Monday, January 4, 2016
We’re Beginning to Spend Billions towards Spending Trillions
I’m obviously fascinated by the new-found American proclivity to deny, obfuscate, rationalize/categorize, react rather than preplan, and sloganize the most severe problems we face. If you can isolate a horrific disaster as God’s will or nature’s random (or even cyclical patterned) inclination, then there is and was nothing you can or could do about it. If you can attribute horrific terror-driven militarism to ethnic, religious and cultural biases, you can paint over complex problems with a simplistic stroke of a unicolored paintbrush. Where “leaders” find resonance between glib-sounding solutions that really fail to address the issues before us, where inducing and catering to fear makes the unthinking follow like sheep, are these politicos leaders or poll-watching demagogue “followers”? Are they the solution or a big part of the problem?
There a more than a few issues associated with such behaviors. First and foremost, they just plain do not solve the underlying problems. In fact, by failing to plan and accept what really is, it is vastly more probable that the issues will grow in intensity and magnitude, sometimes threatening the very society that failed timely to prepare or reacted with intense inadequacy. The search for simplistic solutions or the practice of denial also generates polarization between those who have to convince themselves that they are correct through intense commitment to rather obviously incorrect ideologies versus those who understand the depth of the impact of inaction.
Further, the belief that a society can maintain economic global advantage while cutting investments in education (or just plain making higher education unaffordable), infrastructure and basic research is simply insane. Do we really believe that those other nations who are making such investments in a competitive global universe will just lie down and let us continue to dominate? Seriously? We’re still living on the investments of past generations while not willing to make the same commitment to our children. You don’t remain great by repeating the words, “We are great” without parallel actions supporting that statement.
Making these proclivities infinitely more problematical is the political practice of tying ineffective emotional slogans that cater to fear and ignorance – essentials in reaching those who passionately believe that solutions rest within such simplistic “truths” – with the selfish goals of special economic interests seeking a playing field heavily tilted towards their incumbent wealth… to the point where these two elements appear to be one and the same. The practice cannot, obviously, ever work, and in the long run, even those special interests will be mired in an economic instability in which their fondest goals vaporize in a society that just plain doesn’t work. Nature, human nature and Malthusian realities are what they are. They just don’t care what the slogans and denial might be. Slogans are mere puffs of air against intensive forces that are roiling and raging across our planet. Words and mythology are irrelevant to such power.
We have folks who believe that we cannot assume man’s contributions to climate change, that toxic religiosity (not factoring our destabilizing intervention) is alone responsible for so much terrorism, and that military might and focus on growth as our nation’s leading driver are priorities above all else.
Although El Niño, a natural cyclical pattern, continues building in the Pacific, it has not yet really fully descended on us as it has in parts of Europe (like the unexpected flooding in England). When it does, and it has been amplified by a record high oceanic temperature level, it will come ashore in the West with destructive power that will cost us billions.
The harshest reality is there is no possible level of “growth” to our economy – measured in hard dollars – that will begin the match the cost of the problems we are letting “grow” without meaningful pushback, because we have lied to ourselves for so long that there is nothing we can do about it. Growth, when measured against the offsetting costs of not dealing with our issues (or putting them into categories where “disaster” costs are kept outside all the relevant economic growth metrics) is not a real measurement.
We know climate change is a combination of natural events, from solar patterns to natural cycles to made-released greenhouse gasses. Even as Congressional leaders express doubts as to the latter, that the natural patterns will soon reverse themselves, the U.S. military (along with the vast, vast majority of the global scientific community) is firmly committed to the supposition that climate change is bad and likely to get worse without any foreseeable reversal, reflected in their procurement, training and preparations. They cannot afford to live on the validity of rather unsustainable mythology. The Army Corp of Engineers cannot slogan away flooding and federal infrastructure (e.g., dams, levees, etc.) damage that comes from lack of preparation.
Just look at the recent weather reports, where El Niño hasn’t really yet made its mark, compared to both the recent and distant past, taking into consideration every cyclical pattern we know about. Look at water and surface temperatures within an historical context. We’re facing the hottest years in recorded history. Precipitation that should be coming down as snow at this time of year is falling instead as torrential rain. Flooding, droughts and fires are occurring at levels and durations we’ve never seen before. A few samples from the recent headlines.
“Swollen rivers in the U.S. Midwest and other regions brought flood warnings for over 12 million Americans on [December 30th] as scores of buildings were submerged after days of intense rain in which 24 people have died.
“Two rivers west of St. Louis crested at historic levels, flooding local towns, disabling sewer plants and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.
“Other major rivers including the Mississippi are expected to reach record highs as flood waters rush toward the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said.
“The flooding has closed many roads and parts of Interstate 44, a major artery running from west Texas to St. Louis. It poses a threat to livestock and crops in farm areas stretching from Illinois to Louisiana.
“Water rose to the rooftops of homes and businesses in Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon called the flooding ‘historic and dangerous.’ Nixon spoke with President Barack Obama on Wednesday and received a pledge of federal support.
“About 300 people in Valley Park, Missouri, west of St. Louis, were evacuated in case a levee is breached on the Meramec River, said Chief Rick Wilken of the Valley Park Fire District. Residents in West Alton and Arnold, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and the town of Pacific have also been evacuated…
“The Mississippi River, the third longest river in North America, is expected to crest … at Thebes, Illinois, at 47.5 feet, more than a foot and a half (46 cm) above the 1995 record, according to the National Weather Service… Flood warnings were issued from eastern Oklahoma into southeastern Kansas, southern Missouri, central Illinois and parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Florida panhandle.” AOL.com, December 30th. At other parts of the Mississippi, the river is rising even above that level.
Throw in a few tornados, intense swirls that grow when hotter air means colder flows, the sustained drought in the Western states where even now fires have broken out, and you get billions and billions of dollars of losses from the here and now, without calculating the costs of recent and expected future disasters. With hundreds of U.S. rivers at or well-above flood levels, whole towns are underwater. Tell me exactly how all of these costs are included in our developed “growth” statistics. Let me tell you: these hard dollar losses are not included. We just continue to lie to ourselves by separating the growth numbers we want to see from costs we want to pretend are simply natural and uncontrollable events.
So it seems that those “growth” proponents are really costing us billions, eventually trillions, by neither investing in our future nor dealing effectively with global warming policies. That the jobs they are creating pay less, provide fewer benefits and offer fewer advancement opportunities aren’t measured either. So let’s elect a president and legislative leaders that will continue this pattern of lying to ourselves, basing decisions on false mythology and failing to believe enough in America and her people to invest in ourselves! We will pay every darned dollar of loss such ineffective attention causes.
I’m Peter Dekom, and nature really doesn’t care what we do; she started with a lot less and can do it again… with or without us.