[This commentary originally appeared as a series of tweets in response to the New York Times opinion piece on “The End of California.” Available at the end of this article. Neither its format nor contents have been altered.]
As intriguing as this this NYTimes article appears, it does a disservice to claim California is uniquely affected by climate change. I dare say every state in the nation suffers from the same root ailments as California in regards to the topic of climate change. You just have to look closer.
California’s primary challenge is based on infrastructure failures brought about by insufficient spending due to insufficient taxation. This is not a uniquely California problem. Given that every state has its own challenges environmentally speaking, everyone is on thin ice.
In California’s case, fire and drought make for a deadly combination. Worsened by the fact we are also a state poised on the cusp of earthquakes at any time, California could go from one of the wealthiest States potentially in the nation to one of the poorest, overnight.
But every state can say this for different reasons. Climate change is a symptom of a greater problem. Each state has economic issues, often exacerbated by greed, short-sighted politics, and a lack of long-term vision in regard to the future and our relationship to nature.
It is very easy to posit the end of California. But anyone paying attention could do the same thing for any coastline anywhere due to rising sea levels. Do we have editorials for the end of Florida, Louisiana, Texas? Anywhere along the Eastern seaboard for that matter?
Each of these states has their own critical mass issue to deal with.Texas is covered in toxic chemicals from its refinery industries. South Carolina covered in pigshit from one side of the state to the other. Louisiana right on the ocean vulnerable to seasonal storms.
What needs to happen, instead of creating hit pieces talking about how each state is failing, we need to acknowledge that there are fundamental failures taking place in our economic policy NATIONWIDE. Not collecting taxes on mega-corporations is a primary failure.
Climate change is a two-fold disaster. It affects people directly by destroying, their jobs, their homes, their capacity to be self-sustaining. Secondarily it undermines the economy, so even if it doesn’t destroy their area completely, it may leave it unable to recover.
Particularly in light of governmental reluctance to make the repairs necessary Nationwide to protect vulnerable populations from environmental results of climate change; including flooding, super storms, fires, invasive species, ocean acidification and other such threats.
It is rare that any single state will suffer from all of these things at the same time. The threat is the eventual erosion of infrastructure at the national level; and unwillingness or incapacity to provide support as these events increase in number or in intensity. Or both.
This is not the end of California, this is the end of a way of life, for everyone everywhere no matter what’s your status in society might be. It cannot be outrun, it cannot be negotiated with, ultimately all we can do is prepare for the worst. And we are not doing that. Not yet.
If you’re wealthy, you’re doing everything in your power to ignore the threat of climate change and the underlying problematic predatory capitalism which maintains the illusion that climate change isn’t real and isn’t something that needs to be worried about.
If you’re poor you’re struggling under increasing debts, failing infrastructure, lost resources, and the inevitable erosion of the economic engine slowly grinding to a halt, filling the pockets of the rich leaving the rest of us to wonder what the future may look like.
A future no one wants to acknowledge will most certainly look different than anything we know today.
As long as they CAN deny climate change and resist making any changes which will certainly cost money and reduce their profits, they will do so, no matter the cost in lives.
To the wealthy, lives are as cheap as the words they use to reassure you climate change isn’t real — while the summers get hotter, the winters, colder; while the seas rise and the polar ice melts they reassure you with murmurings of stock market and GNP predictions of profits.
While the externalities, the things we cannot put prices upon and they dare not recognized, continue to disappear, turning live things into dead things so that they can make profits, while we wonder where the environment went, where are food went, and how all those people died.
So enjoy your hit piece on the end of California. It is a preface in a story that will likely end in famines, as ecosystems degrade, as the oceans are depleted, in wars over diminishing resources, the frantic scramble for blue gold–the selling of water to poor people…
The picture I paint is dire, not because I want it to be that way, but because I see what most will not acknowledge: we have the technological capacity to save ourselves but lack the wisdom or the will to do what is necessary to make it happen.
We watch and we wait hoping someone will take responsibility, gather the resources necessary, create a plan that can actually be implemented but the truth is: the wealthiest people in the world have repeatedly told us they don’t give a f*** about you or I.
And you say: “That’s not fair. It’s not as bad as all that.” But it is. The people or corporations most likely to be able to make a difference, spend their time hiding their money preventing it from being taxed and avoiding any social responsibility they can.
So who’s going to do the job? Governments? They’re too busy playing politics, Brexiting, engaging in trade disputes, lying to each other, surreptitiously colonizing anything and any place they can to strip-mine it of its economic wealth. Who has time for climate change? Nobody.
Ultimately, war will be the last result of climate change. War, the one thing every government spends on and yet can never use. How much of our national wealth, is tied up in machines we dare not ever utilize. We will die of thirst and starvation but have plenty of bullets.
So don’t talk to me about climate change and say it can’t be fixed. Because it can. It would be slow. It would be ugly. We would suffer. The way we live would have to be transformed. We would have to give up war, treachery backstabbing. We would have to invest in peace.
We would have to invest in peace with the same intensity and zeal that we prepare for, plan to, but can never engage in, war…to have any chance of saving ourselves.
Can we do it? If the last 10,000 years are any indication, humanity’s time on this planet is almost at an end.
Opinion | It's the End of California as We Know It
The fires and the blackouts are connected to a larger problem in this state: a failure to live sustainably. I have…
Thaddeus Howze works as a writer and editor for two magazines, the Good Men Project, a social men’s magazine as well as for Krypton Radio, a sci-fi enthusiast media station and website. He is also a freelance journalist for Polygon.com and Panel & Frame magazine. Thaddeus is the co-founder of Futura Science Fiction Magazine and one of the founding members of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop in Oakland.