Climate Denial and the Erosion of U.S. Democracy
The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in March – a sign that a postulated climate tipping point has already been exceeded.
Adding to the troubling portents of rapid climate change for this and coming generations, NOAA reported that global mean temperatures for March and the first three months of 2015 were the hottest on record. April's average temperature for the contiguous lower 48 U.S. states was the 17th warmest ever measured. The winter of 2014-2015 was also the warmest on record.
Of course, all of this doesn't sit well with climate change deniers in the U.S. Congress, who at this time include the chairs of key policy making bodies. This includes the Senate Environment Committee, which is now led by none other than leading climate denier Senator James – just call me “Jim” – Inhofe of Oklahoma. Many Americans remember Oklahoma as the center-point of the historic Dust Bowl, a key driver in the ensuing “Great Depression” and a mass exodus of Oklahomans westward to California.
In fact, these Republican leaders are so outraged by government efforts to better understand climate change and craft policies capable of mitigating and adapting to it that they're proposing massive cuts in funding for NOAA's Earth Science division at a time when such research is more vital to U.S. and global society than ever. And then of course whitewash and cover it up by obfuscation, distraction and spin.
Running roughshod on the U.S. Constitution and basic citizens' rights
As the Washington Post's James Samenow reported on May 1, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee – chaired by another leading Republican climate change denier, Texas Representative Lamar Smith – has put forth proposed spending bill that would cut funding for NASA's earth science programs by more than $300 million. This comes at a time when Smith's home state of Texas is struggling to cope with an enduring drought that threatens public drinking water supplies, as well as those being used for agriculture and power generation.
Unfortunately, backed to the hilt by fossil-fuel billionaires such as the Koch brothers, Republican efforts to bash free speech, the right to petition government and participatory democracy, along with scientific research, public education and political opposition, doesn't stop there. As Slate.com's Justin Pidot reported on May 11, Wyoming's Republican-led state government is running roughshod over the U.S. Constitution and the fundamental rights it affords U.S. citizens by criminalizing citizen science and public sharing of vital health and environmental information.
At bottom, by seeking to forcibly quash any and all opposition to their beliefs and cement their hold on power, Republicans across the local, state and federal levels are undermining the foundations of U.S. democracy and capitalism and pushing the U.S. towards some mutant mix of totalitarianism, fascism and plutocracy. Putting such academic ideological meanderings aside, at the root of all this an all too familiar characteristic of human nature and politics: the desire to gain and hold on to power and wealth. Damn the torpedoes should anything get in their way.
A mutant mix
Republican-led affronts to U.S. democracy and enlightened capitalism are akin to those of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and other leaders who have gone to any lengths to stifle any and all opposition while tightening their grip on power, wealth and capital. Never mind if the basic rights afforded U.S. citizens by the nations' founding fathers, including freedom of expression and the right to petition the government, are buried along the way. Another key foray in this regard is stifling not only scientists and “intellectuals” but any citizens whose research that they deem threatens their narrow, self-serving interests.
While declaring themselves champions of democracy and capitalism, their dangerous, misguided policies have been steadily eroding the U.S. middle class and society in its broadest sense since the late 1980s. It seems clear that rather than fulfilling their obligations as government leaders, they're sole guiding purpose is to retain power and enrich themselves, their benefactors and cronies in doing so.
Criminalizing citizen science, free speech and the right to petition government
The home of Dick Cheney, the “Cowboy State's” enlightened government leaders have made it a crime to take photos in Yellowstone National Park, or anywhere in the state, if they're to be shared publicly and specifically with government agencies.
Why take such an outrageous action, one that's blatantly unconstitutional no less? Well, Wyoming's waterways have been and continue to be contaminated, in large part due to fecal and liquid waste from cattle ranching. Cattle ranchers form a powerful political interest group in Wyoming. So state government leaders decided to outlaw citizens' free speech and right to petition government in order to squash any evidence the state's waterways are being dangerously polluted and threaten residents' health by cattle ranching.
Can you imagine? Wyoming residents are now put in the position of being arrested and jailed if they do what amounts to a vital public service. What's more, reporting this to state agencies responsible for assuring human and environmental health and quality is now a crime. Such action is nothing less than totalitarianism worthy of a Putin and ilk.
Of course, the actions of Wyoming's legislature are blatantly unconstitutional, legal experts say. Even as they trumpet themselves as champions of liberty and freedom, these Republicans are attempting to eviscerate the foundations of U.S. democracy, not to mention vital environmental protections and any notion of a free, open and competitive U.S. economy.
That doesn't deter them as their underlying purpose is to gain and cement their hold on U.S. government and society. What's needed is a concerted effort on the part of the U.S. citizens to stem and turn the tide. Spreading the word in person and online, organizing public demonstrations in opposition to these initiatives voting these representatives of the people out of power would be important initial steps to thwarting their aims and moving forward to institute enlightened government policies and programs.
*Image credits: NOAA