The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Terrible Ethical Calculus of Catastrophe

Let us say you know a catastrophe is coming, and you cannot stop it and thus save everyone.

What do you do?

You start making choices about who to save. Not just their lives, but their stuff and their power.

Catastrophes often lead to changes in societies, but sometimes they don’t.

The 1929 stock market crash, and the Great Depression lead to most of the rich losing their money and power. The end result was that the people running society changed, and that the post-war period was the best to be alive–in the developed world–in history.

This happened because Hoover and FDR did not believe in bailing out the rich, and FDR instituted the New Deal and 90 percent + marginal tax rates.

But while FDR didn’t think the rich should be protected, he did institute deposit protection for ordinary people. If you weren’t rich, you were covered.

The 2007/8 crash led to no such thing, because the priority was saving the rich. Obama, Bernanke, and Geithner went out of their way not just to keep the rich, rich, but to hurt ordinary people if necessary to do so. They deliberately hurt householders, when necessary, to help banks. (See David Dayen’s “Chain of Title” for all the grizzly details.)

Now, this is not to say that Treasury and the Fed should have just done nothing, like in 1929 (though if they had just followed the laws that were put in place after 1929, we would, in fact, be better off).

It is to say they chose to save rich people and not help most other people.

So the catastrophe led to a resumption of the status quo.

Except that it didn’t. It kicked the economy into shit-mode, and the result was Trump/Brexit and the general rise of the right. (Because all the major central banks and governments bailed out the rich and fucked everyone else.)

So, catastrophes happen, and a choice is made about who to protect and exalt, and that choice has consequences down the line.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Climate change will be no different. Who is protected (or survives through their own efforts) matters, because it determines who will be powerful later.

It is thus important not just to save people you like, but to make sure that bad actors like bankers and the current political elite are not saved: They must lose their money and power (and if that means they lose their lives you should be okay with that, because they sure don’t care if ordinary people lose theirs).

This is ethical, because who runs society, and for whom, determines how good the society is. When society was truly run for the majority, with the intention to spread the wealth, society was good (and where it was bad, as with minorities, it is because the wealth was not spread).

A society is good if it tries to take care of everyone and tamps down inequality, allowing only moderate inequality. (Does anyone really need to earn more than 20x the median income?)

In the days to come, we will have to make choices about who to protect and who to save. Remember that it’s worth taking some time out to choose who doesn’t keep their stuff, their power and, yeah, even their lives.

If this bothers you, remember that they are deciding if you live and die, and their record shows that they either don’t care if you die, or that they actively want you to.

We are moving into some very bad times. Whether society is good or bad afterwards will be determined by who takes power during catastrophe, and who loses power during catastrophe.

It can be us, or it can be a small elite who cares only about themselves.




US Corn Crop Failure


Biden Will Run on Fear, Trump Will Run on Hope


  1. Effem

    Is there a date by which if there is no climate catastrophe we should assume it’s not going to happen? I know people who have been “prepping” (to their massive detriment) since the 1970’s. As with investing, timing is everything.

  2. Joan


    I think it’s wise to do the kind of prep that is good no matter what. It’s a good idea to have the skills to be able to grow your own food, and if you never end up truly needing it, no loss. It’s also a good idea to evaluate the resilience of your connections in your community. One would hope a tornado never blows through, but if anything ever happens, then you’ve already got your support network in place. The things mentioned in the resilience chapter in Ian’s book are all such things.

    We haven’t seen this kind of warming since the end of the last ice age, so my guess is that we really can’t tell exactly what will happen and where. Modeling systems can give a general idea, but something could kick off a runaway exponential cycle, making things worse faster. Likewise, an ‘invasive’ species could serve to balance a local ecosystem, slowing the effects there.

  3. @effem – I agree with Joan that “we really can’t tell exactly what will happen and where.” As Yogi Berra said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” Speaking of the 1970’s, I turned 21 in 1968 – that year I saw the movie “2oo1: A Space Odyssey” and read the first issue of the “Whole Earth Catalog”. Space exploration and commerce are not nearly as far along as the movie predicted, even now. On the other hand, a prediction that came true, and which impressed me, that I read in the WEC was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Contrariwise, all those “peak oil” projections turned out to be wrong. What one thinks is going to happen, and what one thinks one can do about it, will change over time.

    @Ian Welsh – there’s a “with us or against us” feel to this post of yours which is disquieting to me. Who is “us”, anyway? The power elite, the banksters, the guys with the guns and the planes and the atomic bombs, the MICFiC (the military industrial congressional financier corporate media complex) on one hand – and who is it over here on “our” side? How are we organized, what instruments of coercion do we have in our hands, who tells who what to do?

    And how is the struggle for power and resources settled? Who gets to grab the reins, metaphorically speaking? In the U.S. in the 1930s FDR used the political process to advance the interests of the little guys, and in the Great Recession Obama and the rest used the political process to advance the interests of the Big Guys. Maybe normal politics or activist politics could produce a Green New Deal – more in the interest of the little guys – like the “progressive capitalism” that Stiglitz is currently advocating – and somehow we will muddle through. Maybe.

    But in general, as Dylan said, “Democracy don’t rule the world – best get this through your head – this world is ruled by violence – guess that’s better left unsaid.” You ARE saying this world is ruled by violence, and we need to wrap our heads around the fact that it’s a fight to the death.

    If you’re think you’re going to a peaceful demonstration, have your placards. If you’re think you’re going to a brawl in the street, better be ready for a fight. But what if you get there and the authorities have pre-positioned snipers on the roofs of the tall buildings (this is not a far-fetched example)? What if all the destructive capabilities used against foreigners are redeployed against traitors?

    To return to 1968 – the Beatles, The White Album, “Revolution” – we all want to change the world – but if you talk about destruction…

  4. Dan Lynch

    Somewhat off-topic but a comment on the rise of “social democracy”: it would not have happened if not for the fear of a communist revolution. Like Bismark, FDR was trying to save capitalism, not overthrow it.

    After the fall of the Soviet Union which supposedly discredited communism, the post WWII social contract was no longer enforceable. The ruling elites no longer feared a communist revolution, so they began to dismantle the social programs and revert back to a pure pro-big business government.

    What does that have to do with climate change? There will probably be no significant action on climate change until people are rioting in the streets — which they will when crops fail and there is nothing to eat. By then it will be too late, but there may be some attempts at geo-engineering, perhaps involving nukes.

  5. Tom

    @Dan Lynch

    Its too late to use nukes, it will buy at most a decade. The permafrost is already melting and the methane is getting out.

    Its over, you simply have to grasp its going to come crashing down and prepare.

  6. someofparts

    Situations seem to be cropping up where workers push for the green new deal and investors refuse to agree. Maybe that will be one of the fault lines.

    Someone on Chapo Trap House suggested nationalizing Amazon, to my great delight. Can anyone else recommend any other worthwhile podcasts? I get the sense that this is where pathbreaking new thinking is finding a voice.

  7. coloradoblue

    “Because all the major central banks and governments bailed out the rich and fucked everyone else.”

    Except for Iceland (if reports at the time were/are correct). An argument can certainly be made that Iceland isn’t “major”.

  8. Fox Blew

    @ mistah charley, ph.d.

    …”but when you talk about destruction – don’t you know that you can count me out, in…”

  9. Ven

    I agree with the flow of comments. The gains made by labour were very much the result of a strong left wing movement and unions at the time, combined with the threat of a good example in the Soviet Union.

    Now the unions have been dismantled, there is very little grass roots organisation, and society is individualist and fragmented. In the timescale of climate change when it really begins to hit home, in terms of severe food shortages etc, there will be little time to organise; and people certainly won’t have the power to “choose”. The elites will still have the upper hand and private militia to support them.

    The time to choose has come and gone. We chose Thatcher / Reagan, Blair / Obama. We chose as we watched – and did nothing – about accelerating inequality, dismantling of public infrastructure, continued pursuit of foreign interventions, and dumbing down of our discourse.

    Now its just the banquet of consequences. The only hope is the elites will suffer as much as the rest of us.

  10. one still has choices – in how one responds to life’s rich pageant, moment by moment

    and on a more macro level, i came across a fellow on the internet today – “dr. paris williams”

    his story is an interesting one – he was a hang glider instructor, then became a psychotherapist

    now he’s in new zealand – his website there gives various background facts about him, but doesn’t mention that he grew up (and was trained in psychology, probably) in the u.s. – all the professional organizations he lists are either in new zealand or international

    he’s a smart fellow –

    1)he’s located himself in the most appealing location on the globe for a native english speaker

    2)he’s blending into his new habitat

  11. bruce wilder

    The 1929 stock market crash, and the Great Depression lead to most of the rich losing their money and power.

    The Stock Market Crash of October 1929 dramatically marked the beginning of a catastrophic failure of the banking and payments system. That failure of the banking and payments system took the form of a deflation continuing from 1930 into 1933 that took down local commercial banking and the associated payments system and with it the whole economy.

    Some famous but highly leveraged business men lost everything. The 1920s equivalents of, say, Elon Musk, did not do well. The journalistic image of the stockbroker jumping out of a skyscraper window, ticker tape in hand, is indelible, but it has been hard for real historians to document. “Most of the rich” did not lose their wealth. Many small and local banks and other financial institutions did fail; the big money center banks that arguably were at the causal center of the failure of the financial system did not fail. Goldman Sachs, directly implicated in schemes that contributed mightily to the stock market crash and the losses of many smaller investors, did not fail. Many large commercial and industrial firms — notably including leading firms of the “New Economy” — proved remarkably resilient; in economics terms many possessed great depths of economic rent.

    The catastrophe of the Great Depression and the deflation of 1930-33 did not strip all that many of the wealthy of their power or privilege. Some. A good argument can be made that attempts to manipulate the financial and economic system to siphon off too large a share of national income to the very top created the potential for catastrophe. Consumer demand for the new products of the Second Industrial Revolution was financed by easy money, not increasing wages, while industrial empires were built on sometimes highly leveraged finance and much of the shrinking farm economy (where more than a third of the population still lived) was allowed to sink into destitution. The New Economy of the 1920’s ceased to expand beyond the already industrialized and urbanized regions, because it wasn’t “profitable” enough to take in the poorer or more rural areas.

    Paradoxically perhaps, it was a reactionary insistence from very wealthy and powerful people on the wisdom of adhering to “sound money” principles and maintaining the gold standard that triggered the catastrophic debt deflation that drained the economy of consumer demand. Hoover famously quoted Andrew Mellon, Treasury Secretary to Hoover (and Harding and Coolidge before Hoover): “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. Purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. … enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.” But, Hoover himself was nearly hysterical on “sound money” and the magic of austerity in pursuit of balanced budgets and maintaining the gold standard. (FDR never challenged the wisdom of balanced budgets as a desideratum.)

    Wealth on some fundamental level is an abundance of insurance. Catastrophe can be a boon to the truly wealthy, just not to the highly leveraged. It was the wealthy who were among the most insistent on everyone (else) taking losses.

    The people who were destroyed by the Great Depression were not, for the most part, the wealthy. More than anyone else they were the poor and the so-called “unskilled”, wage laborers particularly in farming or the periphery of the economy being pushed aside by the New Economy of autos, petroleum, telephones, electricity. These people were already in trouble in the boom of the 1920s, but the deflation of 1930-33 spread the misery widely.

    Most ordinary people found themselves in 1933 in marginal and precarious circumstances, without ready and assured access to bank savings or steady employment. At least a quarter of all bank mortgages ended in dispossession. The figure for unemployment in 1932-3 is commonly given as 25%, which is horrendous enough. In 1933, three-quarters of the employed were employed only part-time. To fire or lay off employees was to pass a death sentence on a family; many firms — and this is massively clear in the statistics for retail and wholesale distribution — held onto employees even as the firms continued to fail financially.

    The first big New Deal “program” was the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which created among other things the National Recovery Administration, which instituted a cartelization of the whole commercial and industrial economy in an attempt to keep those vast sectors of the private economy which had been keeping people employed from collapsing under pressure from falling prices and debt deflation. It was an endorsement of the social solidarity businesses had shown in the desperation of economic free-fall, but it was not a sensible design and was soon abandoned as a target of business and popular resentment, as other measures had stabilized the financial and payments system.

    In one popular thumbnail narrative, FDR saved capitalism from itself, preventing the overthrow of liberal capitalism by a program of reform. There’s some truth in that characterization. The New Deal mostly did not attempt to destroy the concentrated power of capitalist wealth; the New Deal did not have at the time a unitary rationale — it was a series of experiments and trials and giving scope to earnest efforts from many and disparate sources. In retrospect, it seems to have succeeded in building alternative structures and what Galbraith called, “countervailing power”. Labor unions, public utility regulation, great public agencies and a banking system that featured many firms of diverse types, many of them enabling mutual and cooperative finance independent of concentrated power.

    Some think the “good” example of Communism or the “bad” example of contemporary Fascism may have helped reconcile the wealthy and powerful to letting many New Deal reforms go forward as well as to allow labor unions to succeed within limits. The successful tactic of the UAW — the sitdown strike — carried an implicit threat to simply take over the factories as communists and anarchists might advocate. The nominal radicalism of a Harry Bridges may or may not have been a factor in the successful militancy of his leadership, but his actual “ask” was more Gotha than Marxist, I think; the thing is, Harry Bridges was trusted by the rank-and-file and he was worthy of that trust, which seems to have often become an exceptional circumstance in labor relations.

    The reform of the financial system, including the institution of deposit insurance, was led by the Carter Glass, a Democratic Senator from Virginia’s Byrd Organization, a political machine. The conservative Glass was no one’s idea of a liberal reformer or populist, but he had a deep knowledge of banking and finance. He had been among the chief architects of the Federal Reserve System, instituted just before the First World War. Glass represented local business hostility and resentment against domination by the concentrated power of the money center banks. The banking system he fashioned (with significant input from people who had a more liberal or populist political outlook, which he did not share) featured the creation and maintenance of many different and competitively opposed types of banking and financial institutions, with a basis in local control. The creation and maintenance of financial institutions on mutual principles — savings and loans, credit unions, mutual insurance — was promoted and their independence from the money center banks assured by the creation of public institutions for their support.

    FDR’s New Deal broke the pattern of previous Great Depressions — particularly the disasters of 1893-96 and 1873-78 — because he arrested the deflation and allowed the organization from below (or at least from the middle) of a diverse economy largely independent of the concentrated power at the national financial and corporate center. The previous “great depressions” had been devastating to whole regions of the country, driving down real wages amidst widespread industrial unemployment. The Great Depression of 1893 had bankrupted every bank and railroad west of the Mississippi except James J Hill’s Great Northern (and Hill survived on the backs of oppressed labor).

    FDR’s New Deal gave the Great Depression of the 1930s, after 1933, a contrasting character. The banks that survived thru to his Bank Holiday, mostly survived afterward. Labor unions organized the new and old industries and drove up wages. (Reactionary economists insist to this day that “sticky” not to mention increasing industrial wages were the major factor preventing rapid recovery of employment in the 1930s. People say the darndest things.) A banking and financial system emerged that featured savings and loans and mutual insurance and credit unions and 30-year home mortgages at low fixed rates. Social security and unemployment insurance were instituted. The Tennessee Valley Authority electrified a large and extremely poor and underdeveloped region. Public utilities and public utility regulation developed.

    What the New Deal created was extensive political and economic organization that became the basis for cooperation and common effort. The common effort and “shared sacrifice” of the Second World War took this institution and society building to a much higher plateau than was reached during the 1930s. Income distribution was not actually shifted very much by the New Deal 1933-39; the political struggle over the distribution of income was at best and overall a stalemate during this period and it is not entirely clear the New Dealers were winning the political contest, as the Southern Democrats in Congress marched steadily toward the Right year by year, though the institutional reform of banking and finance by Carter Glass was revisited and arguably improved significantly in the late 1930s.

    It is often argued that the Second World War produced the massive Keynesian stimulus necessary to recover from the Great Depression. If you overlook that the war spending was largely for killing, waste and destruction, the forced savings and repression of war profiteering was actually better designed than any stimulus Keynes or his disciples might have envisioned as practical. The Great Compression of income distribution occurred mostly during the War, though a trend toward greater egalitarianism continued after. The subsequent investments in the GI Bill and the Marshall Plan were hugely successful. Very high marginal rates of income taxation were acquiesced in by the wealthy as a means of financing the servicing of the huge national debt which might otherwise be a destabilizing factor, threatening the wealth they held (including a lot of wealth in the form of the securities making up the national debt).

    The Great Depression may not have destroyed many of the wealthy or much of their wealth in the U.S., but outside the U.S., losing the War certainly did. (And, as a practical matter, Britain and France were among the countries losing the War, just so you know.)

    I guess the bottom line for me is that I would not count on catastrophe de-throning the wealthy. Might happen. Has happened, as in the examples of countries losing WWII. The French Revolution happened. The Bourbons came back, though. And, the French were still working things out in the Third Republic (1870-1940).

    The critical thing for survival, I think, is social solidarity and organization among the 80 or 90 or even 99% that is independent of the most concentrated and corrupt power. Most of us will need cooperative support of friends and neighbors — a lot of benign strangers, too — to survive the catastrophes to come. The center cannot hold. And should not hold. At least not a center dedicated to organizing the society and economy around predation and irresponsible waste, as our globalized elite, our global cloud, is.

    The political culture circa 1930 that made the New Deal possible was not all singing kumbaya. The base of the Democratic Party was a hodgepodge of economic and cultural outsiders hostile to the cultural as well as economic dominance of the establishment that the Republican Party represented. Open hostility to centralized business and financial power was a routine part of political rhetoric and that rhetoric pulled no punches. The New Deal drew critical support from populist white supremacists and critical reforms depended on figures like Carter Glass, who was a white supremacist though not much of a populist. Getting people on the East Coast to care about those enveloped by the Dust Bowl was something of a near thing, as I understand it.

    I have my doubts about the potential of the political culture of the millenials. The boomers, of which I am one, are hopeless. Power, economic and political, is far more centrally concentrated now than in 1930. The instinct for social affiliation seems to be still near its low ebb. I cannot tell if Twitter and Instagram help or hurt — I think they will prove to be obstacles and hindrances, but may that is just old guy talk (I am an old guy.) If we are to break the power of the global center now hovering over everything, it will require far more diverse and numerous and local (for some definition of local) organization, political and economic. And, if any of us or our posterity are to survive the catastrophe to come, let alone mitigate it, some basis for solidarity and cooperation will have to be found that does not get co-opted instantly by the global cloud.

  12. I\’m 70 years old and all us baby boomers are indeed hopeless and are complicit it this upcoming catastrophe. I served in that murderous war in Vietnam and since then I\’ve paid my taxes and voted in elections. I don\’t vote anymore because I believe the US is a white supremacist militarized police state. Voting to me means you are ok with what the US is doing around the world, both economically and the war machine. But I never had any children so when its my time to die I can say that I didn\’t contaminate the planet with more Americans.

  13. Bill Hicks

    To borrow from the old Clint Eastwood western, you forgot one option of what our future society is likely to look like: ugly.

  14. Hugh

    FDR did what he thought was necessary. He changed and adapted as he went along. He started out pretty conservative. Fear of revolution from those who were angry and the absolute duty to help those who were hurting pushed FDR to take the actions he did. FDR was an ardent capitalist who adopted s*cialist programs. Most of the New Deal we look back on most fondly was s*cialist in nature. It says a lot about how inverted and propagandized we are that s*cialism has become a bad word and can even trigger spam filters on the net.

    My only additions to the FDR narrative are that there were two New Deals and two Depressions. Most of the first New Deal was struck down by reactionaries on the Supreme Court. No surprise there. SCOTUS has been dominated by reactionaries for nearly all of US history. Programs were reformulated and this constituted the second New Deal. The first depression lasted from about 1929 to 1936. The economy was actually out of depression at that point, but FDR took the advice of his then Treasury Secretary Morgenthau and scaled back government programs and this plunged the country back into depression for another 3 years until 1939 when spending increased again in the run up to WWII.

    I agree it is an either us or them situation we are in. The “them” are the rich and elites. The “us” is everybody else. The real economic dividing line is between the lower 80% of the US population who are really hurting, feel/are more at risk, have seen their standard of living deteriorate, and are significantly worse off than their parents. And the top 20% whose lives and those of their children have been little affected by the last 40 years or so of neoliberalism. This group can be further divided into say the top 7% who own most of the stocks in the country, the top 1% and the top .1%, each smaller group doing exponentially better than the previous group and all of them doing obscenely better than the lower 80%. If you are in that lower 80%, know that you have been already written off.

  15. @Joan
    “I think it’s wise to do the kind of prep that is good no matter what. ”

    There have been periods of rapid cooling ( and rapid heating ( during relatively recent geological history, having nothing to do with anthropogenic CO2 production. I don’t see where any country in the world is prepared to weather similar events. (I suppose that populations near the tropics, that are successful and at least have economic independence within striking range, don’t have much to worry about).

    My conclusion is that world leadership is largely defective, though it’s obviously part of human nature to operate out of a frame of reference comprised largely of one’s own memories.* Nobody alive has direct experience of “the year without a summer”, so a limited measure of sympathy is advisable.

    An even worse catastrophe, in the US, than even something on the order of “a year without a winter” would be a Carrington-level cosmic ray event, which would fry our electrical grid. This soon lead to even worse catastrophes, as the integrity of our nuclear plants depends on an intact grid.

    It’d be nice if the morose CO2 catastrophists, who seriously think we’re going extinct in a few decades, were a little less selfish. I mean, EVEN IF anthropogenic CO2 kills off 90-100% of us in the next 30 years, a Carrington level event would result in the deaths of most Americans within a year or two. (Mostly due to starvation, lack of clean water, and violence.)

    If your doctor tells you that, for various reasons, he expects that cancer will kill you within 30 years, but you could have a life-threatening aneurysm operated on, which will otherwise kill you within a year, what would you say? “Oh, doc, I’m gonna be dead in 30 years, anyway! Who cares about the aneurysm?”

    I doubt many CO2 catastrophists would think this way, but many seem to do it when pontificating on climate change.

    There is something pathological in this situation…..

    Apparently, they are too hip to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. Or else, they are suffering from a bad case of “learned helplessness”

    * my brother used to work for Kyocera, a Japanese company, that had a 150 year plan. That seems ridiculously long, but it does raise the question of how the Japanese government have prepared for various ecological traumas. They certainly didn’t handle Fukushima very well, but maybe they are admirable in preparing for other traumas.

  16. Joan


    I agree with what you have to say. I think any prep that ends up actually happening will be on the individual level, or at least much smaller than national governments.

  17. metamars


    Well, I certainly hope you’re very wrong. You really want preparation from the individual up to the international level. Given the current state of human spiritual evolution and political leadership, resource wars are easy to predict, and have been predicted by many.

    In the long run, it’d probably do us good to have a painful shock, analogous to a non-fatal heart attack triggering radical lifestyle changes.

    E.g., another “year without a summer”, where the southern hemisphere could feed the northern hemisphere, in a suitably threadbare kind of way. Or vice versa.

    Or a solar storm which only blows out half the US electrical grid.

  18. Ché Pasa

    To our rulers, crisis/catastrophe is opportunity. This is doctrine. Has been for decades.

    When there aren’t enough natural calamities to satisfy their opportunistic urges, they’ll quite happily precipitate catastrophe where and when they like (cf: Middle East, North Africa, South Asia — among other calamitous wars precipitated purposefully to force crises) and there is practically nothing we (or the other victims) can do about it. The slow-motion climate crisis has long been factored in.

    As I was coming back home from Santa Fe last night, I noticed that the lights were on at Jeffrey Epstein’s Zorro Ranch hacienda. This is fairly unusual; I don’t think I’ve seen the lights on there more than a couple of times in the last ten years or so. It indicates he — or someone he’s authorized — is at home in that vast mesa-top compound. Some people have wondered why he’d want a place like that quite literally in the middle of nowhere. To my eye, its remote location is exactly why he’d want it.

    The 8,000 acres or so that surrounds it comes with a little village at the foot of the mesa were the workers tend to the cattle and the barns and warehouses full of god-knows-what, and there’s someone to look after the microwave towers that keep the place connected with The World. I’m sure there are bunkers under the hacienda for when everything goes to shit, and the water wells are deep drilled and the pumps are power-protected even from the dreaded EMPs. It’s a perfect get-away, at least theoretically self-sustaining should the need arise. And yes, the need is likely to arise, sooner rather than later.

    Epstein is by no means the only one of his class and ilk with such a private escape compound, oh my no, they’re all over the place, in locations where “it’s been determined” that whatever happens, climatologically or revolutionarily or economically or what have you, the proprietor will be protected and will be most likely to survive come what may. These preparations have been made over the last 20-25 years or so, as recognition of the coming global whoopsies have been widely understood within that class of the high and the mighty, following the outline of the Cold War survivalists who set up all sorts of elaborate bunkers and hide-outs just in case the Cold War turned… hot.

    The climate crisis — among so many other potential or inevitable disruptions of the status quo — is yet another opportunity for these people. They are — for the most part — not afraid. They are doing their best to bullet proof themselves and some of their hangers-on, and from my distant view, I think they’ve done pretty well. Much better, I’d say, than the Ancien Regime protected itself from the vagaries of fate and the sans culottes.

    What the rest of us can do is very limited and becoming more so all the time. Certainly we cannot fix what’s wrong through elections, and I think the effectiveness of armed resistance has been demonstrated to be inadequate/inappropriate to the tasks at issue. Individually and in small groups there are means and methods to become more or less self-sufficient, and to survive through the coming vicissitudes, but only a few can take advantage of them — comparatively speaking.

    We were at an informal community gathering outside of Santa Fe last night before heading home past the Zorro Ranch. It’s a community where pretty much everyone has their couple of acres and a horse or two, and their guns and supplies for the long haul. They’re ready, as ready as they can be. And so they’re comfortable enough with regard to their own future.

    But really, their Betters don’t care. Because ultimately, when the time comes, they’re going to fight one another, not the Mighty Ones secure in their mesa-top compounds, protected by their private militias and decades of preparation. Getting the Rabble to fight one another is the time honored way our Betters use to maintain their own power and privilege, no?

  19. “Global warming will lead to ever increasing violent storms.” Well, maybe. Violent storms occur when warm fronts meet cold air. If the climate warms sufficiently that there is no air sufficiently cold enough, how do violent storms form? I’m not predicting that, merely pointing out that we do not really know what will happen any more than did the vast number of experts who said that the world would run out of oil in 1980.

  20. Willy

    Bill H, on frozen Neptune the atmospheric storms are quite violent. It’s the same on Venus.

    For anybody who prefers “common sense” over scientific knowledge, wouldn’t it then be the differences in gas temperatures which influences atmospheric turbulence?

    Before second guessing the experts, I usually just follow the money first. Reverend Farris Wilks claimed that “if God wants the polar caps to remain in place, then he will leave them there.” Since the good ole reverend also happens to be the same fracking billionaire who funds PragerU, I’d probably view him with a bit of skepticism.

  21. StewartM

    Catastrophes often lead to changes in societies, but sometimes they don’t.

    I would sum it up as “catastrophes either lead to changes in society, or the society collapses or goes into decline”. Either you change like the New Deal, or you respond like the Vikings did in Greenland after the onset of the Little Ice Age.

    Looking at the likely candidates in 2020, we’re apparently headed for the second option.

  22. MojaveWolf

    @Effem — It’s already begun, and the effects are already noticeable. I’m not quite sure how you’re missing them.

  23. Willy

    I’ve noticed hemlock trees and sword ferns, once ubiquitous to my neighborhood, dying en masse. A little online research tells me it’s happening throughout the PNW. It could just be the recent droughts. But many of those plants are over a hundred years old.

    When I Google “effects of global warming”, the website I find at the very top of the returned list, from the “Competitive Enterprise Institute”, tells me not to worry. They say nothing’s going on and it’s all just a “pretext to expand government and empower progressive elites”.

    So who are these elites? I didn’t know it was possible to get rich being a progressive, outside of Hollywood. Wasn’t AOC just a barista? Is Al Gore, with the help of the sinister Bernie, about to mandate that we buy his version of mein kampf? But I thought he was more of a neoliberal elite, a lot closer to the CEIs core mission of free markets than an actual progressive elite is.

    ExxonMobile once funded CEI but now they’re getting sued over lying to shareholders about the effects of climate change. If I was them, I’d bring the valuable information presented by CEI to court. Nothing’s going on it’s just your imagination its all a progressive elite trick. Still, I wonder what’s killing all the plants.

  24. ricardo2000

    I agree that it is the rich and powerful that get in the way when there is an emergency or catastrophe. The system serves them well and they won’t give it up just because everyone else dies. The 1% will just complain about the smell, and wonder why the poor couldn’t just throw themselves into the sea before they die. They will strive to protect their junk and privileges even as the flames burn them, they will push the poor to save crap.

    As speculation I often wonder what various ’empires’ would have developed if a plague had wiped out the ruling class. Then I realized that this happened several times: Lisbon Earthquake, and the Black Death. Both of these led to a collapse of religious belief, after enough people had died, whether they were young or old, rich or poor, holy or profane. Then a creative boom like the Renaissance.

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