Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ben Jenkins rightly calls out Australia's right-wing government and media for caring not a whit for the people seeing their country go up in flames:
If you were holding out hope that the cynical and partisan way we currently talk about climate change can’t possibly hold in the face of actual climate disasters — when it’s undeniably manifested itself in unbreathable air and burning homes and smoldering coastline — let go of that hope now. These fires have shown the status quo to be a stubborn thing, possibly an immovable one. It’s rooted fast in place by money and politics and ideology.
Even from a cynical standpoint, there seems to be very little to gain in playing down a national crisis of this sort. A strong response rallies the nation. It shows you’re a leader who acts. Best of all, there’s no partisan division to navigate. It is a political truism that everyone, regardless of how they vote, does not want the country to be on fire.

But this isn’t about people, it’s about ideology, and to accept the unprecedented scale of the fires and act accordingly is to accept that the climate is changing and something needs to be done. That’s it. To me, this is the most striking aspect of the crisis — the debate about how best to douse a burning country has been seamlessly press-ganged into service in the ongoing culture war, all of which is amplified and buttressed by an increasingly demented right-wing media and an absurdly powerful fossil fuels lobby.
In this crisis, the conservative media have defended Morrison against the most benign attacks even as the death toll climbed and the fury mounted; they have dismissed experts with decades of in-field experience as “activists”; they’ve spread thoroughly debunked theories about these fires being caused by environmentalists’ opposition to preventative land clearing; even bushfire victims themselves were branded as “feral” when they had the temerity to heckle the PM during a photo opportunity in their fire-ravaged town of Cobargo. Possibly most telling of all, Craig Kelly, a member of Morrison’s government, went on UK television to deny any link between the fires and climate change, where even a wet gollum like Piers Morgan couldn’t let it pass. Back home, pundits on Sky News defended him, saying that they “didn’t know anymore more across the science than [Kelly].”

And so warnings weren’t heeded, rescue efforts weren’t funded, Hawaiian jaunts weren’t called off, not through incompetence, but through sheer bloodymindedness. If you take one thing away from all of this, know that there are people in both the government and the media who would sooner see the country burn than confront the enormity of this problem.

All of this should terrify you, because the appalling response to this crisis in Australia isn’t an aberration. Like the fires themselves, it’s the product of years of adverse conditions — a dominant conservative press, a powerful fossil fuel lobby, a class of politicians in the thrall of both — that would look very familiar the world over.
- Damien Cave likewise calls out Rupert Murdoch's role in spreading disinformation and anti-climate propaganda in the face of a public emergency. Emily Holden discusses the oil industry's investment in controlling any conversation about the climate crisis. And Vikram Dodd and Jamie Grierson report that the UK is choosing to label people fighting for our survival as extremists to be subject to extra surveillance and control.

- Spencer Jakab writes about the readily-avoidable damage being inflicted by natural gas flaring. And Chris Varcoe's reporting on the UCP's closed-door development of policy for orphan wells only looks to highlight another area in which the public will be expected to bear the cost of environmental destruction wrought by the oil sector.

- A new Pew Research poll shows that fully 70% of Americans view their economic system as unfairly favoring those who already have the most. And Reuters/Ipsos finds majority support for a wealth tax as one means of addressing the unfairness.

- Finally, James Hurley reports on a wave of foreclosure forgery in the UK comparable to what took hold in the U.S. after the 2008 economic crisis.

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