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The Fires of History Yet Rage — Climate Change and the Authoritarian Assault on Liberal Democracy

Some have said that history ended with the fall of Soviet Russia and the subsequent virtuous spread of liberal democracy. Now, with a fossil-fueled dictator at the Kremlin conducting information wars to topple western democracies and with the various and many-fanged monsters of climate change howling at the gates of a world besieged, that notion seems both ignorant and laughable.

Pshaw — history ended? Clearly not.

(The glaciers and snows of the Himalayas are dwindling — just one of the obvious impacts of human-forced climate change. Video source: Google Earth Engine.)

A good segment of the world now acts like their brains have been hacked. Bots and trolls masquerading as real people try to shout down valid out-crys for divestment-from and resistance-to worsening abuses. And Elon Musk has a point when he says we’re all cyborgs now.

But it is, perhaps, possible for us to sympathize with the now-faded false comfort of our brief fantasy that abusive powers were defeated — never to rise again. For, in 1989, the difficulties were seemingly more remote — walled off in perceived blocks of East vs West, segmented by large, set-piece armies and mostly impermeable spheres of influence. With the collapse of one sphere — the side of totalitarianism and the authoritarian state — it seemed that the advance of liberal western democracy and with it justice, freedom, and equality was inevitable.

Now, 28 years later, the trouble and chaos jumps right out at you through the screen of your computer, tablet, or smart phone. Authoritarianism splintered. But then its various shards metastasized, becoming smarter, more nimble, more in your face, and more linked to global monetary and information power centers. Meanwhile, the West, caught up in the illusions of conservative thought, failed to advance and was therefore unprepared when new threats inevitably emerged both from within and without (See how Trump’s actions boosted effectiveness of Russian information warfare against US).

(NASA shows Arctic rate of warming per decade through 2012. Putin hopes for an ice-free Arctic so he can drill for more oil. His assault on western democracy is also related to a climate change denial based attack on renewable energy. Image source: NASA.)

You may today be cajoled — through the internet — by none other than oil billionaire, petrostate dictator, former KGB agent, democracy saboteur, and Trump-supporter Vladimir Putin who’d try to use his supposedly legendary charm (or the merciless intimidation of his online agents and surrogates) to convince you of the false notion that the climate is changing but humans aren’t the cause (see — Putin Defends Climate Deniers and Looks Forward to Arctic Melting). If you’re one of those strong-willed enough to wrench your mind from the grasp of a man and his army of 15,000 information warfare trolls spreading misinformation aimed at the advancement of his destructive wealth and power, you could use the same powerful tool to actually directly contact real scientists — who’d tell you that about 100 percent or more of present warming is now being caused by human beings. So you could then give Putin a very justified big, fat middle finger salute.

And who knew that an honest man (or, in this case, seventeen honest women and men) would be so hard to come by in the age of mass and easy to access factual information? The differences between the false and the true and between the total lack of moral stature of those who will use any means available to grasp for more power (see — Follow the Trail of Dead Russians) and those who are now threatened if they selflessly choose to serve the public good (see — Climate Science Witch Hunts) is as stark as stark could be. Socrates, during his last days, couldn’t hold a candle to the injustices and truth mangling we face today.

(Back in December, a Russian military threat disrupted renewable energy production from wind turbines like these in the Baltic.  Unwilling to transition to renewable energy, Russia, under Putin, has staked its fate to oil and gas production. Historically, state economic reliance on fossil fuels has enabled autocratic dictatorships even as it has tended to produce crashes when market prices drop. The fall of the Soviet Union can be linked to low oil and gas prices, for example. Image source: Power Technology.)

But as moral thought-leaders continue to try to warn the public, and as those who have unjustly and immorally enriched themselves by polluting the atmosphere and wrecking the climate seek to cover up the serious risks and harms, the fossil fuel carbon that has been so irresponsibly dumped into our atmosphere for so long continues to create ever-worsening and more terrible effects.

No. History didn’t end. But the nature of conflict and power certainly changed in a way that rendered old responses obsolete and ineffective. We solved one global problem and by failing to improve ourselves and our societies enough, we invited another. And we are starting to see that we are in far more dire straits than we ever were before as a result.

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