Going by the news these days, we have a lot to fear: nearby asteroids, killer drones, Iranian nukes, Chinese hackers, sequestration, and periodic shooting sprees. But there's one universally dangerous issue that should be at the forefront of our national debate, and has instead taken a backseat in recent years — global warming.
I recently watched an early screening of the film Greedy Lying Bastards, which examines the harsh realities of climate change, as well as the perpetrators responsible for financing a complex misinformation campaign of purchased deniers. The Guardian and the New Yorker both examined the issue of highly funded think tanks, and how they influence American politicians. Greedy Lying Bastards delves into the money trail behind these groups — focusing on the industrialist Koch Brothers, and the millions of dollars they’ve spent lying to the American people.
The film opens with harrowing images of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and droughts — a reminder of the increased wroth of nature we’ve been feeling with every passing year. Global warming is not a theory anymore, but an ever-present reality we haven’t even begun to face honestly. It seems that even with scientific consensus and measurable human causation, we continue to aimlessly debate whether there is even a problem to deal with. Which lands us on the villains of our tale: the people who finance campaigns of public doubt and force political inaction.
In the last decade, the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil have spent ungodly sums of money on various talking heads, lobbyists, think tanks, Tea Party political fronts, and artificial "grass roots" groups, with a single goal in mind: transform the climate change from scientific fact to a polarizing political wedge issue.
Through various news clips, the film exposes how "experts" can be purchased to publically question the validity of scientific findings. They throw out generalized assertions like "It’s actually been getting colder in recent months." Using easy language to sell doubt to viewers is a common tactic. They then comfortably leave it to the actual scientists to offer a comparatively boring, though factually accurate, counter-argument. The point isn’t to be right, but just to make people second guess their beliefs. It’s charisma versus accuracy.
To ensure the message of doubt spreads far and wide, other pundits are purchased for their firebrand lip service. This includes Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and one of the most virulent speakers regularly seen at Tea Party rallies: "Lord" Christopher Monckton – an articulate Englishman who is neither a scientist or a lord.
If people swallow the idea that global warming "might" be happening, instead of "certainly is" happening — these diffusers have already accomplished their mission. To seem as if they have the public’s best interest at heart, their foundations have names like "Americans for Prosperity" and "Freedom Works." But just like the vast majority of Tea Party candidates, these groups are financed by Koch Industries. While they regularly preach populist mantras of "limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise" the only thing they actually ensure is a lack of regulation or accountability for their corporate sponsors.
Meanwhile, rising heat has caused disastrous droughts, fast spreading wildfires, ferocious hurricanes, and massive tornadoes. The government struggles to aid the many victims who’ve lost their homes and livelihoods. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel giants pumping millions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air continue to enjoy government subsidies while playing blame games over the environmental disasters they cause.
All in all, Greedy Lying Bastards doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know — global warming is real, and corporations can buy favorable policy. But seeing all of our barriers laid out before us, from government ineptitude to media distortion, should light a fire under our seat and urge us to act more passionately. We exist in an ecosystem, one that all scientists agree we are influencing negatively with our waste and pollution. The longer we wait to restore balance and equilibrium, the more severe the shocks to our system will be. This means more disasters, more damage, more costs, and more deaths. We can't switch to alternative energies overnight, that’s a point anyone will concede. But the longer we continue to debate the issue, rather than invest in and pursue alternatives, the more difficult we make the recovery.
We have to see energy consortiums for what they truly are: drug dealers. They only want to push their dark products, and keep us dependent on them. Regardless of their denials, they know that change is eventually coming ... but why in the world would they offer us an easy reprieve, when there’s still billions to be made? Their own studies have proven global warming is real and dangerous, but they still want to milk the profit stream for all its worth.
Perhaps as users, we haven’t hit our addiction's rock bottom. Maybe we haven't lost enough of our homes, food and loved ones to the toxicity of our dependence. Eventually, the pain will outweigh the comfort — and we’ll finally say enough is enough. Greedy Lying Bastards simply tries to remind us that there are powerful forces hoping that day doesn't arrive any time soon.