Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Historic flood damage, Rolling Coal, and a suppressed climate change report. South Carolina needs a New Deal.

(In the CNN video above, we learn about the many dam failures that occurred in South Carolina due to the recent extreme weather event. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Nu2bfocpyg.)

South Carolina has just been hit by a 1,000-year storm, causing loss of life, wide-scale flooding, damaged roads, water main breaks, failed dams, ruined homes, and more (see, e.g., "South Carolina Gets Slammed," Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, October 5, 2015).

The storm was made worse by global warming.

Higher-than-average sea temperatures allow more evaporation, which results in more water being dumped on land during storms. This phenomenon is happening more often than usual, and will continue to increase in frequency as the political right continues to deny what 97% of climate scientists agree on - man is causing higher-than-normal global warming.

Back in 2011, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources created a report warning the citizens of South Carolina about the effects of climate change on the state. The report was suppressed for a year-and-a-half by the administration of South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Haley is a former member of the climate denying group ALEC, and also a Koch brothers groupie (SourceWatch - Nikki Haley). Further, the leader of the DNR report was forced out of his position by a Haley political appointee - an appointee who later "resigned her post... after it was determined that she lied under oath to the state legislature" about pushing him out of his job ("What South Carolinians Deserve to Know about Climate Change," Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2013).

The politically suppressed report--suppressed, no doubt, to maintain financial funding from the oil & coal industries and/or their sympathizers & investors--warned South Carolinians that global warming would cause things like "floods," "dam failures," and "loss of human life." In this recent storm--made worse by global warming--there were floods, dam failures, and loss of human life.

So, what was Governor Haley doing while she and her cronies were suppressing the report, and ignoring other warnings about the potential catastrophic consequences of global warming? She was blocking health insurance for her state's low-income citizens, through deceit; and flat out lying about the number of unemployed people doing drugs. She could have been preparing her state for a devastating storm but, instead, she was obsessed with drug testing the unemployed, passionately exclaiming: "I so want drug testing. I so want it." (Many right-wingers believe that if you're unemployed--even if you were laid off through no fault of your own--you must be on drugs.)

Some people in South Carolina are even less concerned about the deleterious effects of climate change than the Haley Administration is. For example, one South Carolina truck owner said, "The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal. I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me. It's bad for the environment. That's definitely true." Rolling Coal is a process where a diesel truck is modified to pollute more, by spewing out heavy amounts of black smoke. And it's very much a political statement. As another man explained: "I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all. If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck - that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you" ("Rolling Coal: Conservatives ‘screw’ Obama by modifying trucks to spew toxic black smoke," Raw Story, July 7, 2014).

(Unemployed workers built or improved many dams in America after they were hired into the WPA. In the photo above, WPA workers are building the Johnson Pond dam in Salisbury, Maryland, 1936. Like many of their projects, the WPA's Johnson Pond Dam is still used by us today. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

New Deal policymakers had a much different view of the environment, and a much different view towards poor and unemployed Americans, than the Haley Administration and many conservatives have. For example, unemployed young men were hired into the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked in South Carolina planting trees, preventing erosion, and creating or improving parks (see, e.g., Myrtle Beach State Park). At the same time, other unemployed South Carolinians were hired into the WPA and made enormous improvements to South Carolina's infrastructure, e.g., 10,000 miles of new or improved roads, 11,000 new or improved culverts (well-built culverts are great for moving out excess water by the way), and 230 miles of new water lines.

As the number of extreme weather events increase, our infrastructure is going to get pummeled - because the infrastructure is aging and because it wasn't designed to handle the type of extreme weather we're seeing now, on such a frequent basis. South Carolina could learn a lesson from the New Deal, and begin improving their infrastructure now. To help with such a task, they could hire the unemployed into WPA-style public work projects. Unfortunately, you're not going to see this because Haley and her colleagues think the unemployed are just a bunch of lazy druggies ("I so want drug testing. I so want it.").

So, instead of a New Deal for South Carolina, you're more likely to see even greater political suppression of scientific results, more infrastructure damage, an intense desire to examine the pee of unemployed and low-income citizens, and, of course, more Rolling Coal.

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