Environment

'No vaccine for climate change': COVID is disastrous — but Red Cross says eco collapse poses greater threat

"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable the world is to a truly global catastrophe. But another, bigger, catastrophe has been building for many decades, and humanity is still lagging far behind in efforts to address it."

So begins Come Heat or High Water, the 2020 World Disasters Report (pdf) published Tuesday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

While "Covid-19 has demonstrated that humanity has the capacity to recognize and respond to a global crisis," the authors wrote, "climate change is an even more significant challenge to humanity... one which literally threatens our long-term survival."

Indeed, "the impacts of global warming are already killing people and devastating lives and livelihoods every year," including in 2020, the report noted. "Climate change is not waiting for Covid-19 to be brought under control."

The analysis showed that more than 100 climate change-related disasters occurred in just the first six months of the pandemic, affecting over 50 million people.

"Many people are being directly affected by the pandemic and climate-driven disasters all at once," the report said, drawing attention to what researchers called "compounding shocks."

"And the world's poorest and most at-risk people are being hit first and hardest," which is consistent with "trends in vulnerability and exposure" that have led scholars to describe climate as a "risk multiplier."

While there is hope that one or more vaccines will soon provide protection against the coronavirus, IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain told reporters that "unfortunately, there is no vaccine for climate change."

To the contrary, the report stressed that climate-driven disasters "will only get worse without immediate and determined action."

According to the IFRC:

  • In the past 10 years, 83% of all disasters triggered by natural hazards were caused by extreme weather- and climate-related events, such as floods, storms and heatwaves;
  • The number of climate- and weather-related disasters has been increasing since the 1960s, and has risen almost 35% since the 1990s;
  • The proportion of all disasters attributable to climate and extreme weather events has also increased significantly during this time, from 76% of all disasters during the 2000s to 83% in the 2010s;
  • These extreme weather- and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years, the vast majority in low and lower middle-income countries; and
  • Heatwaves, then storms, have been the biggest killers. A further 1.7 billion people around the world have been affected by climate and weather-related disasters during the past decade.

Governments "may well be 'busy' with the pandemic" right now, the Red Cross acknowledged, but the climate crisis is getting worse—not taking a break—meaning "there's still never been a more urgent time to... adapt to its realities."

"We must work to limit the deaths and damage that climate-driven disasters are already" causing, the report noted, while also "taking action to reverse climate change."

The good news, the authors wrote, is that "the massive stimulus packages that are being developed around the world in response to Covid-19 are an opportunity to build back better."

Even though the climate crisis is much more dangerous to human life on Earth than the pandemic, the $10 trillion spent on the global response to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis is far more than the amount of money the Red Cross said is necessary to "adapt to current and imminent climate-driven disaster risks."

According to the IFRC, "it would take an estimated $50 billion annually to meet the adaptation requirements set out by 50 developing countries for the coming decade."

The report advocated for investing "not only [in] a green recovery, but an adaptive one, using funds to... create jobs [while] making communities safer and more resilient."

Using "resources well" is crucial, the authors argued, given the "uneven geographic impacts of... hazards between regions," as well as how land-use patterns and socio-economic inequalities "affect who is at greatest risk... within countries."

The Red Cross pointed out that "funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction does not seem to consistently prioritize the countries at highest risk and with the lowest ability to adapt and cope with these risks."

"Many highly vulnerable countries are left behind, receiving little climate change adaptation support," the analysis showed. "None of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change and to climate- and weather-related disasters were among the 20 highest per person recipients of climate change adaptation funding."

"An additional challenge is ensuring that funding reaches the most at-risk people within these countries," the report continued. "Many communities may be particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks, from people affected by conflict whose capacity to manage shocks is already strained, to migrants and displaced people who may struggle to access the services and assistance they need, to urban poor people and other marginalized communities."

We must "get the priorities right," the authors added, and ensure that support reaches the "communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks."

"Let's not miss our chance," the report said, calling on society to "act effectively before it's too late."

Climate crisis is the primary cause of 98% of dead Florida coral reef: NOAA research

A first-of-its-kind federal report on the health of the United States' coral reefs finds that in Florida, the coastal area with the most severe degradation, up to 98% of coral reefs have been lost due mainly to the climate crisis.

The study painted "an alarming picture," tweeted Jim Howe, director of The Nature Conservancy in Central and Western New York.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) worked with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) to assess reefs all over the coastal U.S. and the country's territories, including American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The report, which was released last week, is the first to use standardized monitoring data across the country's coastal regions.

Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA's coral reef conservation program, told The Guardian Wednesday that while the degradation of reefs has in the past been blamed on ocean pollution and water quality, "now it's pretty well accepted that it's predominantly climate change."

The researchers used data collected from 2012 to 2018 and graded the health of reefs across coastal areas as "very good," "good," "fair," "impaired," and "critical," with the majority of U.S. reefs falling into the "fair" category. Florida's reefs were classified as "impaired."

Ocean warming, overexposure to sunlight, and acidification, brought on by the climate crisis and the continued release of carbon dioxide into the environment, were named as primary threats to reef health, along with coral disease and fishing.

"These status reports clearly show the impacts people are having on coral reef ecosystems," said Heath Kelsey, director of UMCES's Integration and Application Network, in a statement. "Our work in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans shows a dire outlook for coral reef ecosystem health, from warming ocean waters, fishing, disease, and pollution from the land. Of all of these, climate change is the single biggest threat to shallow water coral reefs in the U.S., and worldwide."

The loss of coral reefs has grave implications for biodiversity in the world's oceans as well as coastal infrastructure and safety and the economic health of coastal areas. Reefs support more than 25% of marine life, providing a habitat for sponges, oysters, clams, crabs, sea urchins, and other species. Florida's reefs are estimated to be worth $8 billion to the state's economy, supporting over 70,000 local jobs in the tourism, commercial fishing, and recreation industries.

Researchers involved in the study said their findings should serve as a call to arms for the federal government, a year after lawmakers from Florida and Hawaii introduced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act. The legislation would direct NOAA and the Interior Department to provide grants to states to support reef management and restoration.

The report by NOAA and UMCES calls for far-reaching climate action to help restore reefs throughout U.S. coastal regions as well.

"Local efforts to enhance reef resilience and restore reefs are important to help reefs survive the impacts of human-induced climate change," the report reads. "However, those efforts must be coupled with transitioning away from fossil fuels towards more renewable sources of energy."

Understanding the north's climate change trifecta

Catherine Dieleman, University of Guelph

The Arctic Circle became unbelievably hot on June 20. In the Russian community of Verkhoyansk, temperatures topped 38C, marking what may be the highest air temperature ever recorded within the Arctic.

The temperatures at Verkhoyansk are part of a larger trend across western Russia this summer, with small communities throughout the region reporting temperatures that are smashing local records that have stood for decades. During the latter half of June, surface temperatures throughout western Siberia were as much as 10C above historical norms, marking one of the hottest Junes on record despite relatively cool temperatures at the start of the month.

For scientists the world-over these record-breaking temperatures are alarm bells, demonstrating the kind of extreme weather events we can expect to see more often if climate change continues unchecked. However, it is the long-term fallout from modern heat waves that has many northern scientists deeply concerned, as they will affect our planet for decades to come.

The fires that follow

During heat waves surface temperatures soar, often triggering a chain of fire-promoting weather conditions including extreme thunderstorms. These thunderstorms have hundreds of lightning strikes that can ignite the dry soils and vegetation that serve as fuel for fire.

In northern regions like the boreal biome, these fire-promoting conditions can cause large-scale wildfires that burn millions of hectares of forest in a single summer.

Historically, humanity has considered wildfire a true disaster and spent considerable resources to suppress them. We now understand that despite the initial loss of established trees and soils, wildfires are a natural and integral part of the boreal biome.

Modern wildfires, however, are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity, covering a larger area due weather events like severe heat waves. In extreme fire years, these modern wildfires can burn deep into the organic soils that characterize boreal forests. These carbon-rich soils have been built up over thousands of years and hold approximately 30 per cent of the world's terrestrial carbon stocks.

When fires burn deep into soils or return too quickly to a forest, they lose their “ancient carbon" stocks. Instead of being held in the ground these ancient carbon reserves are combusted and released back into the atmosphere, increasing the carbon levels. The higher carbon dioxide levels generated by wildfires intensify climate change impacts like heat waves, which can lead to further wildfires, forming a powerful “positive feedback" loop with climate change.

While these trends alone are alarming, northern researchers warn that the fallout from heat waves won't stop when the fires burn out. In northern regions where the soils historically stay frozen year-round, a whole new set of changes are beginning to take form.

When permafrost perishes

Permafrost forms on the landscape when soil materials remain below freezing for two or more consecutive years. In some areas permafrost forms in direct response to a cold climate.

As one moves further south, however, permafrost becomes increasingly dependent on the presence of thick organic soils, surface vegetation and a shady overstorey to survive the warm summer months. In those cases, the ecosystem acts like a giant protective blanket, limiting the sun's heat that is able to reach the frozen permafrost materials below.

White smoke rises from the tundra with mountains in the background.

Carbon-rich peat burns readily, making it good fuel for lightning-caused fires.

(U.S. National Parks Service, Western Arctic National Parklands)

When permafrost ecosystems burn, the wildfire consumes these protective layers, often triggering permafrost thaw. This can occur gradually, with the thawed layer expanding slowly over decades, or abruptly, with the thawed layer expanding dramatically over years. The land may cave in or sink, plant communities may change completely and local water flows may be rerouted.

In both cases, the loss of permafrost makes the massive Arctic carbon reserves more vulnerable to loss. With gradual thaw microbes are able to break down and release the previously frozen carbon back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. In contrast, abrupt thaw commonly occurs in ice-rich permafrost resulting in warmer but also wetter soils. Under these conditions decomposition still occurs but carbon is commonly returned to the atmosphere as methane, a greenhouse gas approximately 30 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

All this lost carbon may make the positive feedback with climate change even stronger. While scientists are working to understand if the vegetation that grows after permafrost thaw is able to offset all the carbon released during decomposition, most current models indicate that permafrost thaw will ultimately be a source of atmospheric carbon.

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From pandemics to climate change, the real problem is capitalism itself

Last week President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, engaged in a fierce debate that was noted by millions for the unpleasantness of Trump's repeated interruptions. During those interruptions, Trump frequently denounced Biden as either radically left-wing or a hostage of the radical left. Eight days later, Vice President Mike Pence made similarly insinuations that Biden's running mate (and his potential replacement), Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is some kind of socialist.

If only it were so. The truth is that the ailment afflicting America is capitalism, and the difference between the two parties is that the Democrats will only describe some of the symptoms but refuse to provide an honest diagnosis, while the Republicans outright defend the disease.

Most of the major problems with America, and the world, can be traced back to the singular cause of capitalism, an economic system in which a society's means of production are primarily controlled by private individuals hoping to make a profit. It is a system that has devastated our planet to the point where it may sound be largely uninhabitable, created massive income inequality and left us woefully unprepared for crises like the novel coronavirus pandemic.

We can start with the last item on that list, the coronavirus pandemic. Because capitalist systems require perpetual consumption and growth to maintain prosperity, any little hiccup in the ability of most industries to stay profitable causes the whole economy to crash. This is why, despite the economy doing relatively well prior to the mandatory shutdowns in March, whole sectors began to collapse while unemployment skyrocketed once the pandemic forced people to shelter in place.

If America had a universal basic income in place — that is, a monthly amount of money guaranteed to every citizen to keep each one above the poverty line — ordinary people would have had at least been able to stave off desperate poverty during these trying times. The same is true of the eviction epidemic: Although Trump has announced a mostly symbolic eviction moratorium, he has refused to implement the real thing, and as a result millions of Americans face the likelihood of being thrown out of their homes... assuming that has not already happened to them.

Yet on a deeper level, the problem with capitalism is that it is built on the need for private enterprises to make money, no matter what. During a pandemic in which everyone will ultimately require some kind of medical care — for some to treat the disease, for others to be vaccinated once one becomes available — the need for corporate profit clashes with the needs of the general public.

"There is a unique incapacity of the capitalist system — by which I mean, a system of private enterprises owned and operated by shareholders, families, individuals producing for a profit and the ordering about of the majority of people involved in every enterprise or the employees — that system is uniquely incapable of securing public health," Dr. Richard D. Wolff, the professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told Salon earlier this month. "And since public health is a basic demand, a need of human communities, this represents a profound disqualification of capitalism. And to spell it out just briefly: it is not profitable for a private, profit-driven competitive capitalist to produce masks by the millions, or gloves, or ventilators, or hospital beds, or all the rest of them."

Wolff noted that the government is entirely capable of stepping in and filling a void left by the private sector when a given industry deems this to be in its best interest. This is what happens, for example, with the military-industrial complex.

"A government failure cannot be excused on grounds of the government not doing such things or conceiving of such things, because that's not true," Wolff told Salon. "The government does exactly what it failed to do in the maintenance of public health. It does that for the military. It is just as unprofitable for a private capitalist to produce a missile and then store it in some warehouse and monitor it and clean it and replace it and repair it, waiting for God knows however long a time until the next war makes this missile something the government buys."

The problem is that the American health care industry — including doctors, drug and device makers, hospitals and medical insurance companies — do not want to establish any precedent that could lead to socialized medicine. Therefore, even though we have the resources to help everyone during this pandemic, we do not avail ourselves of them.

A similar dynamic is at play when it comes to the issue that most immediately threatens the survival of our species — climate change. 2020 saw some of the worst wildfires in recorded history on the American west coast because humanity has artificially warmed the planet through emission of greenhouse gases. A report by the World Wildlife Foundation identified global warming as the primary culprit for the cataclysmic decline in animal population sizes, with a 68 percent drop being recorded among "mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish" since 1970. If global warming is not brought under control, and soon, we can expect a world in which "a large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry)," Penn State climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann told Salon in 2018.

"More and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlement—and probably a lot more conflict," Mann added. His colleague, Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, also predicted at the time that "food and water become major issues with costs and shortages."

If it's so clear what's happening, why doesn't humanity take the steps necessary to fight climate change?

In the words of Ted Morgan, a professor emeritus of political science at Lehigh University: "The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the world's developed capitalist economies, with China and the US leading the way." He added that "each of the capitalist powers is loathe to weaken its competitive position vis à vis the other capitalist economies. In a capitalist world, each economic unit must act to protect what it deems its own interests. The only counterweight comes from the public sector." Yet government authorities are reluctant to aggressively curtail capitalist industries that emit greenhouse gases — from the fossil fuel industry and big agriculture to those that cut down rainforests — because they are "constrained by the fear that pushing public interests too far will cause capital flight, thereby undermining its viability. And, of course, corporations and the wealthy dominate the shaping of public policy — nowhere more than in the US."

That term, "capital flight," is absolutely critical here. Under capitalist systems, companies that do not like potential government regulations often have the right to threaten to close up shop or move their businesses elsewhere, in the process taking away people's jobs and hurting local economies. This is known as a "capital strike" and it has been used since the Industrial Revolution to do everything from get tax breaks from the state and break up labor movements to killing legislation that business magnates oppose, particularly when they help workers' rights.

Capital strikes are ethically dubious even when permitted for those purposes, but allow them is literally suicidal when an issue like climate change is at stake. Because capitalism encourages businesses to coerce governments into allowing them to destroy the planet, most of humanity is forced to watch helplessly as the Earth literally burns up. And it is not as if there are any eventual winners in systems where capital strikes are allowed: In the end, the 20 firms that contribute to one-third of the planet's carbon emissions will eventually suffer just like the rest of us, since they inhabit the same planet.

Finally there is the issue of systemic poverty. In 2020 we have seen the problem of capitalism in the fact that our supposed economic recovery has been "K-shaped," meaning that the wealthy have disproportionately gotten better while everyone else suffers more than they did before. Yet this severe income inequality long preceded the pandemic: For more than forty years, in fact, businesses have manipulated the government into making sure that the super-rich gain far more than their fair share of our wealth. Indeed, if income had kept pace with overall economic growth in the United States since 1970, the bottom 90 percent of our country would be earning an average of $12,000 more each year.

With income inequality comes not only poverty, but economic injustice. According to the Brookings Institute, as of 2018 American households held over $113 trillion in assets. If that was distributed evenly among the 329 million US citizens, each person would have more than $343,000. Yet as of 2016 the top 20 percent of households held 77 percent of the wealth, while the top one percent owned 29 percent of the wealth. This is the direct result of capitalism for two reasons: First, it allows the wealthy to make sure that the government does not restrain their greed through policies that require a fairer distribution of resources; and second, it continuously empowers the rich compared to everyone else by making sure that they have far more means of influencing policymakers than their significantly disempowered non-wealthy counterparts.

This brings us back to those presidential debates, in which precisely none of these observations were made. On the one side you had the Democratic candidates for president and vice president, Biden and Harris, who sounded like latter-day examples of America's most left-wing president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. To be clear: It is unambiguously good that Biden wants to put America back in the Paris Climate Accord (which would help fight climate change, but not do nearly enough to eliminate it entirely); that he wants to create a Pandemic Testing Board on the scale of Roosevelt's famous War Production Board, with the goal of using science to fight the pandemic (Trump, by contrast, has deliberately ignored science since the pandemic reached our country at the start of the year); that he wants to invest in trillions of dollars in stimulus spending that would create millions of jobs; and that he supports other progressive measures like improving regulations on banks and other powerful industries, providing free public college to lower-income and middle-class individuals, forgiving federal student-loan debt at a minimum of $10,000 per person and requiring businesses to provide paid emergency sick leave.

These are all very good things — and they are certainly a far sight better than Trump and Pence shilling for the status quo. Yet Biden and Harris also went to great pains to emphasize that they are not socialists, that they support capitalism, and that their proposals would only nibble at the edges of the problem rather than obliterate it entirely. Indeed, Biden even bragged in his debate with Trump that he had barely conceded at all to the Democratic Party's anti-capitalist wing — led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who almost became the party's presidential nominee this year — and he is absolutely right. When Salon spoke with Sanders insiders who had tried to get Biden to move to the left, they all agreed that they won only modest concessions.

This approach is not going to cut it in the future.

"It really has to be an 'all hands on deck' that allows our economies to be completely transformed in order to literally allow human survival," Professor Julia K. Steinberger, a professor of ecological economics at the University of Leeds, told Salon in June. "That's what's at stake in terms of the gravity of the situation and the rapidity with which the climate crisis is unfolding."

Steinberger says Biden doesn't "fully understand" the magnitude of the crisis. She sounded very much like Bernie Sanders himself, who last year rejected the claim by another Democrat that you could support meaningful change while remaining a capitalist by arguing "I think business as usual and doing it the old-fashioned way is not good enough. What we need is, in fact—I don't want to get people too nervous—we need a political revolution. I am, I believe, the only candidate who's going to say to the ruling class of this country, the corporate elite: Enough, enough with your greed and with your corruption. We need real change in this country."

I think it is best to close this with a personal story. Last year I interviewed Ben Shapiro, one of the most popular conservative commentators in America today, and confronted him about his belief that if there are starving children in America, one possible solution is to take them away from their parents. His reasoning was that, because capitalism provides everyone with an opportunity to support themselves and their families, the parents must be at fault if their children can't afford to eat. When I argued that he was ignoring the problem of systemic poverty under capitalism and lacking compassion for capitalism's victims, he responded:

No, I don't see how that lacks compassion in any way. If you are unable to feed your child, and you cannot find a social fabric to help you take care of that child, your child should not be with you. You're living in the freest, most prosperous country in the history of the world. It is not all that expensive to pay for a child's lunch.

When I pointed out that millions of Americans work full-time and are still unable to support their families. Shapiro cut me off.

"I do not accept your premise that we live in a society where people literally cannot afford to feed their children, [where] their children will starve without a free school lunch."

Shapiro's inability to even comprehend economic realities hints at the root of the problem. While Biden and Harris may not outright detest the poor as Shapiro does, they still share his unwillingness to accept the premise that there could be anything wrong with capitalism as a system.

Unfortunately, to quote President John Adams, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

The state of facts and evidence proves that capitalism is condemning millions upon millions to hopeless poverty, rendering us incapable of effectively coping with manageable problems like a pandemic and literally destroying the planet. Unless that reality becomes part of our mainstream political discourse, humanity is doomed.

AOC reminds VP Pence: ‘It's Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to you'

During the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night, October 7, Vice President Mike Pence referred to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as "AOC" while trying to link Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden to the Green New Deal — and Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "For the record @Mike_Pence, it's Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to you."

The progressive Ocasio-Cortez has been applauded by many of her supporters for her Green New Deal environmental proposals, but Biden, a centrist Democrat, hasn't been as aggressive as the New York City congresswoman when it comes to environmental issues. Regardless, Pence was determined to associate Biden and his running mate, Harris, with Ocasio-Cortez' environmental recommendations during the debate, and he insisted, "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want to raise taxes. They want to bury our economy under a $2 trillion Green New Deal, which you (Harris) were one of the original co-sponsors of in the United States Senate."

By bashing Ocasio-Cortez during the debate, Pence was clearly trying to rally President Donald Trump's MAGA base. But the more far-right Republicans vilify Ocasio-Cortez, the more obvious it is how much they fear her.

While Ocasio-Cortez has been outspoken on climate change, Trump is a climate change denier and a boisterous champion of fossil fuels. Biden acknowledges the dangers of climate change, but his environmental ideas have generally been to the right of Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez vigorously defended her Green New Deal proposals, arguing, "The Green New Deal is and has been lied about nonstop, and yet is STILL popular. It's a massive job-creation and infrastructure plan to decarbonize & increase quality of work and life. It's okay to call the GOP out on those lies just as we call them out on all their other lies."

Ocasio-Cortez also noted how much Pence dodged the questions asked by moderator Susan Page during the debate. The congresswoman tweeted, "Why is it that Mike Pence doesn't seem to have to answer any of the questions asked of him in this debate? Pence demanding that Harris answer *his* own personal questions when he won't even answer the moderator's is gross, and exemplary of the gender dynamics so many women have to deal with at work."

Tens of millions in PPP loans went to corporate polluters after  companies were fined $52 million: analysis

I remember as a kid watching President Nixon's resignation speech on a black-and-white television. That was a simpler and more innocent time. After burglars were caught red-handed breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex, Nixon resigned rather than face almost certain removal by the Senate for covering up the crime. A blatant attempt to cheat in the presidential election, the Watergate scandal shocked the nation, but Watergate today looks positively quaint when compared to the graft and corruption of Trumpgate.

What makes Trumpgate far worse than Watergate is the act of encouraging foreign interference in our sacred democratic elections. First Donald Trump did it with Russia, and when he skated on that, he tried to extort Ukraine. He then even tried to recruit Communist China's help. Americans should be outraged by this treachery.

No less alarming is Donald Trump's fawning fondness for murderous thugs and dictators and his voracious lust for power. Every patriot should be horrified by Trump's unpatriotic attacks on democracy itself; on our elections, on the U.S. Constitution, on the separation of powers, on freedom of the press, and on bedrock values and principles we hold dear as Americans: honesty, integrity, equality, justice and respect for the rule of law. Our nation is being pushed to the breaking point by an endless cascade of calculated assaults on the truth designed to distract, divide and conquer – attacks on reality that threaten not only the freedoms our Founders risked their lives for, but the freedoms countless veterans fought and died for. America only exists today because we defied a king to form a government of, by, and for the people. Freedom is exercising our right to kneel in support of racial justice, not kneeling before a King Donald.

Those who enabled Trumpgate – Donald's inner circle and his spineless sycophants in Congress – will go down in history as those who knowingly chose a would-be tyrant over duty to country.

Slicker than a snake oil salesman, Donald Trump got elected by promising to drain the swamp, only to fill his cabinet with more millionaires and billionaires than any president in history. Because Trump treats everything like a transaction, the swamp is now teeming with scandals. The guy has hutzpah – I'll give him that – but I don't think most Americans are OK with President Trump and his clique of elites personally profiting off of the presidency. Trump & Co. are so arrogant they seem to not even care if they are caught. Maybe this is because people of pampered privilege know how to buy their way out of trouble. Ask yourself why Donald Trump is the only president since Richard Nixon to refuse to release his tax returns. Then ask yourself what kind of bottomless greed makes a president sink to hawking government stays at his golf resorts and hotels just to turn a quick buck. How much mammon is enough? The office of the president is so much greater than any individual who occupies it, yet that institution has been daily defiled by a president who puts his personal interests ahead of the national interest.

I am saddened for him, and horrified for my country, to be witnessing a United States president as the shouting, pouting personification of humanity's worst impulses. He reminds me of the character "Gollum" in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, warped by his all-consuming lust for the ring of power. In my darker moments, I see President Trump refusing to leave office if he loses in November, for he has telegraphed his thinking on this again and again and again.

Trump has made it clear he will do almost anything to maintain his weakening grip on power. Like the tin pot dictator he aspires to become, Trump has refused time and again to say he will accept November's election results. It is not hard to imagine him declaring martial law and refusing to step down. Nor is it hard to imagine him using the fiction of election fraud to have himself declared the victor in defiance of the will of the voters, for he has already suggested illegally delaying the election (darkly described by Public Citizen as "a coup in the making").

Former President Barack Obama, during his stirring eulogy of civil rights icon John Lewis, warned that "those in power are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting – by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don't get sick." Obama is right to assert with growing alarm that the Trump administration is "more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus." This is not the American way.

All attempts by Trump & Co. to undermine the election – or subvert its results – must be systematically resisted. We the people cannot, and will not, let our beloved democracy die.

Of course, democracy's best defense is a tidal wave of voters that sweeps Donald Trump and his enablers out of office on November 3. If Biden wins, Trump must then exit stage left just like every other defeated president has done before him – in a peaceful transfer of power – because that is how America rolls. We have already had one Civil War. We are not going to have another one because a petulant president living in fear of the long arm of the law has a twitter temper tantrum meltdown for not getting to declare himself dictator-for-life of the USA.

On this much at least, Donald Trump and I agree: "The future of our country and indeed our civilization is at stake on Nov. 3." Trump's relentless attacks on the Constitution make him an existential threat to the Republic. I have been to the Dachau concentration camp. I have heard the horrifying echoes of where all of this could lead. That Lady Liberty is still standing after years of aggravated assaults by the most dangerous president in our history is thanks in no small part to Trump's impulsiveness and his fortunate inability to maintain disciplined focus. But it is thanks even more to the determined resistance of millions of patriots who have courageously refused to be intimidated and silenced. Trumpgate is forcing a national reckoning on whether we want the great American experiment to continue. If "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," defending democracy from despotism requires such unwavering vigilance now.

Lady Liberty is calling all freedom-loving Americans to stand up and speak out in defense of her sacred honor. Will you answer her call?

Trump and the threat of annihilation take the world to the edge of a nightmare

Whether you’re reading this with your morning coffee, just after lunch, or on the late shift in the wee small hours of the morning, it’s 100 seconds to midnight. That’s just over a minute and a half. And that should be completely unnerving. It’s the closest to that witching hour we’ve ever been.

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The EPA allows continued use of a neurotoxin found to harm kids' brains

Dismissing extensive scientific evidence showing that even low levels of chlorpyrifos damage children's brains, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a risk assessment calling the toxic pesticide's effects "unresolved" and allowing its continued use in a wide variety of agricultural products pending a future final decision on its use.

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The 2 major political parties are more interested in donor cash than what voters want

I recall being devastated when I learned that the professional wrestling I watched as a kid was fake. How could combatants show such contempt for their opponents in the ring and yet all work for the same company?

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The West faces apocalypse — and we need a national solution

The clash between Donald Trump and Joe Biden over the roots of the West's apocalyptic fire season has missed the crucial point – perhaps because neither candidate is targeting the solidly Democratic Pacific Coast.

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Humans created the conditions for 2020's incredibly destructive west coast wildfire season. Can humans stop them?

This year's west coast wildfire season is breathtaking in its scope and its destruction. More than 3.2 million acres have burned in California since the start of 2020; in Oregon, nearly 900,000 acres have burned in the recent series of fires, and five towns completely destroyed. To put that number in perspective: Oregon in the past decade usually would only see 500,000 acres destroyed by wildfires over the span of an entire year. Aside from the deaths and property destruction caused by these fires, their toxic smoke waves have wrought a secondary destruction on the economies and health of citizens who live in any of the nearby major cities, from Vancouver B.C. to San Diego. The extent and volume of smoke is so great that it blew over the east coast today.

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