Resist Empire

Support TomDispatch

Jane Braxton Little, Climate Migrants in a Hell on Earth

Posted on

Uh-oh, my city’s sinking. I’m not kidding! According to a new study, New York City, my hometown, is all too literally going down, thanks to those vertiginous towers, including the Empire State Building, constructed on land some of which was sandy and is now giving way. All those Manhattan skyscrapers and the like weigh an estimated 1.68 trillion pounds, writes the Guardian‘s Oliver Milman, “roughly equivalent to the weight of 140 million elephants.” And mind you, this is happening at a moment when the seas and oceans globally are both overheating and rising in a disturbing fashion. Since 1950, the waters around my town have risen approximately nine inches (something that became all too apparent when Hurricane Sandy hit it in 2012).

Sooner or later, to put this in the context of Jane Braxton Little’s piece today, some New Yorkers will undoubtedly become climate migrants. And we’ll hardly be alone. This planet is on edge. At one point last year, one-third (yes, you read that right!) of Pakistan was underwater, thanks to floods the likes of which had never been seen before. (And Pakistan wasn’t alone. Just check out Nigeria or Australia if you don’t believe me.)

This year, Canada is experiencing wildfires of an historically unprecedented sort. And none of this, eerily enough, can be considered out of the ordinary anymore. In fact, a new study in Nature Sustainability suggests that, by late in this century, if we human beings don’t get a handle on climate change by truly bringing the fossil-fuelization of this planet under control, up to one-third of us could find ourselves living outside what its authors call the “human climate niche” — that is, in areas where human life could be unsustainable. Imagine that.

No wonder some experts are already suggesting that, in the decades to come, the climate emergency could turn more than a billion of us into migrants on a planet becoming too hot to bear. My old friend and TomDispatch regular Braxton Little has already experienced this reality in an up close and personal fashion. As she wrote in her first piece for this site, she found herself a climate refugee when most of her town in northern California burned to the ground in the devastating Dixie fire of 2021. With that in mind, let her introduce you to the world of climate migrants that could someday simply be the world for all too many of us. Tom

Looking for Home in an Overheating World

If Emissions Continue, Will We All Be Migrants Someday?

Greenville, CA -- Pines and firs parched by a three-year drought had been burning for days on a ridge 1,000 feet above my remote mountain town. On August 4, 2021, the flames suddenly flared into a heat so intense it formed a molten cloud the color of bruised flesh. As that sinister cumulus rose above an oval-shaped reservoir, it collapsed, sending red-hot embers down the steep slopes toward Greenville in a storm of torched trees and exploding shrubs. It took less than 30 minutes for the Dixie fire to transform my town’s tarnished Gold Rush charm into a heap of smoldering hand-hewn timbers and century-old brick walls.

Minutes earlier, the last of the nearly 1,000 residents had bolted, some in shirts singed by flames. We fled with what belongings we could take in the face of a fire few believed would ever destroy our town. I was among the evacuees, escaping with a hastily assembled truckload of journals and notebooks, shoes and shovels, laptops and passports. We scattered in the sort of desperate diaspora that has become ever more common in towns like ours across the West.

Read More

Andrew Bacevich, Seduced by War — Yet Again

Posted on

Let me just express my concern about the war in Ukraine by wondering what “victory” might actually mean for the Ukrainians. Let’s assume for a moment that the coming, much-publicized Ukrainian counteroffensive will indeed punch serious holes in the lines of a battered and demoralized Russian military and that Ukrainian forces won’t just bloodily win back significant parts of their territory (even, say, endangering the Russian position in Crimea), but cause that country’s military to begin to collapse. Think of such developments as something like the ultimate victory scenario (or perhaps dream) of both Kyiv and Washington.

My own worry is that, should such a thing happen — and I’m not faintly predicting it — how might Russian President Vladimir Putin respond? We’re talking about the leader of one of the two most over-armed nuclear powers on the planet who has, in these months, implicitly threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield, even if a Ukrainian nuclear plant doesn’t go up in smoke in the fighting to come.

It’s been more than three-quarters of a century since such weaponry was used twice to utterly devastating effect to end a war, a period in which the great powers have nuclearized on an almost unimaginable scale. Worse yet, in recent years, all the nuclear agreements between the U.S. and Russia, the two countries with 90% of the planet’s nuclear weapons, have essentially been canceled, even as both of those powers continue to “modernize” their arsenals to the tune of trillions of dollars. Now, we find ourselves at a moment when a future “victory” for Kyiv could, depending on how Putin responds, be a historic catastrophe for Ukrainians, Russians, and the rest of the world with the possible introduction of such weaponry on a European battlefield. It’s both hard to imagine and all too conceivable.

But as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century, points out today, Joe Biden’s Washington is all too ready to take a chance on just such a future, rather than focusing on how to bring peace to a Europe in ever greater chaos. Tom

The Compulsion to Intervene

Why Washington Underwrites Violence in Ukraine

Allow me to come clean: I worry every time Max Boot vents enthusiastically about a prospective military action. Whenever that Washington Post columnist professes optimism about some upcoming bloodletting, misfortune tends to follow. And as it happens, he's positively bullish about the prospect of Ukraine handing Russia a decisive defeat in its upcoming, widely anticipated, sure-to-happen-any-day-now spring counteroffensive.

In a recent column reported from the Ukrainian capital -- headline: “I was just in Kyiv under fire” -- Boot writes that actual signs of war there are few. Something akin to normalcy prevails and the mood is remarkably upbeat. With the front “only [his word!] about 360 miles away,” Kyiv is a “bustling, vibrant metropolis with traffic jams and crowded bars and restaurants.” Better yet, most of the residents who fled that city when the Russians invaded in February 2022 have since returned home.

Read More

Norman Solomon and David Barsamian, Living in a Warfare State

Posted on

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Let me make a little post-Memorial Day plea. Today, Norman Solomon takes up a subject that’s long been at the heart of TD — how this country mishandled its never-ending urge to make war in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I hope it will remind all of you why having a site like TomDispatch matters in a world where so much goes unsaid (amid so much noise). If you agree, I also hope you’ll consider visiting our donation page and contributing something to keep TD alive and kicking. Many thanks in advance! Tom]

The invaluable Costs of War Project has long reported that close to a million people, including Americans, died in the major zones of conflict in this country’s post-9/11 war on terror. It’s worth stopping a moment to take that figure in. Almost a million deaths — and mind you, that’s in a war (or actually a series of conflicts) that, despite what you might hear in this country, is not over. From Syria to Somalia, Americans are still pursuing it.

Only recently, however, the Costs of War Project’s Stephanie Savell released a new study suggesting that there may have been another 3.6 to 3.7 million indirect deaths that can be attributed to the conditions created by those conflicts. So, in total, we may be talking about almost five million dead people from the American war that began as a response to al-Qaeda’s devastating air assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Consider that the definition of a genuine hell on earth.

And yet, as Norman Solomon has made clear in the very title of his remarkable new book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, remarkably few Americans have any sense of just how devastating (not to say unsuccessful) that now more than two-decade-old war on terror has been, or how many more civilians this country has killed than al-Qaeda ever could have. Had the media here dealt with that toll the way it is now — all too correctly — dealing with the civilian toll the Russians are inflicting in Ukraine, we might be on a different planet, but no such luck.

Of Solomon’s book, Daniel Ellsberg has said: “No one is better at exposing the dynamics of media and politics that keep starting and continuing wars. War Made Invisible will provide the fresh and profound clarity that our country desperately needs.” Indeed, it couldn’t be more important to make America’s disastrous wars of this century more visible and, with that in mind, consider the following interview the superb David Barsamian of Alternative Radio has just conducted with Solomon on what we Americans should have seen and why so many of us didn’t. Tom

The Wars We Don’t (Care to) See

Aggression Made Easy

[The following is excerpted and adapted from David Barsamian’s recent interview with Norman Solomon at]

David Barsamian: American Justice Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. He made an opening statement to the Tribunal on November 21, 1945, because there was some concern at the time that it would be an example of victor’s justice. He said this: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Read More