We hear the most contorted and grotesque fairytales about how a handful of billionaires and their sycophants are going to solve the security crisis in Northeast Asia.
But the security crisis we keep being reminded of concerns North Korea’s nuclear weapons ― something treated as if unrelated to the blatant violation of the nonproliferation treaty by the United States in its failure to destroy its own cache and in its announcement of a $1 trillion plan to develop next-generation nuclear weapons.
But anyone who experienced July of 2018 in Seoul or in Tokyo knows that the overwhelming security threat for the region is not an attack from North Korea or the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The security threat, so devastating in scale as to force us to rethink the basic assumptions of our economy and of our culture, cannot be named, cannot be addressed, cannot be responded to. And it cannot be stopped with fighter planes or with missile defense.
Even as it takes the lives of hundreds, and thousands, in East Asia, and soon to be many times that amount, our newspapers, our politicians, our so-called “leaders” pretend that it does not exist.
The temperatures in Seoul and Tokyo this July were unprecedented, perhaps since the Permian extinction. And this heatwave, which kills the poor, the working classes and the ill disproportionately, came on top of unprecedented floods in western Japan that killed about 200 people. This situation is better than in many other countries.
The news is filled with startling episodes related to the weather, but it offers no analysis. And so the greetings exchanged between people meeting in Seoul has become, “It is so hot these days. I wonder why?”
Almost without exception, the media explains nothing about the cause of this crisis or about its relationship to the industrialized society we have embraced.
But they all know what the cause of this heatwave killing people is. They all know the reason for the floods and the deserts. The situation is going to get much, much worse.
We keep this dark secret to ourselves while youth are encouraged to indulge in idle pleasures of the moment. Our civilization, one based on the substitution of coal and petroleum for human and animal labor, has ended in failure and radical change is demanded immediately.
We are seeing around us the signs of rapidly progressing climate change. The warming of our air, the death of our oceans, the spread of deserts all around us and finally the impending collapse of the modern agricultural system on which we depend.
We do not want to know that every time we turn on a light, every time we check our messages, every time we use an electric fan, we are digging our own graves.
But science shows what is happening to our environment because of such carbon emissions, and because of the destruction of forests and of soil and of water.
We can expect things to get much worse and so we must restructure our cities and rethink our energy policy. We must rethink trade, growth and all our assumptions.
What is the solution?
In the face of death and destruction, almost no serious thought is going on. What we know is that half-way “carbon trading,” or “solar power on the side” proposals will save us.
How many tens of thousands must die before we start to act? Does the cost of basic food have to triple, or quadruple (or go up 10-20-fold) before we recognize there is a crisis? Must our children live in constant fear of the bitter future we are hiding from them?
Perhaps we can feel grateful that the Trump administration is no longer threatening to destroy North Korea. But the word “climate change” the greatest threat in our history, has been eliminated from the media and from government discussion in the U.S., and many countries have followed suit. The interests of coal and oil tycoons are the highest priority in Washington D.C. and the pathological drive for the destruction of our civilization is on.
We must adopt the equivalent of a wartime economy overnight, full mobilization, and do so through close cooperation globally and the highest level of bravery and moral commitment.
When I say a “wartime economy” I do not mean that we need to prepare for a war ― quite the opposite, I mean we must shut down weapons factories and dedicate that expertise to the response to climate change. Yet the reference to war is not entirely superfluous. This fight against the vested interests that make billions of dollars by keeping us hooked on petroleum, by encouraging a superficial culture of consumption and waste, is a fight that will require tremendous moral courage at every turn.
Let us go back to the vision of the “Four Freedoms” put forth by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his State of the Union address of January 6, 1941. That speech was the start of the move towards the global system established under the United Nations Charter in 1945, which has since gone so far off course.
Roosevelt called for the protection of “Four Freedoms” for all citizens ― “Freedom of speech,” “Freedom of worship,” “Freedom from want” and “Freedom from fear.”
Roosevelt was not ambiguous about the four freedoms.
He stated: “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression ― everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way ― everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want ― which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings that will secure for every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants ― everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear ― which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor ― anywhere in the world.”
The fight against climate change is even more daunting, and even more dangerous, than the fight against fascism in the 1940s. It will require at least as much clarity of vision, as much self-sacrifice and as great a concern for society as a whole, as much struggle and painful decisions.
It will require a fifth freedom, “freedom from pollution,” that is to say that no one has the right to pollute the air, the water, of our precious planet.
I call upon all of you, the people of East Asia, of the U.S., and citizens of our precious Earth, to rise to this occasion without hesitation.