Root Cause of Fracking: Capitalism
Bill Baker of Frack Free Ohio states:
"[The issue on the local ballot is] an attempt to take back local control and return local decision-making to our city council and the residents as to whether we want to permit injection wells or not. A core component of this is that it criminalizes fracking fluid without legislative approval, and legislative approval in our city limits would require disclosure of the chemicals. We’re back to that same issue of wanting to know what the heck is in this water. Is it just safe brine water as the industry tells us?" (1)
City council decision-making is the wrong focus at this time. Directly democratic decision-making, on the other hand, is definitely part of the solution. But, it's more important to put the cause of fracking and climate catastrophe, in general, front and center in people's minds in order to cut through the mainstream media blackout of this issue.
The cause of fracking, global warming, and climate change is capitalism.
It's the capitalist economic system that encourages greed and individual achievement above all else, that harms the Earth the most. More specifically, the problem lies in most people's complicity with those who adhere and support capitalism via the various polluting industries (and the industries that support the polluting industries). And, as the Germans were complicit in the Holocaust or "The Final Solution", most choosing either to ignore the problem or believe it wasn't happening, most of us are now complicit in climate catastrophe. Without immediate action, our current capitalist actions WILL lead to the deaths of billions and/or render the Earth uninhabitable by the year 2100.
Bill Baker exemplifies the "choosing to ignore the problem" way of thinking:
Baker said he does not have a gloom-and-doom approach to environmentalism.
"I just read an article and they call it a syndrome of apocalypse. Myself, I’m a very positive person. I know we’re in a critical stage, but think of all the apocalypses that were supposed to occur but that we’ve already survived. It used to be more of a religious note but now it seems that environmentalists and anti-war folks and many groups try to say if we don’t act now, the world will be over in a few years."
"I really don’t believe that’s the trend, but I think we’re crossing lines or levels of change that may not be reversible. Truth be known. In my world, I don’t think we’ve been able to study models of different directions of where the Earth is going, how quickly can it heal itself and rebound."
He said he looks at these issues in a black-and-white sense.
"There are a lot of grey areas, but ‘is this beneficial to society or is it detrimental ?’ I don’t know think it’s going to kill us in the next few years but fracking seems to be detrimental to progress." (2)
Baker completely ignores the current reality of climate catastrophe throughout the world and instead, he chooses only to focus on his own privileged viewpoint from the Global North.
This is one of the main problems I see with many environmental activist groups, including the Frack Free Ohio folks. They refuse to take climate catastrophe seriously by focusing on capitalism and its mode of production as the main cause.
Fracking leads to increased global average temperatures, along with immediate pollution of the surrounding areas, which ultimately supports climate catastrophe currently taking about 300,000 lives per year (3).
The people of Earth cannot worry about offending people or hurting their feelings by criticising the economic system they may feel civilizes the world. It's important that everyone concerned with preventing further climate catastrophe openly focus on the cause so that we may make the necessary changes as soon as is possible.
"Barring the rapid development of a revolutionary movement, a series of thoroughgoing transitional social reforms may be needed. Three primary revolutionary reforms involve a guaranteed minimim income for all, full universal access to health care, and the decommodification of basic goods, such as food and water." (4)
Frack Free Ohio folks will do well to include fracking in the larger worldwide climate catastrophe umbrella and focus on ending capitalism as their main strategy while pushing for these revolutionary reforms. One of the main reasons towns and cities are choosing fracking over what's best for the Earth is because they believe that they will bring in much needed revenue. The above revolutionary reforms address that need while attacking the root cause of climate catastrophe.
Otherwise, without the focus on capitalism as the root cause, the Earth is likely going to see the creation of more and more polluting industries like the fracking (oil and gas) industry. Fifty years ago, there may have been time to fight against each new industry. But today, there is no more time. Climate catastrophe is upon us now and will continue to get worse.
Below is an excerpt from "Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe" by Javier Sethness-Castro (2012):
The Breadth of Climate Barbarism (pp. 43 - 54)
In the estimation of world-renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen, "Planet Earth ... is in imminent peril," is "in imminent danger of crashing," precisely because of the dangerous interference since the rise of industrial capitalism by the West and its followers with Earth's climate systems.(25) This interference--driven primarily by the use of fossil fuels, which in turn have driven economic expansion and attendant explosions of social inequality since the origins of modernity--has caused the atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration to rise from a preindustrial level of 280 ppm to the present 394 ppm. Due to the heat-trapping characteristics of atmospheric CO2, average global temperatures have risen an estimated 0.8°C (1.4°F) since preindustrial times. Because a time lapse of some decades exists between the point at which hydrocarbons are released into the environment and the point at which they in fact contribute to global warming, a great deal more warming can be expected based solely on the emissions that have been caused to date--at least 1.4°C (2.45°F) over preindustrial average global temperature levels, according to one estimate.(26) The Nobel Prize-winning IPCC estimates in its 2007 Fourth Annual Report that global average temperatures could rise by a total of between 1.1°C and 6.4°C (1.93°F and 11.2°F) by the end of this century--though as some commentators disconcertingly note, such predictions may constitute significant underestimates, considering that the various feedback mechanisms that might turn climate change into a self-perpetuating phenomenon--discussed below--are still unquantified and hence excluded from the data on which the IPCC bases its conclusions.(27) Hansen, for one, insists that global atmospheric carbon concentration must be reduced to no more than 350 ppm, "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization is based."(28) Australian environmentalists David Spratt and Philip Sutton recommend an even more radical target of 315 ppm, which they associate with an average increase of only 0.5°C (0.88°F) over the temperature that prevailed in preindustrial human history--a goal similar to that endorsed at the April 2010 World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held by the Morales government in Cochabamba.(29)
The average global temperature increase of 0.8°C (1.4°F) observed to date has already profoundly affected many of Earth's peoples and much of the planet itself.
To date, then, climate change has proven disastrous, yet the threats posed by climate destabilization will likely be far more severe in the near future. The following examines some of the climatological findings regarding our downward spiral toward climate catastrophe--an eventuality that is promised without a rational and revolutionary intervention to check it.
In its 2007 Fourth Annual Report, the IPCC offers its worse-case scenario of a 6.4°C (11.2°F) increase in average temperatures by the end of the twenty-first century as being based on the lack of any sort of sensible mitigating policies and the reproduction of fossil-fuel-intensive capitalist growth. The report states that a 2°C (3.6°F) increase in average temperatures is associated with an atmospheric carbon concentration of about 500 ppm, a 3°C (5.25°F) rise with 600 ppm, and a 5°C-6°C (8.75-11.2°F) increase with 900 - 1,000 ppm.(65) As has already been noted, humanity presently finds itself tied to a trajectory that would see the realization of this 6°C increase by the century's end. The UK Met Office maintains that a 4°C (7°F) increase by the year 2060 is entirely possible. Anderson's predictions for life in a world warmer by 4°C, mentioned above, is relevant here, as is Hansen and his colleague's determination that the current warming rate is progressing between ten and a thousand times more rapidly than the nearly terminal extinction rate at the end of the end of the Permian era.(66)
At lower levels of climate change (1°C-2°C), say climatological reports, much of the world's oceans will be rendered dangerously acidic due to the mass dissolving of CO2 in water, the subtropical arid belt that currently rests where the Sahara lies will likely move into southern Europe, India's wheat-producing northern states will be devastated, the Andes' glacial ice could well disappear altogether, and the critical melt threshold for the Greenland ice sheet will have been surpassed.(67) Regions of China face significantly higher vulnerability to parasitic disease given a 2°C (3.6°F) global temperature increase, and the general incidence of diarrheal diseases will likely increase significantly under such conditions.(68) Drought and desertification from such warming levels will increase the probability that little food will be available on international markets; mass starvation is thus to be expected.(69) With a 3°C (5.25°F) increase, the sand seas of the Kalahari Desert are expected to begin expanding, thereby rendering Botswana and much of the rest of southern Africa uninhabitable by humans; much of Central America and Australia will no longer be able to support agricultural production; Amazonia will likely collapse into a desert of Saharan proportions; and a permanent El Nino would be instituted.(70) Citing his colleague David Archer, German climatologist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber asserts that a 2°C-3°C increase in average global temperatures could provoke a seal-level rise of 164 feet (50 meters).(71) With a 4°C-5°C temperature increase, agriculture would be abandoned throughout much of the world, with devastating increases in mortality. This destruction of agriculture would result not just from overheating, increased evaporation rates, and decreased rainfall rates, but also by the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers used for agricultural purposes, as follows from rising sea levels.(72) The terrestrial conflagration seen even in a world 2°C warmer than preindustrial levels would itself be accelerated and exacerbated by the release of the estimated 1.5 trillion tons of carbon presently trapped in the Arctic permafrost. A mid-2011 study found that catastrophic, entirely irreversible potential mass release of permafrost could well transpire within two decades.(73) Russian authorities have recently announced that their country's permafrost regions could well shrink by 30 percent before midcentury.(74)
Of perhaps all climatological findings, research on the positive feedback loops that are being induced by warming is the most frightening: the increased absorption of solar radiation that results from reduced deflection by disappearing glacial white surfaces, higher frequency and intensity of forest fires, worsening oceanic acidification, and permafrost and methane release unleashed by overheating would cause warming trends to generate their own momentum toward even hotter states. A 2009 study on climate change performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology--less optimistic and thus perhaps more realistic, for example, than the IPCC's reports to date regarding the prospect of achieving significant carbon emission reductions in the near future--finds there indeed to be a chance that temperatures will increase 7.4°C (13°F) over preindustrial temperatures by the century's end, with a 90 percent chance that the temperature increase would range between 3.5°C and 7.4°C (4.8°F-13°F).(75) The study's authors are quick to clarify that even their decidedly bleak conclusions might be underestimates, as they, like the IPCC, do not fully account for the various feedback mechanisms that could arise given catastrophic climate change. NASA's Dennis Bushnell, for his part, estimates that the average global temperature increase expected during this century once these feedbacks have been accounted for would amount to between 6°C and 12°C (10.5°F-21°F).(76) Warming of such apocalyptic proportions would be entirely horrific: it should be remembered that it was a 6°C (10.5°F) increase that triggered the end-Permian mass extinction.(77)
Though a matter of controversy among climatologists, there is reason to fear that overheating beyond these levels could induce a runaway greenhouse effect that would give rise to what Hansen terms "the Venus syndrome," whereby climatic change abruptly delivers Earth to a state resembling that of Venus, where life simply cannot exist.(78)
(4) "Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe" by Javier Sethness-Castro (2012)
(25) James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), ix, 277.
(26) David Spratt and Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action (Melbourne: Scribe, 2008), 82.
(27) Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars (Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2009): Mark Lynas, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008), 275-75.
(28) James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, David Beerling, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer, and James C. Zachos, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" available at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf.
(29) Spratt and Sutton, Climate Code Red, 120-32.
(65) Susan Solomon, Dahe Qin, Michael Manning, Zhenlin Chen, Melinda Marquis, Kristen B. Averyt, Melinda Tignor, and Henry L. Miller, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 790.
(66) James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato, Paul Epstein, Paul J. Hearty, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Camille Rohling, Jeffery Sachs, Peter Smith, Konrad Steffen, Karina von Schuckmann, and James C. Zachos, "The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future," available at http://www.columbis.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110505_CaseFor....
(67) Lynas, Six Degrees, 25-70, 73-119.
(68) Simon Hales, "Estimating Human Population Health Impacts in a 4+°C World" (paper presented at Oxford University 4 Degrees and Beyond International Climate Change Conference, Osfort, September 28, 2009).
(69) Dyer, Climate Wars, 62.
(70) Lynas, Six Degrees, 123-81
(71) Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, "Terra Quasi-Incognita: Beyond the 2°C Line" (paper presented at the Oxford University 4 Degrees and Beyond International Climate Change Conference, Oxford, September 28, 2009).
(72) Peter D. Ward, The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps (New York: Basic Books, 2010).
(73) Steve Connor, "Melting of the Arctic 'Will Accelerate Climate Change within Twenty Years,'" Independent, May 30, 2011.
(74) AFP, "Russia May Lose 30% of Permafrost by 2050: Official," Independent, July 31, 2011.
(75) David Chandler, "Climate Change Odds Much Worse Than Thought," MIT News Office, May 19, 2009.
(76) Dyer, Climate Wars, 90.
(77) Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter V. Minorsky, and Robert B. Jackson, Campbell Biology (Boston: Benjamin Cummings, 2011), 521-23.
(78) Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren, 223-36.