People the world over are opposing fossil fuel extraction in an incalculable number of ways. It is now clear that burning fossil fuels threatens millions of Life forms and could be laying the foundation for the extermination of Humanity. But what about “alternative” energy? As progressives stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those rejecting fossil fuels and nuclear power, should we despise, ignore, or commend those who challenge the menace to their homes and their communities from solar, wind and hydro-power (dams)? The Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance gave its answer with unanimous approval of a version of the statement below in May, 2021.
Global Conflicts Over Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Alternative Energy
The monumental increase in the use of energy is provoking conflicts across the Earth. We express our solidarity with those struggling against extraction, including these examples.
Standing Rock, North Dakota. We stand in solidarity with the on-going Native American protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota protesting environmentally irresponsible and culturally damaging pipelines that transport crude oil extracted from tar sand, destroying their ancestral lands. So-called “clean” and “renewable” energies depend on the climate killer oil for their production.
Ogoni People vs. Shell. We stand in solidarity with the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People against Shell. The Niger-Delta was devastated and traditional culture weakened by soil, surface and groundwater contamination that makes farming and fishing impossible. Local communities still seek to receive denied compensation, clean-up, a share of the profits and a say in decision-making.
Coal extraction in India. We stand in solidarity with the Centre for Policy Research in India as it opposes efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open 41 new coal mines because burning coal is a major factor in climate change, leads to asthma, premature births, and spreads toxins (including mercury) by air, water and land.
Fracking in Pennsylvania. We stand in solidarity with the Green Party of Pennsylvania which has opposed fracking since 2008 when it realized that use of volatile chemicals could harm local communities and waterways and contribute to climate instability. Local residents have become ill and major waterways and delicate ecosystems have been damaged.
Nuclear power and Olympic Games. We stand in solidarity with the No Nukes Action Committee of the Bay Area who are demonstrating against the Olympic Games slated for Tokyo in order to raise awareness of the ongoing disaster of Fukushima nuclear power since nuclear power is deadly and intimately connected with the potential for nuclear war.
Uranium Mining in Africa. We stand in solidarity with “Solidarity Action for the 21 Villages” in Faléa, Mali against the French multinational COGEMA/Orano. After years of struggle, this NGO defeated a uranium mine through community mobilizing. Aware of the detrimental effects on health, environment, agricultural land, water sources and cultural heritage, they are still fighting to undo already done infrastructural damage.
Solar arrays in Washington State. We stand in solidarity with rural Klickitat County, WA residents who are being invaded by industrial solar facilities which would exceed 12,000 acres and undermine wildlife/habitat, ecosystems, ground/water, and food production because solar panels and lithium ion batteries contain carcinogens with no method of disposal or re-cycling and could contribute to wildfires from electrical shortages.
Hydro-power in Honduras. We stand in solidarity with the indigenous Lenca people opposing the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River in Honduras whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered for uniting different movements to expose how dams destroy farmland, leave forests bare, disturb ancestral burial sites, and deprive communities of water for crops and livestock.
Lithium mining in Thacker Pass. We stand in solidarity with activists aiming to stop Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass open-pit mine (Nevada). Essential for electronic devices including electric cars, the mine would destroy rare old-growth big sagebrush, harm wildlife including many endangered species and lower the water table. Its operation would require massive fossil fuel use and toxic waste ponds.
Cobalt Extraction in DR Congo. We stand in solidarity with the child laborers slaving and dying in Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines. Cobalt is an essential ingredient for some of the world’s fastest-growing industries—electric cars and electronic devices. It co-occurs with copper mining, used in construction, machinery, transportation and war technology worldwide.
The version adopted by the Gateway Green Alliance differs only by referring to its organizational name in the text. If you would like to join those spreading the word regarding the need to challenge all forms of energy extraction because we can provide better lives for every society on Earth by reducing the global production of energy, please contact the author at the email below.
Note to readers: This is an analysis and personal inculcation of my own narrative tied to one specific topic — Lincoln County’s aerial spray (toxics, weedicides/herbicides) ban which was overturned and is now being presented to a judge for revalidation. Too many times people come to me thinking I am a news writer, or mainstream journalist. I was one of those, years ago, for years, and I am not that person now. “I don’t need no stinking Press badge, cabrón.” I can lead the reader down some curvy and out of the way places in my style of writing. Call it rant, diatribe, polemical, what have you . . . or just bad prose. It doesn’t matter to me anymore because I am not following the Associated Press rule book/style guide. I am no longer subscribing to the small-town newspaper tenets, or all those other big-town so-called “journalism 101 keeping it objective” crap. Unfortunately, I have to keep reminding readers of this fact.
And, I have been engaged in so many local battles, either in them as a member of this or that group or committee, or as a writer, or as a faculty member with students from various colleges in tow. In reality, under capitalism, as each nanosecond ticks off, things are really getting ugly. Predictable, sure, for anyone who has drilled superficially or deeply into this perverse system of profits over all other things. Still, though, I am beyond journalism 101, which in some sense really never existed in a real world . . . or, for most cases, newspaper journalism was always about “fabricated balance,” and showing two sides (how absurd is that, two sides!) to an issue. AND, my experience is the more intelligent and deeply holistic and systems thinking voices are never heard . . . or allowed into the journalism story.
I’ve written extensively about this, and while some call me Gonzo 3.0, nevertheless, I have to caveat my work regularly such as I have now. Be forewarned — this is not Journalism 101, which for all intents and purposes has failed, failed, failed. There is no so-called liberal media! It’s conservative, neoliberal, neocon, commercial, tied to empire and the bs of exceptionalism.
Waldport — I was driving back from Portland, hitting the scenic route, Highway 34, the so-called Alsea Highway. Two lane winding road. Farms and a river and homes on the slow-running river and no real towns except for Alsea. My wife was driving, fast, and I was a passenger looking hard at the surroundings.
On a sunny day, with this spring verdant overlay, a nice drive. It’s a green drive, with lots of leafing trees and conifers in the low-slung Coast Range. Of course, everything in the driver’s viewshed has been messed with more than a 100 years ago onward into this decade. Third growth tree plantations, clear-cuts, huge swaths of rye grass fields. A lot of dilapidated homes, cabins on the river and newer McMansions out there, with two RVs and four car garages and brand new out buildings.
Lots of clear-cuts, up to the road in some places. On one level, everything seems green and natural, but most of what a driver gets to see are second and third growth tree stands, AKA fiber/lumber plantations. There is a uniformity in the trees that are 50 years old. All the same size. All bunched up together.
No old growth in these here parts. When on runs into a really old Doug fir, people take selfies with it, sing to it, do prayers:
I know a few people who live out here, people who came to the area in the 1960s and ’70s. They are old now. On property that seems way out in the forest to some folk, but all are connected with paved roads, cement bridges spanning creeks, and with electricity and Wi-Fi. It’s an idyllic life in some regards, but for years (before this state’s draconian lockdowns) Highway 34 has been used as a byway for RV, pull trailers, Subaru’s with surfboards strapped to their roofs.
The destination is the coast. Small towns like Newport or Yachats. Plenty of beach. Tons of Air B&B’s and hotels.
The area indeed is an odd mix of retirees, out of towners, tourists, lumber and fish folk, people connected to the Oregon State Aquarium and the Hatfield Marines Sciences Center associated with Oregon State University. Like a lot of things and towns in North America, these places are worn out, rinky-dink, prime examples of those who have and the haves not.
It’s conservative with many centrist democrats tied to the hospital, Hatfield, many of the retired, and most from the community college. The rest of the population (to generalize) is stuck in a time warp, always impressing upon me about the good old days.
Those were the days when timber was king, and when there were beach house rentals, not this huge influx of STR’s (short term rentals) run by Portland-based Airbnb outfits like Vacasa.
Boom or bust, quasi back to the land, McDonald’s and Taco Bell drive-throughs, a Walmart, and a coast that depends big time on those crazy, congesting, demanding, beach swarming tourists.
Food, surprisingly, is not king here, as there are fewer and fewer unique mom and pop type eateries. Either a few high end resort restaurants, or small Mexican restaurants.
The drive from Corvallis down Highway 34 toward the coast is easy when the traffic is light. Otherwise, cussing galore as people from Portland and Corvallis, Salem and Eugene flood over to the cooler Pacific.
One small business, Deb’s Café, would have been on our list for a bite to eat, but the huge “Timber Unity” sign out front is a turn-off. I don’t want to have to pay for food from a mom and pop that visually supports anything as part of their advertising scheme: not Raytheon, Dow, Democrats, Republicans, the country Turkey or the Armenian people. To blatantly put up that Timber Unity logo sign is a sign of some sort of hard right, mean politics within, redneck politics worn on Deb’s sleeves (if there is a Deb there to begin with). Timber Unity signs are plastered all over homes and large yards and businesses in this neck of the woods. Unity my ass:
While the group has been hailed by state and national Republicans, and includes at least one former Oregon GOP lawmaker among its leaders, its participants have had no qualms associating with violent extremists and far-right groups. Several senior members have been photographed alongside members of neofascist or militia groups, and when pressed, its leadership has failed to disavow such ties. Its rallies have prominently featured messages backing QAnon, the sprawling internet conspiracy theory that posits a cabal of liberal elites are running a pedophile ring, and that has spurred real-world violence.
“While Timber Unity has sought to downplay these links, an investigation of its social media channels has found extensive ties between its leaders and Far Right figures, as well as the use of racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and violent rhetoric by its supporters,” explained Spencer Sunshine, a sociologist who researches right-wing extremists, in a report he compiled for Oregon environmental groups. “The organization already has a history of and association with groups who have either made violent political threats or have supported violent actions.” — “The Oregon GOP’s Favorite Anti-Environment Group Is Awash in Racism and Violent Threats”
Left-wing/Right-wing — The American Bird
Right-wing groups. The Trump years. That’s all I have to go by since I’ve been here short-term — December 2018. Pro-cops/pigs, pro-military grunt, pro-timber, pro-all-red-white-blue.
Coming from Portland, supporting more than just a few days of protesting cops and such in downtown PDX, I know small towns from way back. Small towns supporting Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Towns supporting Reagan. I’m old enough to know those Nixon years, and those small towns. From city council members, to police chiefs, and librarians, small towns and the conservative bent.
It was always more than support — called a traitor, threatened with violence, and handcuffed by pigs for non-violent protesting. Pre-Trump. Oh, Occupy Seattle, those Obama years. I’ve always been a traitor when speaking with Republicans, and I am now speaking with Democrats.
Yet here I am, in a poor rural country, with a mix of interesting people, divergent, many hopeless, a few lucky ones with retirement and health, hopeful. But hopeful in primarily a kind of transcendental mediation way. As a parenthetical, the idea impressed upon me is there are many people living in this area with college degrees and even graduate degrees since we are relatively close to Eugene and Corvallis, where the state land grant colleges are located. Retired professionals. And artists. This for many people infers a level of enlightenment and sophistication and wokeness not normally seen in other rural environs.
That’s debatable for me, since I subscribe to Chris Hedges “death of the liberal class”.
In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue.
We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.
― Chris Hedges, The Death of the Liberal Class
I easily segue from one massive war crime after massive war crime — the American War Against Vietnam — to a small rural county in Oregon, and for the reader, this may seem disjointed. So goes the world of corporate wrongs, along with their various hitmen and hitwomen serving as financial thieves and legal Mafia. Because with lawyers, any company can literally get away with murder. And in the process, the murderer (collective, corporate, governmental) can blame the victims.
We are fighting that “timber unity” and the unchecked growth model, the clear-cut model of business, the boom or bust economics of real estate and out-of-state money dragging down the local economies. We are fighting chemical sprays.
The idea of blaming the victims isn’t new. If the economy goes bust, then blame the tree huggers and spotted owl kooks. Blame anyone or any group that is concerned about public health, safety and well-being. The judicial system is out of sync with the people, but in many ways, in sync wonderfully with the destroyers, the extractors, the people with paid-for experts and those with PhDs and MDs and what have you who will be the voice for corporations, giving both barrels for anyone who might question the bottom line — profits at any cost.
Here’s a living example of this legal system in the employ of the corporation. Chevron, no less:
Steven Donziger won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The company sued him in New York, and now he’s under house arrest. — Sharon Lerner, The Intercept
Again, shifting to Lincoln County, Oregon, we are tied to the big case in France — for sure, again, one single woman up against lawyers, their assistants, and the thugs and chemists for Dow. We are talking massive poisoning, massive murdering, war profiteering, empires of subjugation, the entire shooting match in Indochina. Death and history, and empire and corporations. The War Machine which is in a sense the machine that drives a lot of things in the USA, including lobbying (sic) groups like Timber Unity:
ÉVRY, France — Almost six decades after the U.S. military began dropping a toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, a French courtroom in a Parisian suburb has become the unlikely setting for a faceoff between a woman who says she was a victim and some of the world’s largest chemical and pharmaceutical corporations that supplied the substance.
The landmark case has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old, against 14 companies. A ruling is expected on Monday.
If the court in Évry sides with the companies, including American multinational Dow, it would crush hopes for what activists have seen as a “historic trial” and a unique chance for accountability. But if the court rules in Tran’s favor, she would be the first Vietnamese civilian to win such a case. — Source
PARIS — A French court on Monday threw out a lawsuit brought by a French-Vietnamese woman against more than a dozen multinationals that produced and sold toxic herbicide Agent Orange, used by American troops during the war in Vietnam.
The landmark case, filed in 2014, has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old who says she was a victim of Agent Orange, against 14 firms, including U.S. multinational companies Dow Chemical and Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer.
This is the murderous gift that keeps on giving, and leave it to the French, a French court, to throw out this righteous case. Oh the French in Haiti, in Viet Nam. The irony of it is Tran’s children and grandchildren have been diseased because of the exposure to Agent Orange. One child died because of the dioxin disease(s). How many millions of Vietnamese were exposed to this sprayed on poison? Deaths? Disabilities? Chronic illnesses?
The other irony is that US veterans have successfully sued those chemical monsters and have gotten service connected disabilities from this massive poisoning, again, it is we the taxpayer, paying for those “injuries.” The chemical Eichmanns are equal to the military Eichmanns. Bomb them back to the Stone age, uh?
Thibault Camus / AP file
Leave it to the Associated Press to call her “communist” when she was exposed to the gas:
The former journalist has described in a book how she breathed some Agent Orange in 1966, when she was a member of the Vietnamese Communists, or Viet Cong, that fought against South Vietnam and the United States.
“Because of that, I lost one child due to heart defects. I have two other daughters who were born with malformations. And my grandchildren, too,” she told The Associated Press.
According to some probably low ball estimates, U.S. warplanes dropped 19 million gallons of Agent Orange — it was dubbed that because it was stored in drums with orange bands. I’ve seen a few old empties in Vietnam. Between the early 1960s and early 1970s, this ecocide was deployed to defoliate jungles and destroy Viet Cong crops. Murder babies, you know, with calorie constriction. Like the American colony did to Native Americans.
Millions of Vietnamese were sprayed.
At least 3,851 of the 5,958 known fixed-wing missions had targeted flight paths directly over South Vietnamese hamlets. We calculated that at least 2.1 million but perhaps as many as 4.8 million people in 3,181 hamlets were sprayed. Population estimates for an additional 1,430 sprayed hamlets are unavailable. Few systematic data exist on population exposures through residual contamination of soils or consumption of herbicidal chemicals taken up in the food chain, although “hot spots” are known. Source.
It’s clear how the laws are written to protect the poisoners, the murderers. William Bourdon, one of her lawyers, stated on Twitter that the court was “applying an obsolete definition of the immunity of jurisdiction principle which contradicted modern principles of international and national law.”
Even this lawyer was shocked the French court had backed the companies’ defense spiel that stated they were acting on “orders” when responding to U.S. government requisitions for the poison. Again, rule of law for the corporations, and these groups of company lawyers cited contractual law and purchase agreements not tying them to the claims. No damages to the Vietnamese people!
Dow Chemical and Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military and were named in the suit, along with 18 other companies to include Diamond Shamrock, Uniroyal, Thompson Chemicals, Hercules, Ansul Co., Riverdale Chemical Co., Uniroyal, Occidental Petroleum Co., N.A. Phillips, and Hooker Chemical Co.
The military — the USA, in fact, all the Big Little Man Eichmann’s and taxpayers and those in the media, in universities, etc. — is a party to millions of individual war crimes, but this was a crime against people, against their food supply. The spraying occurred right after I was born in 1957, in the early 1960s, as the US Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA), a US Department of Defense agency, was heavily involved in bioweapons and surveillance and other nefarious illegal weapons, including toxins and all sorts of diseases, like the one we think came from an innocent tick, but, in fact, Lyme’s disease is from Plum Island, US military biowarfare lab.
These new offensive technologies are part of the USA’s legacy of crimes against humanity — experimenting various combinations and concentrations of chemical herbicides for use in the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was created when developers combined two of the most potent herbicides, 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,4- Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).
DARPA mixed up many combinations of herbicides to destroy Vietnam, including Agent Purple, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent White, Agent Blue, and Agent Orange, all named for the band of colored tape on their containers. Four years after my birth (’57), in 1961, the US began spraying those herbicides on Vietnam’s crops and jungles, part of a lovely mission titled Operation Ranch Hand.
Small Town, Big Politics
So back in my neck of the woods, Waldport, Oregon in Lincoln County, I have a jarring perspective because this small town is isolated, and alas, yes, it is backwards, and the retrograde thinkers are in the hundreds and hundreds. Yet, there are slivers of hope, where smart people for many reasons, ended up here, and in the country at large. Some of those smart people are fed-up with the lies, the birth defects, the diseases, the entire flimflam game that is capitalism — whether it is health insurance scams, lemon automobiles or poisons peddled as “green chemistry for better farming/living/family rearing.”
I’ve been lucky enough to feature two of the people fighting the aerial spray ban reversal — Maria Kraus and Carol Van Strum:
Both pieces ended up in Dissident Voice: here and here. I even did a review of that documentary, The People VS Agent Orange, which highlights Tran To Nga‘s fight in France — “Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes“. Here’s one passage from that story I wrote:
Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was ordered to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.
“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”
Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”
However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunistic weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.
Both Carol and Maria, along with others, are working to convince a judge to stop aerial spraying of herbicides by timber companies on private land they own, huge portions of the state, in fact, abutting communities, river and creek systems, property owners’ homes, etc. This coming June 1, a group of local activists — citizens, home owners, those with a few acres of “property” — face down the judge in the case that ended a two year temporary stay on aerial spraying of chemicals so closely linked to the Agent Orange formula, that herbicide which is a brother of another mother (Agent Orange).
The people who wrote an ordinance banning the aerial spraying of pesticides in western Oregon last year  aren’t professional environmental advocates. Their group, Lincoln County Community Rights, has no letterhead, business cards, or paid staff. Its handful of core members includes the owner of a small business that installs solar panels, a semi-retired Spanish translator, an organic farmer who raises llamas, and a self-described caretaker and Navajo-trained weaver.
And yet this decidedly homespun group of part-time, volunteer, novice activists managed a rare feat: They didn’t just stop the spraying of pesticides that had been released from airplanes and helicopters in this rural county for decades. They also scared the hell out of the companies that make them, according to internal documents from CropLife America, the national pesticide trade group. Although some of the world’s biggest companies poured money into a stealth campaign to stop the ordinance, and even though the Lincoln activists had no experience running political campaigns, the locals still won. — Source
This above was also written by Lerner of The Intercept. The article’s headline — “How a Ragtag Group of Oregon Locals Took on the Biggest Chemical Companies in the World . . . and Won” — speaks to a common “liberal” form of journalism which seems to harken all these amazing hopeful signs of American democracy (sic) at work, with all the elements of (almost) patronizing the “locals” who in the headline writer’s eyes, are a “ragtag” bunch. It’s always nice to have a Karen Silkwood (Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma, which made plutonium pellets) or Lois Gibbs (she discovered that her 5-year-old son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York, was built on a toxic waste dump; Love Canal) highlighted in these stories.
For the Intercept, having these activists in Lincoln County working to stop aerial spraying is a David vs Goliath environmental script ready for Netflix prominence. The group, Lincoln County Community Rights (I’ll get to Spokane in a sec), worked hard to get the gumption and impetus going for this to end up on the ballot. But in USA, you can vote for no added two or three mile runway for an airport, but that goes out the window for the greater good — they call it the greater good for the community or public, but it is all about greater good of the pocket book. This is typical in societies, all part of the rapaciousness of industrialized and now digitized societies. “You hate noisy new airport runways? Get some earplugs.”
I’m just reading how Zoom-Google Hangouts will be the way of the future for doctors visits (and school, college, work, court, and more). Imagine, articles just before the planned-demic (SARS-CoV2) on how poorly western medicine is doing with diagnostics, with integrated medicine, with hands on medicine, without a compassionate treat-the-whole-person modality. It’s just more of the more bad. These court cases are on Zoom, and now evictions across the country are Zoomed, but with no time for individuals making a statement to the judge, to the court. Many eviction hearings are lumped together on Zoom. Dozens at a time, which is against certain inalienable rights in the constitution.
Give the bastards an inch, and they will take a mile.
Laws against protesting. Real murderous laws allowing drivers to run down and murder protestors.
I remember the anti-Monsanto protest in Portland. At the Lloyd Center. We did make it to the roads, and while much of the protest was “permitted” in the sense the organizers got all the paperwork done for an announced, planned peaceful event, there was no telling how many people would break off.
Impede traffic at the giant mall? Shoot, how many states are passing “run over them if you feel triggered, in danger.” Passing those right to run over pedestrians, AKA terrorists, ordinances is big on Republican governors’ list of important things to do. Stand your ground is now “pedal to the metal” laws — get the riffraff out of the way.
Protesting the pesticides in a small town like Toledo, OR, might be an invitation to the Timber Unity folk and the people coming out of the woodwork who love their open carry permits, love taunting peaceful protestors. And the local pigs, well, they are in the same camp — any protestation against “industry” or the capitalist way, well, that is clear and present danger to the public, the community, to their own fascist leanings.
When I was there with my 16-year-old daughter, I did look for exit paths in case the pissed off automobile drivers behind us decided to go “postal.”
Just having a bumper sticker in many parts of Oregon declaring anti-spraying could get you good, let alone a bumper sticker against Timber Unity (there are none). Having a bumper sticker calling Monsanto a poisoner, that too, a rock through the windshield. I have had rocks thrown two car windows, two trucks “keyed,” and a motorcycle kicked over for some sort of advocacy bumper sticker I plastered on.
Bans by any other Name — Attacking the Corporations’ Bottom Line
Beyond Pesticides is an advocacy group looking at the devastating effects of pesticides on community health — the avian, aquatic, terrestrial and human communities. As an organization, they function as a great clearing house of information on the various poisons used in industrial capitalism’s gift to the world: factory farming. The Lincoln County aerial spray ban may have passed in May 2017 with 64 yeah votes over the nay ones, of the total 14,000 votes cast, but it was one of more than 200 local measures that do some form of “restricting” of pesticides (weedicides, fungicides, fumigants, herbicides, rodenticides, and the like). Many communities have passed protective measures that surpass basic limits set by the feds, the EPA. Some have banned glyphosate (Roundup). The first community ban or restriction was passed in 1970 in Maine.
Nationwide, 71 communities from across the political spectrum have passed either rights-of-nature or community-rights statutes, said Craig Kauffman, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, whose research focuses on legal and political arguments for the rights of nature.
Part of the motivation behind the campaign is to put ecosystems on an equal footing with corporations, which already have personhood rights under federal law. “Where we often see these campaigns is in rural communities that don’t want outside corporations coming in and destroying the ecosystems and watersheds,” Kauffman told me. With the twin pressures of climate change and biodiversity loss mounting, people are looking for new ways to fight back on the local level, he said.
— Carl Segerstrom, “Can a campaign for nature and community rights stop aerial spraying in Oregon?”
So, this upcoming June 1, the case will be made to reverse this judge’s action, which she declared in September of 2019: Judge Sheryl Bachart ruled that the county ordinance was pre-empted by an Oregon law that allows, with basic state-approved restrictions, aerial spraying of pesticides on forests and prohibits local governments from making any ordinance, rule or regulation governing pesticide sale or use. “Where local enactments are found incompatible with state law in an area of substantive policy and explicit preemption, state law will displace the local law,” she wrote.
Lincoln County, Oregon, voters approved the “Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides” ordinance. That was May 2017. It was a first-in-the-state law recognizing residents’ rights to clean air, water, and soil, their right to local community self-governance, and the Rights of Nature to exist, flourish, and evolve.
Soon after, the timber industry lawyered up — sued the county to overturn the ordinance, stating this Oregon county (or any county) had no right or authority to pass it (this sort of community rights legal codes) in the first place, and that this ordinance/law “adversely affected” them. This is a tactic used in Capitalism, whichever form you want to qualify your pro/quasi-pro capitalism with: predatory, usury, parasitic, disaster, casino, zombie — which has put a stranglehold on communities who vote to not allow some industry into town. Suing for imagined future losses (out of thin air profits), these Mafia corporations wrote the playbook on predatory capitalism. They time and time again, bring in an army of legal vultures to do battle with cash-strapped counties and municipalities threatening them with years of expensive litigation if a city or county prohibits their siting and industrial processes in that locality.
You don’t need to go back too far in history to see how industry works —
Hmm, many in my league just wrote about the 107th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, simply, a mass killing by a militia, anti-striker thugs during this period called the Colorado Coalfield War. This is the score — soldiers from the Colorado National Guard and then private guards/mercenaries in the employ of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) attacked peaceful Occupiers: a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families. That was April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, and while 21 people, including miners’ wives and children, were murdered, the infamous John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a part-owner of CF&I, got away with it, with just a “talking to” during a US congressional hearing.
They Have the Big Ticket Lawyers
The right to your own labor, to strike, to refuse an illegal or dangerous order. The right to tell your supervisor things are smelly in Denmark. The right to expose malfeasance and shoddy manufacturing and death-creating products. The right to question the killer ingredients in chicken McNuggets?
It’s shoot to kill now, if as a citizen, you want to photograph clearcutting plots, animal factory farms, fracking facilities, even fields of GMO Franken-Corn.
When a community declares it is against war, against nukes, anything, the long arm of government and corporations comes in upper-cutting hard. Worse, though, is the longer arm of the mob, the herd, the bandwagoneers. Propaganda is a valuable tool of fascists and Madison Avenue, of governments and of right-wing movements. And let it be clear there is no real left left when that person announces his or her Democratic Party allegiances. Shifting the center to the right has been witnessed by yours truly my entire lifetime as a journalist — it is embarrassing how so-called weekly alternative newspapers are as right-wing as Mitt Romney. Let alone the massive experiment on the populous for this continual shifting baseline disorder. One day a few months ago, Big Pharma was despised in poll after poll. Now, Big Pharma wins the Nobel Prize collectively. Imagine the billions Pitzer has paid out in lawsuits, single ones and class action. Imagine that, and now imagine the profit hoarders, the mercenary capitalists, making billions on this jab-jab-jab jabberwocky.
Imagine the thugs the thugs hire to do their bidding, their dirty work. Imagine the Sisyphus of it all now, now that not just companies like Comcast, but their competitors, too, and entire countries, use app’s to send in faked and false comments to politicians. Imagine that, Sisyphus. The new normal is citizens scrounge up people to push a bill like the aerial spray moratorium, and then, imagine, those great software engineers and former military agents setting up companies that set loose false statements, push propaganda to a new level.
This article is being algorithm spun and any and all parties mentioned herein will be putting me on another watch list, or black list, but since I am just Don Quixote, I’m small potatoes, maybe even insane in their eyes.
I know I am on some FBI lists since some of the groups I was associated with have been surveilled by the Felonious Bureau of Inhumanity.
Try the Google search tool on “Dow” or “Agent Orange” or on “Timber Unity.” You’ll get more and more accolades, fewer and fewer critical hits. The rich have their Google tools and worldwide web cast far and wide.
It’s like this: You can lose your job as a pig/cop for calling an African American the racist term, n—–, but you keep your job if you put a bullet to the back of the head of that came black man while in uniform.
How does this all relate?
Again, communities taking control of their boundaries, their health, safety and welfare? Communities defunding the police. Communities putting the brakes on growth, on building and construction trades, on projects that impede healthy traffic loads. Communities demanding smoke stacks not release toxic chemicals. Imagine that, in Newport, where the largest users of our freshwater system — a brewery and the shrimp industry. You think there is pushback on those two outfits?
Who will sit on the water board? Who will be at the table when more scrutiny hits the beer and shrimp industry?
Then the Chamber of Commerce, and then the Rotarians, and then all manner of people saying, “We need jobs, we need infrastructure, we need corporation x and company y in town. Putting all these limits on their growth, on their profits, on their business model, is antithetical to capitalism. They know best. They hire the best engineers, the best economists, the best communicators, the best scientists. You do-gooders know nothing about running a business, keeping the lights on, building employment bases, providing a culture to a community. You are against all growth.”
Growth is that timber industry buying up more and more parcels of land, and, in fact, insurance companies and other investment portfolio “holders” own (sic) this land. In fact, you can own your 100 acres, but if you got snookered thirty years ago by needing some shekels to keep going, you ended up working with shifty insurance and timber companies to “grant them the right to come in and sustainably log said designated acreage in 30 or 40 years . . . here’s how much big money we will give you up front to keep those beautiful trees growing big and healthy and keeping that air clean and all those streamlets pure.”
This is reality, man. People in their 60s or 70s who came out here in the 1970s, now have seen their property cut down vis-à-vis those three- to five-decades old contracts.
Now there are some things in the world we can’t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and wellbeing. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere, for example.
–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki in his acceptance speech for Right Livelihood Award
The model of forestry is to use it all as a commodity, to manage it (control and destroy it), to turn real ecologies into tree plantations. Some people call these places out here, deserts:
It’s a no-brainer trees also provide shade for maintaining water temperature. To carry the analogy to the end point, we see fallen leaves, limbs and branches support food webs by providing food and habitat for insects that are food for fish, Hayduk states. Clean, cool water with more food equals bigger fish.
Nuances like growing alders on the flood plain or marsh plain encourages other species of trees to grow on the decaying fallen alder.
Looking at the ecosystem from a centuries-versus-a-few-decades perspective is important in understanding what Evan and others of his ilk are attempting. “Big conifers that fall help with grade control. Water tables rise. Conifers in the riparian areas can grow from 100 to 200 years before they fall into the creek.”
This concept of a “messy” stream refugia as being the most healthful for all species is anathema to the way most humans have thought about rivers. Scientists like Hayduk know fish get through any of the hurdles a natural stream environment presents them — even with huge logs and entire trees with root balls integrated into the water flow.
Laws only on Hold
The Lincoln County law held for over two years, preventing aerial application of pesticides. This got under the skin of the coalition of people and businesses in that so-called Timber Unity outfit.
The rule of law, of course, supports every aspect of predatory and disaster capitalism.
That judge in September of 2019 wrote: “Oregon does not recognize an independent right of local community self-government that is fundamental, inherent, inalienable, and constitutional.”
This is a battle line fought in many communities.
“Though this decision will be appealed on the grounds of denying the exercise of the right of local self-government, it also serves as positive energy to move the amendment forward so ultimately people, not corporations, decide the fate of their communities,” said Nancy Ward, coordinator for the Oregon Community Rights Network.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lincoln County Community Rights in drafting the law and representing them as an intervenor in the case. CELDF also sought to represent the Siletz River watershed’s interests in the case. The judge denied intervention.
Appeals were filed by Lincoln County Community Rights and the Siletz River watershed. They have their proverbial day in court June 1, 2021. This is from their May 8 press release:
Lincoln County Community Rights, the non-profit organization that placed Measure 21-177 on the ballot, filed an appeal against invalidation of the measure. The Siletz River Ecosystem also appealed the trial court decision to deny it intervention in the case. Oral arguments will be heard virtually Tuesday, June 1, 2021 in the morning session.
Speaking on behalf of the Siletz River Ecosystem, Carol Van Strum notes that ”securing rights of the river to exist, thrive and be protected from poisoning by aerial spraying is part of a global movement of tribal and other entities to grant natural systems standing to defend themselves in our courts.”
What is at stake is whether state government exists to protect people’s rights to save themselves and their environment from poisoning, or to protect industry’s right to poison people and their world for profit.
There have been more than the immediate effects on residents exposed to these chemicals: severe headaches, rashes, respiratory problems, and nosebleeds. Pets, livestock and wild animals exposed to spraying have died. Doctors and other medical professionals have been stating for years that long-term exposure to chemicals like glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine (just a few of the major ones used by the logging industry) can injure the liver and kidneys. The number of stillborn and miscarriages and babies with intellectual, learning and developmental disabilities is high in areas where these chemicals are sprayed.
Yet, the reality is Capitalism is all about “might makes right,” and as is true of any of the x, y, z you-name-it industries, in Oregon, the logging and chemical industries hold the Damocles sword (in the form of political influence) over the heads of all Oregonians. As is true every time, when these x, y, z you-name-it industries’ actions put people at risk, and ecosystems, one might believe there is a moral imperative for legislative and regulatory bodies to have a legal righteous imperative to intervene. The very idea of keeping industry spraying and industry land holdings secret should strike anyone believing in a democracy as both wrong and harmful to the public’s interest. Oregonians should have a right to determine which chemicals are verboten, but also, there has to be a set systems of do no harm, at any cost to the capitalist interests.
Solutions like having no-spray buffers from chemical drift speak to the inability of Oregon and other governments to hold them accountable. The Community Rights organization is in this to make sure state agencies work to protect our health by protecting wildlife, water, and not just private property.
Shielding politically influential industries from accountability is the name of the game, but community bill of rights movements have been proposed (and defeated in court, and the ballot box) to do exactly that — penetrate the obfuscation in order to hold them accountable and to derive their own agency to decide what a community deems safe.
The fact is we have let capitalism frame all debates, so, if there are movements to, say, stop animal cruelty in the agricultural arena, those movements should be part of the public interest, backed by government scientists and planners in concert with real science.
We can read a headline in the pro-farmer-rancher, Capital Press, “Anti-animal ag initiative raises alarm among Oregon farm groups … protections for livestock producers under the state’s animal cruelty laws,” but that entity, so-called journalism, will never access or refer to studies going back 20 years on the enormous amounts of cruelty the factory farming does to animals.
The same sort of mumbo-jumbo is leveled at people like Maria and Carol and the entire movement to put a stop to poisons in the air, water, soil. The fact a community group has to set forth an initiative process to get a spray ban even on the ballot box, up against the compliant media, the huge coffers of money to spend on propaganda by the timber and chemical industries, is not democracy at work.
For me, the history (my personal one) of a community bill of rights comes from a body of work tied to a community’s right to set the standards for human and ecological health, as well as the standards for labor and health and welfare. My own background includes 10 solid years in Spokane, and I was part of the push for the Envision Spokane, Community Bill of Rights, which bestowed legal rights on the Spokane River, granted residents the right to block development in their neighborhoods and given employees workplace protections. The kicker was to restrict any corporation’s “rights” that might be conflicting with the measure — conflicting with the community’s guidelines and values.
It took a coalition of business groups and governmental entities to sue, and the Washington Supreme Court “gave a victory to local business groups after unanimously ruling that Envision Spokane’s sweeping Community Bill of Rights ballot measure was outside of the initiative process and should not go before voters.”
Note the verbiage in the quotation marks. Very telling how business groups (backed by big bucks, and out-of-state bucks) is stated as a “coalition”, as opposed to being correctly labeled as a lobbying entity, special interest group, an anti-voter league. The media and press are spokespersons for the business community. Rocking the boat (taking a stand, or looking at community and nature bills of rights with a deeper analysis) is not part of the DNA of most co-opted media/Press entities.
At least High Country News gave LCCR a better shot at their story than other sources:
Anti-spray activists are appealing — and going after the pre-emption law itself. They say that the state and federal government shouldn’t be able to prevent locals from seeking greater protections for community and environmental health. It’s a new twist on long-running efforts by rural Westerners to gain more power. Traditionally, rural counties in Oregon and across the West have sought to undo state and federal environmental protections and open up land for logging and other industries. Now, Lincoln County residents want the power to create additional environmental protections, which they believe are necessary to end corporate political dominance and protect their health.
Murder, Broken Bodies, Poisons — A Tale of Too Many Counties
Just read some of the stuff here on the chemical industry, the state regulators, and more. Carol Van Strum, in her book, A Bitter Fog, and also when one talks with her, demonstrates the sacrifice of her activism — she lost four children in a fire at their cabin/house during the heated battle she was having with the chemical companies and forest service. She stated to me that the fire chief felt the fire was suspicious. Carol is clear that something wasn’t right that evening when she went to a neighbor’s with freshly baked bread and returned to her four children’s lifeless bodies from the fire.
From my piece on Carol: This is an idyllic life until the four children are sprayed. Then the court battles, the scientific investigations (and backtracking and cover-ups) of the real effects of these herbicides. We are talking about neighbors throughout the area, up to a mile away from each other, collectively having multiple miscarriages, children born with genetic defects, adults suffering cancers and other ailments.
The dedication in her non-fiction book is emblematic of the struggle Carol has undergone: “For my children, Daphne, Alexey, Jarvis and Benjamin Van Strum.”
I asked her what gives her hope. “The death of our children left me with what they loved — this farm, this dirt, these trees, this river, these birds, fish, newts, deer, and fishers — to protect and hold dear. These became my anchor to windward, keeping me from just drifting away with every wind that blows.”
Even that tragic story isn’t simple — there is evidence the four children, old enough to babysit each other, perished in a house while Carol was next door at a neighbor’s house. The fire marshal indicated it was suspicious, potentially the result of arson. Carol has her suspects.
This article was to be a precursor to the Lincoln Community Rights court case this June 1. However, for me, this is more than that, much deeper to, as we are all running into the gauntlet of US “rule of law.” The game is rigged, and you can ask anyone, not just public citizen Ralph Nader.
Describing the United States as an “advanced Third World country,” longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. “It is not too extreme to call our system of government now ‘American Fascism.’ It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism,” Nader says.
I end this long article with my interview of Maria Kraus and Debra Fant, two of the Lincoln County Community Rights activists:
Paul Haeder: What personal stake do you have in this fight to ban aerial spraying?
Maria Kraus: Personal stake? Every person aware of what is going on with our ecosystems, how they are unraveling due to ravenous extraction from them and toxic spraying on them to increase profits derived from extraction, has a stake in the effort to save the planet from becoming uninhabitable. This is a fight that is everyone’s fight, in which the personal examples of deadly illnesses, malformations, pain, hunger, and misery, together with the sight of degraded ecosystems, streams drying up, vanishing wildlife species are what should make this a universal fight.
Debra Fant: As a person who lives in coastal forest and appreciates clean cold water to drink for myself, my family, my community, I am highly motivated to end use of toxic chemical combinations from industrial tree farms in our watersheds.
PH: Fiftieth Anniversary of Silent Spring. Ironically with your case being heard next month. Any comments about this fact with reference to that below, here –
MK: Rachel Carson’s voice was the first to sound out publicly about the danger of using chemicals, DDT in her experience, not only to people, but to the environment. She held that chemicals should be studied for their effects on living organisms, soil, water, and air before being released into the environment.0
In other words, she insisted on the Precautionary Principle, according to which, chemical substances are not considered safe for use until proven to be so. However, industry, which dominates government here and in many other countries, believes that “business is business”, and that the profit motive has priority in all business decisions. Accordingly, the world has been freely experimenting with thousands of chemicals regardless of their possible effects on all forms of life and on the environment. The din of profit-making silenced Rachel Carson’s voice. Not only did use of chemicals proliferate during the many decades since Silent Spring was published, but chemicals used for war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, which were banned while the war was still going on due to the harm they caused to people exposed to it, started being used as herbicides in the US afterwards. There was a massive surplus of them and that could not be wasted. A market had to be found for them. Meantime, production of some chemicals has been banned only to make room for reformulations of their ingredients in new chemical products launched by the thousands into the market, with only a fraction going through testing. The EPA, created under the Nixon administration, has functioned, in Nixon’s own words, as a “buffer between industry and the public”, to make people believe they are being protected rather than to actually protect them.
Industry tests its own products, and regulations are written to stop only the most extreme and obvious harms, ensuring that they remain effective for the purposes that industry produces them, and, with that, harmful to every living organism that comes into contact with them. The evolution of chemical use is glaring proof that government, in the US especially, is of, by, and for profit-driven industry, not for the health, safety, and welfare of the people and the places where they live.
DF: Biocides – “any substance that can kill living organisms,” came out of chemical warfare after WWI and became chemical warfare in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The US Congress stopped the military use of Agent Orange four years before the war ended because of the harms to people, land, water, wildlife, and food crops. Why then was it sprayed on timber lands of our county and elsewhere in Oregon? It not only killed plant material but created deformed farm animals, aborted elk and deer fetus’ with defects, and babies born without brains. These experiments on living people and communities confirmed toxicity of forever chemicals that do not degrade or disappear The US Government agencies and industry collaborated for profits, corruption rampant in safety testing protocols, and so called scientific results suppressed or simply changed to support the lies that these chemicals are “safe” when label instructions are followed. Rachel Carson warned us and spoke clearly the dangers yet industry and regulatory agencies were motivated by greed, dazzled by man-made innovations without the wisdom to question destructive practices. If this is an intelligence test, I fear the human family is flunking.
PH: So Carson took up her cudgels. Her book is not a mathematical theorem. It is a carefully researched, precisely reasoned, and elegantly written argument for what she passionately believed to be the public good. It is a product of her social conscience, but not the diatribe that her critics complained about. She did not call for a ban on all pesticides, but mostly for the long-lasting chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT whose movement through the environment cannot be contained and whose residues, being fat soluble, are stored in animal tissues and recycled through food chains.
“It is not my contention that chemical insecticides should never be used,” she wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potential for harm… I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effects on soil, water, wildlife, or man himself.” See Yale e360 source.
PH: Science should be “science” always in quotation marks since many in the “scientific” community (sic) adhere to a belief that chemicals have been tested extensively, and that there are no scientific connections to harms done on animals and humans at the level of dilution, say, an aerial application of said herbicides are used. Comment on this.
MK: The question is what “tested extensively” means. When does “extensively” become enough? Many of the chemicals used, in the concentrations they are used, don’t show their effects until many years after exposure, and some only in future generations.
Industry, of course, will not wait that long before launching chemicals into the market.
Once that happens, and time passes, it is hard to trace harmful effects to the chemical that caused them. In the race to justify its profitable products, the chemical industry is eager to find reasons to market them, not to refrain from doing so. Having the freedom granted to it by government, it conducts its own testing, and conveniently does so in search for the answers it needs to launch its products. The EPA accepts those results. What industry does to get chemical products approved for marketing has little to do with science, and much more with fooling the public to accept what they say. How much or for how long were flame retardants tested, or formaldehyde, before they were released for their various commercial applications?
We all know that growing food with poisons is madness, and that growing it on poisoned soil is madness too. We also know that forests have grown for millions of years without poisons, and that a mature or old-growth forest is healthier than a planted industrial one.
DF: The people of Oregon who sued the Forest Service to stop their spraying of Agent Orange in the 1970’s won their case and caused 1/2 of AO, 2,4,5, T to be de-registered. They also won a case proving that a contracted firm named IBT that EPA hired to do live animal studies of toxic chemicals used fraudulent practices and did not follow scientifically sound protocols to determine safety for the chemicals. Evidence of collusion between EPA and industry changing study results showed up in their own documents and communications which are part of the digitized “Poison Papers” online. That’s not scientific research, that is corruption.
PH: Yes, the rights of nature, yes, that’s where I come from, a deep green ecology. But for you both, how to frame that concept of a river having rights or land having rights to the average mis-educated and mis-directed citizen you might run into at a grocery store or public meeting?
MK: The argument we frequently use is that corporations are considered to be persons and have rights, and yet corporations are just a bunch of documents authorizing certain activities. Supposedly they speak through money.
Fundamental to the idea of Nature having rights is the fact that we are part of Nature and that all life is interconnected and depends on that interconnection. If we hurt one creature in the web of life, we hurt all the others that depend on it one way or another. We know that the absence or presence of wolves in an area can change the landscape of that area. If the wolves are no longer there, species that wolves predate on will multiply and eat vegetation that was abundant before. That vegetation will fail to provide nourishment, or shade, or shelter, to another species, which will not survive in that area, and so on. If starfish die, like they have in certain areas of the West Coast, sea urchins multiply exceedingly and eat all the sea grass, which is one of the main carbon sinks in the ocean. Westward winds over the Sahara Desert blow across the Atlantic Ocean and fertilize the Amazon Forest.
We all depend on Nature, and our need to protect it from human greed, crucial to its survival and that of all life, is best translated into recognition of Nature’s right to exist, flourish, and renew itself, a right which needs to be protected by laws, as perhaps the fastest way to get people to understand that transgressions against Nature have to stop. As we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just because we exist, a right that is not up for discussion (although it has and continues to be violated), the right of Nature to be itself is not up for discussion. We have treated Nature as property. That has gotten us into the predicament we are in now, being as we are in danger of losing it as a source of life. This is still a concept that is difficult for people to grasp, but more and more people are coming to terms with it.
DF: Legal rights and the ability for a harmed river or a blasted mountain to be represented in a court of law are only needed where human beings have no limit to their willingness to harm balanced ecosystems whether for extracting fossil fuels, metals, board feet of lumber, or clean drinking water. When humans lose the ability to value clean air or fertile soil in a non-monetary way, there is no end to extraction no matter the cost to wildlife, oceans, humans, and nature’s resilience. Legal rights may be the only way of keeping intact what is needed for life on this planet!
People who relate to the Earth as our Mother, a forest as our grandparents, a river as our sister are not likely to defile or poison those ones who are family. When we all live with that value, knowing when what we have is “enough” and caring for clean water more than we care about money, we won’t need legal rights for nature to exist, thrive, and persist.
PH: Construction and finance rule the world, and here in Oregon, and in the world, there is a reported lumber shortage, and now a doubling of the prices of lumber. All sorts of reasons tied to lockdowns, SARS-CoV2 and more. Anticipate the push back from the timber industry which will cite that jobs are at stake and their own scientific studies showing aerial spraying is safer and more efficient and more expeditious than crews going out on the land hand spraying.
MK: We have had that kind of pushback from the timber industry all along, going on four years now. What has changed is the number of lawsuits filed for illness caused by the use of certain herbicides (mainly glyphosate) against the chemical industry, which have resulted in billions in fines for Bayer/Monsanto. In addition, many scientific publications and presentations by environmentally aware economists, foresters, and others (see Ernie Niemi, John Talberth, Chuck Willer) have raised awareness of the harm done to the soil by aerial pesticide spraying (and other forms of spraying), such as the death of micro-organisms; acceleration of global warming and climate change provoked by clear-cutting, drying up of streams in industrial forests, which carry only 50% of the water carried by streams running through mature and old growth forests, dying of fish and other water life due to increased temperature of the water in industrial forests, decreased capacity of industrial forests to store carbon because trees are not allowed to grow to a size that permits more storage, being cut down at 30-35 years of age instead of 80-100, and chemicals reaching streams and rivers due to drift or percolation in the soil. The discussion is evolving from aerial pesticide spraying to use of any herbicides and pesticides as more and more information on their harm comes to light.
The timber industry will continue to use its old arguments unless and until the law changes, and, together with that, also building materials. Our argument centers around preemption laws, which forbid local communities from protecting their health, safety and well-being, together with that of Nature, on which all life, including ours, depends, from the ravages of the timber and chemical industry through local democracy (people’s initiatives) such as our Measure 21-177. It focuses on the fundamental duty of government to protect the people from harm, and its use of preemption laws to instead protect the right of industry to profit from activities that constantly threaten and undermine the people’s and Nature’s wellbeing. Such laws turn the people in whom constitutionally all power is inherent to the guinea pigs of industry, making them the constant subject of chemical experimentation which they quietly oversee, like silent gigantic parasites sucking on the people’s and Nature’s lives while government looks on.
DF: Toxic chemicals are not required for re-growth of trees in this temperate rain forest. it is a fallacy made up by industry who wanted a market for their chemicals just as they made up those stories for food production.
Industry has been cutting at unsustainable levels for decades and finding loopholes in the law to clear cut far more than is wise. It’s time to keep standing natural forests who work daily to absorb C02 and release oxygen, hold moisture and fertility in the soil, protect the effectiveness of watersheds’ abilities to provide clean drinking water, provide habitat and food for wildlife, cold water for fish survival. It’s time to transition to growing hemp and bamboo that are fast growing fiber crops that can be processed locally for new building materials like “hemp-crete” and provide jobs for our people.
PH: This is coming down to a legal issue, where the concepts of precautionary principles and do no harm and holding polluters and chemical companies accountable to carry out all necessary objective studies of all their chemicals before being allowed to get approval for use might be powerful to me, a deep green ecosocialist, but we live in a country where herd immunity toward understanding/respecting/caring about the whole of nature and immunity to arguments about long-term health and safety concerns are the ruling orders of the day. We are expected to believe mainstream scientists about things like vaccine safety or the approval of what, now, (scientists) have given the green light to a million tons of radioactive water being dumped from Fukushima, so why not agree with the scientists who are in the employ of DOW, Monsanto and OSU forestry program?
MK: Our fight is to change how the government works and, ultimately, to bring down capitalism and its perverted and suicidal values. Can we win? Do we have enough time left to win, as the abolitionists and suffragists did? Probably not. We can either submit to the status quo or die fighting. Everyone has that choice.
DF: Because it’s BULL SHIT!
PH: What lessons learned for both of you as you go into this hearing, going on four years since you all activated?
MK: Everything I have written here I have learned through working on the aerial spray ban, from working with a group of people who are committed to putting their efforts into improving the world we live in, to seeing the importance of working for others, of contributing to one’s community. From the harms being inflicted on our environment to how government really works, especially here, but also in varying degrees in many other countries; from working as a team, to admiring the dedication of others and the varying forms in which it is expressed, and also appreciating the different talents that people doing the work bring to it. One of the main lessons has been to arrive at an understanding of how capitalism works, how disastrous its emphasis on profit is for the planet.
DF: I’ve learned that you can learn how to do almost anything that is unfamiliar or unknown, that commitment and truth telling are powerful and attractive forces to draw people together, that person power of volunteers can take on powerful corporate interests and make local law to protect safety and well-being, and it’s not all about the MONEY! Industry’s own public opinion polls late in the campaign showed that a majority of voters in this county did NOT want aerial spraying of pesticides and that included families who were a part of timber industry services. Would have loved to watch the Timber guys when they learned that poll results!
Two plus years without aerial spraying of toxins was a huge relief to all of us who live downstream. Listening to a spraying helicopter within a mile of my home after that was traumatic and made me cry for the streams getting poisoned, any life forms remaining on the steep slopes, for the ignorance of those who believe the spin and lies told about toxic chemicals being “safe.”
PH: In your own words, respond to: “Our argument is that the local government exists to protect public health and safety and should be immune from pre-emption laws that prevent them from doing so,” said Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin. “State preemption is a weapon of corporate special interests, which can more easily control state legislatures rather than deal with counties and local governments that are closer to the people.”
MK: I believe that preemption can be used for different purposes, and can be necessary (such as preemption of racism, violence, slavery, etc.) It is being used to protect corporate interests at the expense of public health and safety. That is the use we object to. Local governments should be able to enact more stringent laws than the state to protect the people’s and Nature’s health, safety and wellbeing (ceiling preemption, which prohibits more stringent protections of safety and health than the state has imposed, is what we are fighting). In that sense local governments should be able to complement the state government, because they are closer to the people. Preemption interferes with that closeness.
DF: Amen. Who cares more for finding solutions to local problems than the people who live there? Who will value and care for the land on which we live, work, play any more than we will?
End Note — Calling an Eichmann a Little Eichmann
Ward Churchill was vilified, dragged through the racist media mud, and afforded no due process and no 1st Amendment rights. Every time I open up the laptop and put fingers to illuminated keyboard, I feel the wrath of the overlords and Mafia thugs at the back of my neck. An Eichmann or a Little Eichmann are men and women who keep the trains running, the chemical spigots open, the bad science running, and the ruling class stashing their profits into every imaginable unethical and illegal tax shelter and “it takes money to make more money” scheme imaginable.
I see Little and Big Eichmanns in the vast military industrial complex, and the chemical-mining-extraction complex. This “complex” we call MIC is vastly more than just military industrial complex because our wars, our saber rattling, our sanctions, our dirty dealing, or incursions into other cultures on many levels is the Complex that props up and promulgates the wars: wars against nature, wars against people, wars against cultures, wars against diversity, wars against thought. There are millions of Eichmanns in the drug, medical, prison, education, law, finance, banking, real estate, AI complex. Herbicides is one small part of the Eichmann Show. But again, the vastness of the crime — from scientists, salespersons, governments, agencies, universities, state bureaucracies, media, press — is illustrative of capitalism on steroids: profits at any cost; secrecy; off-loading the harms to the people; welfare for the rich/corporations; unfair economies of scale; monopolies; a cabal of lawyers/judges/politicians working for them and against the people. Eichmanns big and small.
It is obvious that the University (U of Colorado) would never have begun its investigation of Ward Churchill were it not for his “little Eichmanns” comment, which he made as a citizen, not as a scholar or as a representative of the University. It is also obvious that dismissing Churchill from his position as a professor at the University violated his First Amendment rights. Most U.S. citizens will agree that what keeps America vital are the freedoms enjoyed by its citizens, foremost of which is speech. Without free speech, the U.S. is just another totalitarian state. This is why citizens must jealously guard the rights of their fellow citizens to express opinions, even opinions with which they disagree or that anger them. If Churchill is not allowed to speak freely, none of us are.
It was Churchill’s essay of September 12, 2001, that drew attention to him — an essay that called victims of the attack on the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns.” For four years the essay, titled “Some People Push Back,” went unnoticed, but in 2005 it caught the attention of faculty and administrators at Hamilton College in New York, and from there it went viral, becoming the topic of nonstop media commentary that lasted for months. Source
I supported Ward when he came to Eastern Washington University in Cheney (Spokane), and I supported him before that, and afterward. How many times have I used the Little Eichmanns rejoinder, uh? Death to me a thousand times over! That was 16 years ago when the radical violent Zionists and Israel Firsters went after him. Now? It’s as if all those chickens have come back in droves to roost, and they are taking a huge salmonella shit on us all. If you think you are radical and voted for Harris-Biden, you are in that muck, shit. The liberal project, the neoliberal bent, the neocon drive, the emptiness of cancel culture, all of that, it’s come to haunt the liberals. For socialist communists like myself, those chickens are just another version of “Whitey On the Moon“.
“Some People Push Back” On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
By Ward Churchill
When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously – and quite charitably, all things considered – replied that it was merely a case of “chickens coming home to roost.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well.
There’s this Zoom thing coming round the corner, once again — Earth Day 2021. The people on the Pacific Coast, Oregon, Central Coast with no industries, winds whipping up air vortices, and air as clean as what it might be in the middle of the ocean, and yet, we have the old white folk planning for some more Zoom Doom fun.
And not only is this a Zoom Doom “same old usual suspects yakking fest,” but, in fact, some local yokel and state yokel politicians get to bullshit their way through five minutes of nonsense.
The rules of Zoom like the rules of Earth Day 2021 are make nice, no contrarians, and alas, no one arguing. No criticism. Keep it upbeat and positive. Yep, we got Biden back in office — [Biden Backs Revival of His Brainchild: Plan Colombia 2.0 Set to Begin Next Month — Colombia is set to return to a massive aerial campaign of spraying Monsanto’s glyphosate across the country, a plan Biden once fought hard with his Republican colleagues to enact.]
That’s it, really, in the fake world of Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Clubhouse, Slack, and Zoom. There are a thousand major software peddlers readying the schmucks for a digital world of work, world of schooling, world of public engagement (disengagement), world of commerce, world of culture, the world of arts, music, literature, world of medicine and health care.
Earth Day 2021 . . . 2022 . . . 2030!
On the one measly day of the year for celebrating ecosystems, waves, wind, soil, beach, harbor seals, eagles, gulls, cormorants, firs, pines and grasses, the decision to take this one indoors is emblematic of the colonized minds of the, shall I say, liberal class (sic). Neoliberal or demented Democratic minds.
No use asking me to make an alternative earth day for Lincoln County, some gathering on the beach or along a river (we have limitless beaches and thousands of creeks and rivers). In a rural community, in a community based on retirement, and then making dollars from travelers clogging Highway 101, clogging hotels, restaurants, rest stops, you can’t expect any solidarity. The fact that this school system and those white collar jobs are now Zoom Rooms/Jobs, brought to us in the privacy of their closets or garages or fancy offices, that baseline has shifted big time since the lock down of a year ago.
Talk about disruptive and destructive and killer technological shifts. No plan? Right!
Earth Day is Indigenous People’s Year
Yet, on a day of earth benediction, the day of bringing some socialist political zest to the table, a day when Native Americans and First Nations should be front and center, when consumerism-commercialism should be immolated in a symbolic burning of the sales receipts around a big fire, instead we have the Visual Display Terminal (as in terminal disease terminal) as our entry point and end point. One face to the crowd on the 14 inch screen, then our three minutes of Andy Warhol fame, and then, please move on. I am not on it this year, for sure, and last year I dragged myself to the thing.
Again, no expletives, no anti-Americanism, no antiwar, anti-patriotism or anti-politician rhetoric or song or poem. Keep it quaint, upbeat, positive.
It is, of course, deja vu, and that’s how the lords of capital want it — triangulation, and fear and, well, push those outliers out. I have found in the past year, more of the jobs, gigs, people I interface/associate with, and other movements I have been a part of have turned into an “us (them) against them (me)” sick Nazi-like defamation of truth. Any critique of the one-party duopoly, any criticism of Harris or Biden, any criticism of the reality of this hegemon, USA, sick before Trump, sick during Trump, sick after Trump, and you not only get ostracized, but penalized. Stitched on Scarlet Letter A for ‘anarchist,’ red being the underpinning of what it means to be a ‘communist-socialist.’
Take the money and run — that’s the motto, and so, before introducing a short animated video about climate heating and those two degrees Celsius, we have a bit of Haeder banter.
Don’t let them fool you that 100 or so rocket launches a year (thus far on average, about to go to 200 and then 500) don’t emit much pollution and carbon dioxide in the scheme of things. How much embedded energy to mine that crap, all those wires, metals, plastics, strategic shit, and the electricity, and the transportation? All those human lifetimes expended for Whitey on the Moon, as opposed to stopping the eviscerations of the planet. Right, that isn’t doled out as carbon dioxide emissions. Off-shored, out-sourced, embedded pollution. Forget about the destabilization of those countries where this shit is illegally mined and stolen. Again, science is broken when the capitalists hire scientists to help them steal, pollute, harvest, ruin, destroy, butcher.
With that, how can we not rethink a 51-year-old poem, wisdom in a jazz bottle, Gil Scott Heron and Whitey on the Moon. The point of the song-poem runs deeper now than what Gil was alluding to then, because, if you think about cooptation, think about how many other cultures and nationalities are racing for the moon, for the red planet, the song’s updated title might be “Capitalists on the Moon.”
There’s no getting around the fact China and USA are capitalist, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (devolution) is about mastering control of the entire populations of those countries (and that is now Canada, India, EU, Japan, Australia, et al), outside the super-class of folk in the capital dictatorships.
What China or USA or UK or Japan or Musk or DoD or any of them want on the moon or mars, well, it’s not for the good of mankind, womankind, children-kind.
The inverse is the actual affect — more 5 and 6 G, more wasted and polluting energy. More rockets and blasting satellites and millions of human lifetimes spent on this project, and the outcome/outflow are less solutions for the commons here on terra firma. There will be no reversing ocean acidification or ocean inundation or blasting heat waves, or deluges or dwindling snow-pack, or melting ice with these money-drenched projects of megalomania in space.
The fact is, food can be grown agro-dynamically. People can live off a much much smaller energy footprint. Industries can be owned by the people for real durable goods that last, hmm, half a lifetime or more? Public trains and trolleys and light-rail, that’s not what the Musk-DoD-China projects are about. Fisheries can’t be restored, Fukushima isotopes can’t be corralled in, human global health and universal “correct” education can never be the end product of these space flights. They are a complete and utter contradiction.
We know it, and they know it, and we the people have been bamboozled into disbelieving what we see-hear-touch right in front of us. They (masters of finance) are in it for more money, power, wealth, control.
You can have atom splitters, neutrino collectors, sunspot probes, but, again, don’t try to pull the bullshit capitalist-militarist wool over my eyes: none of that stops the toll of poverty-hunger-war physically weathering billions of people’s lives to the point of lifespans cut down by 10 years or more compared to the stem-cell sucking, human growth hormone eating great white hopes in the Lizard Clan.
Water on mars? Asteroids with ancient ice? Club Meds in orbit? You know, none of that is for humanity.
[Drifting plumes created by the Space Shuttle Atlantis]
Alumina and black carbon from rockets can stick around in the stratosphere for three to five years. As these materials collect high above the Earth, they can have interesting effects on the air. Black carbon forms a thin layer that intercepts and absorbs the sunlight that hits Earth. “It would act as a thin, black umbrella,” says Martin Ross, a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation who studies the effects of rockets on the atmosphere. That may help keep the lower atmosphere cool, but the intercepted energy from the Sun doesn’t just go away; it gets deposited into the stratosphere, warming it up. This warming ultimately causes chemical reactions that could lead to the depletion of the ozone layer.
The reflective alumina particles can also affect the ozone but in a different way. Whereas the soot acts like a black umbrella, the alumina acts like a white one, reflecting sunlight back into space. However, chemical reactions occur on the surface of these white particles, which, in turn, destroy the ozone layer, Ross says.
Diet for Parasites of Capitalism — 8 by 10 condo on Devils Island
It’s sort of like the anti-diabetes diet — cut down on white food (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes), walk more, drink water, take a few natural herbs, suck on cinnamon, get flavonoids, pig out on leafy vegetables, stop the EMF’s in your sleeping space, stop the anxiety of TV-Movies-Facebook. Or, what about the real process of land reclamation? It takes removing the trash, the toxins, and then rebuilding the soil, replanting with native plants, readjusting the land to its natural eco-state.
Simple solutions. And, it’s never going to be rocket science that helps the planet, people or others in the animal and plant kingdoms.
Don’t be fooled by Netflix, the Dystopia Stories, the Bizarre Bumbling Cop-Spy-Soldier-Super Hero soap operas. None of that is reality, and, the shortcuts that capitalism has exacted on Mother Earth, well, after more than 300 years of the trillions of lies, here we are, Whitey on the Moon, 51 years after Gil Scott Heron sang it” !!
We have a poem here
It’s called “Whitey on the Moon”
And, uh, it was inspired, it was inspired
By some whiteys on the moon
So I wanna give credit where credit is due
A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon
I can’t pay no doctor bills
But whitey’s on the moon
Ten years from now, I’ll be paying still
While whitey’s on the moon
You know, the man just upped my rent last night
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But whitey’s on the moon
I wonder why he’s uppin’ me
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon?
Well I was already given him fifty a week
And now whitey’s on the moon
Taxes takin’ my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin’ up
And as if all that crap wasn’t enough
A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon
With all that money I made last year
For whitey on the moon
How come I ain’t got no money here
Hmm, whitey’s on the moon
You know I just about had my fill
Of whitey on the moon
I think I’ll send these doctor bills
Airmail special (to whitey on the moon)
To whitey on the moon
Old whitey now ready to build millions of carbon dioxide sucking machines. Old whitey ready for terra-forming on Mars. Old whitey looking to mess with the water cycle, the cloud systems, the first 15 meters of biological life on the oceans with iron shavings. Old whitey and his and her geoengineering.
Whitey is way beyond just blasting to the moon. Old whitey is messing with DNA, genetically engineering not just crops. Welcome the GMO human, a la vaccines.
It’s not such a far cry from Zoom Earth Day to Genetically Modified Humanity.
The Future of Food (2004) is an older documentary, but shit-dog, says it all, says it all:
Again, this is not some super complicated Jungian and Freudian hierarchy of needs intellectual jujitsu. Food, water, shelter, home, hearth, community, safety. Yes, art and communal education. Intergenerational and multi-diverse communities. Again, it is about eating and living, music and art, forests and savannas, mountains and valleys, rivers and wetlands, reefs and mangroves, and, well, you get the picture.
It’s not about 5 or 6 G, or about Whitey on the Moon. Many of us know that, inherently. And, many of us who are devoted followers of democracy on top and socialism as the under girder, we also are in “their house,” that is, as the African slave on Turtle Island stated, “It’s the slave master’s house I’m working in, and not one second of a day do I believe I am in my house, that any aspect of this house negro status puts me in any better position than the field slave who slaves under a hot sun, battles cottonmouths, the toil of an ox.”
The Future of Food is really the future is food!!
The reality is back to those global average rise in temperature, that so-called two degrees Celsius.
Global heating affects ecosystems that provide food.
Oceans provide people with about 20 percent of their dietary protein. Ocean acidification caused by climate change makes it difficult for thousands of species, including oysters, crabs and corals, to form protective shells, which in turn disrupts the food web.
On land, an increase of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) would double our water deficit leading a drop in wheat and maize harvests.
What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.
He reached out to me just recently:
Public awareness of the climate crisis is growing but support for mitigation efforts is still insufficient to reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial. This is partially due to the fact that some aspects of the science, which are truly alarming for those who are able to understand them, are confusing and mysterious to many others. Humans all over the planet conduct their daily lives in temperatures that range from -50°F to over 100°F. So they are understandably confused when scientists describe the dire consequences of a further increase in Earth’s annual average temperature of only 1.8°F (1°C). The Metro Climate Action Team made this short video to help build understanding of why so little means so much!
I sent Pat a quick email with some softball questions. What follows it the Q & A to: ‘Just a short response for each one. Thanks, Paul!’
Paul Haeder: What was your role in producing this animated film?
Pat DeLaquil: I came up with the concept and bounced the idea around with several MCAT members using clip art. Then we developed a script with where several of us contributed to editing and refining the message. Once we were happy with the storyboard and script, I placed the task on a platform called Upwork, and found an artist that did motion graphics, which are much cheaper than real animation. The entire process took well over 6 months.
PH: Who is the intended audience for this and how does that audience access this?
PDL: We believe we have several target audiences among people who accept that climate change is happening, but don’t realize how bad the crisis can quickly get and why strong action is needed now. We believe this group broadly includes people with children and grandparents, as well as civic groups and the faith community.
PH: Explain your background in research climate change — two sentences.
PDL: I have been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies for over 40 years, and for the last 20 years I have run a small business that develops and uses models to perform policy analyses on behalf of donors, governments and the private sector to identify optimal pathways for achieving economic development and environmental goals. I have lead the formation of two clean energy start-up companies and earlier lead the development of two key solar energy development projects: PV for Utility Scale Applications (PV-USA) and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower Project.
I have a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine Academy, and have authored of over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology.
PH: Three reasons you believe people in the USA still have difficulty understanding global warming, ocean warming, ice and glacial melting.
PDL: It’s very much like the responses we’ve seen to the pandemic. Disinformation and deliberate politicization of the issue are strategies used by the right (dominated by fossil fuel interests and their fellow corporate oligarchs). The second reason is that most people are busy with life – just making end meet between jobs, kids and – even before the pandemic, so it’s easy to ignore or deny the severity of the issue or just hope someone does something. Third, some people in industries that rely of fossil fuels feel threatened that all this is just a plot to take away their lifestyles.
PH: What do you hope this short animated flick will do to move policy makers, capitalists, businesses and national governments to work on the very difficult issue of ocean level rise, inundation, extreme weather events, crop failures, unlivable conditions in many many tropical or subtropical urban spaces.
PDL: We really hope that this video will motivate people, who are not yet active, to become more engaged in pushing their elected officials to act quickly to combat climate change.
And so another earth day, couched on Zoom (how much energy does a Google search use, how much energy for Facebook servers, how much energy for Bezos and his Global Cloud Server monopoly?).
Pat’s sincere about this short animated PSA, and he wants to do the right thing. Of course, earth day should be indigenous people’s day, farmer-land steward day, animal and ocean day. But we will continue to get “Whitey on Mars” day coming out of the voice boxes of the masters for this co-opted Bono-DiCaprio Earth Day– financial masters. That Fourth Industrial revolution, that globalized capital blitzkrieg, the eugenics of Gates and the GMO Generals, and that digital dashboard, the compliancy demanded of the majority of people on earth, all for Whitey on the Moon . . . or Mars.
The planet may feel like a smaller place, thanks to the ease of travel and the internet, but the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty” and earn less than a single dollar per day.
Poverty affects the health and livelihood of a large number of people worldwide. Thankfully, there are a number of human rights organizations working to end global poverty, some of which the most recognizable include The World Bank, Oxfam International, CARE, and OPAD. Though these four organizations are just a small representation of the many charities and foundations all working towards tackling the global poverty problem, how will ending poverty actually happen? There is no simple answer to the question, although there are some main factors that are a major focus.
Global Water Crisis
Global poverty isn’t only about money. In fact, for many poverty-stricken areas, there’s an overall shortage of resources. Water is one of the most critical. Specifically, “844 million people — approximately 10% of the global population — lack access to basic drinking water.” Water is critical to more than drinking, too — it’s needed for sanitation and to grow food. Companies should invest in developing new water conservation technologies that make it easier and more accessible to reduce the amount of water people and businesses use.
On a smaller scale, being more conscious about environmental issues and our personal water usage around the home could preserve freshwater levels and shift the global collective mindset about how precious water is. Some ways to preserve water include:
Replacing water-heavy landscaping such as lawns with drought-tolerant or low-water versions.
Installing low-flow valves in household sinks and toilets.
Irrigate plants and gardens early in the morning.
Recycle grey (used) water by using it to irrigate plants, for example.
Global Food Supply
A bleak statistic highlights how global hunger could be avoided with more efficient food supply and distribution systems. In an article about how to transform global food production, Marlen, a food equipment manufacturer, reports that “30% to 40% of food produced is thrown away as waste.”
While strides were being made in the global food supply chain, the coronavirus dealt the world with a setback. The World Bank highlights how the current food supply is at risk at a national level, as production and distribution in countries across the globe are disrupted due to the shelter in place orders intended to keep citizens safe.
According to the World Bank’s analysis on COVID-19-related food insecurity, the current issue has long-reaching consequences:
Food producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as buyers have become limited and consumption patterns shift. Though food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, disruptions to the supply of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, or labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop.
The population most in danger are the 820 million global poor who were already struggling with food shortages before the coronavirus appeared and negatively impacted incomes and food availability.
You can help fight food insecurity that threatens the lives of the most vulnerable by donating to organizations working to provide access to food and agricultural processes. Some organizations working tirelessly to fight against global hunger include:
Many US organizations on a mission to end hunger focus on foreign countries. However, poverty and hunger are also present in the United States. Feeding America reports that “more than 37 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.” Volunteering and donating to local charitable foundations is the best way to help against hunger in your community.
The poorest locations in the world also struggle with the unavailability of energy sources. The World Bank found that roughly 1.1 billion people don’t have access to electricity. In addition, another three billion people cook with highly-polluting fuels, such as dung, wood, kerosene, or charcoal.
In other poverty areas, energy infrastructure is present, but some people may not be able to afford the cost of the utilities. Developed countries such as the U.S. have programs that help low-income individuals pay their utility bills. In addition, public awareness programs promote the importance of energy conservation in the home, such as using insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances.
Supporting clean energy initiatives, such as wind or solar power, not only benefit your bottom dollar in the form of reduced utility bills but helps companies develop more affordable clean-energy technology. As green energy technology becomes more efficient and affordable, it could be used in other areas around the world lacking basic energy infrastructure.
Eliminating Global Poverty
Ending poverty is a big challenge. It requires cooperation from nations, corporations, communities, and individuals. You can take small steps to help in the fight to end poverty by donating to charitable organizations that resonate with you. Turning to a more sustainable lifestyle can also help by easing the load on the world’s natural resources, so others more in need can access them as well.
Is nuclear energy safe? What can we do about the waste? What about Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima – don’t they prove that we can’t rely on nuclear reactors? Won’t a tiny amount of radiation kill you? Why are reactors so expensive to build with so many delays? Why don’t we just use renewables? Why don’t we just abandon dirty, wasteful industry and go back to the land?
These are some of the skeptical questions on the minds of progressives and even socialists. In this article I will try to answer them and make the case for a global program to replace fossil fuels with nuclear fuels in the interest of climate change mitigation and human well-being.
A promising start
Until the 1970s nuclear energy was generally recognized as the energy source of the future. Many industrial countries had started installing cheap, clean nuclear power plants to produce electricity. Although only 2% of electricity in the US was produced by nuclear power plants in 1970, they were already seen as an important alternative to the fossil fuel plants that dominated the market. In 1974, the far-sighted French government launched a program to diminish France’s reliance on imported petroleum by constructing nuclear power plants that today account for 75% of France’s electricity production. In the United States, President Eisenhower had in 1956 threatened King Saud of Saudi Arabia with disruption of oil markets by sharing nuclear technology with European countries.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: BIG OIL CREATES FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
The oil industry quickly acted to protect its market share. In 1969 Robert O. Anderson, CEO and founder of Atlantic Richfield Oil, made a gift of $200,000 (half a million today) to David Brower to create Friends of the Earth, which became the leading voice internationally in creating opposition to nuclear energy and spreading inaccurate information about it. Soon the Council on Foreign Relations and the mass media, both of which have ties to the petroleum industry, jumped on the band wagon. Rapidly, a propaganda campaign that exists to this day was put together to denigrate nuclear energy to Big Oil’s benefit. Even Hollywood helped out at a critical moment with the film “China Syndrome”.
The lesson from this bit of history is that we have been had by the same capitalists whose propaganda machine leads us into war, tells us every day that there is no alternative to their insanely anarchic economy, and lies systematically about all the socialist countries. Everything that you think you know about the dangers of nuclear energy is wrong. It is simply the outcome of an advertising campaign that trashes the competition.
WHAT DO NUCLEAR REACTORS DO BETTER THAN FOSSIL-FUELED POWER PLANTS?
Nuclear reactors provide clean electricity at a reasonable price. They do not pump pollutants into the air that kill millions of people every year. They do not produce greenhouse gases that aggravate climate change.
By replacing fossil-fueled electrical plants with nuclear, we can eliminate 27% of current US greenhouse gases. As I will explain later, we can’t do that with solar and wind, which require fossil-fueled or nuclear backup plants to cover their down times.
By converting to all electric vehicles, we can eliminate an additional 28% of US greenhouse gases.
By converting to all electric residential and commercial heat we can eliminate most of the 12% of US greenhouse gases from that source.
A conversion project of the magnitude described above is beyond the capabilities of the global capitalist economy in its current state of decay. A cut in petroleum product consumption in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the price of oil negative for a while, and it is currently selling below $40/barrel less than production costs for many producers. The first large victim of this relatively minor disturbance has been ExxonMobil, which Dow Jones no longer lists. Imagine the effect on the oil industry, in particular, and capitalist economies in general were a decision to replace petroleum with uranium to become policy. Every oil company would have to write down the value of its assets, oil in the ground and equipment, and rapidly declare bankruptcy. It would be necessary to artificially maintain oil production during the interim period until it is no longer needed.
Not only is private capitalist finance manifestly incapable of supporting projects on this scale, but nor do capitalist priorities – putting return on investment before all else – sufficiently value human well-being to put it before the scramble for profit. Although the US government was once able to launch a program to land a man on the moon, it is politically impossible to launch a similar program to massively convert to nuclear energy as the levers of power are completely compromised by the petroleum industry and the economy would face near certain ruin.
Nuclear power under socialism
However, a socialist economy has massively different priorities and is impervious to the capitalist drive for profits. The first and essential priority of a socialist economy is the betterment of living conditions for all humans. In practice, this means:
the elimination of poverty;
provide adequate food;
In a planned economy, the active population deliberates on what it needs to accomplish with the material and intellectual resources at hand. We have plenty of examples of this from socialist history.
From its beginning, the Soviet Union created a national healthcare system where none had previously existed. At the same time, its leadership recognized early on that it would be attacked and obliterated by the capitalist powers unless it could create a modern industrial economy and build the weaponry of modern warfare in time. As we know it made the necessary decisions and destroyed the invading German army in WWII.
Early after the revolution, poverty-stricken Cuba decided that literacy was a priority and with the help of its school children virtually eliminated illiteracy in the adult population. Cuba also made it a priority to create a first-class healthcare complex, not only for Cubans, but for any people in the world who need its help. We know what Cuba’s success in this area has done for the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In about 1980 the Chinese Communist Party decided to eliminate absolute poverty. Since then 800 million Chinese have been lifted from the lowest internationally recognized category of poverty, and the last few Chinese citizens will be raised from absolute poverty in 2020. Current projects that the Chinese people are working tt to include achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and evolving toward a totally socialist economy in 2049, the centenary of the Chinese Revolution. Nuclear energy looms large in the plan to achieve carbon neutrality. The current plan is to increase nuclear electricity production to six times the current level by 2050 – from about 70GW to 400GW.
Never, to my knowledge, has a capitalist economy been able to plan for national goals, nor achieve them, except in war. The best capitalists can do is to plan for individual enterprises, or perhaps even a few related enterprises. Even in a country like Germany, which was well on the way to conversion to full nuclear-generated electricity, opposition capitalists were able to sabotage the plan. Now, German nuclear installations are being shut down and replaced with coal-fired plants.
LET’S REFUTE SOME FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY
What is ?
Radioactivity is the emission, spontaneous or induced, of particles from decaying atomic nuclei. The particles can be electrons, protons, neutrons, ionized light atoms such as helium, photons, neutrinos, or antineutrinos. All these decay products together are called radiation. Some of them are ionizing radiation, since they carry enough energy to knock electrons off atoms as they pass near them. The neutrinos, however, can traverse the entire earth and touch nothing.
Radioactivity is not harmful in small doses
There is a lot of mystery, misunderstanding, and outright obfuscation about radiation. Let us be clear. Radiation, like many other things we encounter in nature — snakes, cyanide, some mushrooms and plants, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) – can kill. This is a good thing. Radiation therapy kills cancers and saves the patient. It can also kill microbes and sterilize surfaces and foods. In large doses it can kill human beings. In small doses it is harmless.
In fact, you are being continuously bombarded with cosmic radiation and you are totally unaware of it. Radiation doses are measured in Sieverts (Sv). At sea level, you absorb about 0.1 micro Sv every hour of every day. At higher altitudes and during air travel, doses can be significantly higher — 2, 4, or even 9 micro Sv/hour. Cosmic rays account for about one tenth of the radiation that you absorb from nature. The rest enter your body from things you breathe in or eat, or things just around where you are. For example, by entering Grand Central Station in New York City, which is made of granite, you increase your radiation dose from the naturally decaying materials in the granite.
In our evolutionary history we have built up a certain degree of immunity
So, why haven’t you already died from radiation poisoning? Every living thing since the beginning of life on Earth has been subjected to all this natural background radiation. Every living species has ancestors who evolved mechanisms to repair radiation damage. Those species that didn’t don’t exist. Our species did. Congratulations to us. As a gift from our evolutionary forebears, we have natural immunity to a certain level of radiation.
How does a nuclear reactor work?
Nuclear reactors cause atomic nuclei to split in a controlled environment. When the nuclei split, they release energy in the form of moving atomic particles (atomic nuclei, protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.). Some of the neutrons go on to induce other nuclei to split. This is called a chain reaction. The other particles dissipate their energy, generating heat as they ionize atoms in the reactor. This heat is used to produce steam to turn electrical turbines. In the future, reactors still in the design stage may be able to perform other tasks such as generating hydrogen, producing reactor fuel, and neutralizing nuclear reactor waste products.
Why nuclear waste is not an uncontrollable danger
The simple truth is that nuclear reactors do not produce very much waste. After some months of operation, the fuel in a reactor is consumed. In order to sustain the reaction, uranium, for example, must be treated so that its fissile isotope, U-235, is concentrated (usually to 3-5%) to provide a sufficient number of targets to sustain the chain reaction.
An isotope is a nucleus with a specific number of neutrons. For example, U-235 has 92 protons, like all the different isotopes of uranium, but has 235-92 or 143 neutrons. Saying that the fuel is consumed means that the concentration of U-235 has fallen below the level necessary to maintain a chain reaction. There are still significant quantities of U-235 in the spent fuel, just not enough to do the job.
Fortunately, the spent rods can be recycled as raw material to produce new fuel rods. Another one of the byproducts of nuclear fission is the element plutonium, which can also be used as fuel in a reactor. At present the United States does not recycle spent nuclear fuel. However, France, the UK, Russia, Japan, and India do. In fact, France recycles waste for several European countries in its facility at La Hague on the Normandy coast. There is a very informative film about the La Hague facility here.
Other byproducts are just waste at our current level of technology. At some future time, they may turn out to be useful. If not, there may one day be reactors that can break them down into harmless material. In the meantime, these byproducts are embedded in glass pellets and stored.
What about nuclear accidents?
Well, there was the accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, PA. A minor malfunction led, through a series of operator errors, to the partial meltdown of the nuclear core. At one time during the recovery process a small amount of radioactivity, well within the range of background radiation in the region, was released. During 17 years of monitoring, the Pennsylvania Department of Health found no deleterious effects on the health of the 30,000 people who lived near the reactor at the time of the accident. A lot of money was spent cleaning up the damaged reactor, while the other one on the site is in operation, certified until 2034. There is a detailed description of the accident and the aftermath here.
Fukushima: On March 11, 2011, a tsunami damaged three of five nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan. The three damaged reactors are a write-off. High levels of radioactivity were released to the environs at the time of the accident, but only insignificant amounts have been released subsequently. The local population was immediately evacuated and has suffered no deleterious effects from the radioactivity. Currently, some residents are being allowed to return. No deaths or injuries occurred due to the accident. A detailed report can be found here.
A great deal of radioactive water, used to cool the damaged reactor cores, has accumulated since the accident. It is stored on site after radioactive contaminants have been removed. One contaminant, tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, remains in the water. the Japanese government plans to dump the water into the ocean at the site. This decision has led to a great deal of adverse press, largely due to ignorance about what the contaminated water contains and the significance of the contaminant.
As tritium spontaneously decays into helium-3, a stable isotope, it emits a low energy electron. This particle can barely penetrate matter, so its ability to ionize, for example, human tissues is nearly negligible. However, in concentrated doses, it can be dangerous. No concentrated doses of tritium are stored at Fukushima. When the water is eventually dumped into the ocean, the tritium will be diluted to the point that the radioactivity will be hardly detectable at exit from the plant’s harbor. Here is an article about the current situation.
Chernobyl: In 1986 a reactor with a flawed design suffered a steam explosion. The accident was exacerbated by the presence of poorly trained staff. Twenty-eight people working at the plant died of acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Nobody off site suffered from ARS; however, some thyroid cancer deaths in people who were children at the time may have occurred.
In the area around Chernobyl 350,000 people were evacuated. Resettlement is ongoing, and it is possible to make tourist visits to the reactor site. A detailed report of the accident and the aftermath can be found here. As a condition for entering the European Union a number of countries have closed their Chernobyl-style reactors.
Nuclear construction projects so often incur cost overruns and delays in the US and Europe, but not everywhere
It is true that nuclear reactor construction in the United States has been plagued for years with cost overruns and long delays. Until recently, I thought that this problem was primarily political. Anti-nuclear activists, I thought, had thrown enough impediments, legal and regulatory, in the way that utilities were hamstrung in their efforts to build new nuclear capacity.
I recently discovered, to my surprise, in an article from Forbes Magazine that my assumption is wrong. It turns out that delays and costs are a problem in the US and Europe, but not in Asia and the Middle East. The article indicates that, according to a MIT study, the problem stems from poor project management:
Construction is begun before site design is complete;
Insufficiently committed management teams cannot adapt to changing conditions; and,
Supplies are unreliable and trained workers are lacking.
This last problem is a direct result of western lack of commitment to installing nuclear power plants in recent decades.
Why regressing to pre-industrial times will not work
What are we trying to achieve as we abandon fossil fuels? Clearly, we want to halt the climate change associated with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. That said, what kind of society do we want once we no longer depend on fossil fuels?
In advocating in favor of nuclear energy over several decades, I have been struck by a remarkably naïve line of argument. Radical environmentalists sometimes claim that humans are a blight or a cancer on the planet. Our industrial society, they say, is nothing but an assault on Nature, and we must return to a more natural, simple agrarian economy.
This cannot occur, and here is why. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, world population is estimated to have been between 800 million and 1.1 billion. Current world population is about 7.8 billion.
That increase in population is due, among other major achievements, to our success in defeating disease and hunger, increasing crop yields, providing safe drinking water, making possible moderately livable urban environments, creating a global division of labor, and neutralizing religious rejection of science and education. By continuing in this direction, world population will soon peak, and before the end of the century it will decrease to about 8.8 billion.
Were we to return to a pre-industrial life, the world population would have to decrease to a billion or fewer people. We cannot do that in a humane way. Furthermore, why would we want to?
Pre-industrial societies suffered from high infant mortality, for example. We would not be able to provide the energy-intense health environment to maintain current low infant mortality rates. We would not be able to maintain highly energy-intensive production of medications for otherwise mortal diseases for people of all ages. Life expectancy would severely decline. We would not be able to produce fertilizers and pesticides that protect crops and increase their quantity and quality. Famine would become commonplace, as it always has been in pre-industrial societies. We would have to abandon the use of electricity production, which depends on energy-intensive materials such as steel for both generation and transmission equipment. In any real and politically acceptable sense, there is no way to go back to a not so idyllic pre-industrial past. That leaves us the imperative to work out the political and technical means to achieve a sustainable industrial future.
Why wind and solar energy are not enough
In fact, there is not a single solar, wind, biomass or other “renewable” energy source capable of matching the power density that nuclear reactors provide. That means that any of these “green” options gobble up vast amounts of the earth’s surface simply for energy production, leaving less space available for, say, agriculture or natural habitats. What are the numbers? The best we can hope for is desert solar photovoltaic farms, which can produce electricity at the rate of up to 20W/m². By contrast, both nuclear and fossil fueled plants achieve outputs in excess of 1000W/m² — at least 50 times more power density than the best-case green solution. In practice, this means that some countries like Germany and the UK would need to cover half their area in wind turbines to supply energy at current consumption rates. Other industrial countries, Japan and South Korea, are too small to supply their own electricity needs. Both nuclear and fossil fuels can easily meet the density constraint, and nuclear energy meets it without greenhouse gas emissions.
There is no need to invoke the effects on the environment of massive electricity generation from low intensity solar and wind farms. Nor need we critique the short mean time between failures of these technologies, their short life span or the significant pollution problems caused by disposal of failed equipment.
In this article, I focus on the energy needs for a sustainable industrial future. Two criteria suffice to determine how to go forward:
We will need to be able to guarantee stable base-line electricity production for both home and industrial/commercial needs; and,
We will need to provide high temperature process heat for industry.
Today baseline electricity comes from a mix of fossil fueled generators (coal, oil, natural gas), hydroelectric facilities, and nuclear fueled reactors. To achieve sustainability, we will need to remove fossil fuels from this mix. Electricity generated by direct solar and wind energy cannot fill that gap. Quite simply, they are, and always will be, unreliable. When the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing, electricity production stops.
Process heat is today provided both by fossil fuels and electricity. For example, iron and steel production require high temperatures to purify and manipulate the final product. Both glass and ceramics require high temperature ovens. Production often continues around the clock and furnaces can be damaged or destroyed if the internal temperature drops. Because neither solar nor wind powered generators can meet this constraint, they are unsuitable.
In some cases, furnaces heated with fossil fuels can be replaced with electrical furnaces. Nuclear reactors are currently used as well. For information about this technology see this article. In short, nuclear energy can replace fossil fuels both generating reliable base-line electricity and producing industrial process heat.
The upshot of our history of nuclear accidents is that they are uncommon, but can cost the utility owner a lot of money, and they rarely cause radiation injuries. The more we use nuclear reactors, learn from mistakes, and improve them, the fewer accidents will occur and the less significant they will be. That is the general history of the development of any technology. Consider, for example, what has occurred with automobiles and airplanes.
Remember Ford’s Model T? Probably not. You would likely have been terrified to ride in one. There were no seat belts or air bags. The windows were not shatter proof. There were hardly any paved roads. The steering wheel and front axle were held on with cotter pins! To complete the picture of how vehicle safety has improved as the technology evolved, look at the chart “Deaths and MV rates” here. The point is that for any technology, the same thing happens. As it is introduced, innovations make it work better with less danger to people who depend on it.
One word about airplane evolution: Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic with no navigation system other than the seat of his pants.
People often fear novelty and are easily manipulated to reject it. When I see the fear-mongering that the anti-nuclear movement carries out, I am reminded of an editorial in the New York Times. At the time of the debate about electrification in New York City, the Times ran a fear-mongering editorial claiming that power lines would collapse in the first storm, leaving electrocuted horses in the streets. No comment.
REFUTING FRIENDS OF THE EARTH PROPAGANDA ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY
After 60 years, despite massive subsidies, the nuclear industry is dying of its own accord.
— Not true. It is flourishing in Asia and provides much of the electricity in Western Europe.
Because it’s too expensive, too dangerous and dirty, and takes too long to deploy.
— Not true. If you have read this article diligently, you can refute Friends of the Earth and their friends.
Reactors are closing across the country, and major corporations have declared bankruptcy.
— Misleading. Despite efforts of the petroleum industry and its allies like Friends of the Earth who have done everything they could to sabotage the nuclear power industry, nuclear reactors have supplied about 20% of US electricity since the late 80s. In order to do so, more reactors have had to come online to maintain that level as electricity demand has increased. Without The petroleum industry’s sabotage, nuclear reactors would probably provide an even greater proportion electricity today.
Nuclear power simply cannot compete against safer, cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.
— Not true. Nuclear power doesn’t need a backup energy source for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. In fact, nuclear energy provides the backup, when it isn’t a fossil fuel burning plant.
Nuclear power is also expensive.
— Not true. Whole countries depend on nuclear energy to supply their electricity. Some even sell their excess electricity to their neighbors at competitive prices.
Nuclear’s subsidies have been buried in hundreds of spending bills, it’s [sic] costs externalized to the environment and future generations, and its bills literally unpaid, defaulted on or passed to taxpayers. Conservative estimates suggest that the nuclear industry has received more than $85 billion in subsidies. A centrist estimate might double that.
— So what? Go find out how much the petroleum industry receives in subsidies. Spoiler alert: Lots. This is a feature of a capitalist economy that applies to every industry, even pork.
For 60 years, nuclear power has posed a serious risk to people and our planet.
— Not true. Friends of the Earth is confusing nuclear with the fossil fuel industries, whose pollution kills millions of people every year. Review the discussion of nuclear accidents.
It will be the same for the next 10,000 years. Our children and generations of their children will be forced to endure the radioactive pollution and fallout from devastating accidents like 3 Mile Island, Fukashima [sic] and Chernobyl, and the permanent waste that no one can safely store.
— Not true. Review the section on nuclear waste storage and recycling of nuclear fuel. Then take a guided tour to Chernobyl.
The risks of nuclear proliferation and the spread of dangerous weapons and technology only adds to this.
— Partially true. Nuclear proliferation is a byproduct of capitalist warfare. Nuclear fuel cannot be used for nuclear weapons since the concentration of radioactive material is far too low. If capitalist nations want to build atomic bombs, they won’t use reactor fuel; they will directly enrich the materials they need.
This whole screed from the Friends of the Earth website reminds me of advertising. One soap manufacturer insinuates that his competitor’s product leaves a ring around your collar. If you are naïve enough to fall for it, you buy his product. At the beginning of this article, we reviewed the role of Robert O. Anderson, CEO of Atlantic Richfield Oil, in providing the money to create Friends of the Earth. He gave about half a million current dollars for this advertising campaign in 1969. Boy, has he gotten his money’s worth!
While the climate justice movement has been winning important victories, stopping and slowing pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and putting the future of fossil fuels in doubt, the political system, long connected to the fossil fuel industry, is still fighting the urgently needed transition to clean sustainable energy. Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden put forward energy plans that do not challenge fossil fuels. The only candidate with a serious climate plan is Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.
The movement needs to build momentum from these successes for more actions to stop fossil fuel infrastructure. As the reality of the climate crisis hits more people, fossil fuels will become high-risk investments while the cost of solar, wind, thermal, and ocean energy is declining.
Propped Up by Massive Subsidies
The fossil fuel industry is being propped up by massive subsidies without which its extinction would be faster. A 2019 IMF report found that $5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, the equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found “the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education.”
In the era of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and recession, these subsidies are not justifiable. Christine Lagarde of the IMF has called for removing fossil fuel subsidies, noting the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere. She notes: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people.”
The era of fossil fuel domination is coming to an end. It is up to people to organize to hasten the transition to a clean, sustainable energy economy. The deeply embedded fossil fuel industry can be defeated. The people have shown they can make it impossible to build fossil fuel infrastructure.
Friends of Nelson Facebook page
Movements Can Stop Fossil Fuels
In early July, three pipeline projects suffered major blows. Their defeats were the result of more than a decade of activism by thousands of people. People risked arrest, went to jail, confronted police, petitioned, lobbied and litigated, slowing the projects down and making it impossible to profitably build pipelines and other infrastructure.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled on July 5. On July 6, a federal court ordered Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down pending an environmental review. Unfortunately, a court of appeals ruling allows the pipeline to continue to operate while the litigation is resolved. That night, the Supreme Court let a Montana court ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline stand, meaning the project cannot be built until much of the litigation is settled. Construction of the Keystone XL is blocked until 2021. Joe Biden has pledged to oppose the Keystone XL. If he is elected, activists will have to hold him to that promise.
The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to carry Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil across the US-Canada border into Nebraska and has been fought since 2011 by the Tar Sands Blockades, Bold Nebraska and others. The Dakota Access pipeline was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux uprising that brought Indigenous nations and climate activists together in a months-long struggle, often facing violent police repression. The DAPL is transporting fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin to Gulf Coast refineries. And, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have carried fracked gas through the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to North Carolina. All along the route, people aligned to oppose the project. Litigation and delays forced the large companies, Dominion and Duke Energy, to cancel the project even after investing $3.4 billion in it.
In another defeat that will empower climate activists, on June 30 in a 10 to 1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow people impacted by fossil fuel infrastructure to sue 31 days after filing an administrative appeal on a permitted project. FERC had been preventing litigation by delaying the 30-day administrative appeal an average of 7 months and up to 15 months during which pipelines were being built.
FERC has been critical for the fossil fuel boom of the Obama and Trump eras. FERC and the fossil fuel industry act as one as all FERC funding comes from industry fees, not taxpayers. According to Ted Glick of Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been battling FERC for a decade, in an interview on WBAI, the vast majority of FERC commissioners since it was founded in 1978 have come out of the fossil fuel industry and many go back to the industry after leaving FERC. The same revolving door exists for many staff members too. FERC and the oil and gas industries have been working together to prevent court review, but with this new DC Circuit Court decision, that should stop.
All of these victories were the result of grassroots struggles by the climate justice movement. As one activist tweeted, “In case you thought that small actions don’t matter . . . this is a result of every tree-sitter, each person who chained herself to a piece of equipment, sat at an air board mtg, blocked a site.” Campaigns that challenge infrastructure at every turn make a difference. These victories are part of a nationwide uprising against fossil fuel infrastructure and the resultant thievery of private property by abusing eminent domain, the pollution of farms, rivers and forests and FERC’s steamrolling over communities.
The movement is making pipelines more expensive to build. Increased costs combined with low fossil fuel prices and low costs for solar and wind energy are making the industry a risky investment. There have been hundreds of bankruptcies. Symbolic of this is the recent bankruptcy of Chesapeake Energy, which was a leader in the fracking boom. It started to decline after one of the CEOs, Aubrey McClendon, died in a car crash in 2016 after being charged with corruption. Steve Horn reports on their ongoing corruption, writing, “Just a month ago, in fact, Chesapeake executives showered themselves with $25 million in bonuses, despite the company tumbling toward bankruptcy.”
USA Today reported that 24 oil and gas companies have already filed for bankruptcy since the COVID-19 pandemic and recession began. The Wall Street Journalreports that potentially 200 fracking corporations could declare bankruptcy in the next two years if the price of oil stays at current levels.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The Fossil Fuel Industry is Not Defeated
Fossil fuel industry ties to presidents have run deep for decades. Both George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, were oil men. President Obama, who made the US a top producer of oil and gas, bragged, “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” During his term, over a period of two years, the US built 29,604 miles of new pipeline. According to NASA, the equatorial circumference of the Earth is 24,873.6 miles.
The Trump administration has issued a proposed rule to undermine the 50-year old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not requiring any consideration of climate impacts as part of the review of fossil fuel infrastructure. His proposal will play out over months or years during a public comment process. If it is approved, litigation can be used to stop it.
Trump is building on the work of the Obama-Biden administration that issued executive orders to speed up environmental reviews and did not include climate considerations in NEPA reviews until his final year in office. Their administration allowed large pipeline projects to be broken into small segments to skirt the NEPA review. Through the signing of the FAST Act in 2015, which led to the creation of a Federal Permit Improvement Steering Council, federal permits and the NEPA review process were streamlined.
The movement must be clear in its demand to replace fossil fuels with solar, wind, and other clean sustainable energy sources. We must demand policies that are consistent with the reality of the climate crisis requiring urgent action.
Indigenous Environmental Network
Building On Our Victories
The recent victories indicate that the more we show our determination, risk arrest, challenge projects in the courts and build the case against fossil fuels in the era of climate crisis, the more infrastructure projects will be shelved. For those projects currently underway, the movement must continue to challenge them at every turn using the creativity and tactical variety that come from a movement composed of a broad base of people with different backgrounds, experiences and concerns.
The profitability of pipelines is already in doubt due to the strategic nonviolence of the movement and the changing energy market. Even with Trump and Biden mouthing support for the industry, they will not be able to overcome the realities of the market failure, the climate crisis and that people want funds spent on public health, remaking the economy and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
The nationwide uprising against racism and the movement against pipelines already have close connections due to environmental racism and alliances with Indigenous struggles. We need to make these cross-issue relationships stronger.
The economic collapse is an opportunity to remake the economy with the Green New Deal as the centerpiece of massive job creation, investment in education and the development of new industries. There is a growing labor uprising with PayDay Report tracking more than 900 wildcat strikes since March 1. Workers need to understand that confronting climate change will create 30 million good-paying union jobs and the Green New Deal is key to rebuilding the economy.
The climate movement against fossil fuels has already shown the ability to create this broad movement. Native Americans, climate scientists, farmers and ranchers, big environmental groups, veterans and activists all came together for the first time in some of these struggles. Future efforts can link climate justice, anti-racism, and workers’ rights work, as well as the anti-war movement because the US military is the biggest polluter and fossil fuel user on the planet, to create an unstoppable movement no matter who is the next president.
If the planet Earth were animate, it would have shuddered at the news that S. David Freeman passed away this month. Freeman was that important to Earth’s future. In his 94th year, he inspired all he met with his burning passion, relentless energy, and keen intellect.
Freeman, an engineer and a lawyer, knew where decisions were being made or ignored regarding our energy future. He mocked the foolish embrace of fossil fuels and warned all who would listen about the deadly impact of coal, oil, and natural gas consumption on our environment. This humble son of an immigrant umbrella repair man made the most of his formidable talents over seven decades and helped steer mankind toward renewables and energy efficiency. Freeman worked to prevent the perilous use of fossil and nuclear fuels.
Freeman was one of the first environmentalists to warn us of the dangers posed by fossil fuels and he was one of the first to offer practical remedies. He started his career in the 1950s as an engineer with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) before holding a series of positions with the Federal Power Commission (FPC) and the Johnson White House. In 1974 Freeman authored the Ford Foundation’s groundbreaking report “A Time to Choose: America’s Energy Future.” He was an adviser to President Jimmy Carter, who appointed him chairman of the giant TVA in 1978.
At the TVA, Freeman managed with a no-nonsense, down-to-earth, results-focused approach to reform. Using what he learned at TVA, Freeman became known for turning around hidebound giant utilities that were unable to process evidence contrary to their wasteful ways and environmental destructiveness. The tenacious Tennessean had no patience for self-serving talk that avoided obvious solutions. Freeman was a serious advocate who used humor, wit, and charm to make his case in the court of public opinion and the corridors of power. “Mother Nature doesn’t care what we say, Mother Nature only cares about what we do,” he would remind bloviators!
Freeman shut down or suspended construction of half a dozen nuclear reactors at the TVA, scoring them as dangerous, uneconomical, and unnecessary. He liked “free” sources of energy, such as solar and wind, instead of lethal coal, gas, oil, and uranium that had to be ripped perilously from the bowels of the Earth. As for vast opportunities afforded by energy efficient sources, he paraphrased Benjamin Franklin, saying a megawatt of energy that isn’t wasted is a megawatt you don’t have to produce.
In between his clearheaded impact on conferences around the world, advising presidents, governors, members of Congress and parliaments, and many cogent writings, Freeman ran three other giant utilities (other than TVA, Freeman ran utilities in California, Texas, and New York). At Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), he implemented a public vote against the troubled Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, replacing its energy with conservation and renewables.
In the decades I knew David, he always made the changes he implemented look easy because he so deftly and honestly used evidence, facts, and economics— sometimes to rectify his previous positions. He used his knowledge to serve the public that was too often shoved aside by bureaucratic and corporate vested interests.
Freeman had that unparalleled combination of managerial experience, scholarly knowledge, and programmatic urgency in confronting the climate crisis. We would invite him for brown bag lunches with younger leaders working on energy transition. He would “out urgent” them, mocking dilatory cap and trade ideas while demanding mandatory reduction in fossil fuels and ending nuclear power, and replacing them with job producing energy conservation, retrofitting homes and buildings as solar and wind ramp up. Freeman said, “We need to pass a law that says that every utility in this country must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% of 2020 emissions every year, starting now, and until we get down to zero.”
You may be wondering why you haven’t seen Freeman on television or read about his urgent proposals, as a doer, covering the crisis of climate and regular air water soil safeguards from ruinous extractive fuels.
Certainly, the mass media has devoted many hours and pages to these subjects, interviewing far lesser and often conflicted people on NPR, PBS, commercial networks, and major newspapers. I made many calls to energy and environmental reporters about David’s availability, but to no avail.
Was it ageism? Which is rampant. Was it his free-thinking challenges to named influential corporations? Was it that he was seen as no longer an adviser to powerful officials? At age 93 he was flying to California negotiating the closure of the last nuke plant there with Pacific Gas Electric. He co-authored a book All-Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future with Leah Y. Parks in 2018 and his human interest memoir The Green Cowboy: An Energetic Life in 2016. Recently he was meeting with the pro-“Green New Deal” members of Congress.
But the media wasn’t calling. Until, that is, David’s “energetic” life came to an end and the obituary pages gave him his due in theWashington Post, the New York Times, and other outlets. Unlike like celebrity entertainers and athletes, however, he didn’t make page one. But his prescient legacy is an enduring example of how we can save our green planet and brighten our future. Biographers may wish to wrap their minds around this functional, enlightened life of such immense productivity.
A number of prominent individuals tried to ban the film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore. Others berated the filmmakers for being white, male and overweight. Many thought leaders have declared they won’t watch it.
Despite the hullabaloo, the central points in the film aren’t particularly controversial. Corporate-industrial society is driving human civilization/humanity towards the ecological abyss and environmental groups have largely made peace with capitalism. As such, they tout (profitable) techno fixes that are sometimes more ecologically damaging than fossil fuels (such as biomass or ethanol) or require incredible amounts of resources/space if pursued on a mass scale (such as solar and wind). It also notes the number of human beings on the planet has grown more than sevenfold over the past 200 years.
It should not be controversial to note that the corporate consumption juggernaut is destroying our ability to survive on this planet. From agroindustry razing animal habitat to plastic manufacturers’ waste killing sea life to the auto industrial complex’s greenhouse gases, the examples of corporations wreaking ecological havoc are manifold. Every year since 1969 humanity’s resource consumption has exceeded earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources by an ever-greater volume.
It is a statement of fact that environmental groups have deep ties to the corporate set. Almost all the major environmental groups receive significant cash from the mega-rich or their foundations. Many of them partner directly with large corporations. Additionally, their outreach strategies often rely on corporate media and other business-mediated spheres. It beggars belief that these dependencies don’t shape their policy positions.
A number of the film’s points on ‘renewable’ energy are also entirely uncontroversial. It’s insane to label ripping down forests for energy as “green”. Or turning cropland into fuel for private automobiles. The film’s depiction of the minerals/resource/space required for solar and wind power deserves a far better response than “the data is out of date”.
The green establishment’s hyperventilating over the film suggests an unhealthy fixation/link to specific ‘renewable’ industries. But there are downsides to almost everything.
Extremely low GHG emitting electricity is not particularly complicated. In Québec, where I live, electricity is largely carbon free (and run by a publicly owned enterprise with an overwhelmingly unionized workforce, to boot). But, Hydro-Québec’s dams destroy ecosystems and require taking vast land from politically marginalized (indigenous) people. Likewise, nuclear power (also publicly owned and unionized) provides most of France’s electricity. But, that form of energy also has significant downsides.
In the US in 2019 63% of electricity came from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear and 17% from ‘renewables’. But, even if one could flip the proportion of fossil fuels to ‘renewables’ around overnight there’s another statistic that is equally important. Since 1950 US electricity consumption has grown 13-fold and it continues to increase. That’s before putting barely any of the country’s 285 million registered private automobiles onto the grid. Electricity consumption is growing at a fast clip in China, India and elsewhere.
Oil is another source of energy that is growing rapidly. Up from 60 million barrels a day in 1980 and 86 million in 2010, 100 million barrels of oil were consumed daily in 2019. That number is projected to reach 140 million by 2040.
On one point I agree entirely with critics of the film. It’s unfair to (even indirectly) equate Bill McKibben with Al Gore. Representing the progressive end of the environmental establishment, McKibben has engaged in and stoked climate activism. Gore was Vice President when the US led the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, bombed Sudan and sanctioned Iraq.
Still, it’s ridiculous for McKibben and others to dismiss the film’s criticism of his decade-long promotion of biomass and refusal to come clean on 350.org’s donors as divisive. “I truly hope that Michael Moore does not succeed at dividing the climate movement. Too many have fought too long to build it”, he tweeted with a link to his response in Rolling Stone titled “‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.” Echoing this theme, Naomi Klein came to her 350.org comrade’s defence tweeting, “it is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change.” Democracy Now, Common Dreams, the Guardian and other media picked up her remark.
If it is divisive to criticize McKibben’s positions, then the same must be said of his own criticisms aimed at those demanding the Pentagon be highlighted in decarbonization efforts. In a June New York Review of Books column titled “The Pentagon’s Outsized Part in the Climate Fight” McKibben pours cold water on those who have asked him about the importance of “shrinking the size of the US military” (the world’s largest single institutional emitter of fossil fuels) in the fight for a sustainable planet. In fact, his piece suggests the Pentagon is well-positioned to combat the climate crisis since right wingers are more likely to listen to their climate warnings and the institution has massive research capacities to develop green technologies. McKibben seems to be saying the green movement should (could) co-opt the greatest purveyor of violence and destruction in the history of humanity! (In the Wrong Kind of Green blog Luke Orsborne offers a cogent breakdown of McKibben’s militarism.)
McKibben’s repeated advocacy of the private electric car could also be considered divisive. In Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? McKibben calls for “millions and millions of electric cars and buses” (alongside “building a hell of lot of factories to turn out thousands of acres of solar panels, and wind turbines the length of football fields.”) Does anyone believe the planet can sustain a transportation/urban planning system with most of the world’s 7.8 billion people owning 3,000-pound vehicles?
When an electric car is powered from a grid that is 63% fossil fuels the GHG it contributes per kilometer of travel is generally slightly less than an internal combustion engine. But the production and destruction phases for electric vehicles tend to be more energy intensive and they still require the extraction and development of significant amounts of resources. Additionally, the private car underpins a land, energy and resource intensive big box retail/suburban economy. (For details see my co-authored Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.)
Moreover, as Death by Car recently pointed out, “electric vehicles are haloware — a product that exists to distract attention from continuing SUV and pickup sales. If this thesis is correct, then it is a huge mistake for progressive forces to express enthusiasm” for electric vehicles. Of the 86 million new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold globally in 2018 about 1.2 million of them were powered by battery-only electric engines while 37 million were pickups and SUVs. In other words, for every new battery-electric car there were 30 new SUVs/pickups sold. Alongside growing buzz about electric vehicles, the number of SUVs increased from 35 million to 200 million between 2010 and 2018.
McKibben and associates’ ability to frame the film as divisive rests on the stark power imbalance between the ‘green’ capitalist and degrowth outlooks. While there are few profits in the consume-less worldview, McKibben is situated at the progressive end of a network of organizations, commentators and media outlets empowered by hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘green’ capitalism. This milieu has counterposed solar, wind and biomass to the hyper fossil fuel emitting coal, natural gas and oil industries. But, they aren’t keen on discussing the limitations of their preferred energies and the fundamentally unsustainable nature of limitless energy (or other) consumption. And they certainly don’t want any spotlight placed on environmental groups ties to the mega-rich and an unsustainable model.
But, in reality it’s not the criticism that bothers. Wrong Kind of Green, Death by Car, Counterpunch and various other small leftist websites and initiatives have long documented McKibben and associates’ concessions to the dominant order. Often more harshly than in the film. What is unique about Planet of the Humans is that these criticisms have been put forward by leftists with some power (Michael Moore’s name and the funds for a full-length documentary, most obviously.) In other words, the backlash is not a response to the facts or argument, per se, but the ‘mainstreaming’ of the critique.
The environmental establishment’s ability to generate hundreds of hit pieces against Planet of the Humans suggests the movement/outlook has amassed substantial power. But, it’s not always clear to what ends. Most indicators of sustainability are trending in the wrong direction at the same time as top environmental figures have risen to the summits of power. Québec’s most prominent environmentalist, Steven Guilbeault, recently became a cabinet minister in the Liberal government while the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gerald Butts, was Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. These individuals happily participate in a government that oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline.
The incredible popularity of Planet of the Humans — seven million views on YouTube — suggests many are worried about the ecological calamity humanity is facing. Many also sense that the solutions environmental groups are putting forward don’t add up.
The lesson to be learned from the film and the frenzied attacks against it is that questioning the system — be that capitalism or the mainstream environmental movement — won’t make you friends in high places.
The chief causes of the environmental destruction that faces us today are not biological, or the product of individual human choice. They are social and historical, rooted in the productive relations, technological imperatives, and historically conditioned demographic trends that characterize the dominant social system. Hence, what is ignored or downplayed in most proposals to remedy the environmental crisis is the most critical challenge of all: the need to transform the major social bases of environmental degradation, and not simply to tinker with its minor technical bases. As long as prevailing social relations remain unquestioned, those who are concerned about what is happening are left with few visible avenues for environmental action other than purely personal commitments to recycling and green shopping, socially untenable choices between jobs and the environment, or broad appeals to corporations, political policy-makers, and the scientific establishment–the very interests most responsible for the current ecological mess.
― John Bellamy Foster, The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment, 1994
I am getting plethora of greenie weenies or others imploring me to watch the the Michael Moore executive produced Planet of the Humans. “You have to watch it. We are screwed. Oh my god. I never knew all this stuff about 350.org.” It was directed, filmed (partly), edited and written by Jeff Gibbs.
In so many ways, it is a derivative flick, a “coming to Jesus” moment (several hiccups) by Gibbs. This is not good film making (the music is dull, and in some parts, downright spacey) and not good writing. But, on the heels of Trump, Obama, the green porn movement, the fake New Green Deal by AOC, Sanders and other sheepdogs (not the true ecosocialist New Green Deal – by a long shot), and the Spring Break Congress, and the totality of perversions that embody the political/K-Street/Military/AI/Finance-Investor Class (sic), anything goes, I suppose, to go after the money factories that fuel the so-called American environmental movement.
As a caveat, while I am criticizing the film’s blind-blind spots — nothing about civil society movements in Africa, in India, in Canada, in Latin America, barely a blink to one of the world’s most cogent female Indian scientists/activitists — it should not be banned as one of the leaders of the so-called journalist/writer environmental movement, Naomi Klein, has called for that. From the Soros Democracy Now:
A group of climate scientists and environmentalists, including filmmaker Josh Fox and professor Michael Mann, are calling for a new movie, executive produced by Michael Moore, to be taken offline, claiming it is “dangerous, misleading and destructive.” The film, “Planet of the Humans,” describes renewable energies like wind and solar as useless and accuses the environmental movement of selling out to corporate America. Michael Moore and the film’s director, Jeff Gibbs, have described the documentary as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows.”
The online film website Films for Action briefly took down the documentary, claiming it was “full of misinformation,” but later added it back to its site with a lengthy note.
The author and activist Naomi Klein recently tweeted, “It is truly demoralizing how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change. There are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain’t it.”
[Louis Proyect’s look at the two new green deals from AOC/Sanders versus that from Howie Hawkins and Ecosocialists, the original socialist-Marxist fight for land, food, soil, air, sea, cultures, people, animals. Proyect also writes a blog, The Unrepentant Marxist and also administers the Marxmail discussion list.]
Reading decent stuff on the various social-indigenous-cultural-ecological heroes, and reading good poetry, philosophy, fiction, well, a million times more impacting for some of us than a thousand documentaries, most of which are in the can, out the window, in the news, on the talk shows, at the film festivals, and, then, a thousand more documentaries in the making.
Social change (the good kind, not the Inconvenient Truth or Waiting for Superman kind) will not happen on Netflix, in the cyber world of YouTube, or managed by wannabe filmmakers.
I am also having a bit of acid reflux digesting this flick, The Planet of the Humans, in a time of SARS-COV-2 lock-down (that’s a prison term, folks) and a time of compliant humanity sticking to the mainstream science view of coronavirus.
Pay for success finance deals will be well served by the global vaccine market that is being advanced through Gates’s outfit GAVI. Vaccine doses are readily quantifiable, and the economic costs of many illnesses are straightforward to calculate. With a few strategic grants awarded to prestigious universities and think tanks, I anticipate suitable equations framing out a healthy ROI (return on investment) will be devised to meet global market demands shortly.
Hello everyone. Welcome to “Many Waves, One Ocean Cross Movement Summit.” I’m Alison McDowell, a mom and independent researcher in Philadelphia who blogs at wrenchinthegears.com. I started my activism around public education, first fighting standardized testing, then ed-tech, and eventually realized the push by global finance to turn everything into data for the purpose of digital surveillance and profit meant I had to expand my work beyond schools and start digging into the global poverty management complex.
I organize with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, an independent anti-poverty group that is led by the poor and does not take corporate or foundation money. We’ll be marching on the Democratic National Convention on July 13 to take back the 67 cents of every government dollar spent on war and occupation. We are demanding it be used care for the poor here at home. Check us out and consider joining us in the streets of Milwaukee!
People have been led to believe the purpose of these goals is to address poverty and avert climate catastrophe. As a mother who lives in a city of deep poverty and who works at a public garden, I believe those are admirable goals. It is imperative that we address wealth inequality and begin to heal our planet.
But as a mother who has been researching innovative finance, emerging technologies, and racialized power, I also know there is more to the story than is being told in the media. And so today I will outline how powerful interests are using the Sustainable Development Goals to mask their plans to remake the world as a digital panopticon. What follows is a story of social entrepreneurship, greed, and technological authoritarianism. Its foundations are built on our nation’s history of racial capitalism, eugenics, and the rise of technocracy.
— Vaccines, Blockchain and Bio-capitalism
A little hard to stomach this new flick, Planet of the Humans, as I am out of work on two of my gig jobs, and the other job is about getting cash assistance to households where I am best face to face with them, but alas, this hysteria, this complete breakdown of common sense and urgency for just decent masks and gloves (free, of course), has caused the healthy to be lock-downed. Police state? You betcha. Surfers are getting tickets for surfing on our beaches.
Daily, the human toll of this lock-down stupidity in Oregon is real. Yet, like compliant children, the greenie types, the so-called environmental movement types, and the pro-science-is-our-savior liberal types will not stand for any challenge to their narrative – we must lock-down until 2022, according to Harvard scientists. So, the democratic governor, Kate Brown, implores us to lock-down, threatens us with tickets, and, oh, 84,000 new unemployment claims in the state, and I am not getting through that bureaucracy, too stupid to not-fail! No dole for me and thousands of others.
Deaths by the millions in the coming months with this lock-down — globally. Not from the novel most-probably weaponized or at least messed-with bat virus, but from poverty, starvation, and lack of medical care for all the other illnesses and diseases and ailments hitting humankind.
Nor is the toll on Gibbs’ mind in this flimsy flick.
But back to reality:
We have some Guatemalans up here on the Oregon Coast. Workers. Families. Some are not literate in English or Spanish. No more hotel cleaning gigs, dishwasher gigs, working in the forest collecting salal gigs.
These families are afraid to go to the food banks (big, gangly and some mean-looking white folks there collecting and handing out food) and afraid of any social services agencies. You know, deportation, put in lock-down in containment dog kennels a la ICE. Now that’s a fun prospect for a bioweaponized or laboratory-induced novel coronavirus.
Some of them have been yelled at by our fine upstanding white original illegal aliens: “Chinks … you brought this corona over to us. What are you still doing here?”
These are Guatemalans!
The Wrong Sort of Green is also the wrong sort of agriculture, and the wrong kind of medicine, wrong kind of education, wrong kind of law, wrong kind of computing, wrong kind of carceral state, wrong kind of, well, you get the picture. It’s all wrong because of capitalism. Yet, this movie goes right to us, the rest of the world included, as a cancer. As over-consuming, over-populating, over-reaching, you know, the Population Bomb language of “sterilize the masses” folk.
Bad, bad, bad. Crackpot, crackpot, crackpot.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Or dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.
These are nice words for this superficial, sound-bite, dumb-downing thing of a movie.
On the 50th earth day anniversary we get to view it. It might get some stuff right – the fake green-renewable movement, but it gets the major stuff wrong: Capitalism has run amok, not the other way around. The hordes have not run amok against the good of capitalism, but have been colonized, co-opted, delegitimized, stolen from, used as a large populace of Guinea pigs for the economic syphilis that is Capitalism.
And the underlying message is population control. They great white hope of Michael Moore and I guess Jeff Gibbs is really the underpinning of the flick – and no credence is given to the millions upon millions of people fighting this bastardization of humanity, of life, called Western Capitalism. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of groups that Gibbs could have put front and center who are local, indigenous, part of the peasant movement, others, who are real forest protectors and water protectors and life protectors.
Making fun of the alternative energy folk is like shooting fish in a barrel. And, the underlying message, the grace note here, is that because all humans and cultures are alike (NOT) we as one species (debatable) are a cancer, all in it for me-myself-and-I. Just way too many of us.
Just the way this flick opens up says it all. The documentary poses the stupid question: How much time do you think the human race has? You know, man-woman-child person on the street quippy takes.
Gibbs is at a solar festival (in the beginning, and then at the end of this flick) and makes fun of the band not getting the solar energy power when the clouds open and rain shuts down this system and they have to go back to the electrical grid.
Jump to Obama and Van Jones and Al Gore. To the white race, Richard Branson. Then 60 Minutes is clipped in. Have we been here before with this sort of documentary making? Come on, do I have to list the other hundreds of documentaries that follow this script?
Then onto Michael Bloomberg. Sierra Club. Bill 350.org McKibben. Segue to “making fun” of the Chevy Volt, electric cars, wind turbines, biomass, etc.
Throughout history, greed has proven to be lethal. Greed and justice cannot co-exist.
The premise that “greed can save us” is void of all ethics. It stems from either desperation or denial, or perhaps both combined.
Perhaps McKibben’s 350.org/1Sky partner – Climate Solutions (who McKibben praised/promoted in a recent article) – will soon see their wish list of “sustainable aviation,” biofuels and carbon offsets morph into a global reality. 350.org/1Sky partner Climate Solutions was a key player in the creation of 1Sky – an incubator project of the Rockefellers, who are pushing/funding REDD (the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program) and many other false solutions that ensure power and monetary wealth remain exactly where it is – in the hands of the few.
Of course, James Hansen’s magic wand (which Hansen himself sometimes refers to) will be most imperative for such false solutions to succeed in cooling the planet and stopping the eradication of most life on Earth.
Do we reject biofuels, carbon offsets, the greenwash and delusional concepts like “sustainable aviation”? Or do we reject these false solutions only when promoted directly by industry and government? If we do reject false solutions outright, why do those who claim to seek climate justice turn a blind eye when our “friends” and “partners” support these false solutions that we must fight against?
— Why I Refuse To Promote Bill McKibben
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the warriors in this Gibbs’ frame: How many indigenous people have been murdered in the past 20 minutes? Land defenders. The people of the earth who are less than 7 percent of the population but are in 80 percent of the jungles and rain-forests and mangroves, deltas, islands.
So, this fellow, Gibbs, in 2020 when this documentary was released, came to the conclusion recently that the green energy revolution isn’t going to work? Really? This has been posited for more than 20 years easily.
Twenty-five minutes into this sad sack of a movie and its whites, man, mostly males (one female anthropologist), and it’s just more declaiming the green energy folk – and no one ever in the ecosocialist movement saw solar panels and wind turbines and ethanol as green or efficient or, hmm, localized and social just. But you think an ecosocialist is interviewed? Nope!
After 30 minutes in, no great people who have studied, looked at and been on the front lines of the biggest elephant in the room: “It is easier to see a world without people than without capitalism.”
Fredric Jameson’s famous quote, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism,” should have been posited at the top of the documentary.
Do you believe there can be a better world, localized, scaled down, tied to human rights and indigenous wisdom than a world without consumerism, capitalism?
Or, better yet, the questions –
What is parasitic capitalism? What is predatory capitalism? What is disaster capitalism? What is casino capitalism?
Then, sure, another question:
What is the cost to humanity, to those billions in the world not part of the Western White Tradition of Neoliberalism-Neoconservativism-Colonialism-Slavery, that the military industrial complex unleashes to the world?
Nah. This is just a gotcha sort of film – at least it is as I am concurrently listening and watching it while also writing this critique. Okay, 42 minutes in, and one lone voice thus far, Richard Heinberg, who I interviewed 14 years ago on my radio show in Spokane, is briefly interviewed. Sound bite. His book, Peak Everything is pretty self-explanatory. He doesn’t tap into the civil society, to peasant and agrarian movements. He just tells us later on he goes to bed frightened, scared.
Whew. Peak Humanity psychosis!
That slogan captures about how Western thinking can imagine a world without humans before they can fathom any world without capitalism. And, to be fair, the masters of the universe hope for more AI, more ways to make humanity useless, more ways to kill work, kill human learning and sharing. A world without the majority of the people AND WITH surveillance and AI-Crypto Capitalism. There you go!
What is “capitalist realism? The almost global sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it. Most of the billionaire class, most of the millionaire class, most of the people who believe in capitalism, capitalism lite, capitalism with a green smile, they are prepared for their world without people – Bill Gates and his cronies, setting the globe with his vision of massive sterilization and massive, err, vaccinations.
At minute 46, Planet of the Humans has given us more white guys and one white female anthropologist saying there is “not enough for the world,” for those billions outside this white great white way.
Looking at the numbers – and they are terrified, in Gibbs’ rendition, that the world is at 7.4 billion people, and it took hundreds of thousands of years for Homo sapiens to hit 750 million – this is the movement. Computer modeling, projections, Dystopia, but never-ever a clear-eyed look at the reason for malnourishment and disease and suffering – the few haves and the lots of haves not. An honest look at this would really get to the cutting-edge thinkers here – just the bloody neo-tribal writer, Daniel Quinn, looks at leaver and giver society in his books featuring an ESP-abled gorilla named Ishmael.
I’m already into the flick less than an hour, and Gibbs is seeking mental health help. Climate change trauma, analysis paralysis, something. He brings in another great voice of psychology, some social psychology professor, at Skidmore College. Gibbs sets it up – The republican side believes there is an endless supply of fossil fuels, and OUR side believes the world will be saved with solar panels. Why is that?
This is it, man, them – the GOP and industrialists and Trump and Tea Party and Neo-Nazis – and us – the other side, wanting green energy and technology to get us off fossil fuel and climate change. Bingo. This is such a silly adventure in one man’s sad fear of himself – Jeff Gibbs (where’s millionaire, Hillary-adoring, the Russians are Coming, Holly-dirt Michael Moore, man, when we need a really foolish guy for a heck of a lot of laughs?). Professor Sheldon Solomon believes that people are just biotic life. That is the key to these guy’s thought process saying we as a species (all of us) have a disbelief in mortality, that this can’t be, so we just keep on with our suicidal behavior.
Jameson’s quote is often used to show how capitalism has limited the horizons of our imagination.
We don’t think of civilization as indestructible, but we do seem to think of the free market as indestructible. This, it is sometimes said, is the result of neoliberalism: as both traditionally left-wing and traditionally right-wing parties in Western countries developed a consensus that markets were the only way forward (“there is no alternative”), more and more people came to hold narrower and narrower views of the possibilities for human society. Being on the right meant “believing in free markets and some kind of nationalism or social conservatism” while being liberal meant “believing in free markets but being progressive on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation.” Questions like “how do we develop a feasible alternative to capitalism?” were off the table; the only reasonable question about political intervention in the economy became: “should we regulate markets a little bit, or not at all?
It’s as if this Jeff Gibbs just came out from a deep hole – I have been teaching this shit for more than two decades; showing students this embedded energy truth, this lifetime/life-cycle analysis of products, this green washing PR job, this green porn marketing bait and switch. Poverty pimping, man, and Green is the New Black. It’s still pimping and prostitution at a very high price.
You give the capitalists, the military industrial complex purveyors, the multimillionaires like that piece of political dung Al Gore the microphone, and then you give the billionaire class, the BlackRock class, the IMF, the forced vaccination and eugenics masters the microphone, or Clinton, Hollywood, and the Massive Messed up Mainstream Media any benefit of the doubt, and here we are.
All those white male/ white female people featured on this Planet of the Humans in the end are talking about population control, and, shoot, that says it all, now does it not?
Now, finally, a real person, a real human, Vandana Shiva, comes onto Gibbs’ stage 1:09 hours into the flick – where she gets to give a micro dose of a rejecting biomass and biofuels, emphasizing how the biggest crisis of our times is shifting our minds to give power to illusions – green capitalism – replacing fossil fuels to this so-called renewable biomass energy production, which is green capitalism, which is green pornography. She gets about 20 seconds of air time. That’s it!
“Her honesty was refreshing.” That’s it for Gibb’s commentary on Shiva, caught on camera at some Earth Day event. This is Vandana Shiva, academic, scientist, humanist and leader in fighting for billions of people subjected to the GMO lies. A warrior against toxins. If that isn’t patriarchy and patronizing and, well, malarkey, the white man doing the white people’s film song and dance, then I do not know what is.
I’ll quote Shiva here:
The “green economy” agenda being pushed in the run-up to Rio+20, or the Earth Summit, to be held in June, could well become the blueprint for the biggest resource grab in history, with corporations appropriating the planet’s green wealth and biodiversity. These corporations will take our green wealth to make “green oil” for biofuels, energy, plastics, chemicals — everything that the petrochemical era based on fossil fuels gave us. Movements worldwide have started to say no to the “green economy” of the “one per cent”, because an ecological adjustment is possible and it is taking place. This adjustment involves seeing ourselves as part of the fragile ecological web, not outside and above it, and immune from the consequences of our actions.
Ecological adjustment also implies that we see ourselves as members of the earth’s community, sharing its resources equitably with all species and within the human community. Ecological adjustment requires an end to resource grab and privatisation of our land, biodiversity, seeds, water and atmosphere. It requires the recovery of the commons and the creation of “earth democracy”.
The dominant economic model based on resource monopolies and oligarchy is in conflict not just with ecological limits of the planet but also with the basic principles of democracy. The adjustment being dictated by the oligarchy will further strangle democracy and people’s freedom of choice. Sunil Bharti Mittal, one of India’s industry captains, recently said that “politics is hurting the economy and the country”. His observation reflects the mindset of the oligarchy, that democracy can be done away with. Green Greed – Seeds of Injustice, By Vandana Shiva
So, Gibbs goes back to gotcha land – exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of Richard Branson, the Al Gores, then Michael Bloomberg. No thanks. Not worth my time. More flashy nothing. We know Greta T. and Bill M. and Naomi K. are all false gods, the wrong kind of green.
Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green, is a warrior for social justice, ecological justice, for a sane look at how these greenies continue to cite “it’s a global overpopulation problem” causing climate change and ecosystems collapses. She just posted the Planet of the Humans on her website. However, this is her caveat –
WKOG caveat: Industrial civilization is destroying all life on Earth. Human destruction of biodiversity is not created equally: “Yet tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and 80% of our planet’s biodiversity is found in tribal territories.” [Further reading: The best conservationists made our environment and can save it, Stephen Corry ] Human population is often identified as a problem because it strains the world’s resources and pollutes.  The first and most efficient way to address over consumption is to reduce consumption in the North is to a) redistribute the resources, (all arable land, etc.) to the Global South, to sustain those in the Global South, and b) phase out the production of all superfluous consumer products that harm life and biodiversity. [Further reading: Too Many Africans?, July 11, 2019 An analysis of population growth that accounts for the vast differences in consumption across class and region is critical in examining the worldwide environmental crisis
The top 8.5 per cent of the people own over 83 per cent of global wealth, whereas the share of the bottom 70 per cent is barely 3 per cent. The top of the pyramid is even steeper – the net worth of the top 200 wealthiest individual (at $2.7 trillion)69 is the same as that of the bottom 3.2 billion people or half the population of the whole world! Significantly these wealthiest individuals of the world were able to increase their wealth in spite of the financial crisis. According to a recent Oxfam report, in spite of a global reduction of wealth the top 100 billionaires have been able to increase their wealth by 240 billion dollars in 2012.70 These super rich, incidentally, also include individuals who have been lobbying for reduction and control of third world population and funding major programmes towards it. The state policies and the policies of international bodies seem to be aligned with the interests of the rich and powerful. These Ultra High Net worth (UHNW) also wield immense political power.
Best yet, listen to Vandana Shiva again. This is the stuff that matters now, not a cataloging of the bad green movement, the shilling of wind farms and solar arrays and biofuels. All of this, like fossil fuels and wars and everything else that is externalized because of capitalism, all of this is subsidized by our capital, our taxes, our lives, our labor. That sports stadium? Simple thing, man. Chavez Canyon, a great working community in LA, was destroyed because the New York Dodgers moved to LA. Chavez Canyon was a place where Mexicans lived, creating their own community, their own social capital, their own roads and support systems. But the city gave the Dodgers the key to the city, gave them everything. The payoff? It’s all about the game, man. Low wage jobs, parking lots, traffic, and obscene profits to pajama-clad players and their masters – the owners and managers and collective investors.
Take it up a notch or two – the Mississippi is polluted and toxified because of industrial farming. The delta in Louisiana is polluted, and that plume of toxins goes out hundreds of miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The shrimp are polluted, all the life is polluted. Those Iowa corn syrup farmers and soy feed tenders, well, think of the warnings – “If pregnant (or wanting to be) don’t drink the well water. Don’t live on a farm. Stay away from the crop dusters. Be prepared to bury your family members who stay as they drop lie flies from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diabetes, heart anomalies, cancers and more. The gift that keeps on giving – pesticides, fertilizers, fumigants, vast piles and huge ponds and polluted rivers of blood, entrails, crap from industrial animal feeding, growing, butchering operations.
The multiple crises of climate insecurity, energy insecurity, and food insecurity create an imperative and an opportunity to transcend the limits of the mechanistic-industrial-capitalist paradigm that has been systematically shrinking our potential even as it peddles progress.
The paths out from this crisis are not being blazed in the boardrooms of the global corporations who dominate our world today and are largely responsible for crimes against nature and humanity. Industrialization of food and agriculture has put the human species on a slippery slope of self-destruction and self-annihilation. The movement for biodiverse, ecological, and local food systems simultaneously addresses the crises of climate, energy, and food. Above all, it brings people back into agriculture and reclaims food as nourishment and the most basic source of energy. New ways of thinking and acting, of being and doing, are evolving from the creative alternatives being employed in small communities, on farms, and in cities.
It is this renewable energy of ecology and sharing, of solidarity and compassion, that we need to generate and multiply to counter the destructive energy of greed that is creating scarcity at every level – scarcity of work, scarcity of happiness, scarcity of security, scarcity of freedom, and even scarcity of the future.
Climate chaos, brutal economic inequality, and social disintegration are jointly pushing human communities to the brink. We can either let the processes of destruction, disintegration, and extermination continue unchallenged, or we can unleash our creative energies to make systemic change and reclaim our future as a species, as part of the earth family. We can either keep sleepwalking to extinction or wake up to the potential of the planet and ourselves. —Vandana Shiva
We’ve been here before with Naomi Klein, with Al Gore, with DiCaprio, with Ted Danson, Daryl Hannah, the rest of the goofballs. Gibbs is not really doing much new here, really – The Wrong Kind of Green has been extrapolated and parsed for decades, and for him to waste this opportunity to go for the actual jugular of the cause – capitalism, western dominance in banking, structural adjustments, austerity, structural violence, economic hits, more – delegitimizes his whole thesis.
But there are also other social forces engaged in the process of resistance to the capitalist onslaught on the environment: for instance, the indigenous communities. This is another very important contribution of this book: to show that indigenous communities—direct victims of the capitalist plunder, a global assault on their livelihoods—have become the vanguard of the ecosocialist movement. In their actions, such as the Standing Rock resistance to the XXL Pipeline, and in their reflections—such as their Declaration at the World Social Forum of Belem in 2009—“they express, more completely than any other group, the common survival interest of humanity.” Of course, the urban population of modern cities cannot live like the indigenous, but they have much to learn from them.
Ecological struggles offer a unifying theme around which various oppressed constituencies could come together. And there are signs of hope in the United States, in the vast upsurge of resistance against a particularly toxic racist, misogynist and anti-ecological power elite, and in the growing interest, among young people and African Americans, in socialism. But a political revolutionary force, able to unify all constituencies and movements against the system is still lacking. Review by Michael Löwy, “From Marx to Ecosocialism” in the book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism by Victor Wallis
Alas, the best way to end the pain, to stop the rabid raccoon, I suppose, is to euthanize it. So much is wrong with Gibbs’ take on this eco-challenge. He is late out of the gate when looking at the life-cycle analysis of solar, wind and biomass. He is coming out of a deep long sleep? The documentary is not compelling. The executive producer, Michael Moore, is highly problematic. He is a capitalist, a millionaire, part of celebrity culture, and he is part of the problem not the solution.
It all rides on the back of the minister, Thomas Malthus, in his 1798 essay on population.
Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.
For Gibbs and the others he decries in the greenie weenie controlled opposition movement, they see the enemy is us, the people, or those with lesser pedigrees and more melanin. Why not just go after capitalism, and the inverted totalitarianism of Corpocracy? What about those corporations, that sticky class exploitation, how industry is set forth, and what about war? Gibbs blames all the people.
Oh, well, so many will tell me, “Paul, why don’t you write, film, edit, produce your own goddamned movie”? Sure enough, uh? I normally would not go to a movie like this, or get it from the Internet. I was only prompted by the number of emails from friends and acquaintances who just had to tell me to see this Anti-Earth Day flick. I didn’t learn anything from it substantive-wise, but I am wondering what the bearing witness for newbies to this green washing/green pornography will do with all this information about how bad solar and wind are. How bad the green groups are. How big the billions are that fund the controlled opposition and the narrative. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you? We all are colonized? We all live in the matrix? We are all co-opted by capital?
In the end the movie is more than benign. It fools us, the viewer, into a false solution, false narrative, and false causation. But my time is up, and totally bored with the concept behind this movie and how it now is generating this hoary call for, what, to watch the bloody movie? The real heroes are dying in their jungles and forests. From coffee to copper, from bananas to bitumen, from rubber to rhinos, the rapacious Western World is eating future generations from the inside out.
People just want their forty acres and a mule. Their cooperative farms. Their water and their soil. They want a few light bulbs. They want their great grandchildren’s lives back. They are done with the great white hope, the saviors, the industrialists and the investors (sic).
Outbreak zones meanwhile are no longer even organized under traditional polities. Unequal ecological exchange—redirecting the worst damage from industrial agriculture to the Global South—has moved out of solely stripping localities of resources by state-led imperialism and into new complexes across scale and commodity. Agribusiness is reconfiguring their extractivist operations into spatially discontinuous networks across territories of differing scales. A series of multinational-based “Soybean Republics,” for instance, now range across Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The new geography is embodied by changes in company management structure, capitalization, subcontracting, supply chain substitutions, leasing, and transnational land pooling. In straddling national borders, these “commodity countries,” flexibly embedded across ecologies and political borders, are producing new epidemiologies along the way.
For instance, despite a general shift in population from commoditized rural areas to urban slums that continues today across the globe, the rural-urban divide driving much of the discussion around disease emergence misses rural-destined labor and the rapid growth of rural towns into periurban desakotas (city villages) or zwischenstadt (in-between cities). Mike Davis and others have identified how these newly urbanizing landscapes act as both local markets and regional hubs for global agricultural commodities passing through.36 Some such regions have even gone “post-agricultural.”37 As a result, forest disease dynamics, the pathogens’ primeval sources, are no longer constrained to the hinterlands alone. Their associated epidemiologies have themselves turned relational, felt across time and space. A SARS can suddenly find itself spilling over into humans in the big city only a few days out of its bat cave.
Emerging from one of the most generative collaborations in the ecosocialist tradition, this collection of essays by John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark represents a critical step forward in theoretical development and recovery, with immediate relevance to contemporary political movements and debates. Foster and Clark beautifully reveal the power of historical materialism to lay bare the connection between ecological degradation, speciesism, and social domination, and therefore the necessity of a struggle that does not artificially isolate in theory and practice what is joined in reality. This is a book for serious activists seeking to understand the world in order to change all of it that needs changing, so that every living being on earth may not only survive, but finally, be free.
—Hannah Holleman, author of Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of “Green” Capitalism
Long recognized as leading theorists of ecomarxism, Bellamy Foster and Clark here extend their “metabolic rift” paradigm to an impressive range of issues, including gender, food, British eco-imperialism in Ireland, “alienated speciesism,” the theory of value, and the meaning of work. The result is a powerful case that capitalism is inextricably bound up with the robbery of nature and constitutes the paramount obstacle to life on Earth as we know it.
—Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research; author, Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (1963) concerns a group of astronauts, including journalist Ulysse Merou, and their voyage to a planet in the star system of Betelgeuse (the year is 2500). They land to discover a world where intelligent apes are the Master Race and humans are savages: caged in zoos, used in laboratory experiments and hunted for sport. The story of Ulysse’s capture and his subsequent struggle to survive, and then the climax as he returns to Earth and a horrific final discovery is gripping and fantastic. Yet the novel is also a subtle parable on science, evolution, and the relationship between man and animals. Again, the master race theme is part of Boulle’s own background in the secret service fighting against the Axis powers in WW II as part of the Free French. He wrote the more famous book, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1952). This flick, Planet of the Humans, is antithetical to that altogether (master race indeed), and in some sense, the lack of people of color speaking about a better way to get through this climate-capitalism chaos is sort of reflective of Gibbs’ own blind-spot to stick to the white technologists and the white people in the green capital movement.
Stop cutting down trees for biomass… STOP WOODY BIOMASS!
That should be a bumper sticker on every vehicle in America and around the world as easy-to-read bumper stickers are more effective than many forms of advertising. And, just for starters, maybe plaster that new biomass bumper sticker over the old one that reads: “My child is an honor student at….” Oh! Please!
According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder, wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry.
For perspective purposes, a paid lobbyist on behalf of trees could rightfully claim: (1) Trees cool and moisten our air and fill it with oxygen. (2) They calm the winds and shade the land from sunlight. (3) They shelter countless species, anchor the soil, and slow the movement of water. (4) They provide food, fuel, medicines, and building materials for human activity. (5) They also help balance Earth’s carbon budget. Name another organism with credentials like that!
Meanwhile, the worldwide woody biomass industry consumes forests, gobbling up trees by the minute. But, it’s a wayward ruse to classify woody biomass as “carbon neutral.” It is not carbon neutral. It’s a carbon emitter, the antithesis of clean renewable energy.
A 1,000-kilowatt-hour wood-pellet power plant, enough to power 1,000 homes, emits a total of 1,275 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. That’s according to Dr. Puneet Dwivedi, a research professor at the University of Georgia. By way of comparison, a 1,000-kilowatt-hour coal plant emits 1,048 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour. The net result is that coal produces 227 grams less CO2 than the biomass plant. Hmm.1
Meantime, a study at ETH Zurich suggests that a massive expansion of the world’s forests by 1/3 could be the most effective way to tackle climate change. That’s the opposite of cutting forests for biomass purposes. Let the trees stay in place and suck up CO2.2
According to the study, the influx of 1/3 more trees would buy humanity time by adding 20 years to meet climate targets. By keeping that many additional trees rather than felling, it effectively “locks-up 205 gigatonnes of CO2.” It’s significant as humanity emits 37 gigatonnes per year. Additionally, the “scale up of the world’s forests by one-third” helps meet IPCC guidelines to hold temp rises to 1.5°C pre-industrial, assuming temperatures are not already overshooting, an issue of some contention. Which depends a lot upon which baseline is used.
The trade-off between “saving/enlarging forests” rather than “burning trees” is consequential for several reasons, including, the U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates that for each 1% added to current U.S. electricity production from forest biomass an additional 18% increase in U.S. forest harvest is required. At that rate, by the time woody biomass is a meaningful slice of electricity production, the nation’s forests would be leveled.
How long does it take forests to regrow?
Furthermore, is it really possible to regrow a natural efficient forest ecosystem once it has been denuded of key organic life? No.
A Columbia University study argues for leaving trees alone: “Is Biomass Really Renewable?” State of the Planet, Earth Institute/Columbia University, Updated October 19, 2016, to wit: “Cutting or clearing forests for energy, either to burn trees or to plant energy crops, releases carbon into the atmosphere that would have been sequestered had the trees remained untouched, and the regrowing and thus recapture of carbon can take decades or even a century. Moreover, carbon is emitted in the biomass combustion process, resulting in a net increase of CO2.”
Additionally, according to the Columbia study: “Most of the new biomass electricity generating plants being proposed in the U.S. will burn wood. Plants in the Southeast U.S. are churning out wood pellets to meet Europe’s increasing need for wood. Last year, wood pellet exports from the Southeast increased 70 percent; the Southern U.S. is now the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world. Since there isn’t enough logging residue to meet the increased demand for biomass, many fear that more standing trees will be chopped and more forests clear-cut.”
The overriding issue is that woody biomass negatively impacts climate change, the health of people, and the overall environment. Yet, the market is growing by leaps and bounds in Europe and the U.S. Go figure!
According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas combined cycle plants (which use both a gas and steam turbine together). This analysis confirms the conclusion of several similar university-level studies that woody biomass is inefficient and thus a sensible rationale for outright banning of woody biomass.
Furthermore, according to Earth Institute, burning wood biomass emits as much, if not more, air pollution than burning fossil fuels – particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, mercury, and other hazardous air pollutants – which can cause cancer or reproductive effects.
The “air pollution emitted by biomass facilities,” which the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association have called “a danger to public health,” produces respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer, and developmental delays in children.” (Earth Institute)
Nevertheless, in 2009 the EU committed to 20% renewable energy by 2020, including biomass (heavily sourced by forests, especially from Canada and the U.S.) as a renewable-energy, which it categorized as “carbon neutral.” This was done to meet obligations under the Paris climate agreement of 2015. Several other countries followed with commitments to “subsidize” biomass development.
As a result, today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise. Expect a command performance of massive growth by biomass in upcoming years.
For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke, spewing out smoke signals that spell “O Canada” and “Say, can you see… By the dawn’s early light.”
According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”3
Ahem! When scientists analyzed Drax’s claims, they do not hold up. Not even close!
When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.
According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The carbon debt payback time for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originated, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time” is 44 to 104 years. Whoa!
Alas, not only is the carbon payback nearly a lifetime when using wood, but according to Sherman: “Because the combustion and processing efficiencies for wood are less than coal, the immediate impact of substituting wood for coal is an increase in atmospheric CO2 relative to coal. This means that every megawatt-hour of electricity generated from wood produces more CO2 than if the power station had remained coal-fired.”
Study after study after study finds that burning coal instead of woody biomass reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, this scenario is a massive complexity as countries have committed to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are diametrical to their stated intentions.
Therefore, a preeminent question arises: Why continue using woody biomass if it emits more CO2 per kilowatt-hour than coal?
Alas, not only is it insane to burn trees, but burning “forest residues” rather than whole trees also produces a net emissions impact of 55%-79% greater than direct emissions after 10 years. This is based upon analysis by Mary Booth, an ecosystem ecologist and a director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, Pelham, Massachusetts.
According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of the Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and co-author of four additional IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”: “If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon.”4)
Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament (January 2018) to “end its support for biomass.”
In June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain.
Under the influence of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the 2018 fiscal spending bill, as directed by Congress, instructed federal agencies to pass policies that “reflect the carbon-neutrality of biomass.” Among the many benefits mentioned by Congress, three seem almost Orwellian. Oops, scratch that. They are Orwellian, to wit: “To promote environmental stewardship by improving soil and water quality, reducing wildfire risk, and helping ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”
Congress’s emphasis on biomass that fells trees “ensuring that our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere.” Really?
What about reams upon reams of scientific analyses that conclude it is a huge mistake to fell forests for biomass?
In the final analysis, the sorrowful impact of woody biomass can be summed up by two short sentences: (1) Wood-pellet power plants emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than coal-powered plants. (2) If forests are left alone an additional 10% to 20% of human-generated CO2 emissions are absorbed by the forests every year. Ipso facto, nature does the dirty work all by itself… for free!
“A Burning Question: Throw Wood on the Fire for 21st-Century Electricity?” CNBC, September 15, 2017.
“Billions of Extra Trees May Give Us 20 Years to Tackle Climate Change”, NewScientist, July 4, 2019.
“Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty?” Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020.
“Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees”, Vox, March 4, 2019 — this article was endorsed by the Pulitzer Center