The Sky is Frying!

The Sky is Frying

by Jeffrey St. Clair

As I sat down to write this on Thursday afternoon, more than 100 million Americans were sweltering under extreme heat warnings and that didn’t include the Pacific Northwest, where the vents of the blast furnace are slated to open on Monday sparking temperatures in the 100s for most of next week. (It’s a modest 87 at the moment here in Oregon City.)

Meanwhile, this week the tarmac on the runways at London’s Heathrow Airport melted, after the temperature soared to 104F. (It had never been 100F there before at any time.) Fires burned across England, France, Portugal and Spain. The surface soil temperature in Spain spiked to 138F. People died on the streets, in their cars, on their bikes, in prisons and nursing homes. Europe’s response to this crisis is to restart shuttered coal plants.

It’s raining where’s it’s never rained before. Ice frozen 10,000 years ago is melting into milky streams. Rivers that have run for 1,500 years are now seasonal creeks. 1,000-year floods are happening every 30 years. Forests are burning beyond their capacity to regenerate, while deserts are expanding in all directions. Alpine glaciers in the Alps and the Karakoram are collapsing. The cost of all is this enormous, hundreds of billions a year in the US alone. But one community’s catastrophe is another’s financial opportunity. Many of the same corporations driving the climate crisis and are making out on the other end “restoring” the damage–often underwritten by government subsidies on both ends.

Here there are new fires, big mean ones, in Texas, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California. Yosemite is burning. Fires are closing in one the Mariposa grove of Giant Sequoias and across the Owens Valley to the east in the Inyo Range some of the world’s oldest trees, 4500-year-old Bristlecone Pines, are threatened by the mega-drought, bark-beetles and displacement by the limber pine.

The Great Salt Lake will soon be a great salt flat, a vast basin of toxic salt that will be lifted by western winds and blown into Provo and Logan and Salt Lake City. Farther south, Lake Powell is now Glen Canyon again, it’s impounded waters lower than at any time since the floodgates of that monstrous dam closed in 1963. I wish my old pals Dave Brower, Ed Abbey and Katie Lee had lived to see this day. They wouldn’t be surprised that humanity was responsible, through ignorance, complacency and greed. Hell, basically the same human characteristics that flooded the canyon in the first place having been warned that this would be the inevitable result.

The Colorado River is all used up and there won’t be more where that came from. The western states want water; West Virginia wants coal. It’s not a fair fight. West Virginia will win every time.  Even the powerbrokers of the West understand this dynamic. Fossil fuel comes first. So the irrigators and the real estate tycoons and the ranchers and the city managers and the casino operators and the golf course resort owners are now contemplating how to divert water from the Mississippi to the desert Southwest. It’ll have to happen soon. Time is running short.

The Overton Arm of Lake Mead 2000, 2021 and 2022. The “lake” is now at just 27% capacity. Photo: NASA.

So a certain desperation is setting in, even among the people who are profiting off of our perpetual state of crisis. But it hasn’t sharpened our politics and it won’t. This was the week Joe Manchin performed a late-term abortion on the fetal remains of Biden’s already grossly inadequate climate plan. The same week that Biden jetted off to Riyadh to fist bump the Saudi dictator and frantically begged him to jack up production of Saudi crude oil. But the Crown Prince stiffed the American president in public, a decision which may have been the only favor the Saudis have ever done for the environment.

Biden, the humiliated weakling, returned to the states, vowing shrilly to declare a “climate emergency.” This is more mystification from the machine and only the most credulous among us could take it as anything more than a grain of toxic salt. In his first year in office, Biden had already approved more new oil drilling permits than Trump and that was before he provoked, armed and financed another oil war in Ukraine. None of this is surprising. It’s who Biden is. It’s who every American president has been or likely will be.

Once our nation ran on slave labor. But since the end of the Civil War, the country has run on fossil fuels. Every institution of the government has been constructed to exploit and safeguard that power source. It’s not merely that the government won’t confront the climate crisis, but that it is incapable of confronting the climate crisis. To confront it would require the government to go to war against itself. For all practical purposes, the government of the US is the fossil fuel industry.

The sky is frying and, as the wind shifts, little bits of it begin falling down as ash here in the foothills of the Cascades, hundreds of miles away from the fires in the Salmon River country and the Bitterroot Range. We have entered the Inferno with no sure-footed Virgil around to guide our way back out.


+ There are some striking similarities between our crisis and the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. The revolt came after a pandemic (Black Death), during a time of inflation, which the English elites tried to repress by putting limits on wages and then imposing a regressive poll tax, where peasants and aristocrats were taxed the same amount: 2 pence. Tax collectors were so aggressive they frequently performed virginity checks on girls to see if they were old enough to be taxed. (Coming soon to Ohio for all girls 9 and up.) When Wat Tyler, having torched John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace (where Chaucer scribbled as Gaunt’s clerk) and seen the Archbishop of Canterbury dismembered with 8 sword blows, led his peasant army into London, to meet Richard II and his entourage, he asked for a drink of water, swilled it in his mouth and spat it out at the feet of the boy King. Whereupon he was run through by the Lord Mayor of London and his head put on a pike, as a warning to other revolutionaries. To drive home his point, the feeble Richard sent his troops into Essex, where, with a ruthlessness characteristic of the Plantagenet clan, they butchered rebel leaders from Colchester to South Minister, hanging their bodies from oak trees to be picked apart by crows and ravens.

+ At about 8 PM last Saturday night, two police in an unmarked car drove slowly by Robert Adams, who was standing in a parking lot in San Bernardino, California, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The car abruptly stops. The cops spring out, guns drawn. Five seconds later Adams is down on the ground, bleeding out after being shot in the back multiple times, “execution-style”, according to Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Adams’ family. He was 23-years old and had not wanted for any crime.

The rationale of the police for the shooting–to the extent they felt obliged to present any at all–is by now familiar to anyone who follows these kinds of shootings. Adams “fit the description” of a person they were looking for. (He was a young black man.) He was in a “high crime” area. (He was standing in a parking lot.) He had a gun and pointed it at police. (No evidence he pointed his gun at the cops.) He made threatening movements. (He ran away.) The cops feared for their lives. (They shot him in the back.)

+ 1054 people have been killed by police in the US in the last year. I wonder how many of those were shot in the back?

+ There were 376 law enforcement officers on the scene at Uvalde, who mulled around for more than an hour as a lone gunman with an AR-15 slaughtered teachers and students. Most of them were federal and state cops: 149 were Border Patrol, 91 were state police, who under Texas law are charged with responding to “mass attacks in public places.” Only 25 were from Uvalde, and another 19 from the local sheriff’s department. The remainder were deputies from neighboring counties, US Marshalls and DEA agents. In all there were 116 more law enforcement officers on the scene that day than there were members of the Texian militia inside the Alamo when it was routed by Santa Ana’s Mexican army. Too bad there wasn’t something for them to do…

+ Crime Bill Joe strikes again. He’s push a $37 billion “crime prevention” package, the centerpiece of which is an allocation of $13 billion to put 100,000 new cops on the street (just like in 1994). And like Clinton before him, they’ll still attack him for being “soft on crime.” Which he is. Police and corporate crime, that is.

+ The rich white tech crowd that runs San Francisco got progressive DA Chesa Boudin evicted from office. He’s been replace by interim DA, Brooke Jenkins, who just disbanded the Innocence Commission and promoted the same prosecutor who “withheld evidence in a homicide trial” to manage her homicide team.

+ Max Boot throws his former Post colleague Jamal Khashoggi under the bus…”MBS is a more ambivalent figure than the cartoon villain that he is so often made out to be in media coverage. It’s true that he is cruel and repressive. But, while illiberal politically, he is liberalizing Saudi society. His reforms are revolutionary.” Chop, chop…