Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Sirota talks to Naomi Klein about the push by right-wing politicians and corporate media outlets alike to stifle any discussion of how fossil fuels contribute to the climate change fuelling Hurricane Harvey. Matt Taibbi laments how the media contributed to the development of a public so poorly informed as to elect Donald Trump. And George Monbiot highlights a few of the questions we should be asking about the devastating effects of climate change-related disasters:
To talk about climate breakdown (which in my view is a better term than the curiously bland labels we attach to this crisis) is to question not only Trump, not only current environmental policy, not only current economic policy – but the entire political and economic system.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained – a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.
We were warned about this. In June, for instance, Robert Kopp, a professor of Earth sciences, predicted: “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

To raise this issue, I’ve been told on social media, is to politicise Hurricane Harvey. It is an insult to the victims and a distraction from their urgent need. The proper time to discuss it is when people have rebuilt their homes, and scientists have been able to conduct an analysis of just how great the contribution from climate breakdown might have been. In other words, talk about it only when it’s out of the news. When researchers determined, nine years on, that human activity had made a significant contribution to Hurricane Katrina, the information scarcely registered.

I believe it is the silence that’s political. To report the storm as if it were an entirely natural phenomenon, like last week’s eclipse of the sun, is to take a position. By failing to make the obvious link and talk about climate breakdown, media organisations ensure our greatest challenge goes unanswered. They help push the world towards catastrophe.
- But to be fair, a few observers have raised important points about how political choices have contributed to the damage caused by Harvey - including Michael Mann on the role of climate change,  Natasha Geiling on the lack of planning for foreseeable events, and Steve Russell on how a lack of regulations exacerbated the damage in Houston in particular.

- Meanwhile, in an observation made well in advance of the latest headline-grabbing storm, Leah Platt Boustan, Maria Lucia Yanguas, Matthew Kahn and Paul Rhode highlight how catastrophic events exacerbate inequality. And James Cook talks to some of the people who couldn't afford to flee from a hurricane.

- Amanda Ghazale Aziz offers perspectives from four women trying to get by on less than a living wage. And Rajiv Prabhakar studies how women disproportionately tend to opt out of pension plans due to immediate affordability concerns.

- Finally, the Economic Policy Institute studies the effect unions have in improving workers' lives. But Nora Loreto comments on the need for labour to lead the way in building social movements which do more than just protect limited workplace gains.

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