Consider this perhaps the strangest thing of all in our all-too-strange world: the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced essentially never leads the news. Yes, the immediate crises of our world, most recently Vladimir Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine, are 24/7 headlines for weeks at a time. And any set of events that sends millions of us into external or internal exile, as has become all too common on this planet of ours, should indeed be a focus of attention. But to put all of this in context, it’s estimated that within three decades up to a mind-boggling 1.2 billion human beings could be driven from their homes thanks to the burgeoning climate emergency.

Of course, climate change, as TomDispatch regular Jane Braxton Little, who still lives in the fire-devastated northern Californian town of Greenville, reminds us today, is already hard at work wrecking lives across our world. When it hits as fire or flood, as a dramatic weather disaster of some sort, the news often loves to show us the calamity at hand (and the all-too-photogenic weeping survivors). But the cause of it all, climate change itself? No such luck. The ongoing, never-ending, ever-worsening calamity that could someday simply destroy human life as we’ve known it gets remarkably little attention here (unless coal merchant Joe Manchin votes against its solution in some fashion).

Only recently the authoritative U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest devastating report, produced by 1,000 scientists, on what we’re doing to ourselves. In the midst of the Ukrainian events, it got hardly a moment’s notice. Yet its version of the news to come should have been screaming headlines, given that, if the effects of the overheating of this planet aren’t mitigated soon, by 2050, at least 183 million more people could be going hungry and that’s just to start down a long list of possible nightmares to come. At least climate change makes headlines here at TomDispatch. Today, for instance, you can learn from Little, who has experienced its effects in an up-close-and-personal way, just how we’re going to be “whiplashed” by the weather that our eternally fossil-fuel-burning societies (and the big energy companies that have made their fortunes off it) continue to produce.

Whiplashed

Greenville, CA — Snow began falling on December 24th, big fluffy flakes that made lace on mittens before melting. Within hours it had coated the ashes, the brick chimneys that the flames had left behind, and the jagged remains of roofs strewn across my burned-out town. White mounds soon softened the look of charred cars that are everywhere, while even the scorched trees that stretch to the hilltops were coated in a forgiving winter wonder.

Any moisture would have been welcome. Over the seven months since the Dixie fire destroyed Greenville and several other rural communities in California’s northern Sierra Nevada mountains, the drought that led to the flaming disaster had only deepened. October brought brief, drenching rains, but November and December were dry again. Soil that should have been moist was as desiccated as the air, while the humidity hovered just above single digits. We watched bulldozers move the dilapidated walls — what had not long ago been homes — into gigantic dump trucks in a haze of grime. Even the trees that survived had a withered look. Now, it was snowing — for Christmas! We greeted it with hearts as wide as the open mouths of kids savoring falling flakes.

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