Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
Stormy Weather (with Mark Plotkin)
Trump's indictment and climate change.
It happened. It actually happened.
Late yesterday afternoon, the breaking news alert of all breaking news alerts came through: a grand jury in Manhattan—the gleaming New York borough regarded with covetous desire by the rich kid from Queens, and long the seat of his empire, such as it is—voted to indict Donald John Trump. He is expected to surrender to authorities on Tuesday.
Whatever the outcome of the case, FPOTUS can no longer employ the Mogilevich Defense. His MAGA legions can bitch and moan all they like, but Trump’s aura of invincibility is gone forever. His ketchup-hurling energies will now be dedicated to staying out of prison. When his mugshot is released, the world will finally catch a glimpse of the—what’s his Twitter handle? Oh right—RealDonaldTrump.
Now that the beleaguered Alvin Bragg has broken the proverbial seal, more indictments may yet come—weightier indictments, from different jurisdictions, for crimes of far greater magnitude. For now, it looks like hush money paid to Stormy Daniels is what pushed the orange boulder down the hill. This is ironic, because bragging about bedding a beautiful porn star, rather than covering up the dalliance, would have probably endeared him to his base even more.
While there are those in the rightwing social media bubble who believe the indictment will help Trump’s prospects in 2024, here on planet earth, we know the opposite is true. This is not Mandela or Navalny wrongly imprisoned for their political views; this is a lifetime of crime finally catching up to a money laundering tax cheat and rapist with deep ties to the Russian mob and the Kremlin. In a word, this is justice.
And not a moment too soon. If democracy is on the precipice, so too is the continued habitability of earth.
“Climate change isn’t something where somebody’s flipped on or flipped off the light. It’s been happening for a while,” says Mark J. Plotkin, the ethnobotanist, frequent traveler to the Amazon, author, and my guest on the PREVAIL podcast. “But it’s where people live closer to the land that it effects them. And, you know, in an age where we’re concerned about refugees and the borders and stuff like this, if people who live off the land can’t live off the land, they end up somewhere else. And whether that’s climate change in Syria, whether that’s climate change in Haiti, you’re just creating more problems. . . . Ultimately, it impacts all of us.”
A second Trump term—in which FPOTUS would cater even more sycophantically to the oil and gas concerns championed by his whoremasters in Moscow and Riyadh—would be Game Over for the environment. Any hope of saving the planet from further climate disaster would evaporate the instant he put his puny hand back on Lincoln’s bible. He would increase fossil fuel production while building a wall on the Southern border to keep climate refugees out. Meanwhile, there will be even more “hundred-year” natural disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires—to go along with the crop failures, contaminated drinking water, and new plagues that unabated climate change will inevitably bring about.
In the Amazon, “the impact of climate change is already there. You’ve got rising temperatures, you’ve got diminished rainfall, you’ve got more rainfall in some areas, you’ve got increasing droughts in some areas, you’re got variations of seasonality,” Plotkin tells me. “And in the rainforest, both the animals and the plants and even the fungi, these species are not adapted to rapid changes in temperature like animals here.” Given that those species are incredibly useful to medical science—more wonder drugs have their origins in the Amazon than most people realize—this is a dreadful possibility.
“The idea that the only good rainforest is a dead rainforest,” Plotkin says, “or that we need to cut it all down to make cheap soy or chopsticks or something—I’m sorry, but the wonder drugs of tomorrow being turned into cheap soy and chopsticks, and the rivers being poisoned so people can have gold necklaces, strikes me as a pretty lame bargain.”
Almost two thirds of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil. Former president Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian Trump, favored chopping down the rainforests for short-term economic gain—for cheap soy and gold necklaces. Fortunately, Bolsonaro was voted out. His successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a proponent of saving the rainforest. So too, Plotkin assures me, is the less-heralded Gustavo Petro of Colombia. All of humanity—heck, all life on earth—benefits from this. But one individual in the wrong place at the wrong time can expedite our collective doom.
In the United States, we know this firsthand. A million Americans died of covid-19 during Trump’s presidency; 300,000 of those deaths could have been prevented with better leadership and smarter public health policies.
The climate situation is dire. We can’t afford any more missteps. Trump’s serial abuse of women extends to Mother Earth.
“We like to think that our country—you know, the world’s oldest democracy, the wealthiest country, yadda yadda yadda—I mean, one person couldn’t change all that much in four years,” Plotkin says. “Now we know that they can.”
Greg Olear is joined by the ethnobotanist Mark J. Plotkin, president of the Amazon Conservation Team, author of “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice” and “The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know,” and the host of “The Plants of the Gods.” They discuss his career as an ethnobotanist studying the Amazon, the medicinal properties of plants and animals found there, “The Last of Us,” wine, beer, opium, psychedelics, and climate change. Plus: on top of spaghetti.
Listen to his podcast:
Visit his website:
Support the Amazon Conservation Team:
After tonight’s very special episode of The Five 8, I will be taking a short hiatus from the column, the podcast, and the live show. It is Spring Break. There will be no new content at PREVAIL until April 9—Easter—when I will return with “Sunday Pages.”
(Yes, I’ve been planning this for a few weeks, and yes, I knew that as soon as I announced it, big news would drop. You’re welcome!)
Please join Stephanie and I tonight for the live show. If you’d like to support our show by becoming a Five 8 member, click here. Have a great week, everyone!