Our wars distract us from addressing the great crises of our times.

by Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch

Let’s admit it: We are indeed mad creatures.

This should truly have been the time of our discontent. The northern hemisphere just experienced the hottest summer in recorded history, including month by month the warmest June, July, August, and (by a country mile) September ever. Staggering heat records were set in place after place globally. Fires from Canada to Hawaii to Europe broke all records. (In fact, those Canadian summer fires are now threatening to burn straight into the winter months for the first time — and I fear this phrase is going to be become all-too-boringly repetitive — in history.) The southern hemisphere had a “winter” from — yes! — hell. In Europe, which was burning up, Greece experienced unprecedented fires and floods as well. Libya had a significant part of a major city washed away. China, too, experienced unprecedented flooding around its capital, where 1.2 million people had to be evacuated, and in Hong Kong, too. The sea ice in the Antarctic fell to the lowest levels (yes again!) in recorded history, as did sea ice in the Arctic, helping to ensure a future in which rising sea levels could flood coastal cities. And Greenland has been lending a hand to that same future, starting 2023 with temperatures unmatched in at least 1,000 years and still setting new temperature records in July. Worse yet, that’s just to begin down a list that increasingly seems unending.

In certain parts of my own country, the United States, this summer was all too literally a hell on Earth and, as a New York Times piece headlined it recently, also “A Summer Preview of the Future; Floods, Fires, and Stifling Heat.” (Its first line: “It felt like the opening minutes of a disaster movie.”) A stunning heat wave, for instance, stretched across a drought-stricken Southwest all the way to California, while Phoenix, Arizona, hit an almost unbelievable temperature record of 54 days of 110-degree heat or higher! (Oh, wait, make that 55!)

oil rigs and fire

And that, of course, was just to begin down a seemingly endless list. I haven’t even mentioned disappearing mountain glaciers or the soaring temperatures of South Asia or the Middle East. (Iran hit a record heat index temperature of 158 degrees in August.) But let me stop there. It isn’t hard to see that, if we humans continue to use staggering amounts of fossil fuels and so pour ever more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere — and the latest study indicates that they are heading in that direction at record levels — the Earth, or at least life as we humans have known it on this planet, will, in the long run, almost literally go down in… what else?… flames.

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