Oklahoma Tornado

Oklahoma is an oil state. Oklahomans vote for people like senators Inhofe and Coburn, who rail at the ‘myth’ of climate change. After all, there are millions and millions of dollars still to earn selling oil to burn: what more evidence does a reasonable Sooner need?

People who think science is more than a political flag one can choose to wave or not, depending on whether there’s profit in it, are pretty sure that one of the effects of global warming is increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather.

I wish I believed that a just Providence sent things like today’s tornado upon people who vote for oil-whore Oklahoma Republicans. I don’t, but could the devastation in Moore possibly give the survivors something to think about along these lines?

UPDATE (21 May):

I obviously wrote the foregoing too quickly and too elliptically. Let me unpack it here:

The reference to a just Providence was a pointer to the repeated meme, trotted out (for example) after Katrina, that natural disasters happen to people who deserve to be punished. The reason I “wish I believed that” is that if I did, I would feel OK about the consequences, I guess even the children whose school was shredded around them. But I don’t: I believe natural systems are ordered by an amoral, implacable, scientific reality that we understand much better by taking it seriously and being smart than by theodicy. I believe actions like putting carbon back in the air from underground as fast as possible have consequences, consequences that fall most heavily on the least deserving: the poor people who will not have enough to eat as floods and droughts deepen and come more often, and all the children still unborn around the world who didn’t get to dance at the fossil fuel party but will still have to figure out how to live in a toasted planet – yes, and children in tornado alley who never voted for anyone.

I also believe that the time to talk about politics and how we engage with that amoral reality is while the manifestations of foolishness, especially their injustice, are salient, and that doing so shows respect and sympathy for those who suffered and died for no good reason other than the cupidity of their leadership and its wilful ignorance (or worse, putative ignorance)

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.