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High Crimes and #Mitchdemeanors: Open letter from Mother Earth to Mitch McConnell


Tiara Walters writes for Daily Maverick's climate crisis unit, Our Burning Planet. A recipient of the South African National Parks environmental journalist of the year award, she's written for leading African and international publications for nearly 20 years, including the American Polar Society’s Polar Times, the Lonely Planet Guide to Antarctica and the Sunday Times. She was the first South African woman journalist to oversummer in Antarctica with the South African National Antarctic Programme. In addition to the climate crisis, she has a special interest in the illegal wildlife trade and other global conservation issues, the natural sciences as well as space sciences. Her work in broadcasting includes environmental radio and a stint as field presenter for 50/50, the SABC's long-running conservation television show. She has also contributed widely to the publishing industry as book editor and ghostwriter. Photo:

In this rare communication, Mother Earth sent a special post-impeachment message to Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump’s most strategic apostle. This is the uncut dictation. 

Dear Senator McConnell

What have you done? 

Let me tell you, it doesn’t happen often. Hell, I’m Mother Earth. But even I felt a tingle in my axis during some of the more rousing moments of the impeachment hearings in Washington, DC. When Adam Schiff exposed the lurid stakes of indulging Trump’s desire to win at all costs, it was easy for almost anyone to feel robbed.

They did not even need to be American. What Trump does, hurts everyone (almost).

Now your backdoor politicking has wrung every wavering drop of cult allegiance from Senate Republicans, forcing a not-guilty verdict upon a body of evidence that reeks of criminality to anyone with interest in truth. By asking Americans to accept that the US president may pursue any re-election agenda he deems in the public interest, you’re also asking the world to accept that the president of humanity’s most fêted democracy may continue to sow smear and disinformation, and abuse his office for personal gain without check. 

Mitch, it’s the ultimate political oxymoron. 

Hey, mind if I call you Mitch?

You had a ringside seat. You could have been somebody. Hell, you could have been a contender, even if late in life, to be considered a human being. 

Look, I’m so proud of that boy Adam Schiff I could have cried tears of happy rain over Death Valley — but, i.m.h.o, his prosecution failed to take into account this critical nugget: in a realigned world of planet-smart policy, the “commander-in-cheat” would’ve been impeached for ecocide long ago.

As you perfected it, “high crimes and misdemeanours” is open to interpretation — and if wilfully ignoring scientific consensus and knowingly speeding up my meltdown aren’t acts that spoil everyone’s life-support party, nothing is.

How much damage could this misogynist neophyte possibly do to me in four years, I consoled myself when he Forrest Gumped his way from reality television into the Oval Office.

Well, Mitch, let’s do the earthtopsy, shall we?

Donald Duck here says he is an environmentalist and wants to help plant a trillion trees. Says he wants my air and water to be clean. Has done more impact assessments than anybody. He knows climate better than anybody – he’s got the best brain, after all. Very stable genius, actually.

But since being sworn in as president little more than three years ago, Donald has installed his sycophants and other myrmidons in once-august state conservation agencies, shredded Obama’s climate work and tasked them with dismantling my world-famous conservation lands

In another country, on the southern tip of Africa, they call this State Capture. Not-so-subtle usury right from the playbook of a man who, on 14 February almost two years ago, resigned as South Africa’s head of state when his own party decided the boozy affair was over. But let’s not allow the details to cloud the romanticism of Zuma’s gesture. His abdication was, arguably, the sweetest thing any despot had given their subjects on Valentine’s Day. (Gift idea: pls remind Donald Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.) 

As part of his scorched earth campaign for unfettered fossil fuel extraction, Donald has pulled the US out of the Paris accord, the agreement of nations that at least tries to limit atmospheric heating to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The Duck Man has taken his battering ram to regulations that plug industrial leaks of my most powerful greenhouse gas, methane. He has tried to bulldoze the US Endangered Species Act’s world-respected protections for my wildlife. Under his auspices, the Republican monarchy has begun to raise a wall across the southern US border, placing many threatened species at heightened risk, and produced ulcerated ideas like trying to buy Greenland, which — quite frankly — gave me a little heartburn. 

Fun fact: Under Donald’s leadership, the US 2018 contribution to global CO2 emissions — 13.9% — eclipsed the European Union and Russia’s total share of 13.7%. 

As you people like to say in Earthese: crickets. 

Because in the Man Child’s world, ravaging me looks like something cool: like his subjects will be great again by using more oil, coal, gas, water and any pollutant they can think of. All of that, of course, while aiming his incendiary “environmentalism” at anything that smacks of the C-word. 

You know. Climate. Yup, #MeToo. 

That said, I’m starting to think most humans don’t realise just how easy it is to mess up my atmosphere — otherwise, why on Earth, err, me, would they? Over half of all air “up there” is within 10km of my surface. That’s the skin around the apple. That, Mitch, is strolling around the Kremlin grounds less than three-and-a-half times.

Not that I’d suggest you need a sightseeing tour of Moscow. 

You see, Mitch, the global ecosystem that has evolved over billions of years cannot be replaced within six days — call it the Authentic Creation Range. Takes a while to stitch together. Much more than you have.

I’m a bespoke planet in a couture cosmos for reasons you humans are only just beginning to understand. If I were held in place by a strong nuclear force of 0,006 or less, I’d be hydrogen vichyssoise. At 0,008, there’d be no stars to pose on the cosmic red carpet, to the adoring flashes of, I don’t know, cosmic rays? 

Yes, you might say a woke universe like this doesn’t come along every day. A value of just 0,001 is the difference between a livable and an unlivable space/time continuum. In fact, Mitch, life’s chemical complexities are such a flukish improbability, it’s a sheer miracle that your SA ambassador Lana’s nature-themed handbags are here at all. 

So, when Donald blows his carbon budget, he sends the message to everyone else, like China, that it’s okay to blow theirs, too.

That’s when I get angry. Suffragette-white angry. It means, as the past five hottest years on record show, I get angry everywhere — and this doesn’t mean I treat you humans to steadily hotter temperatures to which everyone can slowly and nicely adapt. It means, Mitch, as my body temperature begins to rise, and my life-support systems collapse, I rip up the entire mercury range, and come up with historical wildfires in Australia as well as polar vortices in the American Midwest within the same year. My climate crisis is about breaking out in hot, cold, dry, wet and other severe mood swings.

In drought-gripped southern Africa, there’s an unstable region in which climate maps are painting this year’s food security forecasts in swathes of sunburn. Some 11-plus million humans are facing acute food insecurity. In the Northern Cape, now officially a drought disaster area, “big, strong farmers are just crying as they receive their parcels”. It’s a ticking humanitarian timebomb. Not the only one, mind you. 


A sneeze in China causes flu on the other side of the world. The whole of humanity will soon wake up in a gigantic clustermask.

Funny thing, Mitch, incoming catastrophes refresh humans’ ability to think differently. They’re beginning to appreciate the most important message I’ve inscribed into the handbook on the rise and fall of species: 99% of plants and animals who’ve ever lived are already extinct. Not just because of humans, but because an inability to adapt is a universal death knell — and few diets are as stubborn as finite oil, coal and natural gas. 

This is why humanity’s biggest investment firms are divesting trillions of dollars from fossil fuels. Usual trade-and-investment language no longer applies.

And, at a holocaust memorial in Israel in January, the Prince of Wales, grandmaster of protocol, did not shake a visibly expectant US Vice-President Mike Pence’s hand, even as a camera was trained upon them both. Maybe you can manage Mike’s expectations about the US’s image abroad, which only the third American president to be impeached crowed about in this week’s state of the union address. The day before the Pence-Prince incident, the prince was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, queuing with other world icons to meet a pint-sized 17-year-old girl with a message of planetary peril.

Launching his Sustainable Markets Initiative in Davos, the prince told world leaders: “Nature is not a new asset class. It’s the lifeblood of our markets.” 

I was so happy about this I wanted all the animals to put together their paws, pincers, wings, claws, fins and hooves, and sing: “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” 

Look, Mitch, I’m going to cut to the chase.

As we mark my 4,550,002,020th birthday (give or take 50-million), my inner human admirer is tempted to reflect on questions like: how much longer can Donald duck and dive his constitutional responsibilities? What will I look like after another four years of a US president who spends his days like a child in a tweetshop?

I mean, a president who tweets things like, “It’s late in July and it is really cold outside in New York. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING???” is a global security threat. And an arsehole.

But take it from someone with the definitive bird’s-eye view: this is not about Donald’s legacy. It’s about yours.

Mitch, Donald’s trial was your moment to restore legitimacy to the US as leader of the free world that at least has a chance to avoid the cataclysm. You’re the long-game technician, for peat’s sake, the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in US history. But, in the long run, you’re giving your party a Planck-scale shot at survival

And all because you had to win. And get the conservative judges. And please your donors and your moronic base. 

You chose Trumpremacy over multiracialism, and predatory interests over stewardship — while the many wonderful Americans are fighting for my shimmering web of life.

If ever there was a time to pivot, that time is now — and, shhh, here’s a hint to help you along the way. My changing climate is now a prime issue for younger Republican voters.

You can spot a message from the future when you see it, no?

I’m not sure anyone’s ever told you this, but I can confidently say you give me fever, be it Fahrenheit or centigrade.

What have you done, Mitch McConnell? 

A few billion years from now, the sun will grow bigger, puff off its outer layers, and swallow me forever. Until then, I have a lot of life in me yet worth fighting for — and I won’t have a newcomer like Homo Mitchiens smudge my dance card. You silly hoomins. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s 100 seconds to midnight on my Doomsday clock and I have some essential ecosystem services to go take care of — dung balls to roll, pistils to pollinate, aliens to control, mating songs to ululate.

Oh, and Mitch… If you spare me, I’ll spare you.

That’s a quid pro quo no one will ever get impeached for. DM


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