A Bleak Bleak December Day
With Weather We've Never Seen Before, and Politics We Have
The picture above comes from Elkhart Kansas in 1937, during the Dust Bowl. Here’s a video from the same downtown today. Take a minute and watch it.
It’s hard to overstate how hellish the storm now raging across the central plains really is: half the lower 48 is under a weather warning of some kind, as the National Weather Service describes a “historic weather day,” with tornado warnings extending farther north than we’ve ever seen in December. In Colorado winds as high as 107 mph swept down the Front Range of the Rockies. "Amid the high winds, blinding dust storms have swelled over parts of southeast Colorado and western Kansas, with wildfires erupting in Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles."
None of this comes as a great surprise—it’s been a record hot December across much of the continent, with temperatures in the 70s across the northern midwest. This is just the kind of thing that happens when you’re in the process of breaking the planet’s climate system.
And—like the consummate troll that he is—Prime Minister Manchin of West Virginia chose the day to make clear that the president’s Build Back Better bill isn’t going to pass soon, if ever. He’s already stripped the climate enforcement provisions from the law, and larded it with absurd gifts to the fossil fuel industry. But today he apparently made it clear to the president that he was not on board with plans to get the bill done before Christmas. The man who has taken more money from the fossil fuel industry than any other may never let Congress pass its first serious climate bill.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a horror, triggered by human folly. But it came at a moment when good and decent people ran the country, and before long institutions like the Soil Conservation Service were beginning the long work of repairing the damage. Today’s damage seems entirely familiar, but that response seems like it comes from a different era altogether.