On the climate, before Martin Luther King’s Birthday

In a sane world, serious and growing threats to the survival of human civilization would take top priority in the press, government, and business, and such threats would prompt political and business leaders to band together urgently to overcome nationalism and its juvenile racist thinking and the urge to denigrate others for the color of their skin or the poverty of their country of origin.

Besides, not so very long ago, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” were fleeing the grinding poverty and feudal misery of places like Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and Germany and more.

And when those “homeless, tempest-tost” souls passed through the golden door by the light of Lady Liberty’s lamp, they often found grinding poverty and feudal misery in America as well, in her brutal mines and logging camps, in sweatshops, and spinning mills that killed and maimed child workers relentlessly. And throughout the Jim Crow South, Slavery by Another Name ensured that the systematic and savage theft of the lives and bodies of African-Americans to produce wealth for white-owned corporate masters would continue, which had the effect of crippling unions throughout the South. With the rule of the Dixiecrats — the Congressional barons with essentially lifetime tenure so long as they supported segregation — the South’s poisonous politics infected all of America, as they do to this day.

But we don’t just need to have an accounting and confront and change our racist structures for moral reasons. Another reason is that, until we do, we seem entirely unable to comprehend treating most of the worlds’ billions of peoples as full human beings, with a shared stake in the global commons and a livable future.

In 1984, the malevolent O’Brien tells Winston Smith “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” But as it turns out, thanks to our monkey-brain inability to muster the discipline to defer immediate gratification in the face of well-known suffering that immediate pleasure is causing others, the new picture of our future could be a young brown child struggling to keep from drowning while floodwaters rise ever higher.

So, because those rising waters and the forces driving them are what would be the real top story in a sane world,  OregonPEN presents the first part of the Royal Society’s 2017 Climate Update Report, with the second part to follow.