6th Mass Extinction, Automation, Biological Diversity, Capitalism, Carl Sagan, Climate Change Denial, Conspiracy Theorists, Coral Die-Off, Corporatocracy, Cyber-Warfare, Deforestation, Donald Trump, Endocrine Disruptors, Fairness Doctrine, Fake News, Free Market Ideologues, Gary Kasparov, Gaslighting, Martin Luther King, Michael E. Mann, Micro-Plastic Pollution, Ocean Acidification, Overthrow Project, Peak Net Energy, Rush Limbaugh, Slave Labor, Techno-Fix, The Global Elite, The Trump Wall, Trumpocene, TV Sensationalism
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” – Gary Kasparov
With each passing day, the mental stability of our narcissistic, megalomaniacal president is increasingly being called into question by those unnerved from his erratic behavior. The unhinged press conferences, comically embarrassing meetings with world leaders, and uncensored tweets reveal just how illiterate, delusional, and divisive America’s first reality TV president truly is, and the consequences won’t be confined to the imaginary world of a television screen. The irony is that the very news media networks whom the president disparages on a daily basis were instrumental in getting him elected, allowing Trump’s circus to hog the headlines in an ‘issues free’ campaign. Trump received $1.9 billion in free media coverage, 190 times as much as he paid for while the major networks made tons of revenue off Trump’s theatrics. Driving this symbiotic relationship is the fierce competition for ratings determining the advertising revenue and bottom line of these corporate-owned news networks. The media exploited Trump’s sensationalist behavior for profit, helping to drive his campaign to the top of this money-grubbing pyramid scheme. We are, as Neil Postman mused, amusing ourselves to death. Most of these networks are now busy trying to contain the monster they helped create. The other great irony is that America is getting a taste of its own medicine after having meddled in other country’s elections for decades; the CIA was one of the early developers of cyber warfare and is one of the world’s most ruthless practitioners of it.
Of the many Trump lies glossed over by corporate media, the most dangerous one is that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. The Trump administration is riddled with like-minded Flat-Earthers bent on dismantling the EPA and stoking fossil fuel consumption. In Trumpland, alternative facts are as valid as any empirical evidence. Scientists are being muzzled and the masses are being gaslighted. Conspiracy theories, hearsay, and pure fantasy have replaced meaningful public discourse. We have a demagogue working to blind everyone to what scientists are telling us and our own eyes can see. A civilization which cannot discern the truth cannot make rational decisions for the future, let alone the present. Trump’s kleptocracy will flourish in such an environment while repeating the mantra, “It’s all about the American people.”
The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance” ~ Carl Sagan
The loss of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was an important milestone in America’s decline towards a “post-truth” culture, paving the way for the “outrage industry” and talk radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh. Twitter is the new bully pulpit for a tyrant-aspiring charlatan, and his antics serve as a useful tool for distracting the public from the right-wing agenda of extreme deregulation and privatization, otherwise known as the Overthrow Project. The biggest danger of wealth inequality is capture of the political system by the elites. This has already happened in America and abroad to the extent that there is now a new globalized elite who have more fealty towards each other than their country of origin, completely lacking positive feelings and loyalty towards their own native lands. The existing oligarchy is being strengthened at the expense of an already polarized and economically disenfranchised society. The Trump regime is corporatism on steroids.
As the famous saying goes, “There’s a sucker born every minute” and Trump is just the latest huckster to exploit them. His rhetoric appeals to people’s emotions and raises their dopamine levels, but facts have a tendency to get in the way of a good story. Trump’s base of supporters, however, appear immune to facts that contradict their leaders’s disinformation. One of his big campaign pledges was to bring back the manufacturing base of the U.S. and revive the Rust Belt, but this promise rings hollow in the age of techno-capitalism. Machines have taken over manufacturing and Trump’s protectionist policies will in all likelihood accelerate this process. AI promises to bring even more radical disruption to the job market:
At a time when the Trump administration is promising to make America great again by restoring old-school manufacturing jobs, AI researchers aren’t taking him too seriously. They know that these jobs are never coming back, thanks in no small part to their own research, which will eliminate so many other kinds of jobs in the years to come, as well…
In the US, the number of manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and has steadily decreased ever since. At the same time, manufacturing has steadily increased, with the US now producing more goods than any other country but China. Machines aren’t just taking the place of humans on the assembly line. They’re doing a better job. And all this before the coming wave of AI upends so many other sectors of the economy.
Trump’s fake stance on protecting American workers will not unwind decades of globalization, unrelenting automation, or the machinations of corporate capitalism. His promise to reignite the coal industry is yet more empty rhetoric; independent energy experts at BNEF dismantle his claim:
Coal power is just too costly and inflexible, explains BNEF: “Super-low-cost renewable power — what we are now calling ‘base-cost renewables’ — is going to force a revolution in the way power grids are designed, and the way they are regulated.”
When you add the revolution in cheap fracked gas — which Trump has pledged to double down on — it’s no surprise the country shut down over 40 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations since 2000…
It’s also being driven by a collapse in the export market, as countries from Europe to Asia also move away from coal because of its economic and human cost…
So Trump won’t be bringing back the domestic coal industry. And even if he could, he can’t bring back the jobs because it’s the coal industry itself that wiped out most of those jobs through productivity gains from “strip mines and machinery”…
Conveniently ignoring the harmful environmental impacts and the fact that illegal immigration has been on the decline for the past decade, the proposed Trump Wall is an expensive monument to xenophobia and misguided fears. No wall will prevent those determined to circumvent it, but if you listen to the engineers and experts who actually have experience working at the border, then it’s not a solid continuous wall(projected to take 16 years to complete) but a partial fence that would be more effective and feasible, and that’s if you believe that Americans will take the place of those millions of migrant farm workers who leave their homes every year to plant, cultivate, harvest, and pack America’s fruits, vegetables and nuts, in addition to the millions of other low-skilled and low-paying jobs that immigrants perform. Capitalism thrives on the back of cheap labor, but even these jobs are not safe from machines.
What kind of world is going to support all this labor-saving, hi-tech gadgetry when its creators are too short-sighted to maintain the habitability of the planet for their own descendants? There is no deus ex machina to prevent catastrophic collapse of the oceans nor is there one to stop catastrophic climate change. Industrial civilization is a one-hit wonder for which there are no solutions that scale up to the mountain of problems it has created. Dealing with the environmental costs of fossil fuels is the classic “prisoner’s dilemma” whereby the incentive to cheat for short-term economic gain prevents the cooperation needed by everyone. The economic, legal, and moral framework to tackle climate change simply does not exist. The invisible hand of the “free market” has turned into the boot of environmental catastrophe.
Primates, mankind’s closest biological cousins in the animal kingdom, are in steep decline because they have the “misfortune of being concentrated in areas rich in certain resources precious to their sapient but ravenous cousins.” Not even our fellow human beings can escape war and death when they live atop coveted resources, so what chance does any other species have?
“People have argued that we only have to worry about human-caused extinctions if we do something that causes the loss of 80 or 90 percent of species on the planet,” said UC Berkeley environmental scientist James W. Kirchner.
“Our analysis shows that even if the human impact is much smaller than that – 20 or 30 or even 50 percent of species – it’s still going to take 10 million years for the Earth to recover. That is well past the expected life span of the human species, or even of the genus Homo.” – Link
The study quoted above was from the year 2000 and has the usual hopeful spin:
“It is not preordained that high levels of human-caused extinction have to happen,” Kirchner said. “Our future depends on what we choose to do on a national and international level, as a society. Those decisions are critical because they will have very long-lasting consequences.”
Not surprisingly, we have failed to heed that advice. Scientists say our rampant road building has dissected the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments too small to support significant wildlife. A new study covering 130 countries finds deforestation rises with incomes in developing economies and never reverses. This is particularly troubling because Africa is a developing continent with some of the world’s largest tracts of remaining undisturbed forests and biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity loss is an existential threat comparable to climate change. The glaring warning from all these studies is that the Western way of life exported across the entire planet has brought us to a point of cataclysmic overshoot. Business-as-usual only exacerbates the crisis:
Real-world CO2 emissions have tracked the high end of earlier [IPCC] emissions scenarios, and until the currently wealthy countries can produce a large decline in their own emissions per capita, it is dubious to project that emissions per capita in the less developed countries will not continue on a trajectory up to the levels of currently wealthy countries…[The top 10% of the economically wealthy in the world produce almost as much total GHG emissions as the bottom 90% combined]… – Link
Trump peddles the false hope of regaining material wealth for a collapsing middle class with his slogan “Make America great again”, but after being elected, is giving more power and riches to those who have created this environmental and social catastrophe. Capitalism is, as Martin Luther King observed, “socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.” Nonetheless, in the bigger scheme of modern civilization’s looming collapse, the ‘Trumpocene’ amounts to nothing more than polishing the brass on the Titanic.
A time is coming when what we do to Earth is completely overshadowed by what Earth does to us. We have already condemned the planet to an ice-free Arctic and no amount of techno-fixes will return it to its former state. Were humans to disappear today from the Earth, the after-effects of our massive fossil fuel binge would reverberate for aeons. The last time there was an ice-free Arctic was during the Eemian period 125,000 years ago at the height of the last major interglacial period, but the CO2 levels of today are much higher now and causing the climate to change at a rate that is 170 times that of natural forces with much more warming to come. According to a new study, manmade global warming is replicating conditions that triggered an abrupt sea level rise of several meters in the ocean around Antarctica some 15,000 years ago. The damage done is irreversible not only on a human timescale or a civilizational time scale, but a species timescale. The total global carbon dioxide emissions load from the onset of the industrial revolution is enough to push the next ice age back by 100,000 years and only deep geologic time will significantly remediate the chemistry of a CO2-spiked atmosphere. The same is true for ocean acidification. The natural process of continental rock weathering to neutralize all of the CO2 from human activity that is entering the oceans would take hundreds of thousands of years. Plankton blooms, a key part of the entire marine food web and the biological carbon pump, are being disrupted by warming, acidifying oceans. The Great Barrier Reef is expected to be completely dead within the next two decades and 98% of all reefs around the world gone by mid century. The latest research indicates ocean acidification is much worse for corals that previously thought.
Manmade persistent organic pollutants(POPs) such as PCBs and flame retardants can be found in the most remote places on Earth such as the 36,000-foot-deep Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean where researchers tested crustaceans and found them to contain 50 times more POPs than crabs living in one of China’s most polluted rivers. Once these endocrine-disrupting compounds settle into the sediments, they can remain there for thousands of years before being disturbed and recirculated into the environment once again as a contaminant. Microplastics less than 5mm in size are ubiquitous in the environment, having been documented in the waters of both the Arctic and Antarctic and recently found on 73% of Britain’s beaches.
The irrational ramblings of a demagogue won’t change a shifting earth laying waste to a once rich ecosphere and grinding to dust the landmarks of modern man. Delusions and protestations have no bearing on the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics.