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As the Planet Burns

Hot Air, Photo Ops and Bill McKibben’s “Greenest” City

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

“Superstorm” Sandy exposed many things about (our) Darth Cheney’s unsustainable “non-negotiable American Way of Life.” Besides the in-your-face revelations of just how bad our fossil-fuel-addicted industrial/consumer society has screwed with Mother Nature (and there have been and will be tons of verbiage written on that front), what it reveals about the sorry state of civic life at the End of Empire is the most telling.

Faux Debates

After Climate never being mentioned in the three presidential “debates;” post-Sandy, we now have President Obama disingenuously noting in an MTV interview, “I’m surprised it didn’t come up in the debates.”

Apparently, Obama would have us believe he was just a passive observer at the debates (all three, not just that first one) – on this issue, anyway. He, like Romney, strayed from the topic and brought up other issues over and over – if they mattered to him/them.

Faux Compassion

We have the spectacle of half-billionaire GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney purchasing $5000 in food goods from Wal-Mart, so people could “donate” the items – none of which relief groups actually want – back to him at a contrived storm relief photo-op.

The coreless Mitt Headroom went from saying, “Disaster relief is immoral. FEMA should be privatized” during the Primary Campaign to this on Halloween: “I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Another artificial GOP photo-op had VP candidate Paul Ryan delaying packing storm relief supplies in Wisconsin so he wouldn’t finish up before the photos could be snapped. (This was on the heels of Ryan’s fake photo-op at a closed soup kitchen two weeks earlier.)

President Obama, on the other hand – while far more compassionate, but still not connecting the climate dots – scored the photo-op that probably won him reelection; strolling through devastated parts of New Jersey arm-in-arm with his erstwhile attack dog opponent Gov. Chris Christie assessing the storm damage and encouraging shocked citizens.

Faux Science

Of course, the propagandists at Fox News and DRUDGE trotted out “expert” after “expert” to tell us that Climate Change/Global Warming, even if it did exist, had little to do with Sandy.

Faux Environmentalism

The New York myopia and narcissism of the sham Climate warrior Bill McKibben was also stunningly revealed.

First McKibben tweeted this drivel on Oct. 29th: “Obviously no place deserves this kind of storm — but NYC, America’s greenest city, in some ways deserves it least of all.”

Yep, “greenest” if you ignore the millions of serfs (both carbon-based and carbon-powered) providing the food, other necessities and consumer junk trucked in by fossil fuel on a 24/7/365 basis; if you ignore the massive coal-generated kilowattage; the trash dumping in the ocean; a once-great ecosystem with dozens of creeks, swamps and diverse forest now reduced to an ecosystem dominated by three species: humans, rats and roaches – with bedbugs making a run as the new scourge as feverishly reported recently in the New York-centric media; if you don’t notice the concrete, glass, steel and invasive species replacing the natural habitat, etc.

New York City has a huge carbon footprint despite population concentration, which indeed, also compacts pollution. But, even by the most liberal measuring of per capita carbon use, NY places Fourth among the top 100 US metros. On that score along NY is not the “greenest,” even in the US.

When you consider that much of the eco-cost of the huge metro is externalized in destroyed mountains for coal and other resource colony ecosystems that are stripped and sent on that 24/7 inbound commodity procession. Even the Coltan; that Unobtainium that powers the digital culture that powers New York’s Shipwreck Cove of Finance Capital – who ultimately bear a lot of responsibility for the entire predicament – has a host of ecological and genocidal – human and other primates -implications. This “greenest” wishful-thinking just doesn’t hold up.

While Gaia Burns

But then again, McKibben is a pro at ignoring the real bad actors, especially if they are Democrats, and real carbon implications. Scientists say that the highest safe level of 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere has long ago been passed – 350.org is the name of McKibben’s astroturf eco-group. Who starts their campaign at the highest (maybe) safe level,  anyway? The Arctic has already passed the 400 ppm milestone.  It stood at 275 ppm before the industrial age began.

McKibben is also an expert at ignoring a major part of the overall carbon footprint…claiming repeatedly that personal use doesn’t matter. I know my personal use matters and I’m trying to lessen it all the time. I know we’ve all been born into this situation and that doesn’t mean we’re all horrible people because of it. It’s just that someone like McKibben just HAS to know better. If you are going to put yourself out there front and center, you have to set a personal example. As Dylan wrote, to live outside the law (in this case our deadend industrial society), you have to be honest.

His never-ending roadshow continues to spew more carbon than his group has gotten sequestered. Just flying in activists from all over the country to get arrested at his Obama campaign rally, er, Keystone Pipeline protest, also spewed more carbon than the group has ever succeeded in preventing – ironically, many of the planes were fueled from tar sands-derived bitumen! (Far better they had burned the carbon flying in all the scientists who are in accordance and had them descend on Congress and the White House – now there’d be a Occupy with an agenda – until some action was /is taken.)

Of course, the “no-talk rules” about such stuff is clear – the entire “Environmental” Movement at the top, and increasingly at the local levels, is funded and controlled by the fossil fuel industry though the Pew Charitable Trusts (Sun Oil Co) and the Rockefeller Fund. As always, and across the “Green” group rosters, the great Upton Sinclair dictum comes into play, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

McKibben followed up his “greenest city” absurdity up with an all-about-me-and-my New York piece in The Guardian .

“I’m an environmentalist: New York is as beautiful and diverse and glorious as an old growth forest. It’s as grand, in its unplanned tumble, as anything ever devised by man or nature.”

Wow! Just wow! No real environmentalist I know would ever make such an anthropocentric statement…not even close; certainly, none of the many forest protection allies from across the country that I’ve long known and worked with.

Diverse as an old growth forest? How can anyone think that an ecosystem dominated by those three species can actually be compared to one with hundreds of dependent species – an ecosystem that provides massive amounts of clean water and clean air while sequestering carbon. The planet and humanity could survive quite nicely – possibly thrive – without NYC. But, neither NYC, humankind, nor thousands of innocent other species could sans the forests. Chateaubriand’s observation that “Forests precede civilizations, deserts follow them” still holds, no matter how many “green” cities rise and fall in the interim.

So, just how concerned was Bill McKibben personally for the city he “loves best?” Did he drop everything and rush to aid the storm victims, as did the local Occupy folks who paddled canoes around the city helping out? Did he inform Obama that this was the tipping point and no more “green” endorsements would be coming the Dems way unless they put Climate front and center? Did he take stock of 350.org’s own massive carbon use and the vanity, ineptitude and ultimate service to the industrial culture of its campaign?

Nope. McKibben was so concerned he wrote a bunch of self-serving, shortsighted nonsense and then got on the 350.org “sustainable bus” (whatever that is; it has to be better than hopping yet another Tar Sands-fueled jet) to travel off to give a series of talks decrying other people’s carbon use.

MICHAEL DONNELLY is a long-time NW Ancient Forest activist. He gave up flying a few years ago when educated on its devastating climate impacts. He can be reached at Pahtoo@aol.com