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General News    H3'ed 11/13/18

Tomgram: John Feffer, Splinterlands 2.0

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

If you happened to notice, news reports on a study in the science journal Nature about the globe's oceans warming faster than even most climate scientists had imagined should have been eye-opening and potentially devastating news. In another world, that study would certainly have made headlines across the country as the midterm elections bore down on us. We are, after all, talking about the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Yet its impact was essentially nil and no wonder. In the election season just past, Donald Trump was blocking the view when it came to almost anything else happening on this planet. And climate change? Well, we have the president's own word that, even if it isn't a hoax, it might not be "manmade" -- and, in any case, is likely to "change back again" sooner or later (give or take a million years). So, to quote Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman: "What, me worry?"

No surprise, then, that the fossil-fuel-stoked nature of our changing planet wasn't a significant national issue in election 2018, as it hadn't been in the presidential campaign two years earlier. (There was not a single question about it in any of the three presidential debates that year.) True, in these midterms, a Washington state carbon tax that would have funded clean energy and air programs was shot down by the voters, thanks in part to the huge sums that the oil industry -- in particular, BP America, Phillips 66, and Marathon Oil Corporation's Andeavor, all with refineries in the state -- sank into the campaign against it. Also true, some local House candidates raised climate change as an issue and generally won. Still, compared to immigration or health care this election season, the warming of this planet and what it portends for our children and grandchildren was on par with fear of zombies.

For those paying attention, this is frustrating indeed. Still, as TomDispatch regular John Feffer suggests today, the situation is simply too serious to let the frustration of it all -- including the fact that our president and much of his party aren't just climate-change deniers but enthusiastic aiders and abettors of the phenomenon -- discourage those focused on doing something about it. And Feffer himself is a good example of that ongoing effort. This is publication day for his striking new dystopian novel, Frostlands (the sequel to his hit novel Splinterlands), and it has climate change directly in its crosshairs. Strange to say, but he's proof of the adage (which I just invented) that in dystopia there lies hope. In that context, check him out on the "escape room" that we all now find ourselves in, whether we care to notice or not. Tom

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Welcome to the Ultimate Escape Room
Will This Climate-Change Dystopia Have a Sequel?
By John Feffer

The mid-term elections are over, and the Democrats have regained the House, but the rest of American political reality remains intact. Meanwhile, the campaigns barely touched on the most important issues of our time: war, climate change, and the fracturing of the international community.

So, let's consider these larger issues from a different angle.

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Let's step from the voting booth into a different space altogether: an escape room. This is, however, no ordinary escape room like the ones that have become so popular in cities around the world. Here, the stakes couldn't be higher: life or death. You might want to give it a pass, but you don't have a choice. There's only one door and you have to go inside...

You've done enough escape rooms to know the drill by now. You are escorted into what seems like an ordinary room. There's a table and a chair. On the table is a book. As soon as you step across the threshold, the door closes behind you. You hear the lock click into place.

You are now trapped in a room with four strangers. Three of them look as concerned as you are. The fourth is nonchalant.

The instructions this time are a little different. As with other escape rooms, you have a certain amount of time to figure out how to get out. Also, you know that clues to the puzzle are hidden somewhere in the room. Figure them out and you'll be able to unlock the door.

But here's the difference: the temperature in this room will go up a degree with every minute that passes. If you and those four strangers can't figure out how to stop it from rising, you'll succumb to heat stroke. In other words, if you don't escape in the allotted time period, you'll die.

You immediately set to work looking for the clues. Maybe one or two are in the book on the table or maybe a code is carved on the underside of the table. Maybe you need to use the chair to climb up close enough to scrutinize the crown molding near the ceiling. Three of the strangers are doing what you're doing: trying to uncover clues.

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The fourth is leaning against the wall, looking relaxed. "It's just a joke," he says to no one in particular.

"I already feel it getting warmer in here," you respond.

"It's just your imagination," he replies. "Power of suggestion. Fake news."

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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