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McKibben writes: "In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture - guardians of the planet's richest farmlands - has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words."

President Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)
President Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)


The Trump Administration's Solution to Climate Change: Ban the Term

By Bill McKibben, Guardian UK

10 August 17


The US Department of Agriculture has forbidden the use of the words ‘climate change’. This say-no-evil policy is doomed to fail

n a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture – guardians of the planet’s richest farmlands – has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

Under guidance from the agency’s director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes “climate change” and “climate change adaptation”, to be replaced by “weather extremes” and “resilience to weather extremes”.

Also blacklisted is the scary locution “reduce greenhouse gases” – and here, the agency’s linguists have done an even better job of camouflage: the new and approved term is “increase nutrient use efficiency”.

The effectiveness of this approach – based on the well-known principle that what you can’t say won’t hurt you – has previously been tested at the state level, making use of the “policy laboratories” provided by America’s federalist system.

In 2012, for instance, the North Carolina general assembly voted to prevent communities from planning for sea level rise. Early analysis suggests this legislation has been ineffective: Hurricane Matthew, in 2016, for instance drove storm surge from the Atlantic ocean to historic levels along the Cape Fear river. Total damage from the storm was estimated at $4.8bn.

Further south, the Florida government forbade its employees to use the term climate change in 2014 – one government official, answering questions before the legislature, repeatedly used the phrase “the issue you mentioned earlier” in a successful effort to avoid using the taboo words.

It is true that the next year “unprecedented” coral bleaching blamed on rising temperatures destroyed vast swaths of the state’s reefs: from Key Biscayne to Fort Lauderdale, a survey found that “about two-thirds were dead or reduced to less than half of their live tissue”. Still, it’s possible that they simply need to increase their nutrient use efficiency.

At the federal level, the new policy has yet to show clear-cut success either. As the say-no-evil policy has rolled out in the early months of the Trump presidency, it coincided with the onset of a truly dramatic “flash drought” across much of the nation’s wheat belt.

As the Farm Journal website pointed out earlier last week: “Crops in the Dakotas and Montana are baking on an anvil of severe drought and extreme heat, as bone-dry conditions force growers and ranchers to make difficult decisions regarding cattle, corn and wheat.”

In typically negative journalistic fashion, the Farm Journal reported that “abandoned acres, fields with zero emergence, stunted crops, anemic yields, wheat rolled into hay, and early herd culls comprise a tapestry of disaster for many producers”.

Which is why it’s good news for the new strategy that the USDA has filled its vacant position of chief scientist with someone who knows the power of words.

In fact, Sam Clovis, the new chief scientist, is not actually a scientist of the kind that does science, or has degrees in science, but instead formerly served in the demanding task of rightwing radio host (where he pointed out that followers of former president Obama were “Maoists”). He has actually used the words “climate change” in the past, but only to dismiss it as “junk science”.

Under his guidance the new policy should soon yield results, which is timely since recent research (carried out, it must be said, by scientist scientists at MIT) showed that “climate change could deplete some US water basins and dramatically reduce crop yields in some areas by 2050”.

But probably not if we don’t talk about it.


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+8 # Jaax88 2017-08-10 23:11
Aren't trump and his minions playing the fools? The world trump, his followers and their propaganda are trying to create is not a real world. Essential it is a make believe world that satisfies those peoples' overblown worries, fears and psychological needs.
 
 
+10 # Wise woman 2017-08-10 23:23
The more people are told not to do something, the more they feel compelled to do it. It's just psych 101. So, from here on in, those involved will either make up some code words or talk in whispers. Disenfranchised folks have been doing that forever. These DC tyrants don't understand what they're doing.
 
 
+21 # futhark 2017-08-11 02:01
From medieval tales, many people are aware or the story of Canute the Great, King of Denmark, Norway, and England, who considered his will to be so potent that it could literally turn back the sea as the tide rose from low to high. As the waves refused to obey the royal will and lapped at his feet, he jumped back and was said to exclaim, "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." This was a humble admission of the limits of his own power before Nature.

Now we have a 21st Century King Donald the Not-So-Great, who orders that documents that refer to anthropogenic climate change have that term expunged. He and his followers are soon to discover for themselves that nature has an awesome power that is independent of their desires. As the waters rise will they have the humility to admit their hubris, as did King Canute the Great?
 
 
+8 # Texas Aggie 2017-08-11 07:53
As the waters rise will they have the humility to admit their hubris, as did King Canute the Great?

No.

Your question is obviously rhetorical. There is no reason to think they would even recognize that the waters are rising.
 
 
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-08-11 08:27
As I understand the story, Canute was acting parabolically to set sycophantic noblemen straight on the limits to royal power.
 
 
0 # futhark 2017-08-11 23:19
Doubtless, you are correct. I appears that Canute's "the Great" was at least in part due to his ability to express humility in the face of his sycophantic noblemen. King Donald is "Not-so-Great" due to his monstrously insatiable appetite for the sycophantic bleating of the rascals and fools with whom he has chosen to surround himself. Any demonstration of sense on his part would likely be lost on them.
 
 
0 # tclose 2017-08-11 08:45
"As the waters rise will they have the humility to admit their hubris, as did King Canute the Great?"

No, they won't.
 
 
0 # SHK 2017-08-11 16:09
"I fear me you're right..." a quote from somewhere but apropos.
 
 
+13 # backwards_cinderella 2017-08-11 03:00
We can talk about it all we want & we can use whatever words we want, too. It's called CLIMATE CHANGE no matter what the idiot in charge thinks.
 
 
+2 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2017-08-11 12:32
Your comment is ironic because "climate change" was the phrase Republicans insisted on using to replace the more accurate phrase, "global warming." This is a perfect example of how words influence the political discussion, and why the Republicans attempt to control the debate by controlling the language. Don't let them. Call it what it is: MAN-MADE GLOBAL WARMING.
 
 
+13 # draypoker 2017-08-11 04:15
Trump and all his supporters are ignorant fools.
 
 
+18 # relegn 2017-08-11 06:30
Will the trump administration' s next move be to ban the use of terms like: "freedom of expression", "voting rights" or "justice for all". What a brave new world Republicans have in mind for America.
 
 
0 # DongiC 2017-08-11 21:15
Whom the Gods will destroy, they first make mad. Trump certainly qualifies for the madness. His followers too.
 
 
0 # LionMousePudding 2017-08-11 22:42
Trump installed in every agency the person who was most committed to destroying it.

Genius. Obama ran the US government so Trump has to destroy it

The devastation to human life and well being will be immense throughout the country.

Would that the other party actually wanted government to run. But they have become extremists and are cheering him on,
 
 
0 # Jaax88 2017-08-12 18:07
Aren't trump and his minions playing the fools? The world trump, his followers and their propaganda are trying to create is not a real world. Essential it is a make believe world that satisfies those peoples' overblown worries, fears and psychological needs.
 

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