Truth-telling and activism – July 24

July 24, 2012

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER…

The Newsroom, HBO via YouTube

Beginning scene of the new HBO series The Newsroom explaining why America’s Not the Greatest Country Any Longer… But It Can Be
(26 June 2012)

Occupy the Dam: Brazil’s Indigenous Uprising

John Perkins, YES! Magazine
July 24, 2012 by
In the Amazonian backcountry, tribes are challenging construction of the world’s third-largest dam—by dismantling it. Here’s what they can teach us about standing up to power.

Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.

The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.

History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.
(24 July 2012)

Appalachia Turns on Itself

Jason Howard, New York Times (op-ed)
… Appalachia is engaged in a civil war of sorts over coal, with miners and their families pitted against environmental activists. The central issue is mountaintop removal, a radical form of strip mining that has left over 2,000 miles of streams buried and over 500 mountains destroyed. According to several recent studies, people living near surface mining sites have a 50 percent greater risk of fatal cancer and a 42 percent greater risk of birth defects than the general population.

Despite the evidence, the coal industry and its allies in Washington have persuaded the majority of their constituents to ignore such environmental consequences, recasting mountaintop removal as an economic boon for the region, a powerful job creator in a time of national employment distress.

Of course, since mountaintop removal is heavily mechanized, the coal industry is the real job killer — and, until recently, miners would have been suspicious of any claim to the contrary. For decades the companies had fought the miners’ efforts to unionize, resulting in violent strikes.

… The presence of the United Mine Workers of America helped stymie such tactics. But now, with a mere 25 percent of miners belonging to the union, the allegiance of miners has largely shifted to the coal companies. The old divide-and-conquer strategy is back. This time, it’s a matter of pitting workers against their erstwhile allies in Washington: increased environmental regulations — a hallmark of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency following eight years of lax guidelines and enforcement under President George W. Bush — are branded as a war on coal miners.
(8 July 2012)

‘Deep Green Resistance’ — how not to build a movement

Ian Angus, Green Left (Australia)

Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet
Aric McBay, Lierre Keith & Derrick Jensen
Seven Stories Press, 2011

In its March-April issue, Canadian Dimension magazine featured a very positive review of Deep Green Resistance. The reviewer said it “made me a better strategist,” and endorsed author Derrick Jenson’s assertion that “this book is about winning.”

In my view, the strategy and tactics advocated in this book are a path to certain defeat, so I submitted the following brief response, which CD editor Cy Gonick kindly published in the May-June issue.

There is much to admire in Deep Green Resistance. The authors sincerely love the natural world. They write passionately about environmental destruction and the refusal of the powers that be to change course.

Their criticism of the ineffectiveness of mainstream environmental organisations is powerful and convincing, as is their argument that radical greens must aim to “deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet”.

But the book is mostly about strategy and tactics, and that is where it fails.

In his previous book, Endgame, Derrick Jensen wrote: “I don’t think most people care, and I don’t think most people will ever care … The mass of civilized people will never be on our side.”

That elitist, greener-than-thou attitude permeates Deep Green Resistance.

The authors write: “The vast majority of the population will do nothing unless they are led, cajoled, or forced … there will be no mass movement, not in time to save this planet, our home.”

And: “Humans aren’t going to do anything in time … [so] those of us who care about the future of the planet have to dismantle the industrial energy infrastructure as rapidly as possible.”

That elitist analysis leads to elitist strategy. Having written off most of humanity to as irredeemably apathetic or hostile to change, the enlightened ones propose to force change on the world through “Decisive Ecological Warfare” conducted by small groups.

“Well-organized underground militants would make coordinated attacks on energy infrastructure around the world … actions against pipelines, power lines, tankers, and refineries, perhaps using electromagnetic pulses …”

If even partially successful, the social and economic chaos caused by such a campaign would be felt most severely by the poor and oppressed.

The authors face that prospect with appalling equanimity: “We’ll all have to deal with the social consequences as best we can. Besides, rapid collapse is ultimately good for humans ― even if there is a die-off ― because at least some people survive.”

Of course, Decisive Ecological Warfare is pure fantasy, a video-game vision of a heroic band saving the earth from evil-doers, enabling a handful of survivors to carry on as hunter-gatherers in a new Eden.

Missing from DGR’s scenarios is the outcome that history says is most likely ― long before the underground groups achieve any significant size or ability to act, they are infiltrated by police spies and provocateurs and disrupted by arrests. Key activists are imprisoned for years; many more are isolated and demoralised.

Our rulers couldn’t ask for a more favourable result.
(10 July 2012)

Tags: Activism, Coal, Electricity, Fossil Fuels, Hydropower, Media & Communications, Politics, Renewable Energy