Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 29, 2005

Whitley Strieber and Hurricane Katrina

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:41 am
Last night around 2:30am, I woke up to take a piss. After returning to bed, I turned on the radio as I often do to help put me back to sleep. As it turned out, a discussion between Art Bell, a WABC talk show host, and Whitley Strieber who is best known for his science fiction novels and for his claim that he was abducted by space aliens, was in progress.

Although I consider Strieber a wack job, he was making some very good points about the threat posed by Hurricane Katrina. He focused on two questions, the failure of the government to adequately study the capability of the levees meant to protect New Orleans from flooding; and the global warming conditions that would explain recent super-storms. This is something that is of long-standing interest to Strieber. He wrote a book titled “The Coming Global Superstorm” (co-authored with Art Bell) that was turned into “The Day After Tomorrow,” the rather silly movie about global warming. The movie showed, for example, Manhattan being inundated by 100 feet of water. Now it doesn’t seem quite as silly.

Strieber has a website with articles about superstorms, space aliens, etc. I suggest that you skip the space alien stuff. Although many of the superstorm articles have a predictably lurid cast, they are most often based on commentaries that appear elsewhere in authoritative journals. Here’s a sample:

Global Warming Really Here

Melting Glacier
Despite what the government and car manufacturers would like you to believe, the fact is that global warming is really here. One thing that will slow down the Gulf Stream, the powerful ocean current that brings warm water (and weather) to the UK and the rest of Europe, is dilution of the ocean’s salt level, due to an influx of freshwater from melting glaciers and ice sheets. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts,which is keeping an eye on this phenomenon, says that large regions of the North Atlantic Ocean have been growing fresher since the late 1960s, due to melting glaciers and increased precipitation, both associated with greenhouse warming. Salinity records show that large pulses of extra sea ice and fresh water from the Arctic have flowed into the North Atlantic.

In a recent paper published in Science magazine, Ruth Curry of Woods Hole, along with Cecilie Mauritzen of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, figured out for the first exactly time how much additional fresh water has flowed into the North Atlantic Ocean, how fast it entered the Atlantic circulation, and where that fresh water was stored in frozen form in the past.

full: http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=4746

Yesterday I called some old married friends in Los Angeles. Since the wife’s mother lives in New Orleans, I wanted to find out how she was coping with Hurricane Katrina. It turned out that she had refused to leave the city and was holing up in the second floor of the brick apartment building she lives in. There’s not much chance that the building will be blown away or anything like that, but I am genuinely concerned that the lack of electricity and water will jeopardize her health. Without electricity, there is no air-conditioning. How will she manage in New Orleans’s oppressive heat? Last summer, I was stuck without electricity and water for a day and a half in my 13th floor apartment during the blackout that hit the Northeast. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be subjected to those conditions for a week, let alone the month or more that might affect New Orleans.

Last night the news reported that oil commodity futures are being sold at $70 per barrel since oil refineries are already being shut down in southern Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. This, of course, fully expresses the deadly logic of late capitalism and the looming environmental crisis. The burning of petroleum has created the greenhouse gases that are warming the atmosphere and the oceans. And global warming in turn jeopardizes the orderly capital accumulation process. For some, industrialization and technology are simply tools that are at the ready disposal of the proletariat. If we throw out the bums that run Exxon, we can create a socialist paradise with tract housing and SUV’s for all.

The late Mark Jones, who graced the Marxism list and pen-l with his prickly but sagacious presence, was a prophet of these sorts of developments and it is sad that cancer robbed us of his ability to tie such things together. Today’s AM, a free newspaper that is handed out at subways, had a huge banner headline, Katastrophe–a play on Katrina. It was tempting to see Mark as a “Katastrophist” himself. He examined global warming, energy depletion and war not as separate and distinct processes but as nexus of related phenomena related to the particular needs of the capitalist system in its most advanced but senescent stages. Although I tended to be lumped with Mark as a fellow catastrophist, my emphasis was more on agriculture and water which I saw as more immediately pressing matters. Now, I am not so sure.


  1. Thats interesting.
    I have seen the movie day after tomm.
    Although it seems overly rated with the global warming phenomena but i am sure people have realized the threats of global warming.
    For insist that you to sign the movement against global warming petition –

    Online Petition

    Comment by Rahul Makhija — April 19, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  2. Well to accuse myself I do have to say that at this moment my expectations for global sea level rise in the 21st century appear to have been much to pessimisstic. I was figuring at least 2 meters and maybe up to 7 meters. Yet the 21st century is almost 1/5 over and we have not yet seen even a five inich rise in sea levels. Of course the sea level rise will not continue at the present pace the pace will increase. Non the less it does appear that my enemies were correct in saying that the sea level rise this century will be 2 feet. That is still not good but managable.
    Even so, if my estimates are off by a couple of centuries if nothing is done now, have I really been wrong to fear such a sea level rise this century?

    Comment by Curt Kastens — March 1, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

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