Against the Death Cult: We Must Not Let Ruthless Ideologues Destroy the Climate and Kill Us All

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Agriculture

The Niger delta is burning. The oil companies plumbing the river basin of its black gold have found an ingenious way of dealing with the natural gas they consider a waste by-product of the extraction process. Capturing the gas would be costly, inefficient – so instead, they flare it off. Across the delta, towers of flame burn day and night, some of them stretching ten storeys into the sky.

Gas flaring was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984 – but still, two million people live within four kilometres of a flare site, at risk of the cancers, neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems linked to the pollutants released into the air. The soil is hotter, and crop yields have dwindled; “You plant, and before you know it, everything is dead”. When the rains come, they are black. Oil spills spew from the pipelines of Shell and ENI, the biggest operators in the area. Shell has reported 17.5 million litres lost since 2011; Amnesty International say that’s likely a hefty underestimate. The spills have poisoned drinking water, and destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen who once combed the delta. 

We are over the brink. People have already lost their lives to hurricanes and bush fires and flooding, to toxins and crop failures – all disasters rooted in fossil-fuel dependent extractive capitalism, bankrolled by a deregulated financial sector. People continue to lose their lives. Global temperatures soar, and a monstrous future slouches towards us from the ecocidal imaginations of the handful of humans directly invested in a doctrine of global annihilation. Now, the death drive built into the heart of our economy reveals itself in ever more undeniable terms; the skull is showing through the skin. 

Scientists at ExxonMobil confirmed the truth of climate change in the 1980s, at the very latest. Since then, Exxon and its fellow fossil fuel companies have spent decades sponsoring climate change denial and blocking efforts to legislate against apocalypse. Under their auspices, newspapers and broadcasters and politicians revelled in a vicious subterfuge disguised as pious gnosticism; asking how we can know for sure that climate change is caused by human activity. In recent years, this strategy has buckled under the weight of public outrage and scientific proof.

The science is clear: only an ambitious, rapid overhaul of the fundaments of our economy gives us hope of survival. And that hope is tantalisingly within our grasp. We have the technology, and we have the financial capacity; all that’s missing is the political will to give those solutions heft, muscle and cold hard cash.

Now, culprit companies are suddenly flouting their green credentials to shore up their position as custodians of the future. Shell Oil has made a big song and dance about its investments in green technology. Goldman Sachs has funded research into how to make cities “resilient to climate change”. These are little more than attempts to seduce and cajole worried publics and skittish investors. Still these companies hoard over-valued assets, continue ploughing resources into carbon-heavy industries, show no signs of leaving enough fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the breakdown of the climate, the potential collapse of civilisation and the extinction of life on earth. Negotiators were banned from mentioning climate change in recent UK-US trade talks. the UK government has subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 10bn in a decade, and its legislators continue to take its lobby money in return. They defend their right to starve out and flood and burn chunks of human existence – and make money doing it. 

We are being held hostage by a cabal of ruthless ideologues whose only loyalty is to a doctrine of global death. Their success thrives on silence, isolation, manipulation, denial. They are united in their opposition to reality, in their determination to hunt down or hound out real alternatives that threaten their mortal stranglehold on power. All other doctrines are heresy, and their preachers envoys of a sinister delusion. They are unique guardians of a dark and dazzling reality.

If this took place among a handful of hippies beckoning oblivion from the heat haze of a california desert we would call it is: a death cult. Instead, it is orchestrated from sumptuous glass towers, from the velvet inner chambers of parliament – so we call it business as usual. 

To these science-backed suggestions that economic alternatives are possible – even urgent, necessary, beautiful – they react with vitriol and incredulity. Saving the world may sound appealing, but it clashes intolerably with the cultish diktat: ‘There Is No Alternative”. Partisans of the Green New Deal like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez are dismissed at best as well-meaning dreamers or childish hysterics, and, at worst, nightmarish envoys of backdoor totalitarianism. Indeed, grassroots activists have been murdered for organising against big polluters. The political allegiances are clear: Defending life is foolish. Annihilation is inevitable. We have only to accept it graciously, to walk into its arms.

Rightwing politicians barter casually about the difference between a decarbonisation target of 2030, 2045, 2050, 2060 as a matter of messaging and electoral success. As though that difference were not cashed out in millions of deaths. Such differences slide off the sunny, addled mind of the cultist, for whom life and death are indistinguishable. 

A chosen few will be spared; the golden ones who walk in the light. As the asset-stripping and plundering continues apace, so the market for luxury disaster insurance packages has grown, with companies offering high-tech flood defences, private firefighters, private security to guard against mobs of looters. Theirs is a gilded world where disaster can never truly happen to them – because it never truly has. That no insurance policy in the world will provide them with breathable air or sustainable agriculture is a matter for the others, the ghosts, the un-living, those whose existence never really registered. Us.   

Broadcasters tried to haul Boris Johnson before the court of the living on Thursday night for the climate change debate, to account for Conservative policy proposals which present a 50% risk of tipping the world into irreversible, runaway climate breakdown, to account for his fossil fuel backers. He responded by threatening them with censure and legal action. Cult leaders can tolerate no scrutiny of their fragile world picture, no challenge to their power. 

We can break the stranglehold, and commit the death cultists to the bleak annals of history where they belong. It is time to choose only those who have chosen life.   

Eleanor Penny is a writer and a regular contributor to Novara Media. 

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Trustworthy and chill: Alex Trebek, we’re rooting for you

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(CNN)Since first hearing in March that Alex Trebek was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, we’ve been bracing ourselves for the unthinkable: That somebody other than Trebek would come onto the set of “Jeopardy!” to chat up nervous contestants and punctuate each incorrect answer — sorry, Alex, I meant, “question” — with gentle, perfunctory regret.

Seriously, who else could you even imagine saying something like, “No, I’m sorry. ‘What is the placebo effect?’ is what we were after,” with Trebek’s offhand graciousness and peerless timing? Generations of schoolchildren have grown, married and matriculated into everyday “Jeopardy!” viewers with kids of their own since Trebek assumed hosting duties about 35 years and 8,000 — 8,000! — episodes ago. Living without his televised presence would be something like living without television itself.
He’s been up front with his struggles with the disease, discussing it with tactful candor and uncanny ease. The most trusted man in television since Walter Cronkite made you believe him when he said he would keep fighting and stay on the job until he was no longer able.
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      Alex Trebek resumes chemotherapy treatment

    So, you also have to believe Trebek when he hinted to an interviewer from his native Canada last Friday that the time may be fast approaching when he can no longer carry on his hosting duties. “I will keep doing it as long as my skills do not diminish,” he told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme. “And they have started to diminish.”
    No timetable, no date, no final “Final Jeopardy” is on anybody’s immediate schedule, including Trebek’s. But he wouldn’t be implying an impending conclusion unless he suspected he had to. And he’s already told us that he soon faces another round of chemotherapy.
    That he had carried on for months after his earlier announcement seemed almost like a reprieve for the rest of us, which makes this new news all the more sobering: he’s been so reliable, so persistently and consistently there for us since the Reagan administration that it would be as though we no longer had indoor plumbing or sunlight not to have him around every afternoon or evening.
    His style, as with so many people who have lasted so long on television, is fretless, discreet and — befitting a “cool” medium — what more contemporary sensibilities would label, “totally chill.”
    Trustworthy and chill: Alex Trebek

      Why Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ are so special

    As with “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson and “60 Minutes” newsman Mike Wallace, two iconic TV figures with earlier gigs as game-show hosts, Trebek calls attention to himself by underplaying everything that has nothing to do with the job at hand.
    The show will go on, one is certain.
    But who else could do what he does? Trebek has ideas on possible successors. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine any of them seamlessly doing the kind of traffic-control duties entailed in guiding a “Jeopardy!” episode home in 30 minutes.
      But, to revive a question posed by the title of Carson’s long-forgotten TV quiz show, whom would we trust in the same way we trust Trebek?
      That’s correct, as Trebek would say. We said, “trust.” Not “trusted.” It’s not over until he says it is. Then what? Now there’s an answer we’re not yet prepared for in the form of a question.

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      A biker group’s kindness, a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey

      A biker group's kindness

      (CNN)Hey morning people, I have a question: Um, how do you do it? How do you start the day with smiles and birdsong and a piping hot cup of coffee and not, you know, curse words and five alarm snoozes? My theory is, morning people are born and not made. However, experts say there are some things you can do to kickstart your mushy morning brain: Splash some cold water on your face, caffeinate slowly, make sure to get a little sunshine as soon as possible and, if you can, try to get outside for a brisk walk. My suggestion? Wake up at noon and avoid mornings altogether! Oh, if only.

      Get going with some of our most popular good news stories of the week
      a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
      What goes around comes around
        Buckle up, because this one’s a great ride: In September 2018, Daryn Sturch and her daughter Bryanne came across a bad accident involving several motorcyclists with the Milwaukee Iron Biker Group. Sturch is a nurse in Chili, Indiana, and obviously felt compelled to stop and treat them. Some of the bikers were critically injured, and after she left the scene Sturch reached out to the group on Facebook to check up on them. To her relief, all of the injured bikers survived. The unfortunate incident kicked off a nice little friendship. Sturch says some of the bikers would check in occasionally on Facebook and offer her support or a kind word. Fast forward to this month: Sturch’s daughter Bryanne had planned a lemonade stand, but it got rained out. Some of Sturch’s biker friends suggested she reschedule for the next week, when the group would be in town. When the day of the lemonade stand came, Sturch and her family were overwhelmed: 30 bikers showed up to support Bryanne, including some Sturch had treated at the accident. Needless to say, it was definitely a waterproof mascara kind of day. “I think it’s a perfect example of how just because you don’t look the same way or dress the same way or have the same hobbies or interests doesn’t mean we don’t have the same core values inside us,” Sturch said. “We shouldn’t make assumptions about people, we should just love each other.”
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        A once-in-a-Millennium moment
        When a group of special-needs adults in Louisville, Kentucky, made a video of themselves lip-syncing to a Backstreet Boys song, their infectious joy captured the hearts of the internet. That alone is Good Stuff worthy, but then something even cooler happened: The Backstreet Boys saw the video, too, and arranged to meet the group before a tour stop in Louisville. When the big day came, 12 members of the group attended the concert and spent time with the boy band singing, taking photos and rocking out to a BSB dance party. Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson even recorded a heartfelt video message for the performers. “The passion, the joy, the soul that you put in that video was inspiring,” he said.
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        I’m gonna stop talking now and just show you another amazing photo from their meet and greet, because that’s where the real story is.
        A biker group's kindness
        This takes the cake
        An officer with a cake baking hobby helped put together a magical birthday for a 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Now that’s multi-talented! Lt. Brandy Forman of the Smyrna Police Department volunteers with a nonprofit, Icing Smiles, that provides custom cakes for families with ill children. The Clinner family had requested a cake for their son, Tye, who was turning 13 and was about to embark on a special trip to Disney World. Tye has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or sit up on his own, but his mom says he lights up any time someone mentions anything Disney. After hearing his story, Forman told CNN she knew she could help with “way more than a cake.” Her department coordinated a surprise party for Tye complete with pizza, wings and his own officer shirt. They even invited the community to join in, and a few other Atlanta-area police departments brought some police cars around for local children to check out during the celebration. Oh, and of course, the cake was gorgeous. “If you have the opportunity to do something good for someone else, do it,” Forman said.

        Raise a glass to…

        a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
        Kodi Lee, the newly-crowned winner of Season 14 of America’s Got Talent! Lee, 22, is a gifted singer and pianist who blew the judges away from the very start with his rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” He’s blind and has autism, and his mom says being able to express himself musically has helped him deal with a world that is often hard on people with disabilities. “Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world,” she said. “Because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everyone else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music.”

        A bright idea

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        We have a double dose of Disney this week! The big Mouse has rolled out the Disney Bedtime Hotline again for a limited time. The phone service allows kids to receive a special bedtime message from their favorite Disney character (with help from their parents, of course). It goes like this: The characters detail their day, talk about how ready they are for bedtime, then playfully suggest the child on the phone get ready for bed, too. So, if your best Serious Parent voice can’t get them under the covers, maybe Anna and Elsa can give a much-needed assist. No long-distance fees to Arendelle required!

        You gotta see this

        us
        A lost toy monkey got the royal treatment at Buckingham Palace recently, and there are photos to prove it! Savannah Hart, a 5-year-old student at Woodside Preschool in south Australia, accidentally forgot Harriet, one of her school’s traveling stuffed monkeys, during a tour of the palace. (Harriet is an excellent monkey name, by the way.) Once she was back home, Savannah and her preschool classmates sent a letter asking for Harriet’s safe return. Sure enough, the preschool heard via email that Buckingham Palace staff had found the toy monkey. They said she had been busy eating scones and promised to send her back after photographing her at work around the palace. Okay, Harriet HAS to be the most interesting stuffed monkey in the world now.

        Heroes among us

        A biker group's kindness
        “No charge for this lady under any circumstances.” That was a note left by plumber James Anderson on a bill for a 91-year-old woman with leukemia who needed her boiler replaced. Anderson says the woman, who is receiving palliative care, will have round-the-clock plumbing help if she needs it, and free services for life. Anderson of Burnley, Lancashire turned his plumbing business, DEPHER, into a community project for vulnerable people after he saw an elderly man being “manipulated” by another engineer in the area. Since then, he’s helped thousands of people with their plumbing needs at a reduced or waived cost — even when the work leaves him with a loss. “We need to do something more to help the people who need it most,” Anderson said. The daughter of the 91-year-old woman he helped described Anderson as an “angel dressed as a plumber,” which is just another way of saying he’s a straight-up hero.

        Wanna get away?

        a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
        Looking for your next big trip in 2020? Why not Africa? CNN Travel has put together 30 of the continent’s most breathtaking destinations, any of which could easily reach trip-of-a-lifetime status. Of all the scenic views, this one from the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos, Nigeria, really speaks to me. What’s just beyond this lush, curving boardwalk path? Probably more lush, curving boardwalk path, and we’re totally okay with that.

        Tell us something good

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        Macon, GA
        After seeing the destruction Hurricane Dorian wrought on the Bahamas, Rikki Kahley turned her bachelorette party to Nassau into a relief trip. Originally, the 24-year-old was going to cancel and even offered to donate the group’s hotel rooms to local families in need but was moved when the resort’s receptionist got emotional about how much tourism business the area was losing. So Kahley and her sister Chloe put out a call for donations and started collecting donated baby wipes, diapers, food, clothes, toys, books and water filtration tools. By the time they boarded the flight to the Bahamas, they had 37 suitcases full of supplies. (Delta Air Lines waived the extra baggage fees.) “Our experience was great. We enjoyed all the Bahamian people we encountered, heard lots of stories about their families and how the hurricane impacted them,” Kahley said.

        Impact your world

        Today is World Gratitude Day! I am grateful for every single person in our Good Stuff family, and for all of the wonderfully kind and insightful notes you send week after week. You are appreciated more than you know. If you want to up the gratitude in your life, here are three easy rituals that can have you feeling more thankful and ready to take on life’s, well, less gratitude-inspiring tasks.

        Shameless animal video

          There’s always time for cute animal videos. That time is now.
          All animals deserve to be petted! Unless they really don’t want to be, of course. But you’d be surprised at how many un-cuddly species are actually just lovebugs in disguise. This baby croc is so happy to get chin scratches he’s making little laser sounds of gratitude. Who could ever say no to that? (Click here to view)

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