This past week, four stories came together in my consciousness, clicking together in a way that is neat in the way that ecosystems, or star systems are– evolved according to law to a coherence that looks like design. The first, the story of a pipeline, funded by a Canadian company. Bigger and badder than all of the pipelines before it; and built to move the hottest, most toxic, abrasive petro-gunk ever mined from the earth. The Jane and Joe Ranchers whose land will be eaten up by easement contracts, won by fraud and threats, know that they won’t see any benefit from this massive relocation and refinery of tar sands, but they feel powerless before the corporate profit machine, the unlimited lawyers, the heavy equipment, the harried I’m Just Doin’ My Job employees.
The second story is about a trade agreement– the Trans Pacific Partnership– just hitting my airwaves, years late but before it goes into effect, out of the headlines because even Sen. Ron Wyden, the Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trade – the U.S. congressional committee with jurisdiction over TPP – had to submit new legislation this May to get access to the text of the treaty. This treaty to end all treaties (literally, as other member nations can be added at any later date), built in secrecy, pushes the limits in the race to put national governments in the service of multinational corporations. Tellingly, the US negotiators take a hard line compared to the rest on the issue of foreign investor rights. “In a manner that would enrage right and left alike, the private “investor-state” enforcement system included in the leaked TPP text would empower foreign investors and corporations to skirt domestic courts and laws and sue governments in foreign tribunals. There, they can demand cash compensation from domestic treasuries over domestic policies that they claim undermine their new investor rights and expected future profits. This establishes an alarming two-track system of justice that privileges foreign corporations in myriad ways relative to governments or domestic businesses. It also exposes signatory countries to vast liabilities, as foreign firms use foreign tribunals to raid public treasuries.”
Not only will it help US firms to pillage other signatories in spite of any labor or resource protection legislation that their populace may wish to put into place, it will help TransCanada and other foreign mining interests to do an end-run around any attempts by US Citizens to keep fossil fuels in the ground and foreign pipelines off our lands.
The next pair of stories is the story of geoengineering weather and bioengineering seeds. High-level scientists have already convened to discuss the options for testing of geoengineering technology. A Huffington Post article from 2011 cites worries within this group that “someone, some group, some government would decide on its own to conduct large-scale atmospheric experiments, raising global concerns – and resentment if it’s the U.S. that acts, since it has done the least among industrial nations to cut greenhouse emissions. They fear some in America might push for going straight to “Plan B,” rather than doing the hard work of emissions reductions.” In the year since this article was published, several key actors have come into the open about the fact that large-scale geoengineering experiments are underway. The multinational interests behind the global capitalist systems have no interest in doing “the hard work” of reducing emissions. If that were the case, it wouldn’t support the extreme forms of extraction which are bound to cause immediate environmental disasters and extreme weather– tar sands, deep water drilling, coal export to China and India, mountaintop removal, natural gas fracking.
Instead, they have pegged their hopes on spraying massive quantities of metal particles into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s light. Unfortunately these metals weaken or kill the life that encounters them in the water and air. The documentary What in the World are They Spraying includes interviews with islanders from Hawaii who are experiencing heavy spraying of aluminum particulate (as confirmed by, among others, a 4th grade science class research project) and who find that plant life– except for certain genetically modified food crops– dies. Most importantly, this reflective layer only masks rising temperatures, it doesn’t affect root causes,so the spraying must continue indefinitely. Stopping aerosol spraying once it has begun would likely cause a rapid spike in temperature. The activity becomes self-justifying, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of those who control the technology.
Which leads us to the flip side of the geoengineering coin, seed engineering to create plants which can survive the combination of stresses from extreme weather caused by climate change and high concentrations of metals. Like geoengineering, this becomes an essential service, a matter of life or death– the ideal product for the holder of the patents on this technology. Of course Monsanto is prepared to profit with its “invention” of plants which are highly tolerant to stress, as well as the USDA– which holds a patent for aluminum resistance in certain species– and others. The technological fix to the ecological catastrophe facing the planet, as with all technical fixes, concentrates power in the hands of those with the technology, and those people are preparing to put the last nail in the coffin of our god-given, self-regulating ecological life-support systems; and preparing the legal regime to support their immensely profitable, sickening (literally) technological management of the global environment.
While this is hard to face, it is more and more clear that a majority of my generation is prepared to recognize that the stories I have just told are true; that the logic which places corporate profit as the driving force which organizes our whole global social system has the power to destroy the civilization that we know. This brings us to the cusp of despair, but also, hope. Given the daily evidence that corporate responsibility is an oxymoron and that governments will not hold corporations to account, the only option less is massive civil disobedience, and parallel construction of social and life-support systems which are not centered on maximizing profit. I support the Rising Tide North Texas action to blockade construction of the Keystone Pipeline; this is my launching into the new day of struggle, the day the fantasy of corporate responsibility and government regulation in the public interest dies.