If American soil was attacked by a foreign power, the country would be at war.
And all Americans would recognize that our nation was under attack, whether they wanted the fight or not.
That’s how Americans felt after 9/11, when the whole nation went on red alert and our nation was changed, for good and ill, perhaps forever.
Now, imagine an assault on the United States beyond a single devastating terrorist attack. What if a hostile foreign power bombed coastal cities, burned wide swaths of suburban areas and then occupied territory in several states?
Climate activist and author Bill McKibben argues that countries across the globe, but especially the United States, are losing territory to climate change. In “Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet,” McKibben writes:
Many of us hesitate to walk across a grassy meadow because of the proliferation of ticks bearing Lyme disease which have come with the hot weather; we have found ourselves unable to swim off beaches, because jellyfish, which thrive as warming seas kill off other marine life, have taken over the water. The planet’s diameter will remain eight thousand miles, and its surface will still cover two hundred million square miles. But the earth, for humans, has begun to shrink, under our feet and in our minds.
In 2018 alone, Americans have already lost territory to climate disasters:
- Hurricane Michael attacked the Florida Panhandle with 150 mile per hour winds and 14-foot swells, flattening 95% of the buildings in the resort town of Mexico Beach.
- Wildfires have devastated wide swaths of California, killing scores of people and rendering rapidly growing suburbs uninhabitable.
- Summer heatwaves barred the outdoors to tens of thousands of people, especially the elderly and infirm, in many places, especially the Southwest, which saw a record number of days over 100 degrees.
Such widespread and rapid destruction can only be described as war. Yet, unless they were personally affected by weather calamities this year, most Americans just shrugged it off.
Natural disasters — terrible, but what can you do? That’s nature.
Scientists tell us that the worst weather disasters aren’t natural anymore.
From Florida and North Carolina to Texas and California, this year’s un-natural disasters were caused or made worse by climate change. And we all know where that comes from — burning fossil fuels and cutting down rainforests.
Yet, the federal government still fails to act, even as the Trump administration’s own scientists issue new reports predicting severe and expensive damage from climate disasters in the future.
As McKibben explains, some of it is just that humans are naturally slow to act. But it’s also that Americans have been fed a diet of lies about climate for thirty years by fossil fuel companies:
Simple inertia and the human tendency to prioritize short-term gains have played a role, but the fossil-fuel industry’s contribution has been by far the most damaging. Alex Steffen, an environmental writer, coined the term “predatory delay” to describe “the blocking or slowing of needed change, in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime.” The behavior of the oil companies, which have pulled off perhaps the most consequential deception in mankind’s history, is a prime example.
Through a coordinated and expensive campaign to spread lies and confusion about climate science and to stop the federal government from acting seriously to cut greenhouse gas pollution, fossil fuel companies have put our nation’s prosperity, and perhaps its very existence, at risk. And all just so fossil fuel shareholders and CEOs could enjoy a few more decades of record profits.
Talk about selling out your own country for thirty pieces of silver.
Energy tyrants, carbon Tories, King Exxon III — for anyone who knows their American history, oil and coal companies are starting to look like less and less like suppliers of a necessary evil to keep the economy running and more and more like oppressors of the American people now and into future generations.
The Climate Equivalent of War
This year’s weather disasters are having the same effect on our country as a massive, all-out war.
No combination of foreign powers, in fact, could inflict this level of catastrophic damage on our country. But if they tried, you can be sure that Americans from your house to Waffle House to the White House would be living every day on red alert, just as Americans did after 9/11.
Maybe you don’t want war. I certainly don’t. Similarly, going back to the American Revolution, many Americans before 1776 didn’t want war either.
Even after the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, and British General Gage’s army attacked patriot positions in Boston Harbor at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June, that summer Congress submitted the so-called Olive Branch Petition to King George III in an attempt to avoid armed conflict.
A fat lot of good it did anybody. A few months after that, in October, the Royal Navy burned Falmouth.
Yet, even as people in both America and Britain cried out at this atrocity, some members of the Continental Congress still hesitated to break with Britain.
John Adams had a word or two for them. He replied that, when your country is under attack, you don’t have a choice but to defend yourself.
And that was as true in 1776 as it is today.
Today, America is indeed under attack. And solar patriots must stand up to protect the land we love.
And I don’t mean that we should defend America with violence. But we should be prepared to stand with vigor against the violence that fossil fuel barons’ greed is unleashing on all of us.
That’s more reason than ever to help our country go solar on a war footing — with unprecedented urgency and an all-out effort by all sectors of society.
— Erik Curren, the Solar Patriot