A string of natural disasters in the last few weeks has given us a small glimpse of what our future will look like if we continue to accept living under a system that puts profits before the well-being of the planet. Last Monday, a massive tornado more than a half-mile wide tore through the town of Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 130 people and injuring hundreds. It was the single deadliest tornado in the US ever recorded. Three weeks before the tornado in Joplin, a series of tornadoes ripped through six southern states, killing more than 300 people. And on April 19th, North Carolina, a state that sees an average of 19 tornadoes a year, was hit by more than 60 tornadoes in a single weekend. Forty-three people died. This outbreak of tornadoes is just one of many recent signs that global warming has put our planet in distress – with potentially catastrophic consequences for humanity.
At the same time tornadoes were ripping through the South, the largest wildfires in Texas’ history burned more than 1 million acres of land. The fires were caused by the worst drought Texas has ever experienced and which is expected to continue throughout the summer. In early May, record amounts of rain and snowfall throughout the Midwest led to near-record flooding along the Mississippi river, destroying entire towns.
These record droughts and floods in the US were seen on an even larger scale throughout the world in the past year. Last August in Pakistan, more than 20 million people were displaced from their homes by a massive flood that covered 62,000 square miles, roughly the size of England. Australia and New Zealand experienced flooding on a similar scale in January. And in the Amazon, droughts that usually occur every one hundred years have occurred twice in the last five years. The list could go on.
Most scientists say that these events are clear signs that global warming is destroying our planet’s environment. The massive burning of fossil-based fuels such as gas, oil, and coal is to blame for the increasing amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Environmental scientists have been predicting for years that as the planet’s average temperature heats up, more severe droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes will be the result.
But we hear none of this when the media cover these natural disasters or when politicians respond to them. The media focus on these natural disasters like they are episodes of some reality TV show. All we get are tragic images and commentary that just points out the obvious like “Wow, this sure is a big tornado!” The impression that we are left with is that none of these events are connected to each other, or to global warming.
Meanwhile, the politicians simply respond to these natural disasters by giving speeches on the rubble and handing out disaster relief. At the same time they give handouts to the very corporations whose actions are making global warming worse. In March, the Obama administration announced new leasing permits for coal extraction on thousands of acres of land in Wyoming. The 2.39 billion tons of coal extracted from these lands will bring in billions of profits for the major coal companies and release more than 3.9 billion tons of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere.
But why would the media tell us anything that could help us connect the dots? And how could we expect the politicians to do anything about global warming? The very same people who have everything to lose from us actually taking action to save our planet are the very same people who own the major media and fund the politicians in the first place – the big banks, corporations, and other investors whose profits depend on the destruction of the planet and the burning of fossil fuels! The top five oil companies alone have made more than $1 trillion in profits over the last ten years. They have every reason to keep us in the dark. If humanity hopes to have any future on this planet, then it is their system which values profits over life that will have to be the first thing to go. Their profits are killing our planet.