Fast forward to the present. On this day, a New York Times headline screams "Japan Backs Off From Emissions Targets, Citing Fukushima Disaster." Another paper runs an op-ed piece proclaiming "Iran Afflicted with Dust Storms, Growing Deserts". The author is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joel Brinkley. The premise: "Iran is, quite literally, blowing away."
It turns out, Iran's aquifers are drying up, desertification is spreading across the land, only 16 percent of what remains is arable, "massive dust storms" afflict 23 of Iran's 31 provinces. Astonishingly, "at least 80,000 people die from strangling dust and other pollutants annually," according to Iran's own Ministry of Health.
Nor is this the first time it's been reported. In August, 2013, Barb ara Slavin, Washington correspondent for Al Monitor, filed this story :
TEHRAN, Iran -- As temperatures soared above 105 degrees Fahrenheit during one of the hottest summers here in recent memory, no snow was visible atop the mountains ringing Tehran and no water flowed down the narrow channels along main streets (known as jubes in Farsi) that a year ago were still full of fresh mountain runoff. A furry brown haze obscured the skyline, irritating eyes and tickling throats.
While most press attention has focused on the inauguration of a new Iranian president, the nuclear crisis and the impact of Western economic sanctions, global warming and a deteriorating environment loom as large if not larger as a threat to the well-being of Iran's 75 million people.
We seldom read about this Iran crisis. For obvious reasons the corporate-owned mass media in this country chose to downplay or totally igno re it. It's always about the threat Iran's nuclear program ostensibly poses. Nor is Iran the only symptom of what's happening. Typhoon Haiyan, the second-deadliest typhoon ever to hit the Philippines, dwarfed Hurricane Katrina in size.
And then there is the ecological calamity called China. Photojournalist Sean Gallagher has documented the alarming environmental changes occurring in a country that's home to 1.3 billion people in a new e-book. Temperatures on the Tibetan plateau are rising faster than anywhere else on earth. India is facing a similar environmental catastrophe, as is much of Africa, while Iran is by no means the only desiccated country in the Middle East.
The environmental crisis is not localized; it's a crisis on a planetary scale, and one that's intertwined with global capitalism. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing when Marx condemned what he called "monopoly capitalism" -- a system that looks more and more like today's corporate capitalism -- to the dustbin of history. He was right: Unbounded capitalism does contain the seeds of its own destruction.