Ideas & Short Essays
Comments 5

Frack me

I’ve met a good deal of transients in the last ten years, folks without permanent addresses, primarily working seasonal jobs that allow them a free-bird flexibility. Untethered from the office desk and the corporate Nine-to-Five schedule, one has the ability to hit the road as the spirit leads — take a trip for a month or two (or more) and explore the world.

I’ve met many of my fellow free spirits in or near America’s spectacular national parks, most notably in Alaska. So I thought it might be of particular interest to some of my transient nature-loving friends that Trump & Cronie$ are in the process of $elling off nearly a million acres of public land, so as to accelerate fracking.

While oil and gas companies get rich, Americans are shouldering the cost

Our national parks have been called “America’s best idea.” If thats true, then selling off our public lands might be one of Trump’s worst ideas, which is really saying something.

“First it’s our cherished national monuments, now Trump and Zinke are set to give away even more public lands to the fossil fuel industry,” said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “Rather than giving back this holiday season, this administration is proving that it will stop at nothing to put our public lands in the hands of dirty energy executives and sell off our rights to clean energy and a healthy environment.”

This ties back to my prior post Privatize profits, socialize losses.  To know how capitalism works is to realize that what Trump is doing is merely expanding capitalism. For capitalism, economic growth is the most sacred value. It’s profits over people and profits over planet. Hence there’s little to stop Trump and the Republican Party from tossing the keys to the corporate powers-that-be and letting them have their way with our public lands: make healthy profits, then get outta Dodge and let society sort out the mess and whatever other natural disasters take place.

#thankscapitalism

“While oil and gas companies get rich, Americans are shouldering the cost of climate change, air pollution, water contamination, lost wildlife habitat and degraded sacred lands,” said Fischer. “This administration has made abundantly clear that the American public and their lands are nothing more than a ‘burden’ to industry.”

What we need is not more weak-kneed Democrats in office. That’s only a band-aid on a flesh wound. The only long-term solution is to ditch capitalism.

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Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.

5 Comments

  1. It’s my understanding that the Republicans don’t want to sell the public lands in question; they want to sell fracking leases on those lands while retaining ownership of the land itself. So this is already a socialist arrangement, with the US government owning property on behalf of the citizenry and renting it out to generate public revenues. The problem is that the public representatives aren’t clearly acting in the best interests of the public on these deals; more likely they’re offering sweetheart deals to the oil companies. But suppose the Feds turned out to be tough negotiators, insisting on large lease revenues or profit-sharing deals that could be used to finance various public services. Or suppose the government negotiated lower gasoline prices at the pump as part of the leasing deal. Now the dispute is between unsullied natural places and better/cheaper goods and services benefiting the people. I’m not sure the citizens in a socialist state would always side with nature in such a trade-off.

    I’ve been reading Red Mars, a 1993 novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s about the first human settlements on Mars. A similar debate is happening in that book: should Mars be left in its natural state, or should it be terraformed to make it more hospitable to life? I’m about halfway through, and the terraform contingent is winning, radically altering the planet for human and plant habitation. So far it’s not clear whether it’s socialist governments or corporations who are paying for the Mars expeditions — I suspect in part that’s because the same issues would need to be faced either way. Maybe the main difference from the fracking issue is that Mars doesn’t have much in the way of mineral wealth that can be exploited. Still, it does have ice, which if melted can support life — not unlike the terraforming that’s already gone on in large swathes of the western US, transforming desert into farms and cities, draining the aquifers and the rivers, increasing the carbon footprint and the pollution through massive lateral expansion of human civilization into the wild places.

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    • I agree with you, that in a socialist society people won’t always side w/ nature, but there is far more by way of checks and balances, at least in the form of socialism that I adhere to, which is democratic and seeks to decentralize power and control.

      Also, I think that if we ever actually do make a shift to socialism in the near future, it will probably be a form of socialism that expands the scope. Rather than simply being solidarity among all human beings, it would have to include the non-human world as well. In a real sense, it’s only this broad vision that has any chance of addressing the crises in our world (natural and geopolitical and economic) that have come as a result of the rapid expansion of the human population and of industrialization.

      A socialism that only concerns itself with human well-being is probably doomed.

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  2. Today’s mail brought the annual Christmas letter from my old college roommate Mark Squillace and his wife. Mark is head of environmental law at the U. of Colorado Law School. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

    Early this past summer, I testified before congress on oil and gas development on public lands and I later worked on a couple of different “amicus” briefs supporting Obama era rules to regulate oil and gas activities on public lands. The headwinds have been pretty fierce. Undaunted, I also filed comments on several other Trump proposals to weaken environmental standards. Perhaps not effective but at least cathartic. My most substantial legal/political work has concerned Trump’s efforts to shrink national monuments — including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah — two of my favorite places in the world. Somewhat serendipitously, I wrote a lengthy article in 2003 laying out my views on the Antiquities Act — the law that allows Presidents to designate national monuments. Among my conclusions was that the authority only goes one way. Presidents can designate monuments but they cannot repeal or modify monuments designated by their predecessors. As it became clear that Trump was going to try to do just that, my old article received a lot of renewed attention and I wrote a follow-up with several colleagues developing that legal argument in more depth. The issue is now being tested in court, and while it will probably take a couple of years for this to play out fully, I am looking forward (with a bit of trepidation) to seeing how it is resolved. This work has also afforded me an outlet for publishing several op-ed pieces, including one with my friend and former colleague, John Leshy, in the New York Times. (“The Endangered Antiquities Act”)

    Here’s the NYT op-ed Mark references, which you might be able to see if the paywall doesn’t block your view. I found another article here.

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    • Thanks John. Since I wrote this post I also met up w/ someone who has worked in the circle of National and State Parks her whole life. She sort of dismissed Trump’s attempt to sell/lease public lands for fracking, saying that they’ll be tied up in court for a while. Her greater view of the state of the nation was a little less optimistic (“we’re so screwed…so screwed…”), but she seemed confident that Trump wouldn’t be able to push this through, anytime soon. I’m not quite so certain, and it sounds like your friend Mark’s perspective is somewhere in the realm of Cautiously Optimistic.

      I can’t help but notice, though, that Trump’s approach is probably more effective than Obama. Obama was very cautious, as regards healthcare or judicial appointments or the expansion of executive powers. Bill Clinton’s m.o. was similar. They both brought in teams of experts to deliberate and debate. Trump just does, he seems to act according to the axiom that it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission, only I’m not holding my breath for any apologies.

      In a general sense, this seems to the difference between Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals). Conservatives are more aggressive. They know what they want, ideologically, and they go for it. This seems to have succeeded, over the decades. Liberals have done very little, by way of major legislation, while Republicans have been able to aggressively deregulate, lower taxes, and engage in whatever overseas expedition strikes their fancy. Wealth inequality is increading at what feels like exponential rates, and the position of corporate power has increased to the point where government is almost entirely responsive to lobbyists and cares little about public opinion. (Less than 40% of Americans supported the tax bill, at the time of passage, while 55% oppossed it.)

      I think this is why many of the young folks resonate with Bernie. They “feel the Bern” because Bernie has a sense of urgency that seems lacking among the liberal establishment. I know I’m off topic here — sorry — but to bring it back, maybe the liberal establishment (whatever their failures and losses over the decades) can be the devil in the details that hold back the Trump agenda. Crossing my fingers.

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      • What you write here rings true to me too about Rep vs. Dem political styles. It’s informative though that prior Presidents of both parties have tended to declare national monument status as a unilateral decree just before they leave office, in order to avoid the legal wrangling of which you speak. It also seems to be the case that the locals typically resent the national monument designations at first, feeling like the bureaucrats in DC are overriding local interests and public opinion. But then after a while the tourist trade picks up and the locals support the designation.

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