2 kinds of catastrophe

Jerry Brown gets it.

At a time when the world is distracted by the circus in Washington, California’s governor understands that the two great and intractable threats before which all others pale in significance—atomic warfare and climate change—are getting little to no attention.

Christopher Cadelago had a thoughtful piece in Monday’s Sacramento Bee about Brown’s involvement as a member of the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit that works to lessen the chance that nuclear war will break out.

Cadelago quotes Brown: “Nuclear materials are loose in many places. If the Islamic fanatics get a hold of it, they could drop it on the nation’s Capitol, decapitating our country. This is serious business. … [There has been] virtually no conversation about this, and it is damned dangerous.”

Even more so now that North Korea, a country ruled by, in columnist Michael Gerson’s apt description, “a mental pubescent,” seems to be ratcheting up its nuclear capabilities while the United States, in the form of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, futilely rattles sabers in response.

Brown understands that the nuclear threat and climate change are similar in important ways. Both threaten catastrophic consequences, both require a high level of international cooperation and collaboration to solve, and both, alas, “don’t capture the public imagination right now.”

With a temperamentally fragile and profoundly inexperienced man in the White House, the prospect that either of these threats will be attended to anytime soon is virtually nil.

Let’s hope people start listening to Jerry Brown.