Analysis

Getting accustomed to moderate to exceptional drought in the US

“Climate change is real and really dangerous,” warned the Huffington Post.

The severe drought across much of the U.S. proved stubborn once again during the past week as nearly four-fifths of the country was in some form of drought. And the area of the lower 48 states affected by moderate to exceptional drought expanded slightly, hitting a high for the year, according to data released Thursday morning. [Climate Central]

… moderate to exceptional drought covered a new high of 64.16 percent of the lower 48 states as of September 11….

… just 21.47 percent of the lower 48 states was drought free, which is down from 56.53 percent at the same time in 2011.

The drought is the worst to strike the U.S. since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s and lengthy droughts of the 1950s. It came on suddenly and largely without warning, and although the main trigger was most likely a La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the drought was exacerbated by extremely hot temperatures during the spring and summer. July, for example, was the hottest month on record in the U.S., and the summer was the third-hottest on record, narrowly losing out to 2011 and 1936. Climate studies have shown that the odds of severe heat waves are increasing due to manmade climate change.

OWS Movement

This puts the climate change movement in something of a quandary. Should we largely ignore the OWS Movement and continue with climate change activism as before? Simply abandon the climate issue for the time being in the hope that OWS will lead to changes that make dealing with climate politically easier? Try to do both?

Pursuing our own agenda will almost certainly mean we are marginalized and ignored by the mainstream and the bulk of the progressive movement. Throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement means the climate issue gets framed within the terms of that struggle, which is limiting to the point of being almost useless.

Granted Klein discusses the need for a far more fundamental agenda than is currently being articulated, one that would indeed put us on the right course to deal with climate change meaningfully. However, the bulk of her speech is about comparing OWS to the anti-globalization protests of a decade ago with observations about what mistakes were made then and how they might be avoided now. Perfectly legitimate and needed, but hardly a speech about climate change action.

Klein’s title is quite correct in that it isdown to us – the 99%.” The powers that be have demonstrated all too clearly that they will not take any meaningful action on climate change until it is far too late, if then. However, absent from the article is any discussion of what it is that we 99% are going to do. Not that it would be possible to articulate that in one short Guardian piece, but the fact is that it is left totally in the air.

Is it the premise that the occupations will lead to meaningful change, and if so, how exactly? Insomuch as the occupations do not seem to be connected to critiquing the amount of wealth we get by destroying the Earth (or the Developing World),exactly what change are we expecting? Realistically, at best the occupations may lead to some reforms in some mechanisms of wealth distribution within parts of the Industrialised North, but that’s probably about it. As such simply throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement does not seem a viable option.

So what are we, the 99% who must take up the task of actually solving the climate change crisis, to do?

Occupy Madrid: By JoeInSouthernCA

It seems to me that notwithstanding my apparent critique, the Occupy movement offers an opportunity as well as a challenge. As ever, the important task of educating the broader public, including our fellow progressives, about the realities of the climate crisis remains paramount.

The Occupy Movement is an opportunity to educate our fellow activists about those realities, as well as make ourselves available to be educated. To form meaningful alliances and coalitions we have to truly understand the concerns and needs of the various social justice movements. We cannot hope for meaningful cooperation and coordination if we do not deeply appreciate what those communities need and want.

At all costs we must not attempt to simply use the Occupy Movement to try to co-opt other peoples issues. Our desire to integrate our causes into a realistic and meaningful strategic plan for social change must be a sincere one. To do that we must listen at least as much as we speak, if not more so.

We must also educate by example. We will earn their respect and attention when how we live moment to moment demonstrates how seriously we understand the immediacy of the climate crisis to be. Equally we must live our lives in accordance with what they have to teach us about their issues and concerns. That is the only thing that will convince them of our commitment to justice and equity, and that the issue of climate change is fundamentally about climate justice.