Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Ep. 63: Investigative Journalist Joshua Frank on The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink

March 6, 2019

On this edition of Parallax Views, award-winning investigative journalist and Counterpunch co-editor Joshua Frank joins the show to discuss his new book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. We are living on the frontlines of a warzone, argue St. Clair and Frank, and the fate of the planet is at stake as we hurl towards the probability of climate change catastrophe, continued destruction of wildlife, and an environmental nightmare.

The conversation begins with how Jeffrey and Joshua sought to portray the trajectory of our little blue planet and the grassroots movements fighting for our environment. Joshua explains how he and Jeffrey approach environmental journalism as a form of war reporting and how it differs from much mainstream reporting on the issues of climate change, wildlife destruction, etc. We also discuss how telling the stories of climate change and how it's impacting our lives is what may be the key to awakening the populace to the severity of environmental issues.

We then discuss what the situation is on the ground in this environmental war zone. During this portion of the conversation we focus on specific stories of the destruction of wildlife, including the harm done to animals like buffalo and bears, and the increasing intensity of damaging wildfires among other heartbreaking stories happening around the world.

This opens us up for a discussion of a specific piece of reportage in the book by Joshua about billionaire Ted Turner and the privatization of wildlife that is threatening bison in Montana. We use this as a launching off point to critique the moderate political position of "Green Capitalism" and how it is highly unlikely to mitigate the environmental crisis in a meaningful manner. In particular, Joshua gives his take on the green energy solution and its inefficiency.

We then gone on to discuss the rage-inducing essay "The Blood-Stained Shores of Taiji" which discusses the mass slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. We discuss what is being done to endangered species being pushed to the brink of extinction. This then leads into a conversation about how humans, as well as wildlife, are being impacted in the current predicament, especially with regards to lead-poisoning via the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

From there we delve into how we got into the horrific situation. In particular, Joshua highlights how the Democratic Party is culpable in environmental decay as well as the Republican Party. Joshua takes aim at the Obama legacy and the bipartisan efforts to defang the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. We also cover how the Democratic Party's complicity even goes back to the era of Bill Clinton and the Trump administration's continuation of the war against the environment. During this portion of the conversation we take a dive into the topic of neoliberalism and how it relates to the crisis we find ourselves in at the moment.

From there we discuss how Joshua sees the environmental crisis as the new frontlines of class warfare. Joshua uses the California wildfires as an example of how the poor are much more drastically impacted by environmental catastrophe than the materially wealthy figures like Kanye West. In addition, Joshua notes that the current situation is going to get more massive and will and already has had global ramifications as can be seen in the case of Syria. We then go on to discuss the People vs the 1% through the lens of the Standing Rock protests.

Joshua notes that we don't have a clear idea of how bad things are going to get or how we are going to find solutions to these pressing problems. We try to find some inspiration however in the work of Edward Abbey, an environmentalist known for his classic novel The Money Wrench Gang, who Joshua argues provides a foundational backbone for the modern environmental movement.

We then begin discussing acts of resistance including debates about the use of direct action and supporting the Green New Deal. Joshua offers that we must fight this war on multiple fronts from a activism at the local level to getting involved in government. Moreover we discuss the contentious issue of how much lifestyle decisions can play a role in fighting this war. During this portion of the conversation Joshua gives his nuanced take on the Green New Deal.

Wrapping up the show we dive into the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the 2nd Bernie Sanders moment. Joshua notes how what inspires him about Bernie Sanders is not so much Bernie himself but the energy of the movement arising around him. However, Joshua also expresses his concern that the Bernie moment could become a repeat of Obama's "Hope and Change" slogan that won't be able to deal with a rising right-wing populist movement around the globe. That being said, Joshua and I try to find a positive note to end on with Joshua arguing that there are many victories that progressives should recognize are indications the we the people are winning many battles.



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