On Labor Day, September 2nd, 1935, a powerful hurricane devastated the Florida Keys. The storm killed hundreds of veterans at Civil Conservation Corps camps with the combined impacts of high winds and high waters. The winds were so powerful that the storm overturned a Florida East Coast railroad train that was sent too late to evacuate the veterans. Ernest Hemingway in his article for New Masses entitled “Who Murdered the Vets” described the wreckage.
Some of these factors, those intensified by climate change, can be eased somewhat by addressing climate change globally. The immediate forecast for action, however, is dismal. The United States, a major contributor of carbon dioxide and methane, two accelerants of climate change, is doing little to help control or reverse the damaging factors impacting climate change. Fossil fuel usage is continuing at unacceptable levels. This, in turn, creates compounded problems. For example, this week the federal government approved mineral mining, natural gas extraction, and forest harvesting at the Tongass National Forest in Southeastern Alaska. This is a double-edged sword disaster. The mineral mining and gas extraction will release methane, plus the gas, at some point, will be burned, spewing carbon dioxide into the environment. Forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Cutting down the forest while at the same time emitting more CO2 seriously intensifies the impact of either activity. Approval for destruction of the Alaskan natural resources comes while the Amazon rainforest is burning.
Individually, we can and should continue to do all we can to minimize our own carbon footprint by reducing automobile usage, recycling, reusing, and repurposing. We can support environmental organizations both locally and nationally through money and time. We can continue to press the federal government to act. Republican Senate leadership, specifically Sen. Mitch McConnell, is blocking meaningful legislation. Despite Trump’s failure to attend the G7 Climate session last week, his office should also be contacted. Perhaps overwhelming pressure will prompt administration action.
Unlike the veterans on the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935, we have had plenty of scientific warning about climate change. Failure to globally act has resulted in converting climate change to climate crisis. The veterans died because the government failed to act to protect them from the storm. We cannot permit the continued obstruction and counter-productive measures of the current administration to continue to leave us unprotected.
In the United States’ exhausting national political environment, it is easy and understandable to wrap ourselves in an emotional and psychological cocoon. Administration atrocities deepen almost daily and consume us. Kids are in cages. Migrants are in dangerous concentration camps. Farmers are devastated by ill-conceived tariffs. Urban dwellers are insulted with taunts of “rat infested” while at the same time the federal budget removed rodent control funding for cities. We are experiencing the most amoral, corrupt and cruel administration in the history of the United States. Action on so many fronts is more than frustrating, it’s exhausting. Just this week immigrant parents of sick children were notified they have 33 days to leave the country or be deported. Imagine having to remove a child from life saving medical care and, in effect, causing that child to die. Why the government issued a death warrant for these children is beyond me.