Speaking of the Environment …

Yesterday, a ruptured pipe in the Keystone pipeline dumped some 14,000 barrels, more than a half-million gallons of crude oil into a creek in north-eastern Kansas.  It was the largest onshore crude pipeline spill in nine years and the largest Keystone spill in history. How many fish and other aquatic creatures died yesterday as a result?  How many families will be affected by the contamination of their water supply?  Do you think for one minute that TC Energy who owns the pipeline gives a damn?  NO, the only thing they are concerned with is mitigating the damaging press and getting their pipeline back up and running!  I will have more on this later, but it makes the following OpEd by British environmental activist George Monbiot in The Guardian more relevant than ever.

The US is a rogue state leading the world towards ecological collapse

It’s not just indifference. It’s an active, and deadly, cavalier attitude towards the lives of others: an example other nations follow

George Monbiot

09 December 2022

There are two extraordinary facts about the convention on biological diversity, whose members are meeting in Montreal now to discuss the global ecological crisis. The first is that, of the world’s 198 states, 196 are party to it. The second is the identity of those that aren’t. Take a guess. North Korea? Russia? Wrong. Both ratified the convention years ago. One is the Holy See (the Vatican). The other is the United States of America.

This is one of several major international treaties the US has refused to ratify. Among the others are crucial instruments such as the Rome statute on international crimes, the treaties banning cluster bombs and landmines, the convention on discrimination against women, the Basel convention on hazardous waste, the convention on the law of the sea, the nuclear test ban treaty, the employment policy convention and the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

In some cases, it is one of only a small number to refuse: the others are generally either impoverished states with little administrative capacity or vicious dictatorships. It is the only independent nation on Earth not to ratify the convention on the rights of the child. Perhaps this is because it is the only nation to sentence children to life imprisonment without parole, among many other brutal policies. While others play by the rules, the most powerful nation refuses. If this country were a person, we’d call it a psychopath. As it is not a person, we should call it what it is: a rogue state.

Through its undemocratic dominance of global governance, the US makes the rules, to a greater extent than any other state. It also does more than any other to prevent both their implementation and their enforcement. Its refusal to ratify treaties such as the convention on biological diversity provides other nations with a permanent excuse to participate in name only. Like all imperial powers, its hegemony is expressed in the assertion of its right not to care.

The question that assails those who strive for a kinder world is always the same but endlessly surprising: how do we persuade others to care? The lack of interest in resolving our existential crises, expressed by the US Senate in particular, is not a passive exceptionalism. It is an active, proud and furious refusal to care about the lives of others. This refusal has become the motive force of the old-new politics now sweeping the world. It appears to be driving a deadly, self-reinforcing political cycle.

Take the nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands. Scientists there have been warning since the 1980s that the excessive release of nitrogen compounds – primarily by agriculture – exceed the land and water’s capacity to absorb them, killing rivers, polluting groundwater, damaging soil, wiping out wild plants and causing a severe but seldom-discussed air pollution crisis. But successive governments could not be persuaded to care. Their repeated failure to act on these warnings allowed the problem to mount until it reached catastrophic levels. In 2019, a ruling by the Dutch council of state that the pollution levels breached European law obliged the government to do suddenly what its predecessors had failed to do gradually: shut down some of the major sources of this pollution.

This has triggered a furious reaction from the industries most affected, primarily livestock farming. The farmers’ protests have, like the Ottawa truckers’ strike, now become a cause célèbre for the far right all over the world. Rightwing politicians claim that the nitrogen crisis is being used as a pretext to seize land from farmers, in whom, they claim, true Dutch identity is vested, and hand it to asylum seekers and other immigrants, at the behest of “globalist” forces such as the World Economic Forum.

In other words, the issue has been co-opted by “great reset” and “great replacement” conspiracy theorists, who claim that there are deliberate policies to replace local, white people with “other cultures”. Some Dutch farmers have now adopted these themes, spreading ever more extreme conspiracy fictions, which might have helped to fuel an escalation of violence.

These themes are a reworking of long-established tropes. The notion that farming represents a “rooted” and “authentic” national identity that must be defended from “cosmopolitan” and “alien” forces was a mainstay of European fascist thought in the first half of the 20th century. Never mind that nitrogen fertilisers are now imported from Russia and livestock feed from the US and Brazil, never mind that the model of intensive livestock farming is the same all over the world: Dutch meat, eggs and milk are promoted as “local” and sometimes even “sovereign”, and said to be threatened by the forces of “globalism”.

Thanks to such failures of care over many years, we now approach multiple drastic decision points, at which governments must either implement changes in months that should have happened over decades, or watch crucial components of civic life collapse, including the most important component of all: a habitable planet. In either case, it’s a cliff edge.

As we rush towards these precipices, we are likely to see an ever more violent refusal to care. For example, if we in the rich nations are to meet our twin duties of care and responsibility, we must be prepared to accept many more refugees, who will be driven from their homes by the climate and ecological breakdown caused disproportionately by our economies. But as this displacement crisis (that could be greater than any dispossession the world has ever seen) looms, it could trigger a new wave of reactive, far-right politics, furiously rejecting the obligations accumulated by our previous failures to act. In turn, a resurgence of far-right politics would cut off meaningful environmental action. In other words, we face the threat of a self-perpetuating escalation of collapse.

This is the spiral we must seek to break. With every missed opportunity – and the signs suggest that the Montreal summit might be another grave disappointment – the scope for gentle action diminishes and the rush towards drastic decisions accelerates. Some of us have campaigned for years for soft landings. But that time has now passed. We are in the era of hard landings. We must counter the rise of indifference with an overt and conspicuous politics of care.

49 thoughts on “Speaking of the Environment …

  1. I don’t comment much on environmental matters because before we got solar, I didn’t feel I really had a place to speak on such issues. Now that we’ve had solar for the last 5 years, please allow me to give you a small microcosm of what the biggest issue is regarding this whole thing. This may be a longer than usual comment so please bear with my thought processes.
    First, regarding our solar panels, we have had to have the inverter replaced no fewer than 4 or 5 times over the last year. For those who don’t know, this is the main part of the setup that actually allows the panels to convert the sun to energy that powers the house and then any that is left over, depending on how it’s set up with your electric provider, gets sent back to the grid for a credit at the end of the month.
    Combine a broken inverter with supply chain issues and you have a situation where we’re not only paying for full electric bills every month but also for solar panels that don’t work, just take a match to the money and send it up in flames, poof, it’s gone.
    This brings me to my next point.
    Extrapolate this situation out to a bigger population if such technology were mandated for the whole country and think of how many people would be even more broke, even poorer than they are because their solar panels aren’t working?
    now, I say all this to make the following point.
    As ideal as it would be to be able to power everything, or as much as possible with alternative energies, the truth of the matter is that the technology just isn’t there yet.
    I’m certain that bit oil plays a part and making sure that people don’t have the means or abilities to develop these technology to a point beyond where they are today as it is a potential clear threat to their way of life.
    Until this technology can be developed and implemented to be a reliable sustainable form of useful energy for everyone, fossil fuels are the best we have.
    Am I downplaying the impact on the environment/ You may emotionally react and believe that because our experience with solar hasn’t been great that this is what I’m doing but I’m not. Am I excusing the careless ways that the big oil companies probably cut corners when they build these pipelines to ensure that they make more money? Absolutely not.
    But think of the impact on the environment things like electric cars have, those batteries take lithium and that has to be mined out of the ground, not the best thing for mother nature is it?
    I guess I’m just asking you guys to have some perspective, it’s not all intentional greed and thoughtlessness towards the planet, there are other factors involved so I wish you’d just be more aware of those perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond, Scott … I’ve been exhausted lately and set aside some of the longer comments to answer later. I can certainly understand your frustration, but of the several people I know who have installed solar panels, you are the first I’ve heard having so much trouble with them. I have a number of friends here who have them and they are all thrilled, only one had a minor problem, but it was quickly repaired at no cost to him. Yes, there will always be glitches in new technology … it takes sometimes decades to get everything just right, but I wouldn’t give up on them, for once you get them working properly, they are still a much better option for the future of the planet!


      • Hi Jill.

        hope you get to feeling better soon. This particular company, which is called solar edge, has lots of people who have these very same problems. At least the things are under warranty so that when this happens again, it doesn’t cost us anything to fix it but it’s the wasted money in the meantime that makes me so angry about this whole thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As you might imagine Jill, I am surrounded on ALL SIDES here in rural Central Texas by hard-leaning and hardcore radical Republicans who are all about Big Oil and Energy, money/profits out the WAH-ZOOO, then more fossil fuel production—within the U.S., especially Texas!—and MORE revenue/profits, ad nauseum!!! 🤢 🤮

    For many years I’ve listened to fanatical, politically influenced oil & gas supporters and pipeline supporters galore. I wonder now what they’ll retort with after this massive oil catastrophe—my heart goes out to those poor people environmentally and biologically impacted in Kansas for generations to come. 💔 They always harped on a unproveable “fact”(?) that the pipes are totally safe both for humans AND the environment they run through. PFFFFFFTTTTT!!!! 😡 Whatever.

    When your #1, #2, #3, and #4 priorities in life are economic gains, plush opulent lifestyles, repeat ad infinitum… THIS is what always happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can only imagine! And yet, as per Keith’s comment, Texas leads the way in wind energy. I think it’s time for people to wake up and realize there are MORE IMPORTANT things than the economy. Yes, it’s important that people have jobs … jobs that pay enough for them to live comfortably. But of late, a booming economy feeds only the top 1%, while the rest of us continue to struggle, so I’m not nearly as concerned about the economy as I am the environment, human rights, civil rights, education, and a host of other things. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe by the next half dozen decades are up health problems, especially cancers will become more common due to the air and water quality, not to mention new and ongoing viruses medical problems and the extreme adverse weather victims from temperature change. It only took a few hundred years to pollute our planet but with everyone in power who can do something about it dragging their feet and making excuses with the religious right wing nuts denying there is a problem it will take thousands of years to recover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make another good point … a wide variety of diseases will likely increase as a result of climate change. But, I think the more immediate danger is water and food shortages. Any way you cut it, though, the human species is on the path to extinction and taking as many other species as they can find with them. Add to that the nuclear threat, and I really don’t see humans lasting past the end of this century. For any surviving species, that’s probably very good news and eventually some may manage to recover from it as water supplies replenish, the planet once again has greenery instead of brick and steel …


  4. I saw the story a few days ago either on Facebook or one of the newsletters I get. But mostly I saw it on ABC news at 630 two nights in a row. So the story is out there, but true not maki g much of a fuss. I think far too many people in this country simply dont care, are too beholden to big oil and their money, or too stupid to realize the dangers and the rogue state indeed we are.

    Liked by 1 person

        • No, I will never be a member of that very small group. First, I have zero respect for Putin … I believe he values power over human life, I believe he is a cruel and inhumane person. Second, I DO still believe in democracy … I just don’t think the U.S. is a democracy any longer. I do still think that every nation on earth can do better if the people work together instead of fighting all the time.


          • Fair enuff. Just think where your weird believes stem from? Can’t be a trustworthy source since they are not based on facts. But you’re right in thinking the US ain’t a democracy. You know who else thinks so? Putin and 90% of the world’s population.

            Welcome to the club! 🙂


    • Amazing! If I had first seen it in The Daily Mail, I probably would have thought it was untrue! I first found it in The Guardian. Still no major headlines about it … I’m wondering why, wondering if some dollars exchanged hands to bury the story. WHY aren’t people more up in arms??? Over a half-million gallons of crude oil spilled into a creek … that should be earth-shattering news … more so than the World’s Cup!


  5. Pingback: Speaking of the Environment … — Filosofa’s Word | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  6. Until the direct adverse effects of pollution, global warming, gets into our, frontyards, we still, don’t take heed, over, just how severe, how serious the situation is getting, because we still operate on the beliefs of, not in my backyard, not my problem, and, by the time it gets in my, backyard, then, I’ll deal with it, without knowing, that, everything is, an, accumulation from years and years, ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jill, it should be noted a US Congressional committee just concluded the fossil fuel industries is gaslighting the public into believing it is doing more about climate change than they are actually doing. Not a surprise. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gee, what a surprise, eh? And there’s also a pseudo-environmental group telling people to reject climate proposals saying they ‘don’t go far enough’, when in reality this group is funded by … guess who? The fossil fuel industry. We the People are being manipulated in more ways than one.


      • Jill, we need to move things forward in a huge way. Pipelines breech. It is not a surprise when they do. Fracking uses too much water and accidentally and purposefully vents methane into the atmosphere. Texas leads the way with wind energy and several plains states get over 35% of electricity from wind. And, California is the 4th largest solar powered COUNTRY in the world by itself. Americans need to stop courting fossil fuel and move forward. Wind and solar power need not be large scale which scares the crap out of utilities and fossil fuel companies. If they are going to lie to us, let’s continue to take steps with or without them. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed, renewables are the ONLY way to go forward, but as long as the fossil fuel giants can ‘buy’ our members of Congress, it’s an uphill battle. It is encouraging that progress is being made, but I fear it is happening much too slowly to suit Mother Nature and some drastic measures are going to need to take place soon. I’m still puzzled, though, by the lack of reporting on this pipeline spill … it was monumental and should be front page news, but it isn’t. Why?


  8. TC Energy, once upon a time TransCanada Energy, with ( I believe) head offices in Calgary, AB.
    TC Energy is one of the reasons the Alberta Government refuses to recognize the Climate Crisis. So please blame Canada, loudly, clearly, and as often as you can. They won’t listen to concerned Albertans, or even concerned Canadians.
    The more international uproar that is heard, the more chance of getting something done.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Note to Readers: I just visited the New York Times AND Washington Post websites and did not see a single word in the headlines about the Keystone pipeline leak!!! Probably the most important news of the day in the U.S., but the World Cup soccer games were the headlines instead.

    Liked by 1 person

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