Capitalism Is Killing The Earth And Its People by Finian Cunningham

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Image by sparkleplen_t via Flickr

by Finian Cunningham
Writer, Dandelion Salad
East Africa
Crossposted from PressTV
Feb. 1, 2015

‘I see a bad moon rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightning
I see hard times today’
— John Fogerty, Bad Moon Rising (1969)

John Fogerty’s classic rock song ‘Bad Moon Rising’, from the 1960s, could be the foreboding soundtrack for what is rumbling in America’s Midwest today.

Earthquakes have now become a daily occurrence in Oklahoma and other Midwest states. In the past, a baseline incidence of quakes was two or so a year. Now, the region is experiencing over 500 a year, according to official seismological records. So far, there hasn’t been “a big one”. Most of the quakes have registered around 3 to 5 on the Richter Scale. But it seems only a matter of time before the Earth lashes back with deadly force.

A report this week in the Washington Post tells of widespread structural damage and personal injuries from the “swarm of earthquakes” that residents in Oklahoma are having to endure. With trepidation, ordinary people are fearing that a final calamity is crescendoing.

“The earthquakes come nearly every day now, cracking drywall, popping floor tiles and rattling kitchen cabinets. On Monday, three quakes hit this historic land-rush town [Guthrie] in 24 hours, booming and rumbling like the end of the world,” reports Lori Montgomery for the Post.

“After a while, you can’t even tell what’s a pre-shock or an after-shock. The ground just keeps moving,” says one resident. “People are so frustrated and scared.”

The oil and gas industry will, of course, deny any link between the new geological phenomenon and its increased drilling activity. But self-serving capitalists are hardly a reliable source. They claim that the surge in seismological tremors across America’s Midwest is just part of a “natural cycle” of more frequent quakes. That’s not much comfort to millions of people living in dense cities and towns, with their homes mortgaged to the hilt, or their workplaces nestled in high-rise buildings.

No matter what the industry capitalists and their bribed politicians may say, there seems little doubt that the Earth is quaking from the so-called enhanced recovery techniques of hydraulic fracturing. This is where chemical fluids are injected under extremely high pressure into subterranean wells to break up shale rock layers and release untapped reserves of natural gas or oil.

The injection-wells can penetrate the earth to a depth of 10,000 ft (3 kilometers) and the high-pressure fracking fluid contains hundreds of organic chemicals to punch out the raw fuel from the rock fissures. Hydrocarbons and profits may be gushing anew for the American industry, but it is humans and the environment that are subsidizing the system by bearing the huge costs of collateral damage.

Fracking has become the new El Dorado for the oil and gas industry, promising lucrative profits and a revival of flagging economies. The US is a world leader in the practice, where rejuvenation of the oil and gas industry is touted as the savior of a stagnant capitalist economy and as a strategic lever for American global power.

The crisis in Ukraine, for example, is very much predicated on American ambitions to displace Russia as the main energy supplier to Europe. Fracking is thus the holy grail for Washington’s global ambitions.

But as with many best-laid plans, there is a snag. Actually, several potentially fatal snags. Not only is the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing in the US unleashing seismological spasms; the industrial activity is creating massive contamination of groundwater. Fracking fluid can contain up to 600 chemicals, such as mercury and ethylene glycol, some of which are known carcinogens.

Millions of barrels of chemical fluid have to be pumped into the Earth in order to retrieve the same number of barrels of gas or oil equivalent. These chemicals are seeping into freshwater aquifers and thence into drinking-water infrastructure. Also, the natural methane gas released from the fracking process is not always recovered by the industry. Instead, it finds its way into unintended fissures and eventually home water supplies, to the point where some households in America’s Midwest can now ignite water coming out of their kitchen taps.

There are now reckoned to be 500,000 of these injection-wells operating across the US, mainly in the Midwest states of Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio and Arkansas. So far, the oil and gas industry has enjoyed a boom in profits and stock market exuberance; and certainly several states have gained revenues and jobs as a result. But the steep human and environmental costs are looming, and, increasingly, are no longer hidden. Millions of people living in quaking homes and offices is a harbinger of even bigger “costs.”

That’s capitalism for you. The pursuit of private financial profit is the only objective that over-rules all other considerations. Poisoning water and people, destroying the Earth and natural ecosystems are all irrelevant where capitalism is concerned. Profit is the only decision-maker, no matter how absurd, unjust or calamitous.

The state of Oklahoma was reportedly hit with over 550 quakes in the past year. In the 1930s, the red-dirt state was clobbered with another ecological crisis, known as the “dust bowl era.” Millions of families were uprooted, dispossessed and displaced because new intensive farming practices in preceding years had ruined the soil structure, making it blow away in huge waves of dust. Farms were shuttered by banks foreclosing on bankrupt families. Industrial agriculture and the reckless pursuit of capitalist profit was the primary cause of the Dust Bowl.

In his classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck wrote about the anguish and suffering of the droves of people from Oklahoma and other Midwest states, who during the Great Depression had to migrate to California to eke out a living as farm laborers. They endured heartrending poverty, sickness, hunger, death, and brutality from truncheon-wielding cops along the way.

Eight decades on, America still hasn’t learnt anything. Capitalism is killing the Earth and its people, again and again. How many calamities must be endured under this barbaric, irrational system? When will we finish with it, before it finishes us?

And it’s not just about oil and gas, or agriculture. Capitalism mandates imperialism, which in turn mandates conflict and war. Anyone must see that America’s collision course with Russia over the trumped-up Ukraine crisis is a direct function of US imperialism and its European vassals. Ultimately, this capitalist logic, unchecked, could lead to nuclear war, just as American imperialist-capitalist logic was behind the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Part of the reason for subjugating Eastern Ukraine is to make way for oil and gas fracking in Novorossiya by the company Burisma, whose executive board members include Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, the US vice president.

So there you have the complete circle. Killing people at home and around the world, and all for the making of tacky bits of paper called dollars. Surely human beings can do better than that.


Finian Cunningham, is a columnist at Press TV, the Strategic Culture Foundation and a Writer on Dandelion Salad. He can be reached at cunninghamfinian@gmail.com.

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[DS added the video reports.]

‘Frackers’ trying to cut corners and dump radioactive waste in landfills

RT America on Jan 30, 2015

With the worldwide price of oil continuing to drop, natural gas companies in North Dakota are trying to stay competitive by pushing through changes allowing radioactive fracking waste to be dumped in landfills. Current rules require drillers to transport potentially harmful fracking byproducts to specialized facilities in neighboring states, but with the industry fighting for its survival, cutting corners is just one strategy to remain profitable. RT’s Marina Portnaya examines.

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Newly found chemicals in fracking wastewater lead to cancer

RT America on Jan 19, 2015

University researchers have discovered two new pollutants in fracking wastewater that can have potentially devastating effects on waterways and those who depend on them. Professor Avner Vengosh identified both ammonium and iodide in samples taken by his team, which says that the two chemicals have never before been linked to the natural gas extraction process. Although not deadly by themselves, according to scientists, when combined with other substances used by the natural gas drilling industry, they become carcinogenic. Dr. Ken Carlson of Colorado State University explains the importance and of the findings to RT’s Ben Swann.

see

Michael Hudson: Inequality = Privatization of the Earth

from the archives:

John Pilger: Ukraine Crisis Could Start World War III + WWIII – The Calm Before The Storm

Workers Are Disposable in the Fracking Industry by Walter Brasch

Rex W. Tillerson–A Frackin’ Hypocrite! by Walter Brasch

Frackdown Day: Worldwide protest to end shale gas extraction + Romania villagers resist US energy giant Chevron

Fracking–Britain’s Next Revolution by Lesley Docksey

23 thoughts on “Capitalism Is Killing The Earth And Its People by Finian Cunningham

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  7. The problem with capitalism is the making money regardless of consequence, although capitalism has to some extent a type of morality, this is not the same as taking in to account the ethical and moral consequence of action, the locomotive is now set on a track that blood and bone can no longer stop the critical mass and momentum of the impending calamity, those that dare get on the world stage to do the job will be annihilated or suffer the misfortune of a fate that the status quo hold as a ritualized tenet.

    • Well said dw…you make an essential point ~ the element of ritualised habits of mind; even those who believe in the redemptive power of a historical supreme saviour, have in principle transcended that reflex of sacrifice, so why perpetuate the rite?

      Unfortunately it is guilt and fear that drives the male ego to these extravagant bloodthirsty atrocities, as though WW2 and Hiroshima/Nagasaki were not enough. This drive to destruction will never be satisfied, even were the entire globe to be incinerated in fireballs of meteoric scope.

      The populist loud-hailer is always a male voice bellowing paranoia, insecurity and pathological psychosis. Women’s voices are sidelined and trivialised. Yet some of the strongest are to be heard in Africa. Were it not for the racist impulse that forbids us to heed them, we could gain much from paying attention to what is being said…

    • Don W.: Great description of the societal ailment commonly known as capitalism and the effects from it’s insatiable desire for more, regardless the cost.

      When I was a youngster, I read the children’s version of “The Octupus,” by Frank Norris, about the control of a town by the railroad, and it scared the heck out of me. To think that a business could exert so much power over a whole community in the alleged “freest country in the world.”

      Jack London’s, “Iron Heel” was a primer for things to come.

  8. Of course Finian is completely right. This is the death spasm of an insane body politic.

    The state of the world has never been more fraught with lethal, potentially terminal threats.

    Gangsterism with a smiley capitalist face is the leading global American export brand: hydrocarbon pollution infuses every living thing; Putinesque gangsterism with a secret “iconic” FSB face suffocates Russia like an orthodox incubus; Canada is now the world’s leading exemplar of indigenous ecocide; the Middle-east is a massive swamp of genocidal iniquity; oligopolistic European ambitions are rising and rising as austerity bites deeper and deeper; unspeakable horrors in Africa; Chinese avarice spreading everywhere; drug cartels thriving globally made in S America while Argentina drowns in glyphosate; the oceans are choking with plastic waste; India is decimating its peasant farmers; Britain is in political paralysis only three months from a general election; Indonesia has been transformed into palm-oil wasteland to keep the supermarket shelves of the “developed world” stocked with inedible carcinogens…whoopee

    Fortunately, there is good evidence of potentially ancient living planets elsewhere in our galaxy ~ so perhaps those of us with some ingenuity and insight should be making a more concerted effort to communicate with any more advanced extra-terrestrial intelligences, as it seems we’ve never been more in need of serious help….

    • David, you couldn’t have said it any better!

      Then again, starting with Syriza in Greece, the impetus for change might be in the offering.

      There are certainly tough times ahead and the powers that be will not yield anything without a fight. We sure could use the help of advanced terrestrials in helping us defeat the dark forces (which you have eloquently defined) before they render this planet uninhabitable.

  9. The New Madrid Earthquake in 1811-1812 was actually three earthquakes, the first one was 7.5 in December 1811, and the aftershocks in January 1812, were 7.3 and another 7.5. It was felt in a wide arc in the South, between St. Louis, Missouri and Natchez, Mississippi.

    The only reason most people don’t know that the South is also vulnerable to major earthquakes is because this area was so scarcely populated at this time that little damage was done. Not so today… if three large earthquakes were to hit in a row like this again, the damage would probably be worse than that caused by Hurricane Katrina.

    Passively accepting fracking as the status quo is an abdication of our responsibilities as citizens. WE NEED TO TAKE EFFECTIVE ACTION through class action suits, boycotts, and protests. County governments could enact rules and regulations that make fracking unprofitable.

    Come on, people. We’ve got more tools than we’re using. This is going to take a whole lot of local organizing because our federal government isn’t protecting us, and no amount of citizen involvement with our highly corrupted legislature is going to be effective.

    Thank you, Finian, for nailing the issue once again.

    • peacevisionary: I agree! And yes, the legislature is highly corrupted and will remain as such as long as the Republican/Democrat cabal has control.

      Alternative parties with qualified candidates should be promoted, which takes an awful lot of money, but only then – and it’s a longshot – can real progressive measures be enacted for humanity and Mother Earth.

      Realistically, the overwhelming majority are disinterested and follow the official line of political and advertising propaganda, making it easier for the morally corrupt to succeed in their destructive plans for money and power.

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