Not Even Number Two

The challenge today is to use the word “fugacious” in a sentence. Use it properly. Using the word fugacious is almost meaningless because it is a transitory word. It is like using the word “ephemeral” in a sentence while speaking to the media after the House of Representatives voted on a debt ceiling deal.

The media people on Morning Joe Wednesday morning were making jokes about GOP congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who went in front of the cameras and microphones to say this about the debt ceiling deal Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to with President Joe Biden: “I had no idea that we would see a plan as ephemeral and as malodorous as this plan.”

Seriously, is the plan ephemeral? It looks like something that will be with us for many years to come. “Malodorous?” Well, sure.

There were no tax increases on the super wealthy, but there were restrictions for welfare programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Work requirements were added, which is an insult to the millions of SNAP and TANF recipients who are working, elderly or disabled.

And I thought the myth about the welfare queen had faded away during the Clinton Administration. That was Ronald Reagan’s favorite whipping post: welfare recipients. They were often pictured as Black women with men that drove Cadillacs and Lincolns.

Hell, the GOP even claimed there was a woman in Illinois who got a ride from her pimp daddy to the Chicago welfare office where she picked up her food stamps and welfare check and then drove to Milwaukee to pick up benefits in Wisconsin.

Northwestern University sociologist Mary Pattillo said this to KPBS about the racism and stigma attached to the poor, “We spend way more on supporting people who buy multimillion-dollar houses and write off the mortgage interest from those houses than we do on subsidizing housing for poor people.” Welfare for the very wealthy and super-sized corporations.

This bill to raise the debt ceiling does stink. It is quite Malodorous. But this is what happens when we have divided government in a highly polarized era. Everyone who cares about the welfare of the middle class and poor ought to feel insulted and dirty after this deal.

Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs has been increased, so that is a good thing. The funding for the Internal Revenue Service that will allow them to enforce tax codes on the wealthy stays.

The bill also makes it easier for any type of energy companies, be they fossil fuels or renewable, to get licenses — which is why there will be a pipeline going through West Virginia and Virginia. West Virginia’s Democrat Senator Joe Manchin fought for that pipeline. Virginia’s Democrat Senator Tim Kaine issued a statement about the provision.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline will require easements, which means citizens will be forced to sell their property to make way for the pipe.

Then there are the spills … There have been over 8,000 oil and gas spills in the U.S. since 1986. That’s roughly 216 spills per year. Here’s a map of all the spills. Most, if not all, of the spills injured or killed people. It’s shocking to see how many spills there are around the Los Angeles area, especially the San Fernando Valley. That brings the plots of Chinatown and The Two Jakes into sharp focus. It isn’t just a California problem.

The Keystone Pipeline that snakes its way from Canada through the middle of the United States — over 2,600 miles — has had three major spills in five years. The latest spilled 14,000 barrels of oil — 0ver 500,000 gallons — in Washington County, Kansas. It takes years to clean up the spills, which cost the lives of mammals, birds and fish, and occasionally, the spills injure or kill humans.

When the Keystone Pipeline was being constructed TC Energy, which owns and operates the pipeline, said this would be the safest pipeline ever. This got me to thinking about the San Onofre power station that is shut down, but still has poorly stored spent fuel rods just a a few yards from the beach. That reminds me of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Nuclear and fossil fuel energy is safe — until it isn’t and in the case of oil and gas, the hazardous events are far too frequent to consider them exceptions to the rule.

Anyway, it doesn’t look like the climate crisis is getting any new funding. The Earth warms, the oceans warm, the ocean currents change, the ice caps and glaciers are melting away and the sea level rises; the hurricane season starts earlier and ends later — same with the wild fire season.

We are in the sixth mass extinction. Animals that can be, or should be, found in California or in our coastal waters — but are very rare — include the California condor, tricolored blackbird, leather back sea turtle — the blue whale — the Guadalupe fur seal, giant kangaroo rat, the sea otter and the list goes on. I actually looked up the Owens pupfish on Wikipedia. It’s found in just one area of California, Owens Valley. Habitat destruction, due to the water wars, plus the introduction of invasive species have decimated the once plentiful fish.

As for the other creatures, I would sure like to see them before I exit this mortal realm. There have been sightings of blue whales, the largest creatures on the planet, along the California coast. It would be wonderful to see a California condor gliding along on the air currents.

For whatever reason, greed most often, we as a species have decided to destroy our planet. “It’s just the climate, right?”

We have been polluting the air, ground and water for hundreds of years. Unfortunately the damage to earth has not been fleeting. We are much closer to tipping points as we inch our way to a climate Armageddon.

Tipping points, for those who don’t know, are states of the climate that once crossed, cannot be fixed. The effects of crossing that tipping point are irreversible. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), there is “… a growing body of evidence that suggests we’re much closer to these planetary points of no return than once thought.”

It’s in reference to the dwindling arctic and Antarctic ice sheets to the shrinking rainforests. For instance, once the Amazon has reached its tipping point, it will begin to disappear at an accelerated rate and eventually become an arid savannah. Jennifer Skene, the NRDC’s natural climate solutions policy manager said. “Their protection should be the focus at the local, national, and international level.”

The NRDC also suggests there is “… a growing body of evidence that suggests we’re much closer to these planetary points of no return than once thought.” Exceeding 1.5°C of global warming could trigger “irreversible climate impacts.”

This article in Science magazine says the 1.5°C limit is not safe because we may have already crossed several tipping points. There is a map of Earth that shows where these tipping points are located and  what temperature increase will trigger them.

Have we done too little too late? It’s not like this is a new issue. It’s been around since former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson helped create Earth Day in 1970. Forty years ago my inaugural publication of employment, The Crazy Shepherd, featured people who were writing about the climate and what is happening to the rainforests.

Many climate deniers like to mock Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg because of her young age and passion regarding the climate crisis. Their callous disregard for Thunberg displays their willful ignorance. If you haven’t heard and seen her speech before the 2019 U.N. Climate Action Summit, here it is.

The Glasgow Climate Pact emphasized that one, very important step for a transition to clean energy is the end of global subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and yet, fossil fuel consumption subsidies doubled from 2021 to 2022 and now sits at roughly $1 trillion worldwide. President Joe Biden’s budget would end oil and gas subsidies, but it’s a measure that won’t make it past either house of Congress. It begs the question: Why are we subsidizing the very industry that rang up record profits since the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and has the temerity to gouge the American public? That’s a rhetorical question. We know why we continue to pay the oil and gas industry to screw us at the gas pump: the fossil fuel industry has more and better lobbyists than we the public. And those lobbyists have millions more dollars to spread around to make sure the oil and gas industry can get paid coming and going.

As Frank Zappa sang, over 40 years ago in the song “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,”

“Cause what they do
In Washington
They just takes care of NUMBER ONE
An’ number one ain’t you
You ain’t even number two”

In other words, more profane, we ain’t shit. The climate crisis is the number one existential threat of our time. The science has been settled for more than three decades. What we do in the next seven-to-ten years will determine the fate of our planet. Just imagine Miami Beach under water and unlivable. That day is closer than you think.

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CORRECTION: The office of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine reached out to make a clarification. His press secretary Janine Kritschgau said Senator Kaine was not for or against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He “… doesn’t think Congress should put its thumb on the scale when it comes to decisions for specific projects.” The Senator’s statement concerning the MVP is included in the corrected text.

Tim Forkes