This is the world we live in, and those in power know this world very well. What is between climate change and meaningful human action is simply white American lives. As long as they are not directly threatened, we can continue business as usual. Cars can burn fossil fuels with total abandon, fires can burn huge portions of the country, houses can fall into the sea. But if white lives are not lost, we can pretty much not change a damn thing about how this society moves and consumes. Climate denial has race as its firm and dependable political support. It is indeed the central platform of the US's dominant political party, the GOP. And many middle-class whites are aware of this fact in the back of their minds. It is their price for what soul singer D'Angelo called a slice of the "devil's pie."
And there is plenty to go around, if you are white and down.
Indeed, we can expect that, as climate change worsens, the government will spend more on white lives for no other purpose than to maintain the current economic order, which is largely structured to grow, endlessly, the profits of energy corporations. The market capitalization for just the gas and oil sector alone is over $1 trillion. They have the money. They have the data. They have huge political influence. And I'm going to say it like it is: In the light of this influence, Trump appears as no accident of history. It's not a miracle that the racist somehow seems to never sink no matter what he says or does. You can always walk on water if the future of climate change non-action is the recognition and defense of white American lives.
We only have to see last year's hurricane season to find evidence for this claim. Examine the government's responses to the destruction in Texas and Florida and to that in Puerto Rico. It's day and night. No one even talks about Texas and Florida anymore. Puerto Rico, which only got most of its power back this week (just in time for the next hurricane season), makes the news (and not its headlines) now and then because it's still recovering and lost, according to a report from Harvard University, "at least 4,645." That's more than 70 times the official count of 64. But that high number still means nothing to most white people. It could easily be 400 times or 800 times or 1600 times higher, and still the fortress of climate change denial would be safe from terrified whites. Those lives on that island are black and brown. They do not matter. Politically, the average white person only wakes up when it's: "time to die."
At the beginning of the 21st century, we see the final expansion of American racism, which had its roots in the justification of robbing labor from black Africans. American socialism, which became politically potent after the crash of 1929 (and entered the mainstream as the New Deal), was kept in check by this racism (political compromises to Southern Democrats). The GOP's rise in the 1980s was made possible by this racism. And now, at the global stage, as the planet faces a devastation whose scale will be apocalyptic, we find any attempt to address it is again checked by American racism.
California just had its hottest month on record, and that means more wildfires https://t.co/20UuI2dt7q— Mashable (@mashable) August 8, 2018
This post and its reasoning is a dub of this passage in Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me:
The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce than Marcus Garvey is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas. The two phenomena are known to each other. It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age. It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into the subdivided woods. And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.