To Save the World, End the Filibuster

The filibuster is not just helping authoritarians damage democracy; it's endangering all life on planet Earth, including the future of the human species


Most of the discussion around ending the Republican Party‘s ability to block any kind of progress in America by using the filibuster has centered on the success or failure of individual Biden-era policies. 

Things like legally reaffirming the right to vote. Lowering the eligibility age for Medicare or Social Security. Raising taxes on the wealthy and strengthening the social safety net. Dealing with homelessness, poverty and hunger in the United States.

All these are good reasons to end the filibuster so our country can get on with doing something about the many problems that have festered over the past 40 years while the GOP has held us stuck in Reaganomics austerity.

But none of those reasons to end the filibuster are as important as ensuring the survival of the human race and the rest of complex life on Earth.

More than three-fourths of all the ice-free land on our planet has been substantially altered by humans and we now consume 90% of what’s called “terrestrial net primary production.”

That means, essentially, that 90% of all the “food” on the planet, consumed by every other life-form, has been either appropriated or destroyed by humans, and all other life on Earth must struggle and fight it out for the 10% we’ve left behind. Every day, species lose that battle and go extinct, a process this planet hasn’t seen at this scale in tens of millions of years.

We are eliminating nature.

If you add up the weight of all the mammals on earth, 96% of that weight is humans and our livestock; wild mammals represent only 4% of it. Our domesticated birds exceed the weight of wild birds by 300%.

The total weight of everything that humans have made in the past few hundred years — our homes, our buildings, our cars, everything — is greater than the weight of all living things on Earth. We’re like massive termites, converting everything on Earth into giant human-stuff Australian-style termite mounds.

Even our “border crisis” is, in part, being driven by climate change pushing Central American subsistence farmers off their land as drought turns farmland into scrub desert.

We’re altering our atmosphere in ways that haven’t been seen for millions of years, long before the emergence of humanity. As the planet’s systems catch up with our dramatic increases in greenhouse gases, the next generation of humans will witness cataclysmic changes never seen in human memory even if we were to stop the pollution now, today.

Over half of all the energy that humans use is devoted to heating buildings and moving us and the products we make/use.

About a quarter of our emissions come from the way we produce food, a system now dominated by a handful of massive corporations driving agricultural processes that are destroying our land, wiping out the world’s forests and poisoning our ecosystems.

In every regard, at every level, somebody is making money off all this. A lot of money.

And since the US Supreme Court legalized political bribery with their 2010 Citizens United decision, those moneymakers have purchased the entire Republican Party and a few of the Democrats, as well.

Nonetheless, most Democrats are committed to doing something about these problems. And the Congressional Progressive Caucus is leading the charge.

They want to get America off our addiction to fossil fuels, while building new energy, transportation and agricultural systems that don’t contribute as severely to the destruction of our biosphere…or may even remediate much of the damage we’ve done.

Albeit imperfect, legislation to solve many of these problems has passed the House of Representatives or is being prepared for introduction now. In the past 40 years, however, bills like these die in the US Senate where a handful of Republicans, on the take from various industries, use the filibuster to kill any forward momentum.

The filibuster, a relic of John C. Calhoun‘s slaveholding South, up until 1964 was used exclusively to block Civil Rights legislation. Now, bought-off Republicans use it to maintain the profits of destructive, polluting industries and the billionaires those industries produce.

And they’re preparing to use it again, only this time to stop legislation that may actually help save the planet. In addition, of course, to blocking any forward movement on civil rights, voting rights, healthcare, education, debt, income inequality, homelessness or any of the other crises America faces as a result of 40 years of Reaganism.

If we are to save our country, and become a leader for positive change to preserve our planet, we must end or radically reinvent the filibuster.


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