Storms, Floods, and Fires Threaten Pursuit of Happiness
In the last two decades, there have been strong and destructive weather patterns occurring in the United States and worldwide. The fires in California, and the flooding in the Midwest and on the East Coast, show our environment is changing drastically. There have been a number of strong and disastrous events across the U.S. South, including Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Michael and Maria. All of these are man-made “unnatural” disasters.
Capitalist production, driven by the law of maximum profit, has for centuries exploited the earth’s people and resources with a vengeance. The tragic result is global climate change – super-storms, firestorms, extreme drought and flooding. All are manifestations of man-made disasters that are placing the planet and humanity in deep peril.
Now there is an added dimension to this crisis. The new technology, automated, robotic production is labor less production. A new class of millions of workers is being displaced. Capitalist production is itself being destroyed, and along with it the society which is based upon it. Yet the ruling class continues upon its mad bent to defend private property, resulting in the exacerbation of the global climate crisis. Climate change itself has become a dimension of the destruction of society. With every approaching storm, the response of the ruling class is to take advantage of the crisis, and at the same time the government asserts that it has no responsibility to care for the needs of the people affected.
In 2015, a group of young people from across the U.S. filed a suit against the government claiming that they are being affected by the consequences of climate change. One of the plaintiffs, an 11-year-old, stated that he has lived most of his life on a barrier island in Florida that is barely above sea level, and his biggest fear is that he won’t have a home there in the future. They assert that the guarantees of the Constitution of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are being denied them. They are being robbed of their future, and the government is failing its responsibility to meet the basic needs of the people.
The corporations are merging with the State and more openly represent the interests of the ruling class. They have trillions of dollars invested in a global, fossil fuel energy-financed infrastructure, and they are not about to change that, unless it becomes profitable to do so. The government, with its relationship with the corporations, has lifted regulatory bans on the energy industry. Anything goes! Fracking and gas pipelines are allowed near water resources.
Forbes.com states that the U.S. spends ten times more on fossil fuel subsidies than on education.
The oil companies are allowed to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, in spite of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion there, which killed eleven workers and injured seventeen others. It caused a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is considered the largest marine oil spill in the world and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Also, the Gulf of Mexico is experiencing one of the largest dead zones in U.S. history. As the Mississippi river flows from the north, through areas along the way to the Gulf, it picks up a residue of pesticides and other toxins, including the dumping by an array of chemical plants situated along the river in Louisiana. Fish and other sea life are dying, and there have been warnings posted in some areas along the Gulf coast that swimming is not allowed. Scientists predict that the 2019 dead zone will be the second largest on record. Last summer, the dead zone in the coastal waters near Louisiana and Texas was about the size of Delaware. This year, it’s expected to be far bigger.
Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey
Hurricane Katrina marks a turning point in American history. No one can ever forget the images of thousands of poor African-Americans stranded at the superdome. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana as a Category 3, with winds near 127 mph. Nearly eighty percent of New Orleans was under water. Residents who lived behind levees on land below sea level were wiped out by the flood as the levees were breached. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took days to establish operations in New Orleans. Two thousand people were killed due to the thrust of the storm. There were 400,000 people permanently displaced. The government did not have an evacuation plan and left people in desperate conditions for days.
Thousands of people desperate for food, water and shelter broke into the Convention Center complex, but there were no supplies there. Poor people, especially without cars or anyplace else to go, were stuck. People tried to walk over the bridge to the nearby suburb of Gretna, but police officers with shotguns forced them to turn back.
There were homes, hospitals, and schools damaged or completely destroyed. In the aftermath of the storm, the ruling class used public funding to shut down the public schools. They then set up charter schools and for-profit schools to replace the public schools in New Orleans.
Thousands of people came forward to confront the crisis and to demand that the fundamental needs of the people be met. Gulf Coast Rise Up was organized and demanded that the government provide for their needs.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey was the costliest tropical storm on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas. The storm dumped more than 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas. Thirteen million people were affected, with nearly 135,000 homes damaged, or destroyed in the flooding. The death toll was at 88 people. Some of those who were affected most by Harvey were Katrina evacuees from New Orleans.
Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Michael
In 2018, a year after Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, thousands of residents were still recovering from the storm. Even now power outages are still common, especially in rural areas. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are still living under blue tarps. Maria was the worst storm to strike the island in over 80 years. More than 3,000 residents died. Some 135,000 Puerto Ricans left their homes and settled in the continental U.S.
Before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, Puerto Rico had already been facing difficult economic times due to its legacy as a colony of the U.S. Almost half of the residents live below the poverty line, the highest poverty rate of any U.S. state or territory. The unemployment rate is nearly three times the national level. The Puerto Rican government went into default but was still forced to meet the draconian financial terms demanded by Wall Street.
Puerto Rico is still treated like a colony of the U.S. Sixty-two percent of applicants were denied assistance to rebuild their homes from FEMA, because they could not find their deeds to their homes. The law of the land says that the power grid has to be replaced as it was before, but no better. Since 2016, protests against austerity measures that include significant cuts to education and healthcare, have taken place regularly.
In 2018, Hurricane Michael was the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. in more than 25 years and it was the most powerful on record in the Florida panhandle. The storm blew in with sustained winds of 155 mph. The cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City suffered the worst of Michael, with catastrophic damage reported, due to the extreme winds and storm surge. Mexico Beach was wiped out. Thirty-five people were killed. Michael moved inland and also hit parts of Georgia, destroying crops and timber.
Almost a year later, the U.S. Senate finally set aside more than $19 billion for farmers hit by Hurricane Michael and other storms. Georgia received $3 billion to assist those hit by hurricane Michael. Yet, big agricultural corporations got the most funding from this compensation, thanks to the relationship of the government and big agribusiness. Puerto Rico received less than $900 million.
In all of these disasters the most impoverished section of the working class is hurt the most, and the ruling class and the government help them the least.
The system of capitalism is dying. The ruling class will do anything to make maximum profit, even if it harms people and the planet. We must demand that the government meet the needs of humanity and quit destroying the earth. Clean air and water, and an economy that protects the environment and heals the planet, are basic human needs and a requirement for a full and happy life. A system that destroys the planet as the price for private profit, must be replaced with a new economic system organized to meet the basic needs of humanity. RC
September/October 2019 Vol29.Ed5
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011