Mort Report Extra: Greta and the Beast

PLANET EARTH — Please forgive my hogging your inbox, but impeachment talk is overshadowing a far bigger story. Donald Trump will eventually be gone. But with the course we are on, so will everyone else.

Greta Thunberg's electrifying scold at the U.N. General Assembly cannot be shunted aside, however inconvenient her truth may be: “We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

She gave Trump a hard stare when they crossed paths. After blowing off the climate session as he did at the G7 summit, he tweeted snidely that she “seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” (She quickly made that her twitter bio.)

Greta is Swedish, not Danish, and hardly a kid at 16. Still, she evokes Hans Christian Andersen's fable about two tailors who convince an emperor that his splendid new suit is invisible to the unfit and “hopelessly stupid.” No one wants to admit he is bare-assed naked.

When a little kid shouts, “The emperor has no clothes,” the crowd begins to jeer. The emperor simply ignores them and keeps on strutting. In America's 2019 version, he moons the crowd, feigning confidence that he is untouchable. And unless citizens react, he is.

No one reading this needs a rundown of unimpeachable evidence that greenhouse gases and ocean rise increase geometrically at an alarming pace. Trump's America is not the only offender, but per capita it is by far the worst. That enables other countries to evade action.

If anyone hoped pressure from the House might alter Trump's strategy, an astonishing choreographed “news conference” on Wednesday made clear that he is going for broke, counting on his hardcore and partisan Republicans to give him four more years to wreak havoc.

Jeffrey Toobin's characterization, “a torrent of lies,” is the least of it. In an effort to be truthful, if not neutral, I have given a lot of thought to fair analysis. This is what I see after 50 years of reporting from some of the nastiest autocratic states since Caligula's Rome:

I cannot recall any leader delivering such a distorted, self-aggrandizing, nonsensical misrepresentation of observable fact or any who insults his, or her, populace with such bald bullshit. What's worse, no one has ever had the destructive capability we entrust to him.

Of course, Trump is no Hitler plotting Holocaust or Blitzkrieg. But, at best, he is abetting involuntary manslaughter with a potential death toll of billions. His motivation is self-adulation and overweening greed. Our Constitution is still intact. We could stop him.

Pericles defined our situation 2,500 years ago: “I fear our own mistakes more than the enemy's schemes.” Pogo put it more simply: the enemy is us.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. In 1999, Lindsey Graham stood before Congress in a cheap suit and choirboy haircut, waving his finger dramatically. He said Impeachment is about cleansing, restoring honor and integrity to the office. “A president,” he declared, “doesn't even have to be convicted of a crime to be impeached.”

Graham spoke about a president who succumbed to advances of an adult intern and fudged the line about what defines sex. This time, the crime is perverting democracy. Bill Weld, the Republican challenger, calls it treason, which is punishable by death. But, as Graham said, impeachment is not punishment. It is taking out the trash.

Why is there even a question? Robert Mueller detailed Trump's actionable misconduct. But as partisan politicians stonewall, the “witch hunt” fades into history. Trump repeats at every turn, “No obstruction, no collusion.” He defines his own limits: I can do whatever I want.

This is why that Swedish teenager, who unlike Trump speaks in clear English sentences with subjects, verbs and bombshells, looms so large. Climate collapse goes far beyond one nation's imperiled democracy. Greedheads are stealing her future - and everybody else's.

A tumultuous week of politics blunted her impact. On Fox, we saw the expected. After Laura Ingraham's mocking, Michael Knowles said. “If it were about science, it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally-ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left."

Knowles is a bit actor turned glib opinionator who put out a book in 2017 titled “Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide.” It contained 266 blank pages and was number one bestseller on Amazon.

Go figure. As oxygen thins and food stocks run out, Republican zealots won't survive any longer than Democrats or the broad sweep of Americans who can't be bothered to vote. As a result. We continue drilling holes in our shared sinking lifeboat.

Fact-filled books have expanded on the threat since the 1970s. If Bill McKibben is not a household name, he should be. Since the 1980s, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has systematically updated hard, harrowing data. Those full-force hurricanes and endless droughts are only Nature clearing her throat. It will, beyond any doubt, get far worse.

Eight years ago, I led a global team for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that detailed how overfishing was decimating fish stocks across world. Back then, there was little data on acidification and warming. Now, as nets loot the seas at an increased pace, the IPCC just published a devastating report on marine life collapse.

For those who prefer it simple, John Kotter's amusing little book, “My Iceberg Is Melting,” first appeared in 2006 and is now a minor industry, with offshoots and graphics on how to cope with the inevitable.

Reading is a start. It helps if each of us knows how to do our part. Yet the only action that can save us must come from the top, all governments working together focused on a long term that goes beyond any politician's own term of office.

Cost is no obstacle. Going green offers limitless opportunities for jobs and profit. But whatever the numbers, how do we put a price tag on protecting our progeny from starvation and eventual suffocation from lack of oxygen? What is wrong with us?

We need to raise hell — now — and rid ourselves of politicians and corporate executives who plunder our future. We have a word, genocide, for mass murder. But what do we call the crime of abetting human extinction?