The unfolding crisis in Houston—and the more much more enormous (but largely ignored in the US) human catastrophes in India and Bangladesh—is a message in a bottle from the future, a message the powerful are determined to ignore.
Here is a short excerpt from DEMAND the IMPOSSIBLE! on the climate chaos we’re facing. Language matters, so let’s agree this is Climate Chaos (“climate change” is too neutral, like calling a foreign invasion “unexpected guests”):
Two young steelheads are happily swimming downstream when they pass an old crab sitting on a rock in the cool mud beside the river. “How’s the water?” asks the crab. The young fish look at one another blankly. “What’s water?” they ask.
That’s an old and universal story, and its meaning is evident: the fish are the last to notice or to be able to describe the water, whose dimensions—texture and temperature, chemical code, resonance and resistance—nonetheless constitute their whole world. Because they live within the water, it’s entirely taken for granted; because they can’t quite imagine a non-watery world, they have a limited and distorted view of their own home.
The taken for granted, as always, exercises a powerful pull: it’s difficult for some city-dwellers in the West, for example, to comprehend drought—even severe drought—as long as water pours from the tap (as it always has in their experience) whenever the faucet is opened. They will have to step outside their increasingly non-watery world if they will ever develop a truer and more accurate picture of their own closing habitat.
Our own human steelheads today, however, are driven by more than innocence or naiveté—evidence of cataclysmic climate chaos and environmental collapse are all around us, easy to see and to understand wherever you look: the raging fires and the freakish storms, the droughts and the floods, the climbing rates of extinction, the stressed-out birds or the fading bees, the frazzled fish or the misshapen frogs, the temperature, the air, the water. It takes some bizarre combination of self-interest, privilege, cynicism, ideology, corruption, dogma, or chutzpah to keep one’s head buried in the sand, denying the facts in favor of cloud-cuckoo-land fantasies. But denial is not just a river in Egypt, no—magical thinking is the name of the game for the cataclysmic climate chaos deniers, our own backward steelheads…
What is to be done? Struggling with that question illuminates the strongest argument the steelheads have, even as it exposes their point of greatest vulnerability: seriously engaging the environmental catastrophe, and taking the necessary steps to solve it, will mean…overthrowing capitalism. [Infinite and unchecked expansion in a finite world is impossible.] This is the real choice in front of us: the end of capitalism or the end of the habitable earth, saving the system of corporate finance capital or saving the system that gives us life. Which will it be?
SEE: Demand the Impossible! (Haymarket)