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Overshadowed by COVID: The Deadly Extreme Weather of 2020

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/01/overshadowed-covid-deadly-extreme-weather-2020

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I shall add but one of many other things our research groups discussed over my career, the migration of frostlines, which greatly affect where crops can be grown. The soils under which these migrations occur, the current land-use practices (urban vs. suburban as an example) all come into play. Our agricultural system has evolved around an assumed stable climate. Disruption of the climate could affect where sensitive fruits and vegetables are grown. If the soils are unavailable either because they were never in the new zones or are covered up by anthropogenic changes we are in for some serious food shocks, the likes of which are seldom discussed. Eat your fruits and veggies while you can! Perhaps can the excess while you can.


2020 is the year 4 million acres, 4% of California’s land-mass, went up in flames – double the previous record. 2017 established the pattern, by 2020 we’ve started to forget the names of whole towns consumed in conflagrations. The devil wind looms up to 100 mph on the peaks with embers – nothing anyone can do, like the rising tide: far beyond the power of humans to fix the mess we’ve made.

Among those gorgeous towns was a Sierra foothill getaway called Berry Creek. Up the Oro-Quincy Highway, past the Oroville Dam, far enough away from city lights to have a sky fabulously flooded with the Milky Way at night – an emotional experience for a deprived urbanite like me.

Berry Creek’s sky was flooded with ominous orange in the last picture my brother took of his home there.


I see our part of southeastern Michigan is in the abnormally dry criteria. Indeed, this is true. We usually have 30 thunderstorms days a year, with twenty storm watches/warnings. This past year, we only had 23 thunderstorm days, and ten watches/warnings.
I noticed we had cumulus cloud buildup, but then it stopped because they hit the cap, a layer of warm upper air that stops storms cold. We had the usual rain shadow effect of the Beard’s Hills and other moraine areas to our west that cause rainfall to go to our north or south.
Another environmental screw up is along I-75 and environs that stretches from Detroit to Midland. Open farmland and wood lots are being consumed by new development, while old factories and big box stores lie empty. I saw so many woodlots being bulldozed down to bare ground that I wept at the wonton ability to destroy our culture has. GM would build a factory, decide it needed to increase capacity, then raze the old one and build a new one on virgin land. Then those jobs went elsewhere, leaving another industrial slum and toxic waste.
This is it. Those in power throw around the number 2050 as the time to “do something”. All that does is leave the mess for a new generation, who won’t like the world we’ve left to them…


In “the tragedy of the commons” it was argued then when land privately owned it in the best interests of the owner to protect that land. This is absolutely false. The “owner” will do whatever garners them the best return as the land is seen as a commodity and simply a source of revenue. If a forest will garner a greater return by selling it to put some factory pumping out toxins , then that forest will be sold. If a tidal marsh will garner a greater return by draining it and putting up high costs housing, then the marsh will be destroyed.

Capitalism devours everything in its path and once it devours one area it moves to the next. Pristine wilderness areas the world over , even our ocean depths , are now seen as “sources of revenue” for the mega Corporations.

Recognizing that the Earth has no long term future at the pace of current development and environmental destruction these Corporations now look to space to see what they can devour next. There was some sci-fi movie some time ago , and indeed many are in this vein describing alien races invading Earth for its resources. They are described as a species that devours all in its path leaving planets as shelled out hulks as they gather resources and move on to the next.

This is a description of Capitalism and the concept that individuals can OWN the earth and do whatever it is they want with it. This ability to do whatever one wishes to that property they own is described as “freedom”.

It is insanity. The owner class are stark raving mad.


There was an article linked to detailing how Russia , Canada and Scandinavia would prosper from Warming. Already the extended growing season in Russia has led to it becoming the largest exporter of wheat in the world. It was claimed that US good production would drop by 30 to 40 percent even as Northern Countries increased theirs by the same.

The problem is it assumed that in such a changing world , other Countries will limit themselves to their own borders. This is not what will happen. China will very likely go to war with Russia to get more land and the USA will annex Canada claiming it “supports terrorism”.

Masses of peoples will migrate out of regions that are no longer habitable. (Already California is seeing people leave as they face those fires every year)

There will be endless wars.

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There have always been endless wars, some fought with money, some with food, some with things that pierce the skin or go boom, some that interrupt the web, and some that just involve handing out blankets. War is the genesis of a lot of creation.


I am talking about big power wars, worldwide wars and not the type that have been fought since ww2 where those same big powers trounce some third world Country. We are talking about China and Russia and Western Europe and the USA at war with each other.

This means Nuclear arsenals unleashed this all going on as millions migrate across borders that might have once existed. There a video I watched about “the Worst year in history” which happened soon after krakotoa erupted sometimes int he 6th century. Civilizations collapsed and there was massive famine and pandemics. The world entered a dark ages. This will be orders of magnitude worse.


We would poisons ourselves and our soils at our own peril (which doesn’t mean we would not go there), fear not Bayer/Monsanto will save us all. /s

This caught my eye this morning.


This just helps illustrate the extent to which the environment has been devastated by Human activity. Rivers in the USA are turning yellow. Just a few hundred years ago they would have been blue. They are being used as toxic waste dumps to support “the economy”.


The movie was Independence Day, which described our culture perfectly. Strip mine one area and move on to the next. But no one made the connection then or now, except for a few of us who had seen the destruction of Raygun and the Newt’s policies, including NAFTA and the Contract on America.


My lockdown partner has been reviewing a classic standard reference, from 2016. Belongs on everyone’s bookshelf – something like Elements of Style for students of ecological analysis:

Extinction: A Radical History
by Ashley Dawson

Dawson’s theme is much like Paul Martin’s work tracing large-animal extinctions to human migrations, with the additional codicil of pin-pointing the lethal behavior in capitalist exploitation.

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From Bob Berwyn (last April):

Forests on a Knife Edge

The new paper reinforces the observational evidence that global warming has pushed many of the world’s forests to a knife edge, said University of Utah forest researcher Bill Anderegg. In the West, you can’t drive on a mountain highway without seeing how global warming affects forests, from wildfires to die-offs caused by beetles or other pathogens, he said.

In some areas, researchers have documented how forests are struggling to grow back. For example, in parts of the Four Corners region, hardly any new piñon pines have sprouted to replace trees killed by beetles in the early 2000s because it’s too warm for seeds to take hold and grow.


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The North Pacific is experiencing another cyclone , likely the strongest on record with 110 mph winds and 45 foot waves off Alaska. This “bomb Cyclone” is the third in just a few weeks and brings with it torrential downpours.

The jet stream has reached a velocity of 230 MPH . Meanwhile in Mongolia there a record high pressure system which measures some 1000+ millibars which is the highest ever recorded. This is bringing massive snow fall to Japan the likes which has never been seen before as the systems collide. When record low pressure systems collide with record high pressure systems there an tremendous release of energy and moisture.