The Status Quo Was Never Inevitable
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
In this week’s podcast episode, Amy and I talked to Adam Serwer (of The Cruelty Is the Point fame) about the very real perils facing global democracy and how that interacts with the climate crisis. It seems obvious to me that a crumbling climate would destabilize political systems, but you wouldn’t think so to look at the media coverage of either topic. It’s almost like both crises are happening on two, well, different planets.
The conversation with Adam went in a lot of different places, including toward circus fires, but there was one idea that I think is important to question: the assumption that our status quo was inevitable. It comes up when we talk about the ways that states with large fossil fuel economies (hello Texas and Louisiana) tend to side with the fossil fuel industry. It comes up again when we talk about whether or not democracy is essential for climate action, bearing in mind that you can have swifter, albeit not exactly more humane climate action, through a dictatorship. Just because you have a democracy and more people have a say, Adam argued, does not necessarily mean that people will make the right choice.
True enough, but I take issue with the premise that any of these events were a given. There’s a popular theory (probably most associated with Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel) that asserts that the evolution of America was inevitable, given its natural resources and the historical context in which the country was built. But this ignores the fact that hundreds of sovereign nations had been living sustainably on this land for centuries before the colonizers arrived. The oil was here then too, and there's’ even some historical documentation of Indigenous peoples using it for light and heat.
But beyond that, it also ignores the specific, targeted activities of a few individuals, who very purposefully set out to build the fossil fuel industry, and shaped the nation’s policies to suit it. It was not very long ago that there was no such thing as a “fossil fuel state.” As I pointed out in the episode, oil drilling has always been a dangerous activity, and it didn’t take long for early prospectors to realize that, or for early capitalists to understand that they needed to be able to drill and refine in places where people didn’t have the power to say much about it. That required a lack of democracy, enabled by white supremacy.
None of it was a given. It was not happenstance. Greedy white men worked ruthlessly to make it happen. The same is true of the climate crisis. Just like slavery and colonialism–very powerful people chose to do those things. Which means they could have chosen not to.
I know that makes our work sound daunting, but to me that makes it sound possible. This, people, is where the hope is. If someone else did the hard work to make this world as shitty as it is, that means we can do the hard work to make a new, better world. If they can fuck it up, we can fix it up. Buckle up, buttercup.
By Amy Westervelt
As someone who’s reported on corporate disinformation for a really long time I’m kinda shocked at the huge gaping hole in the way that everyone from academics to reporters to politicians tends to treat political disinformation as an entirely different beast from corporate disinformation. There’s also this assumption that disinformation only really took hold in America when social media platforms provided a new distribution mechanism for it. It’s especially weird in the context of the United States’ current information pollution problem because in this country disinformation is far from new. Corporate disinformation has been around almost as long as the country has been—in fact you could make the argument that this country was founded on disinformation, the idea that this big empty country was just sitting here waiting for white people to make it profitable—and it’s been warping the information ecosystem for more than a century.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
We’ve heard some truly revolting shit in the time since the Uvalde school shooting. We’ve heard about children calling 911 for help, while police officers were amassed outside but afraid to go in because they “might get shot.” We’ve heard about police officers physically restraining parents who wanted to go in to rescue their children. By my count, we haven’t heard an apology yet.
Instead, what we’ve gotten are absolutely asinine solutions, the latest of which came from Lindsey Fucking Graham just yesterday. (Yes, that’s his actual middle name. Google it.) I can’t hear these inane suggestions to fix everything except the problem (guns, if I’m not being clear), and not hear echoes of every argument ever against climate action. For example, when they say we need to add more police to schools to make them safer, all I hear is that we need the oil companies at the table to solve climate change. When they argue that we need to arm the teachers and the kids and the class hamsters so that we have more “good guys” than “bad guys,” with guns, I hear the old argument that we need more natural gas drilling to bring down carbon emissions.
It’s Not Biased to Question Lies!
By Amy Westervelt
Months before Putin gave the order for Russian soldiers to invade Ukraine, the fossil fuel industry began shaping the narrative around how that invasion would impact global oil prices. In late 2021, Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, made the rounds of all the cable news shows (not just Fox, but also CNBC, CBS, Bloomberg, and CNN) explaining that gas prices—which had been steadily climbing ever since Putin began mobilizing soldiers to the Ukraine border in March 2021—were high because of “climate policy.” What climate policy?
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
California's Drought Is So Bad, It's Going to Slash Hydropower by Angely Mercado for Earther
Climate change is forcing schools to close early for 'heat days' - The Washington Post, by Laura Meckler and Anna Phillips
Climate change ravages Iraq as palm trees make way for desert, by Azhar Al-Rubaie for Al Jazeera
We cannot adapt our way out of climate crisis, warns leading scientist, by Fiona Harvey for The Guardian
Tropical storm warning for parts of Florida, Cuba, Bahamas | AP News, by Frida Frisaro and Curt Anderson
Here's where dangerous ticks are spreading across the US — and what to do about them by Benji Jones for Vox
Warmer Nights Caused by Climate Change Take a Toll on Sleep, by Victoria St. Martin for Inside Climate News
New Mexico Wildfires: Mapping an Early, Record-Breaking Season - The New York Times by Tim Wallace and Nadja Popovich
It's Going to Be a Hot Summer. It Will Be Hotter if You're Not Rich. by Anne Barnard, Corey Kilgannon, Jazmine Hughes and Emma Goldberg for The New York Times
Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History - The New York Times by Henry Fountain
Death toll in Brazilian floods rises to 106, 10 still missing | Reuters, by Reuters Staff
How humid air, intensified by climate change, is melting Greenland ice, by Kasha Patel for The Washington Post
How Mass Shootings, Ecofascism and Climate Change Got Tied Together, by Kristoffer Tigue for Inside Climate News
'Vicious cycle': Storms intensify in the Gulf as climate changes, by Giorgio Cafiero for Al Jazeera
Facing a power crisis and searing heat, India falls back on coal, by Gerry Shih for The Washington Post
Q&A: Why the disaster prevention agenda is growing more urgent, by Irwin Loy for The New Humanitarian
A Hotter World - The New York Times by German Lopez
Agatha strikes Mexico as its strongest May hurricane, by Jason Samenow for The Washington Post
The Climate Presidency
The Supreme Court just okayed Biden's “social cost of carbon.” It's still way too low. by Sigal Samual for Vox
Here's how the government wants to disaster-proof your home | AP News, by Freida Frisaro
Why Won't the Environmental Protection Agency Fine New Mexico's Greenhouse Gas Leakers? - Inside Climate News, by Jerry Redfern, Capital & Main
Drought-stricken US warned of looming 'dead pool' - BBC News, by Regan Morris and Sophie Long
Why can't the US stop soaring oil and gas prices? - BBC News, by Natalie Sherman
US EPA sets 2020-2022 biofuel blending mandates, denies refiners waivers | Reuters, by Stephanie Kelly and Jarrett Renshaw
A New GOP Climate Plan Is Long on Fossil Fuels, Short on Specifics, by Dan Gearino for Inside Climate News
Democrats and the endless pursuit of climate legislation | Grist by Shannon Osaka
Youth Mental Health and Climate Disaster Have to Be Addressed by Legislation | Teen Vogue, by Madigan Traversi and Giselle Perez for Teen Vogue
The War on My Homeland Offers a Real Chance to Save the Planet | The Nation, by Svitlana Romanko
Texas' Anti-Business, Pro-Fossil Fuel Law Is Spreading by Molly Taft for Earther
Zelenskyy Slams Russia for Damage to Environment, by Ben Makuch for Vice
Opinion | Climate Change Needs Durable Solutions. Tree Planting Isn't One, by Zeke Hausfather for The New York Times
Immersed in crisis, Peru neglects Amazon's destruction | AP News, by Fabiano Maisonnave
Plastic Recycling Doesn't Work and Will Never Work - The Atlantic, by Judith Enck and Jan Dell
Watchdogs Tackle the Murky World of Greenwash - Inside Climate News, by Patrick Temple-West, The Financial Times
Russia's war on Ukraine will have toxic environmental impacts that span decades by Benji Jones for Vox
Why the Texas power grid is vulnerable to blackouts during winter storms and heat waves by Neal Dhanesha for Vox
The GOP's New Climate Plan Is Bogus | The New Republic by Kate Aronoff
Bills in blue states target the fossil fuel industry for climate damage - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
9th Circuit Court blocks permits for fracking off California coast, by Christian Martinez for the LA Times
At Davos, climate activists say major issues ignored | AP News, by Peter Prengaman
Bills in red states punish climate-conscious businesses - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
Nations Are Nowhere on Their Climate Commitments, and Too Few Journalists Are Holding Them Accountable, by Andrew McCormick for The Nation
How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action - The New York Times by David Gelles and Hiroko Tabuchi
Republicans' new climate plan is light on substance | Grist by Shannon Osaka
Report sheds light on Fidelity's little-known fossil fuel ties by Emily Pontecorvo for Grist
Here in Poland, “Going Green” Means Burning Even More Coal | The Nation, by Kamila Kadzidlowska
An industry built on a fallacy of carbon neutrality | Grist, by Grist Creative
In a small Dutch town, a fight with Meta over a massive data center - The Washington Post, by Tracy Brown Hamilton
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
14 Hawai'ian Teens Sue State, Transit Department Over Pollution, by Jacqui Germain for Teen Vogue
As natural gas expands in Gulf, residents fear rising damage | AP News, by Cathy Bussewitz and Martha Irvine
A Texas county wants to punish polluters. The state won't let it. | Grist by David Leffler & Savanna Strott
A Slow Violence Comes to an End in LA | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
Glimmers of Hope
Supreme Court Delivers a Rare Win for Environmental Policy by Kevin Hurler for Earther
Shell Consultant Publicly Quits Over Company's 'Extreme Harm' to Earth, by Audrey Carleton for Vice
Volcanic cones near peak sacred to tribes gain protection | AP News, by Susan Montoya Bryan
Once eager to drill, oil companies exit leases in Arctic refuge, by Steven Mufson and Joshua Partlow for The Washington Post
Inside Clean Energy: Think Solar Panels Don't Work in Snow? New Research Says Otherwise, by Dan Gearino for Inside Climate News
Key nations agree to halt funding for new fossil fuel projects, by Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson for The Washington Post
Climate pressure from employees, shareholders rattles Big Oil, by Steven Mufson for The Washington Post
Climate in Culture
Banned Books Every Climate Nerd Should Read by Angely Mercado for Earther
The Language of Water | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
Going Deeper | Atmos, by Willow Defebaugh
What it's like to rent an electric car for the first time, by Natalie B. Compton for The Washington Post
You Want to Buy Meat? In This Economy? - The New York Times, by Annaliese Griffin
The VICE Guide to Having Sex During a Heatwave Without Getting a Heat Stroke, by Jaishree Kumar for Vice
Clean, green superhero dog fights garbage in Chile | Reuters, by Rodrigo Gutierrez
Underwater Ruins of Ancient Lost City Emerge Due to Extreme Drought, by Becky Ferriera for Vice
Elif Shafak: there's a scream building up in young people, by Lucy Knight for The Guardian
Product Drops—But Make It Mindful | Atmos, by Lauren Cochrane
Endangered Anegada rock iguanas are being eaten like popcorn by cats, by Murray Carpenter for Washington Post
True Colors | Atmos, by Willow Defebaugh
Tesla owners love their cars. Elon Musk? Not as much, by Karen Heller for The Washington Post
Inside the Secret Lives of India's Independent Wildlife Rescuers, by Arman Khan for Vice
Catherine Coleman Flowers on America's Dirty Secret | Atmos, by Catherine Coleman Flowers, as told to Yessenia Funes
World’s Biggest Organism Found in Australia, Is 4,500 Years Old, by Becky Ferreira for Vice
Can cross-breeding protect endangered species from the climate emergency? | Evolution | The Guardian, by Ida Emilie Steinmark