essentials of life

E-5 multiple-vortex tornado

“Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

With apologies to the creators of “Pinky and the Brain,” the wickedly witty cartoon series about a super-smart laboratory mouse and his decidedly less cerebral sidekick, I imagine an exchange like that recurring nightly at the White House between President Donald Trump and senior adviser Steve Bannon – except I would substitute a certain four-letter, sexual slang term for “take.”

World-beaters in the worst way, these guys may be the death of us. Or, if not us, our children and grandchildren. Scarcely a day has passed since January 20 without the Trump White House issuing an executive order disabling some environmental safeguard or announcing a new pipeline, drilling plan or effort to revive an energy source whose time has passed.

Trump has already signed into law a bill that nullifies supposedly “job killing” federal restrictions on coal companies dumping mining wastes into streams and rivers.

Under its new, pro-petroleum boss, Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency voided an Obama-era rule that required oil and natural gas companies to report emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, from their facilities. “The future ain’t what it used to be,” Pruitt boasted at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Reports in a variety of publications, from mainstream to alt-right, have indicated that the Trump administration favors a $2 billion cut in the EPA’s budget, with its climate change programs likely to take the hardest hit.

Multiple news outlets have reported that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget may be trimmed by 22 percent, which would threaten its climate-monitoring satellite program.

The Trump administration also is said to be considering requests from auto manufacturers to lower emission standards for cars and light trucks.

Meanwhile, our weather patterns increasingly bear a scary resemblance to the freaky meteorological conditions described in T.C. Boyle’s 2001 novel A Friend of the Earth. Boyle’s darkly comic work of speculative fiction takes place in the year 2025, when he imagines that unheeded warnings about fossil fuel folly have left average folks to contend with tilt ‘o whirl weather conditions and rising famine while the rich live high and dry in private enclaves in the least affected zones.

Eight years shy of Boyle’s apocalyptic scenario, we’re not seeing wildlife dying out in droves and wet crops rotting in the fields, but we are coming off another record year of escalating warmth and experiencing some of weirdest, least predictable weather in history: Chicago’s first snow-less winter in 142 years; torrential rains and dam-busting floods in long parched California; Massachusetts’ first known February tornado; rare wintertime twisters decimating communities from Texas to Mississippi to Illinois.

Why the President and so many Republicans are not merely ignoring these suspicious events but pushing for regulation rollbacks and renewed dirty energy is a bafflement. Well, it’s a bafflement if conservatism is about caution, about proceeding prudently, as opposed to being about short-term gain.

The world’s scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that climate change is real, that it is distinctly linked to human industrial activity and that the longer we delay addressing the causes, the worse and less reversible the consequences will be.

Is it possible that these scientists are all wet? Sure. Not likely, but possible. They may have miscalculated. They could be dupes of a Chinese hoax or part of an anti-capitalist conspiracy, as some people, almost entirely on the Right, have theorized. But if they were lying or simply mistaken, so what? The smart, sane, conservative approach would be to err on the side of caution. We might not grow the economy as fast, but our next generations will have cleaner air and water — you know, the essentials of life.

Never forget, in this big political gamble, this dangerous experiment, we’re the the laboratory mice.



Image: a screenshot of an E-5 multiple-vortex tornado by National Geographic via YouTube (fair use).

Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.