Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  August 13

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
w
o
r
d

f
a
c
t
o
r
y

Extinction Express

This week marked the release of another funereal report about our rapidly accelerating climate crisis from the UN-convened scientific body of the IPCC: having failed to curb emissions enough to prevent the planet from warming to the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, “a hotter future” is now “essentially locked in.” At this point, the only thing more predictable than grim news about the fate of the planet is the chorus of voices determined to find a silver lining in the “life-threatening heat waves,” “severe droughts,” animal extinctions, and mass coral reef die-offs that are likely to define the rest of this century. Take the venerable New Statesmen, which used the news to ask a question surely at the top of everyone’s mind: Would extinction really be so bad? After all, some people are “in the final stages of an agonising terminal illness,” and surely they don’t want to keep on living that much longer anyway. Meanwhile, one of the finest minds on the Wall Street Journal editorial board took a different tack, arguing that the IPCC report is good news, actually, if you look closely enough to notice that they knocked half a degree off of their worst-case-scenario prediction for global warming, lowering it to an increase of a mere ocean-boiling 4 degrees Celsius. Over at the Washington Post, cryptkeeper George Will went a step further: climate change isn’t an “existential threat” at all, and adopting any policies to curb it will only make the poor poorer. But hasn’t Will heard? This kind of old school climate denialism is so passé! The proven bipartisan strategy of staying cozy with the fossil fuel industry while paying lip service to a green transition accomplishes just the same effect.

 

At Least Someone’s Having Fun

Still, there is one non-human group reaping an unexpected benefit from the ongoing climate apocalypse. Researchers at the University of Hull in England found that trash in the ocean could be causing hermit crabs to become “sexually excited.” Plastic releases the chemical oleamide, which increases hermit crabs’ respiration rate—and their appetite for love. The same can’t be said for all aquatic-dwelling creatures, however. Plastic debris kills more than a million seabirds every year, and is filling up the bellies of baby turtles.

 

More! Women! Strikebreakers!

Hot off the underperforming premiere of Disney’s long-delayed The Jungle Cruise, a movie based on a colonialist fantasy of an amusement park ride that only removed its incredibly racist depictions of indigenous Africans last month, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt have announced another exciting collaboration: they’re producing a film about the first ever female Pinkerton! Yes, those Pinkertons—the ones who killed nine steelworkers during the Homestead Strike of 1892, just one highlight on their distinguished CV of violently smothering the labor movement throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before pivoting to their current, totally 100 percent ethical practice of “executive protection.” The forthcoming Johnson and Blunt movie will tell the life story of Kate Warne, who was hired by the agency in 1856, thereby “paving a bright future for women in law enforcement.” Hear hear!

 

A Rose by Any Other Name 

Proskauer Rose, known recently to employees at Columbia, Duke, Yale, U Chicago, Brown, Hearst, the ACLU of Kansas, and T-Mobile—among many, many others—as the tony union-busting law firm hired at great expense by their employers to derail their organizing efforts, made a little whoopsie last week when they accidentally sent a strategy email straight to their current adversaries: the several hundred technology and production staffers at the New York Times who announced a unionization drive earlier this year. The email, whose subject line read “Tech Organizing Unit Scope Decision Options,” laid out a number of potential pathways for the Times to fight this drive, such as eliminating as many workers from the bargaining unit as possible, or merely attempting to shape the bargaining unit most likely to vote “No” in the forthcoming NLRB election that the paper has forced by refusing to grant the union voluntary recognition. Per The Daily Beast, the Times opted for Proskauer Rose’s most “aggressive” option—as one does when one’s only concern is “[making] sure all voices are heard,” in the words of a company spokeswoman last April.

 

I Would Do Anything for Love, But I Can’t Sing That

The novel coronavirus is no longer the greatest threat to karaoke-lovers the world over: in China, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that starting October 1, there will be a ban on karaoke songs containing “illegal content,” defined as anything “which endangers national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity, violates state religious policies by propagating cults or superstitions, or which encourages illegal activities such as gambling and drugs.” It will be up to the country’s more than 50,000 karaoke venues to enforce the ban, no small feat considering some of them contain catalogs of upwards of 100,000 songs.

 

There’s Gold in Them There Asteroids

NASA is going speculating: the agency is launching a mission to study Psyche 16, an asteroid first spotted in March 1852 that is thought to contain precious metals worth more than $10,000 quadrillion, because apparently we measure the massive otherworldly floating rocks of outer space in fiat now. If the metallic iron and nickel currently trapped on Psyche 16 were to be evenly divided among mankind, then we could all become billionaires, The Independent reports—but considering our actually existing billionaires are already engaged in a space race of their own, it seems likely they’ll find a way to tap its resources before the rest of us have a chance to say “Eureka!”

 

Cops Unleashed

Earlier this month, a recent transplant from San Francisco was arrested on the Upper West Side and thrown into a holding cell for the heinous crime of walking her two mini Australian shepherds without a leash in Riverside Park. The woman in question, a twenty-nine-year-old tech recruiter, nearly got off with a warning: until the partner of the first Parks Enforcement Officer she spoke to demanded they write her up, and she couldn’t remember the full address of the sublet she’d moved into just a week prior. In response, the officers cuffed her hands behind her back in full view of the park’s revelers, then threatened to shock her dogs with an electric stick if they couldn’t be herded into wire cages willingly. Thank god for the boys in blue—protecting us all from the scourge of requests for belly rubs.

You Might Also Enjoy

Further Reading

Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.