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Whiteness cooks the planet

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If President-elect Donald Trump does as he says, the climate apocalypse will be upon us. (Courtesy photo)

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The climate news is so horrendous as to be incomprehensible. Each week brings a new analysis of passing the point of no return on climate change, mass extinctions, famine, drought, displacement and other bad things. The question now is not whether climate change is real and man-made — it most definitely is — but how much damage will be wrought how soon and whether we can adapt fast enough to salvage something resembling civilization.

Thinking about climate is literally incomprehensible. My brain can’t process it. I suspect mass napping increased in Rome during the Caligula years. What is required is decisive governmental action to kill the fossil fuel energy, to transition to sustainable energy sources and to protecting vulnerable people from the unfolding damage.

The political obstacle to action at such a scale in the United States is the Republican Party. Undoubtedly, the Democrats did not do everything they could. The Obama administration could have sought more from climate treaties, or used the existing power of the EPA. But at least Democrats believe that climate change is a thing. They believe in science. They’re not chucking ice cubes in the Congress. Democrats are not still fighting the Copernican revolution.

And the political base of the GOP consists of white people motivated by racial resentment, as we’ve been told in a binder full of analyses. Racial resentment seems to be how political scientists convert racism into survey questions.

If Donald Trump does as he says — tears up the Paris Climate agreement, opens up unlimited oil drilling, lets climate denialists run the EPA — the climate apocalypse will be upon us.

Trump’s base of angry white people voted to accelerate the destruction of the species. White people who are apparently in a panic that they will soon be the minority. Their world — when America was “great” — is being swallowed by a new world of multicultural cosmopolitan interconnected tolerance, which they find threatening and frightening for reasons that are as illogical as they are deadly.

White people voted to end civilization and avocados because they’re offended by the idea of “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”

I assumed that white people had a sense of self-preservation. Whites are more invested in the flimsy superiority of white privilege than in our own children. White people will be a minority in the United States within 30 years, which, coincidentally, is around the same time as the projected climate reckoning. White people are trying to destroy the world before we let anyone else have it. We’re taking our toys and going on. We’re like The Who, smashing the hotel room at check out.

Progressives will need to recognize that racism is the backbone of the political right. That means we won’t win on anything else — gun control, education, health care or saving the planet from us — unless we figure out how to deal with whiteness. And we’ll need to do it not just in our familiar hipster enclaves but also in these battlegrounds. Communities that only know robusta coffee. We need to stop eking out 50 percent +1 on a good day and swing for the 99 percent.

The analyses of race as the unifying force in the Trump vote didn’t ask the logical next question: Why are people so racist?

Are they intractable bigots or can they be won to a different vision? Can they be neutralized or divided? Politics are social. I suspect that the part of White America that is so racist is also so isolated, and the only people talking to them consistently are the right.

I don’t know how. As a leftist Jew from San Francisco, I may not have the greatest insights in what it takes to organize real Americans. I’m like Ron Liebman in “Norma Rae.” You can send a Jew to the heartland, but it’s still Sally Field who leads the strike. But we have to figure it out or it’s “Fury Road.”

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian, writer, and labor organizer. See him live on Thursday at the Verdi Club for Verdi Wild Things Are.

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