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William Rivers Pitt | How to Die of Dumb

The equation we are busily erasing from the blackboard – for profit while encased in a suffocating bag of ignorance – is ourselves.

Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma since 1994, took to the floor of the Senate the other day with a snowball in a bag. Because it was cold in Washington DC, he said, because there was snow on the ground, that proves climate change is a hoax. “In case we had forgotten,” he said, pulling the snowball from the sack, “because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, just from outside here. It’s very, very cold out.” He went on to denounce what he called the “hysteria on global warming,” and then threw the snowball at the presiding officer.

James Inhofe – who believes snow in DC disproves climate change – is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, because of course he is. He won with 57 percent of the vote in his last re-election campaign, because of course he did.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky since 1984, has been urging state officials all across the US to refuse to comply with the new EPA rule on carbon emissions that was championed by the Obama administration. The rule requires existing power plants to cut their carbon emissions by 30 percent, based on the 2005 requirements, by the year 2030. Senator McConnell is having none of it. “Think twice,” he said, “before submitting a state plan, which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits, when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism.”

Mitch McConnell, as Senate Majority Leader, has the power to keep any bills he dislikes from coming to a vote. Until January of 2017 at least, that means any legislation seeking to address the issue of climate change will never see the light of day, because McConnell thinks giving attention to the threat of carbon emissions – what is eventually going to kill us all – amounts to “political extremism.” Because of course he does.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, there is no snow. Wasilla, long the home of the re-start of the annual Iditarod race (which comes after the ceremonial start in Anchorage), has lost the privilege, because you can’t run dog sleds without snow. The race was required to move the re-start 300 miles north to Fairbanks, but even that is becoming chancy. The Chena River, where they wanted to hold the re-start because it has, since time out of mind, been locked in reliably thick ice at this time of year, does not have reliable ice anymore. The islands in the Beaufort Sea near Prudhoe Bay are swarming with polar bears, because the ice floes they once used to hunt seals are gone. According to the locals, this is unprecedented.

Sounds pretty warm to me.

San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, along with more than twenty other cities out West are experiencing the warmest winters they’ve ever recorded. Meanwhile, back East, cities like Boston and Buffalo are trying to dig out from one of the most fearsome winters in memory. People in New England and California have been joking about building a pipeline to ship all the frozen water blanketing the East out to the parched West. If they can build the massive Keystone XL funnel from Alberta to the Gulf in order to ship poison to the world, why not build one to ship vital water to people who desperately need it. It’s a joke…for now, anyway. Someday – if the West continues to dry out and the East continues to be buried and paralyzed by storms – it might be an idea whose time has come.

Speaking of warm and water, most of California has no water to speak of, and what they do have in the aquifers has been tainted by fracking waste. In the mountains, there is virtually no snowpack, which not only means their drought will broaden and deepen in the months to come, but also means their fire season this year looks to be positively terrifying. Australia can tell them all about it; vast swaths of the continent are engulfed in flames. Fires during the Australian summers are not uncommon, but their size and severity have been dramatically increasing, and pretty much everyone there with knowledge on the subject chalks it up to climate change.

Don’t try telling that to Messrs. Inhofe and McConnell, however. There’s snow on the ground in DC, which means it’s all a bunch of paranoid crap.

I don’t have an easy answer for how to deal with this. How to explain people like Inhofe and McConnell, how to explain people who have voluntarily returned them to Congress for a combined total of 52 years, would require a political, economic and sociological treatise that I have neither the space nor the time to compile at this juncture. The short version, however, is that our cannibalistic economic model, indifferent news media, sagging voter turnout, general cynicism, religious derangement and fundamental addiction to a cognitive dissonance that motivates so very many to slap aside stone-carved facts staring them in the face, is going to put this whole human experiment into a shallow, unmarked grave.

People talk about “Destroying the planet,” which is a hoot. The planet isn’t going anywhere. Even the environment may recover in one form or another. The equation we are busily erasing from the blackboard – for profit while encased in a suffocating bag of ignorance – is ourselves.

This is how you die of Dumb.