objectives, even if done so on a grand scale. The filmmakers basically said that what we really need to do is reduce industrial production and consumption to the levels recommended in 2018 by the IPCC https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ and numerous other climate scientists https://systemchangenotclimatechange.org/article/ipcc-report-first-thoughts-next-steps , as the Covid-19 shutdowns were already showing us could be done (see above). To try to resolve the crisis with green energy devices alone would be way too little too late. It would be like driving a car toward a cliff and not slowing down sufficiently or applying the brakes hard enough to stop in time to prevent flying over the edge. A little bit of slowing down and a light application on the brake pedal would ultimately be a meaningless and pointless gesture. The driver and passengers would not “feel good that at least we did something” while melting in flames at the bottom of the ravine. The chart below (made in 2016) illustrates the science on the urgency of our current global ecological circumstances very clearly:
In the spring, many people who had not done so before, started growing their own food. More people fished, hunted and gathered wild berries in 2020, too. That was, in part, a response to the food insecurity generated by the pandemic shutdowns, but it was also part of an ongoing conjunction of social movements going back to the late 1960s. First there was the counter-status quo-culture “back to the land” and health food movements. Then, in the 1980s in Mexico, there was the Indigenous La Campesina food sovereignty movement, which was also a response to food insecurity, as well as to the ravages that corporate commercial agriculture was continuously committing against the land and the people. That movement gradually spread throughout Latin America and into other parts of the world, among mainly traditional and Indigenous farmers. The food sovereignty movement has experienced a revival in North America over the last decade or so, mainly among Indigenous peoples, but influencing non-Indigenous people as well. As the name suggests, “food sovereignty” means the power to create and maintain food systems that can operate locally and independently from the failed, toxic industrial commercial system that currently dominates the industrialized world and imperils all of the world. The food sovereignty movement differs from survivalist movements in that it is community-centered, cooperative, and also, in many cases, eco-centered, rather than individualistic and self-centered. This is part of what some of us are doing to move forward, past the collapse of a dying system and culture, into a new, Earth/Water/Sun-centered, inter-connected, eco-harmonious living world.
When Bernie Sanders left the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, the Democratic Party desperately needed to find a way to bring enough of Bernie’s supporters on board with the Joe Biden campaign to help him win in November. What could they say and do to encourage active, if not enthusiastic, support among progressive Democrats, Democratic Socialists, and left-leaning independents for their chosen candidate? The Democratic Party elites could sense somehow that saying “at least Biden is better than Trump” might not be enough to win them over. To make the matter even more challenging, some of Sanders’ supporters still hoped that Bernie was kidding about the “suspension” of his campaign and his endorsement of Biden, and speculated that Bernie may have some sort of secret plan to insert himself back into the campaign before the Democratic national convention. Using the mainstream corporate media to amplify the horror of the idea of another four years of Trump, with plenty of help from Trump himself and his shockingly inept gestures at handling the worse medical crisis in American history (“maybe we could inject some of that disinfectant into the lungs?”), might do the trick, but they sensed that they probably needed something more. Even though a hold-your-nose-while-voting-for-the-lesser-evil vote counts just about the same as an enthusiastic, I-just-LOVE-this-candidate vote, the enthusiasm really helps gain more votes during the months of campaigning before an election. But what could the progressives and democratic socialists be enthusiastic about that the DNC could put into the Democratic presidential platform and get Biden to promise in his campaign speeches? The DNC would never allow Biden to run on promises of Medicare For All, higher taxes on the rich, or anything that even hinted of socialist reform of the economy, including the demands of the most serious, science-believing climate activists to go beyond just reducing the use of fossil fuels and actually reduce industrial production and consumption, which would violate the gospel of endless economic growth and maximization of monetary profit. So, which of the many progressive demands of the Bernie supporters could be safely co-opted for the Biden campaign and didn’t need any adherence to or mention of socialism to accomplish (or at least promise) them? The equality and inclusion issues (within the limits of only those opportunities possibly available under status quo capitalism), such as anti-racism, LGBT rights, humane treatment of immigrants and their children, diversity in hiring—including in Joe Biden’s cabinet and staff appointments, along with many vague references to “social justice” thrown in here and there, for good measure, had long proven useful on such occasions in the past. All of that, plus being a little bit better than Trump, and actually believing in science, especially during the horrific pandemic, might be the ticket to success and Democratic victory in November.
On May 5th a video surfaced and went viral on the internet showing a present-day lynching of a young Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging in a suburban neighborhood in Georgia. The murder actually happened back on February 23rd, but, like many in the very long history of murders and lynchings of Afro-descended human beings in America, this murder went unreported and unnoticed in the press for those two and a half months. But nowadays we have cellphones with very high quality cameras and video recorders in just about everybody’s hands and that, along with the fact that the majority opinion in America shifted away from support for murdering Black people with impunity about sixty years ago, is getting to be a bit of a problem for white supremacist murderers who don’t want to be incarcerated. That includes white supremacist policemen and former policemen like one of the two murderers of Ahmaud Arbery. Those two murderers were arrested the day after the video surfaced. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/us/ahmaud-arbery-jogging-georgia-shooting/index.html
On May 25th another murder occurred, by an active duty policeman, with support from three police accomplices, far away from the Deep South, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The victim was George Floyd and the graphic videos detailing the entire incident, combined with the two above-mentioned murders earlier in the month, pushed masses of Americans over a tipping point and into action. The videos of this murder began to go viral on the internet the same night, and it was covered in the press beginning the next day. https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/26/george-floyd-man-dies-after-being-arrested-by-minneapolis-police-fbi-called-to-investigate/ People also began to fill the streets of St. Paul in protest that day, along with many other cities and states in the days and months that followed.
What brought so many thousands of people into the streets for about three consecutive months, all over the country, was a culmination of many forces, circumstances and determinations. In America, the use of various types of policing forces to protect the plunder of colonialists and capitalists and to keep oppressed peoples subordinate and/or terrorized, began with the building of forts to protect land stealers, moved on to the employment of “patrollers” to pursue and re-capture escaped enslaved persons, the use of marginalized immigrants to police other marginalized working class people in the industrial north, on through the KKK and local police enforcing Jim Crow segregation, and into the present enforcement of the old white power institutional structures as they transition into multi-ethnic but monocultural capitalist ruling structures, or, in other words, the guard not really changing, just changing colors. So, the viral videos of police murders and lynchings were not signifying anything new, and the resistance represented by the Black Lives Matter movement was also part of a long-enduring continuum of resistance and opposition to racist institutional structures and practices. One somewhat remarkable aspect of this particular wave of resistance in 2020 was its diversity of participants. I don’t know if anybody has actually done a formal study of the crowd demographics, but, from what I observed, it looked like a much higher proportion of white-identified people joined in these protests than we had back in the “Mississippi Freedom Summer” Black voter registration movement in the summer of 1964, which was quite a high percentage (again, I don’t know the exact numbers for back then, just a fuzzy memory). Several of the young white activists that I talked to last summer indicated to me that they were embarrassed about and just sick of seeing so much racism still present in 2020, when it seems to them that “everybody should know that’s wrong by now.” They were also embarrassed about and sick of having a president who encouraged and promoted it. Of course, what was also at work on their feelings was the customary “guilt by association” that America’s deeply-engrained custom of racial classification and racial bonding brings, along with their relatively new-found awareness of systemic race-based advantage and disadvantage. The police response to these anti-racism protests in the spring and summer of 2020 was similar in excess to the police response in the south in the 1960s, but more in the style of the militarized police brutality demonstrated at Standing Rock in 2016.
The Black Lives matter, anti-racism, anti-police brutality protests of 2020 could have been a useful entity for the Democratic Party to latch onto and even co-opt, to some degree (to the extent that the organizers of individual demonstrations would have allowed or enabled that), to try to reach out to progressives and alienated Bernie supporters. Did the Democrats actually try to do that, to any significant degree? As was the case with Democrats being able to politically advantage Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic (as described above), Trump did more to disadvantage himself with his atrocious response to both the protests and the police violence that surrounded them than Joe Biden and his advisors did anything to advantage himself with his weak, non-committal, middle of the road remarks. Biden basically played both sides—calling for racial justice and equal treatment under the law, while trying to assure the conservatives that he stood for law and order (against protester violence more than against police violence) and “would never recommend defunding the police.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/06/08/joe-biden-against-defund-police-push-after-death-george-floyd/5319717002/
At the end of this month of May, on the 29th, the world got to see (well, those of us who happened to stumble upon any news media that actually covered it) another frightening example of what the collapsing permafrost can bring about. At a power plant in the Siberian city of Norilsk, Russia, above the Arctic Circle, the permafrost dramatically shifted again, causing severe damage to a diesel fuel storage tank and spilling 20,000 tons of diesel oil into the Ambarnaya River, then flowed into a lake, into two other rivers, and on into the Arctic Ocean. Cleanup of the spill is expected to take about 10 years and cost about $1.5 billion, but the cost to innocent life in that region is harder to measure. The toxins released into water and land from the spill will remain for decades to come, harming fish, birds, reindeer and other innocents. Earlier in that month, temperatures had risen 18 degrees F higher than normal in Siberia, as the rest of the Arctic Circle also continued to be the most rapidly-warming part of the planet (but Antarctica might be catching up). Man-made structures containing oil and many other toxic products, exist throughout the permafrost regions and these types of catastrophic spills will happen more frequently. https://weather.com/news/news/2020-11-30-2020-year-in-review-worst-environmental-disasters-climate-change
After some extreme rainfall in Michigan on May 19 and 20th, two dams spilled over and flooded the towns of Edenville, Sanford and Midland, washing out trees, bridges, roads, houses and businesses and forcing more than 11,000 people from their homes. Heavy precipitation events, fueled by the extra moisture in the atmosphere due to the warming climate, have increased almost 40% across the upper Midwest in recent decades, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When the ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and the landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
Yearning for “normal,” which meant many different things to many different people, was perhaps the most commonly-shared motivating force throughout the pandemic-devastated, climate change-devastated, and warfare-devastated world, as the month of June began. For some of us, the part of normal we missed most was being able to socialize without wearing masks, along with not being in constant fear of catching a deadly disease. To the unprecedented number of people recently laid off from their jobs, normal meant relief from the fear that they might soon become homeless and unable to feed their families. Others hoped for, more than anything, to be free from the fear that their parents, grandparents, and most physically vulnerable loved ones would not have to die miserable deaths, alone and isolated from their loved ones in hospitals. Some people just yearned mostly to be able to go to restaurants, bars, and movie theaters again. Others yearned mostly for the freedom to go wherever they want and do whatever they wanted to do, without having to be concerned about the well-being of others. Many of those people decided to just go ahead and do that, regardless of scientific reality and the likely disastrous, deadly consequences. The white supremacists amongst those folks found additional encouragement for their recklessness after they heard news reports stating that the coronavirus disproportionately impacts people of color. If the media had instead reported more accurately that increased vulnerability to Covid-19 correlates to poverty, less access to health care, industrial waste sites located in and near low-income neighborhoods (including some trailer parks inhabited by many impoverished white-identified people), and other forms of oppression by class, rather than just attributing it to race, and made it clear that poor white-identified people are just as vulnerable to Covid, perhaps we could have seen a little more cautious behavior from that particular demographic group. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_over_responses_to_the_COVID-19_pandemic
We also had to deal with the people for whom “normal” meant putting monetary profit, their ability to maintain an unquestioning, submissive, over-consumptive society, and the preservation of the capitalist power structure which supports them, above all else, including life itself. The ruling class couldn’t stand to see masses of their usually obedient subjects, cease from traveling, cut back on shopping and consumption, and be prevented from working for low wages while maintaining the “essential services” to the industrial economy that the rulers depend upon for their excessive, degenerate “lifestyles.” And the rulers certainly did not want to see the working class use their newly-acquired “idle” or “free” time to think, read and communicate with each other about things like systemic inequality, alternative economic systems, ecological reality and possibilities for either revolution or abandonment of the prevailing system.
Some of us who shared the more humane of those universal yearnings of that moment, also hoped that it would be a moment in which the worst parts of “normal” would begin to be widely and deeply questioned, challenged, resisted, disassembled, and replaced by the best societies that we humans can possibly create. It seemed, to many of us, that the moment was ripe for it and full of amazing potential. While people were taking to the streets and to social media to cry out against systemic racism, we hoped that they would also cry out against the rest of it and develop strategies for revolutionary reformation of society, throughout the industrialized world. Were we wrong or deluded to hope and work for that? Are we wrong to continue to do so now, even though the Orange Plague has been removed from the WH for another changing of the neo-liberal corporate guard? Is it time to relax and drift back into over-consumptive, oblivious sleep, just as long as our precious careers and businesses remain intact?
While the U.S. Senate was bickering over a three trillion dollar coronavirus relief bill that had passed in the House three weeks earlier and which the Senate, ultimately, would never pass, and while some U.S. states around the country were loosening Covid restrictions and people in other states were just ignoring them—even though the numbers of cases and deaths were still rapidly rising—the nation of New Zealand actually, safely got back to normal. They were able to end all coronavirus restrictions (except for keeping their borders closed to all foreign travelers and requiring returning New Zealanders to quarantine for 14 days before going out in public) in their country on June 8th, after there had been no new cases in their country for seventeen days prior to that date and all of their previously infected citizens had recovered. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52961539 The New Zealanders were able to do that because, soon after the first cases appeared in their country (back in late February) and the facts about the danger of the virus became known, they followed the science and collectively—both their government and their private citizens—did what they knew they needed to do for their common good and their public health. On March 25th, after creating a science-based plan with four different stages of restrictions, their country went into the severest stage of near-complete lockdown immediately—closing most businesses, all schools, and any unnecessary ventures out into public spaces, for five weeks. The New Zealand government also did not hesitate to use their common national treasury for the common good and well-being of their people and spent over 4% of their GDP, beginning well before the shutdown, on subsidizing their people for potential lost income by essentially making generous payments to businesses and workers which allowed them to afford to stay home. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/17/new-zealand-launches-massive-spending-package-to-combat-covid-19 After the five weeks at stage 4, they were able to gradually move on through the other, less-restrictive stages to complete opening of their normal economic and social life. The whole process took a total of about ten weeks. A couple of months later, in late August, a few new cases of Covid-19 appeared in New Zealand, but, because they already had a successful plan for dealing with it in place, they were able to again completely eliminate the virus, in a little over six weeks this time, through their cooperative efforts. Another thing that New Zealand had in its favor, was a humane, intelligent, empathetic prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and a very capable Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, who both told their people the truth about the pandemic and clearly explained the science so that the people understood why the shutdown was necessary. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52344299 In sharp contrast to that, the four nations that have had the four highest numbers of both cases of Covid-19 and Covid deaths, from June 2020 on to the end of the year, the United States, Brazil, Russia and India, were all ruled by pathological, racist, autocratic, self-obsessed men. Here are the Covid-19 statistics for those four worse-hit nations of the world on June 30th, halfway through the year: USA- 2,633,466 cases, 130,096 deaths; Brazil- 1,402,041 cases, 59, 594 deaths; Russia- 646,929 cases, 9,320 deaths (likely, a severe undercount); India- 566,840 cases, 17,410 deaths (also, likely, a very inaccurate undercount). Those are still the four worse today (1-25-21). https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51235105
The summer of 2020 could be called “the summer of toppling statues.” Beginning with the earliest Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May and running on through the first week of September, nearly 200 statues, monuments and memorials that glorified slavery, slave-holders, slavery-defenders, genocide, racism and colonialism were either torn down or defaced by the People, taken down by city governments, or removed by people who wanted to protect those icons from potential destruction by protesters. Most of these monuments and statues were made to honor Confederate insurrectionists and many were statues of Christopher Columbus and other land stealers and murderers of Indigenous people. The reason that these monuments to white male supremacy existed in the first place was not just to honor historical figures who contributed to the establishment of white power in America, but also to remind people of color of the terror that those figures and the people who inherited their power wield over them today, as well as to keep all subjects of this empire in awe and submission. (Most of those Confederate statues were put up during the Jim Crow era, between about 50 to 100 years after the Civil War over.) The pigeons of America never got that message, though, and in the summer of 2020, many humans declared loudly in those public spaces that they adamantly rejected that message, too, and that it has no place in the America that they want to create and live in. The people who expressed themselves by taking down those statues and monuments were letting everybody know that they want to live in a nation that honors, nurtures and protects all life, and that a nation which honors the horrors and injustice that those statues and monuments represented is very sick, indeed.
On the 3rd day of July, Donald Trump went to the largest and possibly most offensive white supremacist, pro-colonialist, true history-denying monument of all, Mt. Rushmore, to rally his base and attempt to gain support from more American racists, for the purpose of keeping himself in power. Trump had actually been doing this for weeks, focusing on the violence against these American icons and trying to get other people and the media to focus on that also, instead of on the legacy of American racism and genocide, or on his disastrously inept “handling” of the pandemic. In his speech that day, Trump proclaimed that, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” https://www.vox.com/2020/7/5/21313762/trump-mount-rushmore-speech-independence-day How in the hell did Confederate monuments, which are memorials to secessionist enemies of the United States, to people who would rather not be citizens of the United States than give up their claimed ownership of other human beings whom they had been holding in total, predatory, brutal bondage for many generations, which they also fought a war against the United States for, which cost more American lives than any other war before or since, become “our most sacred memorials”?!! What was the process of indoctrination and mass delusion-building that led to that bizarro-world statement, or to similar statements echoed by many of Trump’s followers? How does that sort of twisted belief become “normal” in any culture or society? That sort of process actually takes a lot of effort and time, combined with enabling by the failure of a large part of the population who see the wrong to speak up and resist it. Before Trump and his people arrived that day at the site they call “Mt. Rushmore,” a large contingent of mostly young Indigenous American social justice and anti-racism activists filled the road that leads to that monument with their bodies, signs, and voices, and attempted to educate the American public as to why this particular Trump campaign event, and the Mt. Rushmore memorial itself, was such an offense to justice and humanity. Many of these activists represented the recently-organized “Land Back” movement, which actually is part of a continuous movement going back over the last 500+ years, which found revived energy in 2020, thanks to the vision, courage and determination of these young spiritual warriors. Krystal Two Bulls, a Northern Cheyenne and Oglala Lakota woman from Montana, who is one of the leaders of the Land Back movement, clearly and concisely articulated their position: “There are a few central demands of our campaign: First is to dismantle white supremacy, period, and the systems and institutions that uphold it. Second is to defund all of the mechanisms that enforce white supremacy — the military-industrial complex, the police, ICE, border patrol. And then return. Starting with public lands, return them to the original stewards. Lastly, consent. This speaks to a shift in mindset, where we are no longer asking permission for these things. If you don’t get consent based on your decisions that are going to impact our lives and our connection to the land, then we have the right to say `no.’” https://grist.org/fix/indigenous-landback-movement-can-it-help-climate/?emci=f155270f-0430-eb11-9fb4-00155d43b2cd&emdi=caa8f1b8-0430-eb11-9fb4-00155d43b2cd&ceid=128642&fbclid=IwAR0pjaFG9QO2qkGmmiWlaRFB5WvT797KS1_zWE4Bdpush_XmNXMonEKP9hY
Most Americans know very little about the history of the Black Hills of South Dakota and why it was such an offense and injustice for the gigantic Mt. Rushmore monument to be dynamited and carved into those hills in the first place. For thousands of years before the arrival of the United Statesians into their homelands, the Paha Sapa (Black Hills in Lakota language) was a very sacred medicine and spiritual place for the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Hidatsa, Assiniboine and several other Indigenous tribal nations. Peoples of many neighboring tribal nations would travel long distances to go there at least once a year to pray and gather medicines from plants. Some tribes have origin stories connected to those hills that say that they were created there. When the United States forced the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 on over 40 tribes in that region, they promised that they would leave the Paha Sapa to the Lakota people (which, due to the traditional customs of the Lakotas, as land-keepers or “stewards,” would thereby protect that sacred place for the continued use of the other tribes who held it sacred, too), while the U.S. took vast expanses of the lands surrounding that area. In 1876, gold was discovered by some of the soldiers and then by other Americans traveling through the Black Hills the next year, and soon they were all over the place, in violation of those treaties. The language of the treaties says that the land that is not taken by the U.S. is “reserved for the exclusive use and habitation of the tribes named herein (in the specific treaty).” That word, “reserved” is where the word “reservation” comes from—small pieces of their homeland that is left for the Indigenous peoples from the rest of the land that was stolen—not some kind of “gift to the Indians” from the U.S. government, as so many Americans have been misleadingly taught. The U.S. made 370 treaties with American Indian nations and broke 370 of those treaties, usually by violating that “exclusive use and habitation clause,” but also in many other ways.
The particular mountain in the Paha Sapa upon which the Mt. Rushmore desecration was made, was called for thousands of years by the Lakota and Dakota people “the Six Grandfathers,” in recognition of six spirit beings who lived at the top of that mountain and could be seen in certain rock formations up there. As I said earlier, almost all of the Confederate monuments and statues, along with the Columbus statues and other memorials upholding and honoring white supremacy in the U.S., were created during the Jim Crow era of the 20th century, and so it was with Mt. Rushmore. The gargantuan monument was commissioned by a few “leading citizens” of the state of South Dakota, but eventually paid for (mostly) by the U.S. government, in 1927, and took 14 years to construct. This was at a time when KKK membership was at its peak, with branches in all 48 states. The lead sculptor for the project was a man named Gutzon Borglum, who had previously worked on a very large Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was meant to be a recruitment tool for KKK membership. Borglum was an outspoken white supremacist and KKK member. It was Borglum who made the decision to carve the monument in place of the Six Grandfathers after another place in the Black Hills had been previously chosen by the people who hired him. The commissioners of the project had also originally wanted Borglum to carve a memorial to the myth of the “settling of the wild West,” with sculptures of George Armstrong Custer, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and perhaps one Indigenous leader, and Lakota Chief Red Cloud was suggested for that. Borglum also nixed that idea, recommending that the carvings be a memorial to the entire span of “Manifest Destiny,” which means the “right” of the “superior white race” to take the homelands of any people in the world whom they deem as “inferiors,” and he chose the figures that ended up being in the monument: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln—all of whom played significant roles in the taking of Indigenous American land, from coast to coast. That is what Trump, and others who spoke there at his campaign event were trying so adamantly to defend. https://discover.hubpages.com/education/Mount-Rushmores-Insult-to-Native-Americanshttps://www.democracynow.org/2020/7/2/nick_tilsen_mount_rushmore_trump
When some folks hear or read this kind of obnoxious history, all they can say in response is, “Why even bring up this sordid past? It happened so long ago,” which implies that it only exists in the past, is not recurring in the present, there is nothing of value that we can learn from this, and even that it is all somehow excused. For people who say things like that, I offer this little story:
Imagine a gangster who, beginning at the age of 19, rapidly worked his way to the top of a big crime syndicate by stealing, murdering, brutalizing and terrorizing people in all sorts of ways. Eventually, by the age of 40, he had billions of dollars, owned a few very lucrative businesses, and had all of the wealth that he desired, so he decided to retire and turn the crime syndicate over to others to run. He would no longer be involved with organized crime and just be a model citizen and superficially generous philanthropist, instead. That went on well for him until after he turned sixty, and the relatives of a few of his murder victims from almost 40 years earlier, along with some former crime associates whom he had betrayed, got together and decided to release a heap of evidence to the district attorney’s office and see to it that the man paid for those crimes. During the murder trial, the man’s defense attorney said, “We admit to the crimes, but they were done so long ago and my client is now such a widely-respected, well-honored, valuable citizen of this city, we ask that you, the jury, forget all the wrong that my client did in his past, and all of the suffering, hardship and misery that he caused for so many people, or at least accept our excuses and justifications for it all, and find him not guilty.” What sort of a jury would agree to that? What laws say that the passing of time and the social popularity of a criminal turns guilt into innocence and makes the continued suffering of many people as a result of those crimes irrelevant (at least in the case of murder, where there is no “statute of limitations”)?
But, the taking and desecrating of Paha Sapa, and the consequences of that, does not only exist in the past. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in the United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, et al. case, that the Black Hills were wrongfully “appropriated” (stolen), but instead of ordering the U.S. to return the stolen land, the court ordered the U.S. to pay the Lakota nation about $106 million dollars, with interest. The Lakota people, who have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, responded that they would rather have the land back than have the money. That was forty years ago and the interest that has accrued since then puts the figure well over $1.3 billion now, but the Lakota nation’s position on having the land back is still the same. https://www.salon.com/2014/02/17/we_must_give_the_land_back_americas_brutality_toward_native_americans_continues_today/ What other legal standard makes the stealing of Indigenous lands 150 or more years ago (400 years ago for my Wampanoag ancestors and other east coast tribes) relevant today, besides the violation of treaties? Every jurisdiction in the country, be it town, city, county, state, tribal, or federal, has laws against knowingly receiving and holding stolen property. Such laws are used every day to apprehend and convict accomplices of thieves, who did not commit the actual robbery, burglary, or whatever, but benefitted from the crime in some way. Every person who lives on, or has EVER lived on, any of the land claimed by the United States has benefitted to some degree from the wealth acquired through this stolen property. Think about that.
They say patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king
-Bob Dylan, from “Sweetheart Like You,” 1983
What happened during the two months after the 2020 presidential election was already easily predictable in July. A July 21st CNN report stated, “Voting experts and political strategists from across the political spectrum are increasingly alarmed about the potential for a disputed presidential election in November, one in which one candidate openly questions the legitimacy of the results or even refuses to concede.” The signs for that go back to at least 2016 and Donald Trump’s first attempt to run for a public political office of any kind. Even when he won the Electoral College vote, he blamed “election fraud” for the fact that he did not win the popular vote, claiming, without any evidence, as he usually does, that millions of “illegal aliens” were probably brought in to vote for Hillary Clinton.When the early polls in the 2020 race consistently all showed him to be about an average of 9 points behind Joe Biden, and he saw that many people were voting by mail in the Democratic primaries, to be safe from contacting the coronavirus, he began to attack mail-in voting and claim that the only way that he could lose in November would be by fraud. It was also very informative to hear Trump’s niece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_opinion_polling_for_the_2020_United_States_presidential_election#May_3_%E2%80%93_June_30,_2020
Mary Trump (who is also a clinical psychologist), say in interviews (after her book came out in July) how her grandfather, Trump’s dad, made Trump believe that he could never allow himself to lose at anything, or ever show weakness of any kind, or even admit if he was sick. That really explains a lot about Trump, including his insistence on denying any realities that do not fit within his father’s rules and demands. The voice of his abusive, controlling, intolerant father is probably ever-present in his mind.
So, the government spying agencies and federal law enforcers, as well as the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties knew all about that, at least by July, and they knew about the threats of violence against the government made in public online forums for many years by white supremacist groups and how those threats were increasing that summer and fall as it began to appear likely that Trump would lose in November. They also witnessed a sort of “dress rehearsal” for the coming insurrection during the armed invasion of the Michigan state capitol building back in April (see above). Yet they didn’t proactively attempt to avert the threat, either then or shortly before the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Why do many Americans seem to feel more threatened when in the presence of an unarmed Black or Brown teenage male wearing a hoodie than when they are walking past dozens of white-identified males carrying assault machine guns, wearing camouflage pants, and actually trying to look scary? This brings me to one more comment about the insidious destructive power of the white supremacist statues and monuments all over this country, along with the white male supremacy iconography found in most U.S. Christian churches, in their stain glass windows and the Sunday school literature (the image of God being a white male, or, actually, two white men and a white bird of unknown gender, along with a brown or sometimes black image of the devil. OK, I know that their holy book, the Bible, does not say anywhere within it that God is a white man, and it actually does say in one passage of that book that, “God is not a man.” But, ever since that religion was co-opted and institutionalized by the Roman Empire, followed by other European nations and empires, their rulers and clerics have continuously promulgated the conceptual image of a God-figure who closely resembles themselves, in a very transparent attempt to sanctify their positions of power, wealth and authority.). All of those aforementioned icons, as part of a system and culture of institutional racism, create an atmosphere and a sort of spiritual nutrient base that people breathe in and ingest without even realizing it, every time that they are in the presence of such icons. One of the effects of that is to create a deeply-engrained sense within most Americans (including even some Americans of color) of white innocence, authority and safety, alongside the sense of assumed guilt (or suspicion of guilt), ineptitude, malevolence, and danger assigned to black and brown-skinned people. We all saw many examples of that and received many lessons about it last summer regarding the actions of some American police officers, but there was not as much discussion and exploration of how that phenomena plays out throughout society, although the conversations have begun. The recent insurrection at the Capitol building, along with the continuum of similar events that will probably happen next (unless the threat is taken seriously and sufficient preventative action is taken), might force America to really begin to deal with it all and hopefully begin to deconstruct all of our life-destroying institutions.
Beginning in late May, and continuing through November, global warming and ocean warming in particular brought us the biggest, most record-setting, hurricane season on record.
“Courtesy of NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season was its extremely high level of activity. The season saw 30 named storms (storms with winds of 39 mph or greater) develop, including 13 hurricanes (storms with winds of 74 mph or greater) and six major hurricanes (storms with winds of 111 mph or greater). This makes 2020 the most active season on record and breaks the previous record of 28 storms set back in 2005, which includes an unnamed subtropical storm discovered in post-season analysis.
Other seasonal records of note:
Twelve separate storms made landfall in the contiguous U.S. during the 2020 season, beating the previous record of nine set in 1916.
Of those 12 landfalls, five occurred in the state of Louisiana, setting another record for most landfalls in a single state in a season.
Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana on August 26, and was the strongest hurricane, measured by sustained wind speed, to hit there since 1856.
On August 9th, a Japanese cargo ship that had run aground on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mauritius, a couple of weeks earlier, began leaking oil. Altogether, the ship spilled about 1,184 tons of oil, killing many innocent living beings. While not as large of a spill as the one in Siberia earlier in the year (see above), this one, too, will take decades to clean up and the area may never fully recover its previous, healthy condition.
Also in August, the Democratic and Republican Parties held their presidential nominating conventions and officially nominated the two candidates that had been chosen for them over a year and a half earlier.
By the middle of August, after a long summer of super-spreader events and all sorts of reckless, rebellious, self-centered behavior, school districts and parents all over the country were debating how they were going to go back to school, in the middle of the seemingly endless, unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic. Back in March, Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, had suggested that the grandparents of America should be willing to sacrifice themselves to the coronavirus for the sake of opening up business-as-usual and saving the U.S. economy. Now, America was debating whether or not to sacrifice her children and teachers for the same cause. Some parents were afraid that if their children had to learn at home, by computer, instead of at school, they might somehow lose their competitive edge or positions of advantage in the ultra-competitive, cutthroat, capitalist world. Some parents also feared losing the entertainment value and vicarious thrill provided by school sports competitions. Some still believed the virus was a fake conspiracy. Other parents were worried about who would watch their kids if they had to go back to work and there was no school. Various types of combinations of at distance and in-person learning were experimented with. By mid-September, many young people, mostly middle school through college age, came down with the virus and many schools that had tried in-person learning had to switch to at-distance. It was, and still is, a very difficult situation to resolve.
Worldwide, 2020 was the worst wildfire year on record. I already covered the Australian fires (scroll up to January), so now I will go to the Amazon Forest and Pantanal wetlands and grasslands in South America. For those who haven’t heard of the Pantanal (like me, until yesterday) it is an amazing biologically rich and diverse area right in the geographic center of South America, mostly in Brazil, but also partly in Bolivia and Paraguay. It is the largest tropical wetland area in the world. There are many rare and some endangered species of animals, plants, birds and other beings there, such as the Tapir, Capybaras, the endangered Pantanal Jaguar, Yacare Caimin, the Giant Anteater, and others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantanal The Amazon forest had another rough year for fires, but the Pantanal was hit much worse. The fire season in Brazil went from towards the end of May through most of September in the Amazon, and was still going in the Pantanal in early December, having moved up into the mountains there. There were 44,013 separate fires in Brazil for the season: 6,315 in the Amazon and 37,698 in the Pantanal, which is more fires in the Pantanal than in the previous six years combined. Over 30% of the Pantanal (approximately 8,000 square miles, or a little over the size of the state of New Jersey) had burned up by December, and final data on the devastation might not be available until late February or March, 2021. I have found no statistics yet on the devastation of these fires to wildlife, but, as happened in Australia and elsewhere, loss of habitat always means further loss of life (and sometimes loss of species) for those beings that cannot recover before the habitat is restored. Who knows how long that will take, as the Earth continues to warm and all habitats fall under further future endangerment? https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/fire-burns-pantanals-upland-heart-and-threatens-natures-fragile-balance/ https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03464-1
As temperatures continued to rise in the Siberian Arctic, reaching a record high of 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) in June, a massive amount of wildfires spread through the forests and peatlands in and near the Arctic Circle. Between May and early September, 18,591 fires consumed an estimated 35 million acres (14 million hectares) of those lands. Both peatlands and boreal forests are very important carbon sinks for the balance and survival of life on Earth, but peatlands store ten times more CO2 than forests, for the same volume of land. Therefore, burning peatlands release proportionally much more CO2 when they burn than forests. Together, in 2020, these Siberian forests and peatlands released a record 250 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is 35% more than the Siberian Arctic fires of the previous year. To put that into a little more of a big picture perspective, 250 mt is one quarter of a gigatonne and the world only has less than 600 gigatonnes left in its total carbon budget (see chart above, at the end of the month of April), in order to stay under the 1.5 degree C limit of warming advised by the IPCC, or less than 800 gt for the more reckless goal of 2 degrees C. The “feedback loop” factor is also very important to consider here with these annual Siberian and other Arctic Circle fires. As the Earth warms and peatlands and forests become dryer earlier each year, the fire seasons continue to grow more intense and destructive, releasing higher volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere and causing more, accelerated global warming. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02568-yhttps://www.usnews.com/news/news/articles/2020-12-08/vast-wildfires-in-siberia-linked-to-warming-arctichttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_wildfire_season
In the map below, you can observe and compare the density of the peatlands in North America, especially south of Hudson Bay, but also in other places just south of the Arctic Circle, to the peatlands in Siberia and the rest of Russia or northern Asia. There is plenty of potential for catastrophic wildfire in the American Arctic, too.
Sources: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; Hugelius, G. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA117, 20438–20446 (2020)
I will not say much about the 2020 wildfire season in the western U.S., since most of my readers will probably be more familiar with that one than with those in the other parts of the world that I just covered. (I am also getting kind of tired of writing this essay, which has grown way beyond the bounds that I had originally imagined.) Overall, the 2020 fire season was not a record year for the entire western U.S., but some individual mega-fires did set records in the states of California, Oregon, and Colorado. It should also be noted that the raging Coronavirus in the U.S. created additional complications to the situation. When tremendous amounts of smoke drifted more into heavily-populated urban areas than usual for wildfires, that inflicted respiratory problems on many people, thus causing increased vulnerability for many Covid-19 patients. Also, in California, the state’s usual reliance upon convict labor for a large portion of their wildland firefighting workforce was hampered by the severe outbreaks of Covid-19 in most California prisons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Western_United_States_wildfire_season
On September 15, the U.S. surpassed 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, with 6.7 million cases. The statistics for the entire world on that day were 29.4 million cases and 937,988 deaths.
During the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, on September 29th, Trump appealed to the assumption of white male innocence and harmlessness that I referred to earlier, and which is generally assumed by most of Trump’s followers, by refusing to condemn white supremacists, when asked to do so several times by the debate moderator, Chris Wallace. In one response, Trump said, “I would be willing to do that, but everything I’m seeing is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” In other words, Trump did not see “right wing” white supremacists as a problem. He regarded them as harmless. He also regarded them as his allies, and even implied that they were under his command, when, after denying he knew what kind of groups that Wallace was referring to, and Wallace answered him by naming the Proud Boys as an example, Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” The events that followed after election night, along with further remarks by Trump and his son, Trump Jr., who called for “Total war,” on the day after the election, if Biden were to be declared the winner, made it clear what Trump Sr. wanted the Proud Boys to “stand by” for. All of this was surely known and understood by every federal government security and defense official at that time, and probably long before then. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2020/09/29/stand-back-and-stand-by-trump-doesnt-condemn-white-supremacists-but-gives-shoutout-to-right-wing-proud-boys/?sh=33c5447b3b29https://hillreporter.com/donald-trump-jr-calls-for-total-war-over-election-results-84411
The next day, the last day of September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another Coronavirus relief and stimulus bill that they knew that the U.S. Senate would not pass. At that point in time, the House had passed three such bills since the pandemic hit and the Senate had only approved one of them, back on March 25th (and the Senate would not pass another such bill until December 21st). During the whole time between March 25th and the end of September, unemployment in the U.S. fluctuated between a high of 16% and low of about 8%. After September, the figure leveled out to about 7%, where it has remained ever since. Before the pandemic hit, unemployment in the U.S. was half what it is now, at about 3.5%. The following chart represents a slight undercount, since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has mistakenly classified many workers who were laid off work due to COVID-19-related business closures, or other Covid-19-related hardships (like catching Covid-19 or staying home to care for sick relatives) as “employed but absent from work” instead of unemployed or temporary laid off. But the two following charts are the best that I could find. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/06/30/unemployment-rate-is-higher-than-officially-recorded-more-so-for-women-and-certain-other-groups/
I could not find similar charts for worldwide unemployment that did not either have a freaking paywall, were likely inaccurate, or not updated past last summer. Probably a big reason for that is that most other nations of the world, unlike the Big Sick Four (U.S., India, Brazil, and Russia) had experienced some significant level of recovery by the end of last summer. Besides unemployment, we have had to deal with small business closures, food insecurity, evictions (even with the modest protections from eviction put into the relief bill), continued deportations of brown people, continued police executions and assaults upon black and brown people and upon left-leaning protesters of all colors, homelessness, diseases other than Covid-19 and injuries going untreated due to overwhelmed hospitals and fear of leaving home for treatment, increased right wing terrorism, various climate-related disasters, continuing toxic industrial pollution, along with increased psychological stress, due to the entire mess and to the inability of most humans to identify and resolve the problem.
What usually goes overlooked and rarely discussed, when considering topics related to poverty, economic inequality, or even economic system change, is the potential impact on the climate crisis if most proposed “solutions” are implemented. Specifically, people fail to consider what “economic justice,” or the much-needed uplifting of the economic conditions of the world’s poor humans, thus significantly increasing most humans’ ability to purchase and consume more industrial products, while increasing industrial CO2 and toxicity output, would do to the planet, without a simultaneous drastic reduction of the income, consumption, and production of the world’s over-consuming human minority. If we really want to get to “net-zero” CO2 emissions by 2030 or `35, as the scientific consensus now says we must (see charts above, under April), we have to reduce overall emissions by 7.5% each year, from now until 2030. Each year that we fail to do so, that percentage will have to be set proportionately higher for the remaining years of this decade! The final statistics for the first year of the decade have not come in yet, but preliminary reports show that, even though we got off to a great start during the initial peak of the pandemic (8% reduction), things drifted way south when people ended shutdowns, opened up economies or just recklessly demonstrated how much they don’t care about actually ending the pandemic. (The way that many people “think” these days is that when you want to get rid of a problem you just have to deny that it exists.) What the old-time socialists and various communitarians used to refer to as an “economic levelling” will not be enough of a solution, without an overall net reduction of nearly all industrial economic activities. That is what is referred to in circles where this vital reality is actually openly discussed, as economic “de-growth,” https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/mindless-growth-robust-scientific-case-for-degrowth-is-stronger-every-day-1.4011495?fbclid=IwAR2iKnTmVHP40Rs6ykZUceRhEx_ZCqsjRGIf5LgmJsJTRquTv1tLKopvyf4https://www.jasonhickel.org/blog/2017/11/22/why-branko-milanovic-is-wrong-about-degrowth-ii
which is an essentially forbidden and censored topic in mainstream media and government circles. Ten years from now, people everywhere will probably be saying, “How come nobody ever told us about this?”
The FBI found out about a right-wing militia plot to kidnap Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and then hold a mock trial for her, followed by a real execution. Using infiltrators and surveillance, they closed in on them and arrested 13 men on October 8th. The men had been motivated to do so ever since Governor Whitmer ordered some standard Covid-19 safety measures back in April, like wearing masks in public, temporarily closing some non-essential businesses and all schools, and encouraging people to stay home, if possible. They were also inspired in their wretched plot by several personal attacks that Donald Trump made against the governor during the spring and summer. Actually, Trump’s animus against Gov. Whitmer can probably be traced back to when she gave the official Democratic Response to Trump’s State of the Union Address on February 4th. Around that same time in February, Whitmer also began to show much more leadership in her state in taking the pandemic much more seriously and organizing aggressive action to protect her citizens than Trump was doing at the national level. Trump did not declare the pandemic a national emergency until March 13th, three days after Whitmer had already done so for the state of Michigan. Whitmer criticized Trump for dumping all responsibility for handling the pandemic crisis on the states and doing nothing at the federal level. They exchanged criticisms through the media for the next few days, and Trump has attacked her continuously ever since. In addition to all that, I am sure that Trump was not pleased that Whitmer was also the national co-chair for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
The presidential election and its horrific aftermath went as expected. We all got to reap what the failures of the American political power structure—the corporate lobbyist-owned two party system that got Donald Trump elected in the first place, back in 2016—had sown. In a society and culture in which beliefs are more important than facts, where unacceptable truths can be easily made to disappear through denial, and, by ancient tradition, the accumulation and preservation of money and power is always justified by any means that can be hidden or denied, the natural consequences of the error of those ways could be seen clearly by all. Lies piled on top of more lies, wicked webs more tightly woven, as so many people labored so hard to deceive themselves and others. Will this be the new customary aftermath of most future elections in the U.S. before the final collapse of the empire–one side celebrating and dancing in the streets while the losing side screams and cries in uncontrollable grief and anger, refusing to ever accept the results because they believed that they could never lose or possibly ever be wrong? Part of the problem of course is the delusion that there are many more people who think like ourselves than there really are, due to increasingly sophisticated, high tech surveillance-based, targeted media advertising and selective social networking. A more successful method of divide-and-conquer has never been created (with the possible exception of racial identity theory), nor did it even enter the dreams of the corporate elites, just 60 or 70 years ago, that their subjects could be so easily controllable, constantly deflected from seeing the real culprits as they keep looking at their so-called “enemies” on the other side. We now live in a society where difference of opinion is considered “treason” and punishable by death, in the minds of many, and few people have the ability to carefully dissect and expose a fallacious, illogical argument. It is even rare to find people who can write complete sentences, with all the words spelled out correctly and no use of newly-devised acronyms or abbreviations. To “win” an argument, one just has to shout the loudest, or use ALL CAPS and extra exclamation marks when one tries to write, and whoever gets the most “likes” and followers wins. But, in the world of facts, natural laws, and logical consequences, a mass delusion is still a delusion, no matter how large the mass. Mother Nature, our source of real, inter-connected life, will ultimately have the last word, and all human delusions will be lost in oblivion. (More on this in the next section, December.)
Graphic courtesy of The Weather Channel, November 16, 2020
Late season Hurricane Iota was the final and strongest hurricane of the record-breaking 2020 Hurricane season (scroll back up to August for more details on the whole season). Many people in Nicaragua and Honduras lost loved ones and homes.
Globally, 2020 was a year of many protests and uprisings in the streets. There was much for people to be unhappy about, and many things to be deeply frightened of and extremely angry about, as well. If you would like to skim through the wide variety of troubling issues that people were alarmed about all over the world in 2020 (and the three years before that), I found this very interesting website that has a large volume of compiled data on that in a user-friendly, interactive format. It is called the “Global Protest Tracker” and it was developed and is maintained and updated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: https://carnegieendowment.org/publications/interactive/protest-tracker If you only want to view the information on protests in 2020 (or one of the other particular years) just click on “Start Date” at the top of the third column and scroll down. I counted 84 separate protest categories listed for 2020. For each category event, such as the police brutality protests in the U.S., they give the duration length of the protests (days, weeks, months, etc.), but they don’t break it down into each individual protest event in each particular city. Some protest events only happened for one day, in one city, and in such cases the particular city is usually given. I also found a Wikipedia page on worldwide protests exclusively related to the Coronavirus pandemic, usually as a complaint or criticism of how their particular government (local and national) was handling the crisis. There were all kinds of issues, from too many restrictions to not enough care available, to “no care centers so close to our homes,” and many more. Here is an interesting example from Bulgaria: “On 30 March 2020 The Bulgarian Health Ministry issued an order that made not wearing a face mask in public punishable by law, at a time when no masks were available for purchasing in the country. After strong public unrest, the order was recalled on the following day.” There are so many protests listed on that page, it makes me think that the other website I mentioned probably missed quite a few. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_over_responses_to_the_COVID-19_pandemic#United_States
Being a longtime veteran of street protests myself, from an anti-war protest in 1966 to the solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock street protests, fifty years later, and many others in-between those, I have often wondered about how effective our uprisings were. I know that much good came out of all of that and there have been many positive changes, but, looking at the state of the world today and the enormity and urgency of what remains to be done, I wonder what better, more effective paths to actually getting to the root of the problems can we engage ourselves in now? I have observed, throughout my lifetime, people picking away at the symptoms of the human societal disease, but not really dealing with the source or root issues (kind of like popping zits but never changing one’s diet). Dealing with the economic and cultural roots of our dilemma, which always implies a need for drastic change in social structure and many of our customary habits and comfort zones, is just not somewhere that most people want to go. Historically, the only things that take people there are the forces of politics (including laws, police and militaries) and the forces of nature (disasters and scarcity). Seldom do human societies make necessary, drastic, structural change willingly and democratically, even though most of us would prefer that to sudden, unplanned, chaotic upheaval. But the social and economic structure that we know as “normal” is not sustainable for Earth’s living natural systems that all life, including ours, depends upon, so the empire will end soon and be replaced by something, one way or another, with our cooperation, or not. What is it about us and our circumstances that prevents us from going where we would really rather be, and democratically, cooperatively creating the types of societies or local communities that we would really rather live in? I have written about this and asked these questions of other people pretty often over the last decade or so, but not many people are willing to engage with this. https://learningearthways.net/2016/01/01/the-problem-with-money-2/ (There are links to several other peoples’ writings on that topic in the essay and on the blog.) file:///C:/Users/George%20Price/Downloads/MoneyDegrowth18082016.pdf
For some reason, possibly, in part, as a way to save the Republican Party from the possible impacts of the insurrection that everybody in high places must have seen coming, the Senate finally approved a version of a Coronavirus relief bill previously passed by the House, on December 27th. I won’t talk much about the events of January 6, 2021 now, even though 2020 was still going then on some of the human calendars of the world, but since it is all a continuum, I will say a few words about what led to that insurrection. I don’t think that, especially by mid-December, when the Electoral College finalized the November election, the continuing Trump Cult protests against the counting of votes was really about actually trying to reverse the results of the presidential election any more, if that ever was what the protests were really intended to do (except, maybe in the mysterious mind of Trump himself). I surely don’t think the Republican Party establishment officials were willing to risk the relatively good results that they achieved in many of the down-ballot elections (Georgia excepted) by nullifying the whole election and having to have the votes either recounted again (with everybody watching) or an entirely new election at a time when Trump approval and Republican Party approval was sinking. The fix that the Republicans were in by mid-December was connected to the deep divisions and mass delusions I referred to earlier. Because the Trump Cult base of the Republican Party is now (and has long been) the majority of their party (having replaced the old Reagan Trickle Down Theory Cult base), the Republican politicians are now forced to appeal to the Trump base, especially as they prepare for the next round of primary elections (which starts for both parties immediately after the general elections, since campaigning, keeping their jobs, and staying on the corporate lobbyist gravy train is the primary interest and most common form of actual work done by probably at least 97% of everybody in Congress). Therefore, the Republican politicians must now cavort in the looney bin of their base for the primary campaigns, and save any modicum of rational, fact-based human discourse that they still have left for the generals, when they are running against Democrats. So, if promoting insurrectionist conspiracies to keep on the good side of the base is what the situation seems to call for, that is what they will do. Trump himself, though, who has no allegiance to the Republicans or any political party, or anyone other than himself, had his own reasons for continuing with the insurrectionist movement. When it becomes apparent to most Republicans that they can no longer keep power through democratic, electoral processes, especially if the Trump Cult splits off and forms a third party (why are all of the other parties besides the two majors called “third parties”—did people forget how to count past the number three?), violent overthrow of the government—at all levels, federal, state, and county—will be their only resort. The Trump Cult might already believe that. At that point, the rest of the Republicans will have to decide which other party they will turn to. The Democrats, in both houses of Congress, now have time to decide if they really have to actually do some things that are needed for the working class majority, and also take climate change and equality issues—including economic inequality—seriously, or just relax, assured that the woes now facing the Republican party will be severe enough to keep themselves in power while they continue to do next to nothing to create real, progressive change (as Joe Biden promised the world back during their primary season, when he said, “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected.). https://www.salon.com/2019/06/19/joe-biden-to-rich-donors-nothing-would-fundamentally-change-if-hes-elected/ Unfortunately (in terms of the potential suffering and bloodshed), a sudden mass re-awakening to relative sanity, concern for the common good of all, or even national unity seems much less likely to occur. The other thing about “normal” is it never comes back.
Back to the fate of the innocents in 2020. The following article provides us a detailed list of 164 species of plants and animals that scientists declared to have become extinct, or likely extinct, during the year: https://www.ecowatch.com/species-extinct-in-2020-2649768697.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2 Extinction statistics are always an undercount because there are so many unknown, not-yet-discovered species in some remote corners of the world. Also, there are not enough scientists who specialize in counting species populations out in the field to keep up with everything. On December 2nd, United Nations Inspector General, António Guterres, gave a heartfelt, stirring speech to the world in which he said, “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes … Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.” Can we? We won’t know the answer to that unless we honestly give everything that we can, or that we need to, to making the necessary changes. Notice that Guterres said “solve it,” not just “slow the collapse down a bit.” Not just back off a little on the accelerator and gently tap on the brakes. The destructive institutions, actions, and habits must come to a complete stop, if Earth’s—meaning OUR—life systems are to have a chance to recover. That will also require some deep change in our normal ways of thinking about the place of humans and role of humans in the natural world, among other things. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/02/humanity-is-waging-war-on-nature-says-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres
It is with good reason that we don’t spend that much of our driving time looking back in our rearview mirrors. Our focus, while on our journeys, rightly should be more on looking forward. Yet, as both a long-time driver and a retired academic historian, I know that there is some great value to occasionally looking backward. When driving a car, that value is mainly safety, and so it also is—safety for all life—as we make our journey together through the current, unprecedented time of crisis. Another value to looking backward is that we can learn from what we, as a species, probably did wrong, as well as to learn from what we used to do right, some important lessons that we can apply to our future, as either preventers of global collapse or as the few who might possibly survive it.
This short article is a reproduction of something that was published about a year and a half ago by Deep Green Resistance, that I wrote in response to one of their articles. Since I still come across people who seem to equate all cultivation of food or medicine crops with commercial, or other unsustainable “agriculture,” I decided to republish the article here. I also included the links to the original articles.
Indigenous Horticulture: A Response to “Civilization Reduces Quality of Life” by Jason Godesky
Editor’s Note: the following was originally posted as a comment on a recent article we shared entitled “Civilization Reduces Quality of Life.” We thought it was an insightful discussion of indigenous horticulture, and have received permission to republish it here. Image: Wild Rice by Hellebardius, CC BY NC SA 2.0.
By George Price
Ever since about the time of the advent of Daniel Quinn’s novel, “Ishmael” (back in the `90s), indigenous cultivators of food crops, such as myself, have had to contend with the allegation that the cultivation of food crops, no matter how sustainably practiced, was the beginning of the grand decline and fall of our species. I realize that not every fan of Quinn’s work or every anti-civilization activist thinks that way, but the problem occurs when people fail to adequately define “agriculture” and distinguish that from sustainable traditional indigenous cultivation practices.
I define “agriculture” as the cultivation of food crops for a market economy, or for money, which is coupled with the commodification of and disrespect for the natural world. That practice, along with the invention of money itself and the failure of some early societies to maintain population levels that were consistent with the carrying capacities of their homelands, were the real culprits. Traditional first peoples would avoid over-population by several methods, including the prayerful dividing and relocation of bands within tribes in ways that would adjust for that, along with other population-regulating practices. Agriculture and money were the roots of empire and colonialism, and both were the result of unsustainable, disrespectful relationships with homeland, leading to dependence on trade and/or “conquest.”
The traditional ways of indigenous cultivation more properly fit the definitions of the terms “horticulture,” “permaculture,” and “polyculture.” What those ways of cultivation have in common is that they were done for personal and community subsistence, only as needed, and in combination with sustainable practices of foraging. Whether foraging wild foods or cultivating foods that were originally found in the wild, those activities were/are done in a spiritual attitude of respect and thanksgiving toward the natural world (visible and invisible), and with a commitment to preserve natural ecological systems (1).
Our traditional practices involve working in sync with the natural world, helping to spread more of the wild-gathered foods into more of their traditional habitats. One example of that would be the Anishinabe practice of planting rice in new wetland areas created by beaver or, my people, the Wampanoags of Massachusetts, doing something very similar with wild cranberries. Corn was originally grown by many first peoples in habitats where corn’s wild grain cousins also occurred naturally. It should also be noted that many so-called “sedentary” or village-making tribes, should more accurately be defined as semi-sedentary, due to seasonal, cyclical movement of the people for the continuation of foraging practices.
Other than the omission of those distinctions, I am in general agreement with your analysis of the plague called “civilization.” I am also very pleased to see somebody else cite and quote Richard Lee, Marshall Sahlins and Walter Ong.
About the author
George Price was born in 1951 and is descended from indigenous peoples of America (Wampanoag, Massachuset, and Choctaw), Africa (tribes unknown), Scotland, England, and France. He began organic gardening and learning about natural wild foods and medicines in 1970. He lives on five acres on the Flathead Indian Reservation, north of Missoula, Montana, and works as a teacher and historian. (2)
(1) If I were to re-write this, I would add the phrase, “and local biodiversity” at this point in this sentence.
(2) I would also change the end of that short bio statement to, “worked as a teacher and historian before retiring in 2018 to focus on his other work in Earth protection, regenerative farming, and food sovereignty.”
This is a pretty complete video tour of our farm, LifeGiving Farm, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, near Dixon, Montana and the National Bison Range. I decided to do this video because we couldn’t do our usual in-person tours this summer, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The entire video came out to be about 96 minutes long, so I had to divide it into four segments for the files to be small enough to upload onto the internet. It works best to watch the segments in their numerical order.