[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
Host, Miles Grant:
Progressives’ concerns about the climate crisis typically bring our gaze to the north – struggling polar bears and melting ice caps. But in Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti makes the case that we’re missing the real story to the south – where our addiction to dirty fuels is introducing a new level of disorder in places that are already struggling and unstable.
“The metabolism of the world economy is fundamentally out of sync with that of nature,” writes Parenti. “And that is a mortal threat to both.”
According to Parenti, nowhere is this hitting harder than Earth’s tropical zone, “a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states.” Parenti calls it a “catastrophic convergence”:
• The destabilizing legacy of Cold War proxy fights
• Neoliberal economic restructuring, marked by privatization, globalization & deregulation
• The early stages of the climate crisis delivering weather extremes
Tropic of Chaos brings us examples of the climate crisis fueling conflict from East Africa to Afghanistan to Brazil. And 2011 may have delivered the most prominent example yet, with Arab Spring revolutions in places like Egypt, fed by skyrocketing food prices driven up by extreme weather.
We don’t need to go halfway around the world to find evidence of climate calamity. Unprecedented wildfires, historic flooding, and heat and drought even worse than what broke Dust Bowl records have gripped America. But the media mostly ignores the climate connections of extreme weather – at best an ignorance of the latest climate science, and at worst a deliberate aversion to reporting facts that might upset the Tea Party.
And of course no one is more terrified of the Tea Party than Congress, which has done little to invest in clean energy, and nothing to limit carbon pollution. President Obama has a major carbon-cutting tool at his disposal in the Clean Air Act, but it remains to be seen if he’ll deploy his weapon of mass reduction.
Meanwhile, tired of watching fuel convoys targeted by roadside bombs, the military is quietly leading on clean energy. According to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts, military spending on clean energy tripled from 2006 to 2009, reaching $1.2 billion – and that number could hit $10 billion by 2030.
What remains missing, a generation after the prophetic warning of James Hansen, is a binding global treaty to cut emissions, provide aid to developing countries invest in clean energy, and help those vulnerable to climate adversity adapt. The question that lingers ominously: What happens when countries within the Tropic of Chaos figure out who took the lead in putting all that carbon pollution up there? It’s no wonder response plans are being drawn up by the military, private contractors, and corporations.
Join us in comments to share your thoughts and questions for today’s FDL Book Salon author, Christian Parenti.