This column also appeared in The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Although I was a radical in my youth, I felt a twinge of skepticism when several years ago I read Naomi Klein’s breakthrough book, This Changes Everything. Klein proposed that it would not be possible to stop climate change without confronting the economic structure of capitalism. I think that, though I knew first-hand the violence of power in the hands of those motivated by profit, I still retained a naïve belief that humans would see and react appropriately to the unprecedented scope and threat of a planet warmed beyond livability by our greenhouse gas emissions. Part of me was still ten years old and couldn’t believe that responsible adults would let our world die if they could do anything about it.
Each day that ten-year-old receives more evidence that she should just grow up.
When Biden and the Democrats took power, though I’ve always maintained a healthy cynicism about Party leadership, their promises were just that – promising. Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill is not big enough and is punctuated with scams like continued subsidies for the very fossil fuels that threaten the fate of the biosphere and billions more for false climate solutions like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, biomass and nuclear energy. But overall we are being pointed in the right direction by. For the first time ever on the federal level.
And included in the bill are life-sustaining, necessary programs for working and poor people – actually for all of us — including expansions of who and what is covered by Medicare, free community college and universal pre-K, good affordable housing for those unhoused or on the brink, real support for childcare and directly for children through a permanent Child Tax Credit. The bill breathes life not only into sustainability for the biosphere but into survivability for families ground down by decades of war on the non-wealthy. It is all common sense and widely popular.
What should have been so simple, though, has been thrown into jeopardy by unfettered Republican resistance and opposition by fossil fuel corporate-controlled Democrats, most prominently Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. I will never call them moderate or centrist because that indicates rational thinking on their part. The fossil fuel industry has thrown all its resources over the last forty years into denying the existence of global warming. Now that the headlines give us near daily reports on the advance of climate chaos and we are assured by the world’s top scientists that we have less than a decade to cut our ghg emissions in half, the corporations rely on their bribed allies in Congress to block necessary action. These politicians are financially tied firmly to the opposition camp that profits from continuing to drill and burn coal, oil and gas.
Manchin’s personal millions are made from corporations that sell the dirtiest and most polluting of coal residue, meanwhile endangering and sickening workers and dumping poison into West Virginia rivers, streams and aquifers.And if outrageous personal conflict of interest were not enough to cement his dedication to snuffing out life on Planet Earth, his campaign was the top recipient this year among Senators of oil, gas and coal industry money.
The Exxon lobbyist whose voluble descriptions of his inroads among Democrats on Capitol Hill were captured and made public by Greenpeace said he talked to Manchin’s office “every week” and called Manchin a “king-maker”. Sinema is second on the list of Exxon’s beneficiaries, receiving over $70,000 from the corporation’s lobbyists and PAC’s.
Well, what do you know! How coincidental is it that Manchin and Sinema are opposing the passage of the BBB bill as “too big”, though they had no problem with the military budget that spills out twice as many tax dollars per year to arms dealers as would this objectionable attempt to address inequality and climate catastrophe.
The 10-year-old protests, At least such sleaze could never happen in liberal, rational Massachusetts. Surely.
But wait. In Weymouth, Charlie Baker’s administration has allowed the building of a huge leak-prone gas compressor station in an environmental justice community. In Peabody, a filthy, smoke-spewing 60 MW oil and gas “peaker” plant is being permitted to wreak havoc with emissions goals and public health. Finally, in our own back yard, Eversource is planning and likely will be allowed by the state to build an unnecessary, expensive, dangerous, unhealthy and climate-busting pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield. And lo and behold, our governor and his wife are invested in a mutual fund that is a “veritable who’s who of the fossil fuel industry”. And more, in his 2018 campaign he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry and its executives.
I am growing up. And I am outraged that our climate and our people are being sold for the 2021 version of 50 pieces of silver. And further outraged that politicians can choose personal gain and bribes over our common prospects for survival in a system that protects corporate profit above the lives of hundreds of millions.
Be outraged. Join, support, call, write, march, sit-in, get arrested, vote. Use all the power at your disposal to oppose the selling of our future.
Marty Nathan is a retired physician, mother and grandmother who writes a monthly column on climate change.