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The Next Pandemics Are Already Here

Clearly we have a knack for proving to ourselves that we, in fact, are our own worst enemy.

Astute readers will notice I included a plural in the title, and unfortunately for all of us that’s not a typo. Make no mistake, the next pandemics are already here and there’s no magical pill, intervention, or vaccine to save us from ourselves this time. Humanity is teetering on the edge of a climate catastrophe cliff. While strong and valiant words are always spoken, history — and the present — paints a very different reality that puts an ugly spotlight on our (in)actions that don’t align with those words. This grim and stark realization would be bad enough in and of itself, but climate change works in tandem with its equally pervasive counterpart; wealth and economic inequality.

Both of these issues pose a societal and existential threat to not only our prosperity and way of life, but our very survival. We’re well past the point of eloquent words and rhetoric making one iota of difference. Spoiler alert: They never did. You know, ”talk is cheap” and all that. Goals without tangible action toward achieving them are merely dreams, or as is our current situation, a nightmare. Our current path is simply unsustainable in every conceivable way, yet even in the face of undeniable facts, science, and global disasters, we still manage to outdo ourselves. Perusing CNN just today alone Because, apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment. revealed a few examples of the point we’ve now reached:

There’s now a McRib NFT and what are we even doing anymore?

Seriously? You can’t make this shit up if you tried. Ignoring entirely the inconceivable amount of vanity this reeks of, the more pertinent issue behind this development is the fact that NFTs have a terrible environmental impact. And for an asset with no physical presence or utility outside the digital realm, the process of producing the “coins” is tremendously inefficient–one 2018 study found that cryptocurrency mining consumes more energy for every dollar of value generated than extracting gold or copper. — Time Considering the example the above article provides of a JPEG file that cost $69.3 million dollars, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the energy and climate cost for even a single token. No doubt this read caused much facepalming and gnashing of teeth, but it got worse.

In front of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee today, six of the big oil executives are testifying about their proven role in not only climate change, but the dissemination of lies and misinformation to hide the culpability and ugly truth of their actions. Here are just a few excerpts from this disheartening state of affairs:

“Some of us have to actually live in the future that you all are setting on fire for us.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

This is literally true, since fires were raging all summer long.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper from Tennessee asked the CEOs if they could tell lawmakers how much money they get from the federal government each year, noting the low estimate is $20 billion a year, but the International Monetary Fund estimates US oil companies get about $650 billion in both direct and indirect subsidies.

“Can the four key oil executives agree on the amount by which they are subsidized, at least in the United States by the US taxpayer?” Cooper asked. “Is it $20 billion or is it $650 billion?”

No one answered him.

Then there’s this one in reference to the American Petroleum Institute (API), which I’ll come back to:

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna was met with silence from the oil industry executives when he asked them to tell the American Petroleum Institute and other groups to stop lobbying against electric vehicles and methane regulations – two initiatives the oil companies themselves support.

“You could do something here,” said Khanna, who chairs the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment. “You can tell them to knock it off for the sake of the planet. You could end that lobbying. Would any of you take that opportunity to look at API and say ‘stop it?’”

The committee room fell silent.

“Any of you?” he asked. “Could you commit? Any of you?”

No CEO responded to Khanna’s question.

There seems to still be a trend of denial and misinformation even now, as this quote from the CEO of the API will highlight:

API can’t support climate change policies that put “America at a disadvantage – jeopardizing jobs, increasing energy costs, and harming American competitiveness.”

Mike Sommers

That’s quite the expert spin, though I believe what he meant to say was ”API can’t support climate change policies that will subtract from my wealth and that of our stakeholders.” I can’t even award points for effort on this, as that was more transparent than Saran Wrap. Despite the recent incontrovertible evidence that human fossil fuel consumption and emissions are behind climate change, the very executives responsible for its perpetuation still use their greed as a shield and pivot point, all while under oath. Even a very kind Republican representative went out of his way to apologize to the fossil fuel CEOs, as apparently their being inconvenienced is an affront to ethics. The rest of us mere mortals will be over here “inconvenienced” by the disasters occurring all around us, but pay us no mind.

“Spare us the spin today. We have no interest in it. Spin doesn’t work under oath.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment

Seems as though he had a premonition this would happen. He was right.

Sadly, this is what the wealthy and powerful do on a regular basis, and they’re allowed to. They have all the gold, all the power of political lobbying, and therefore get to write all the rules in their favour. The very economic inequality that’s driving society itself to the brink of total collapse, has also allowed these CEOs to continue destroying the climate — and ultimately costing lives — with impunity. All in the name of profit and greed. This is not sustainable, and never was. Our entire global disparity of wealth means middle to low income earners, and poor countries, will be hit the hardest by climate change. However, no country and nobody will be spared in the end, not even those same billionaires who try and plot their “escape” into space.

When I was growing up I was absolutely thrilled to watch launches of the Space Shuttle, and dreamt of what it would be like to venture into the cosmos even briefly. I almost got to see a launch in person vacationing in Florida, but the main engine failed with three seconds to go. Now all of that elation has been replaced with anger, as I watch the very people most responsible for the corruption and greed that’s destroying the planet venture away from it for a few minutes. Supposedly all in the name of science and to gain new perspective of how special Earth is. To me this just shows the utter level of disconnect the elites have with the rest of society, and to the damage they themselves are inflicting on all of us. If they really want to contribute something positive and tangible, how about they use their vast wealth to help fix the planet they’ve been destroying this whole time?

And as for the fossil fuel CEOs and their testimony, I sincerely hope and believe they should be held criminally responsible for their lies, misinformation, and damage inflicted that now threatens our very survival. The thought that nothing may come from this makes me angry and flat out discouraged. I debated even posting this at all, as what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been uttered by countless others? Yet I can’t, and won’t, remain silent. No problem in history has ever been solved through silence, and action can’t take place without accountability. None of us should be silent at this point, for our very lives depend on vocalizing and demanding change.

When it comes to these two pandemics, ignorance is anything but bliss. Their effects impact our lives regardless whether we acknowledge them or not. For the first time in my life, I weep for our collective future. I weep for the greed we’ve allowed to perpetuate and fester. I weep from the fear that nowhere may be a safe haven in the years to come. I weep for the world being left behind to be inherited by children, and grandchildren. Most of all, I weep that it may already be too late… to change, to adapt, and to finally snuff out the flames of entitlement, greed, and profit for the wealthy. At the expense of the rest of us, no less.

”The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Spock

If only that were true.

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