Posted 6 months ago on Oct. 31, 2012, 5:23 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Frankenstorms and Climate Change: How the 1% Created a Monster
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 09:34 By Chris Williams, Climate and Capitalism | Op-Ed
“If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.
“If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.”
—Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley There is little doubt that freakish and unnaturally-assembled storms are a taste of what the future holds under an economic system that has “interfered with the tranquility of domestic affections,” galvanized the forces of nature into a fury of clashing dislocations as we pump ever-more heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere and industrial filth into our lungs.
The riptides of climate change are beginning to tear at the fabric of our biosphere as the earth’s climate system lurches, in ungainly and lumbering jerks, from the relatively dormant and benign stability of the last 10,000 years, toward a more volatile, violent and less hospitable new climatic state previously unknown to human civilization.
Alluding, therefore, to Mary Shelley’s great work of gothic horror through the appellation of Frankenstorm for the confluence of Hurricane Sandy and a cold front is, in many ways, quite apt. Particularly as Shelley herself offered a symbolic criticism of the inner dynamics of capitalism and class society in Frankenstein, captured in the quote above, as the conflicted Victor recounts his tale and the uncontrollable forces that he has unleashed as a result of his compulsion to continue with his project, despite the warning signs that are proliferating around him.
The obsession that took over Victor, his growing alienation from the world, which makes him forsake friends, family, even sustenance, is echoed on a global scale by the unquenchable thirst for profits of the global capitalist monster, which eats through our lives and our planet in search of fresh fields for exploitation and growth. The fact that Victor’s uncontrollable quest consumed him in its flames when his creation turned against him won’t stop similar warning signs preventing capitalism eating itself — and taking the rest of the planet down with it.
That human-induced climate change is part of the reason for Hurricane Sandy, the “largest hurricane in Atlantic history measured by diameter of gale force winds (1,040 mi)”, isexplained by Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research:
“The sea surface temperatures along the Atlantic coast have been running at over 30C above normal for a region extending 800km off shore all the way from Florida to Canada. Global warming contributes 0.60C to this. With every degree C, the water holding of the atmosphere goes up 7%, and the moisture provides fuel for the tropical storm, increases its intensity, and magnifies the rainfall by double that amount compared with normal conditions.
Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and ocean temperatures, and a warmer and moister atmosphere, and its effects are in the range of 5 to 10%. Natural variability and weather has provided the perhaps optimal conditions of a hurricane running into extra-tropical conditions to make for a huge intense storm, enhanced by global warming influences.”
As the climate continues to warm, the effect will only increase, leading to more extreme weather events, flooding and drought, as outlined in two recent Nature articles.
And warm it will. Not because we don’t have answers to prevent that from happening and derive our energy from sources other than fossil fuels, but because it’s simply too profitable to change. There is a compulsion inherent to capitalism; the propellant force of profit that powers further growth in a perpetual feedback loop, whereby the colossal forces of production are testing the limits of the planet to absorb the battering its biosphere is taking.
Never has Marx’s comment in the Communist Manifesto on the nature of capitalism been so apposite:
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