By Ralph Nader
September 8, 2023
The headlines on climate catastrophes are becoming more informative as they become more ominous. For years the media headlines have been describing record floods, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves, hurricanes and other fossil-fueled disasters of an abused Mother Nature. The immediate human casualties are devastating.
Very recently, the headlines have been steering us toward what happens in the aftermath of natural disasters in afflicted regions around the world.
The Washington Post yesterday front-paged a huge headline “Climate-Linked Ills Threaten Humanity,” followed by the sub-headline: “Pakistan is the epicenter of a global wave of climate health threats.” The reporters opened their long analysis with almost biblical language: “The floods came, and then the sickness.”
The record heat wave and flooding that left one-third of Pakistan under water have unleashed “dark clouds of mosquitoes” spreading malaria. Food supplies were reduced by drenched fields unable to grow crops. The article depicted a world map with color-coded measures of dangerous heat waves. The Indian sub-continent is registered as having one of the longest annual heat-intense periods. Over 40 million Pakistanis will endure dangerous heat for over six months a year “unless they can find shade… Extreme heat, which causes heatstroke and damages the heart and kidneys” is just one consequence.
Dengue fever surged in Peru. Canadian wildfires poured smoke and particulates into the U.S. triggering asthma attacks. Famine lurks in East Africa’s worst drought in 40 years, while contaminated water takes its toll on many diseases, especially horrifying for infants and young children.
Another consequence recorded by the Post with the headline “Amid Record Heat, Even Indoor Factory Workers Enter Dangerous Terrain” in Asia. Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, led by Dr. Sidney Wolfe, was a pioneer in petitioning OSHA to issue regulations to protect workers against extreme heat (See: https://www.citizen.org/topic/heat-stress/). Corporate OSHA stalled. Then the Biden Administration proposed modest regulations that are facing corporate opposition and years of delay by corporate attorneys.
Until overturned by a Texas court, Governor Greg Abbott overrode some ordinances that were passed in large Texas cities requiring drinking water breaks for construction workers laboring under 100-degree temperatures.
Abbott, arguably the cruelest governor in the United States – unless Florida Governor Ron DeSantis out-snarls him – thought he could get away with this bit of brutishness. After all, he is in Texas, where the oil and gas lobby (Exxon Mobil Et al.) is pushing to increase North American exploration, production, and burning of these well-documented omnicidal sources of global warming and climate violence.
The oil, gas and coal industry’s tentacles have encircled a majority of the 535 lawmakers in Congress to shield and maintain huge tax subsidies behind the industry’s lethal drive for increased production. Its marketeers see their profitable circular death dance intensify as hotter days lead to higher air conditioning loads.
Running berserk with their bulging profits, these giant energy companies worldwide are forging a suicide pact with an abused Mother Earth. The projections for what climate eruptions will do to humans and the natural world continue to be underestimated. The realities each year exceed scientists’ predictive models.
With no other driving value system than short-term profits, these artificial entities or companies, and corporations controlling different dangerous technologies, cannot be allowed equal justice under the law with real human beings driven by other far more important life-sustaining and morally enhancing values. For over 2000 years, every major religion has warned about subordination by the merchant class of civilized values. The great “soft energy” or renewable energy prophet and physicist, Amory Lovins, put this critical declaration in modern, secular language when he wrote: “Markets make good servants, but bad masters.”
Our Constitution never once mentions “corporation” or “company” – it only speaks of “We the People” and “persons.” Our national charter needs amending to deal with big corporations, which in turn requires a mass movement. Since ravaging corporations impact people with indiscriminate harm, not caring whether the victims are liberals or conservatives, the political prospect for a decisive left/right coalition is as auspicious as ever.
The pressure for such a coalition is growing daily. Insurance companies, citing climate disaster claims, are skyrocketing homeowners and auto insurance premiums, or worse, either redlining areas or altogether pulling out of some states such as Florida. Some coastal areas will soon be private insurance deserts, requiring entry by state-run insurance coverage, at least for reinsurance purposes.
Overpaid insurance company CEOs are starting to demand bailouts without even guaranteeing coverage for consumers.
Faster and faster, the second, third and fourth waves of after-effects of these man-made natural disasters will become all-enveloping punishers of societies that are failing to head off the looming dangers, now maturing into evermore desperate states of living.
On Capitol Hill, a domestically paralyzed Congress only comes together every year to hoopla its bipartisan mega-billion-dollar additions to the bloated, unaudited Pentagon budget – taking over half of the entire federal government’s operating budget. Congress regularly gives the Generals more than they request.
Meanwhile, back home, tens of millions of hard-pressed American workers have given up on themselves securing a government that works for them, instead of for short-sighted, greedy corporations. These Americans continue to ignore the historically validated truth – no more than one active percent of the citizenry, representing the majority public opinion, can quickly make a large majority of those 535 Congressional Senators and Representatives fight first and foremost for the public interest.