Monday, November 16, 2015

Saturday, while trying to process all the news coming out of Paris, the mail arrived.

The latest issue of Harper’s Magazine sat on the top of the pile, but its cover article—”The Bed-Rest Hoax: The case against a venerable pregnancy treatment“—seemed out of step with what the world was feeling that night. So, I put the magazine to the side. 

A few hours later, Democrats gathered in Des Moines. Like mafia trying to hide a decomposing corpse with lime, the Democratic National Committee scheduled a debate on a Saturday night. That’s when Senator Bernie Sanders gave his explanation on the relationship between climate change and terrorism.

DICKERSON: Senator Sanders, you said you want to rid the planet of ISIS. In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?

SANDERS: Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world– this I this is what the C.I.A. says — they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops, you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict. But, of course, international terrorism is a major issue that we have got to address today.

“Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism”?

To paraphrase Maslow, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a melting iceberg.

On the next morning’s “Meet the Press,” Dickerson followed up with Sanders on the subject.

“But how does drought connect with attacks by [the Islamic State] in the middle of Paris?” Dickerson asked.

[Sanders]: “When you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate into cities, and when people migrate into cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al-Qaeda and ISIS are using right now,” Sanders said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State. “So where you have discontent, where you have instability, that’s where problems arise, and certainly, without a doubt, climate change will lead to that.”

Sunday afternoon I picked back up the Harper’s and turned to the opening essay, “Power in Paris,” by contributing editor Rebecca Solnit. The essay highlighted the upcoming COP21 meetings (i.e., UN, climate change) that are scheduled for later this month in Paris.

I could not help but feel the weight of irony in reading the following words, even as Parisian doctors were still fighting to save the lives of innocent civilian victims of ISIS: 

Can the earth be saved by bureaucrats in long meetings, reciting jargon and acronyms while surrounded by leaning towers of documents? That is what’s supposed to happen in France this month, when representatives from all the world’s nations gather for COP21, the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (U.N.F.C.C.C.), and the eleventh session of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol. “Just like in 1789, when the French Revolution gave great hope to the world,” Francois Hollande, France’s Socialist president, said about his aspirations for the conference, “history can be written in Paris.” Leaving aside the oddity of a president celebrating revolution — what makes him so sure he’s not the ancien régime? — Hollande’s statement unwittingly raises the possibility that the most important activity in Paris this month will happen not in any meeting room but in the place where most revolutions happen: the streets.

Activists in the People’s Climate Movement, a global organization that grew out of the 400,000-person People’s Climate March that took place in New York in September of last year, have planned another march to mark the opening of the conference, and more radical action is likely in the weeks that follow. These events will be taking place in the beautiful old-world capital of insurrection. Throughout the modern age, but most notably in 1789, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1934, and 1968, the French have taken to the streets to shake their government and often the entire globe, making Paris perhaps the greatest stage for popular unrest the world has ever seen.

The planners of the COP21 conference hope to produce “the strongest international agreement to stem global warming” (TIME).  

ISIS receives much of their funding from oilfields it has already gained control of, and the Caliphate they dream of would control the vast oil empires of the entire Middle East. Given all that, one can assume that ISIS does not agree with President Obama’s recent statement (regarding his Keystone pipeline rejection): “We’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.”

Echoing President Obama, Solnit wrote:

“The idea that we need to leave 80 percent of the known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground — a number arrived at by climate scientists and popularized by “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Bill McKibben’s landmark 2012 essay in Rolling Stone — has become an organizing point. This summer, Francois Hollande embraced the goal. The once-radical idea is quickly turning into common sense, as the idea of universal human rights did after the French Revolution.”

Will this weekend’s terrorism keep the climate change conference from taking place in Paris? Apparently not. 

Asked whether the attacks threatened the conference, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius repeated the word “no” five times and described the conference as “absolutely essential” in a statement provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (TIME).

The Harper’s essay climaxes with this prediction: “the inevitability of the end of the age of fossil fuel…will look like an ancien regime to people born in 2100.”

So, is there a connection between ecology and terrorism? Perhaps, but not in the way that Senator Sanders explained.

Why Paris? Why now? Who can understand the mind of murderous madmen. But if ISIS believed their eventual Caliphate would be economically threatened by “the end of the age of fossil fuel,” then disrupting the Cop21 conference would be of vital importance to their domination strategies.

In other words, ISIS might simply be motivated by the same thing every gangster is: $.

“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Those words were written by a man who used to hunt down Christians throughout the Middle East, before being converted to Christianity himself.

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