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Pursuing Gain to the Verge of Our Extinction
Published on Sunday, April 1, 2001 in the Sunday Nation of Nairobi, Kenya
Pursuing Gain to the Verge of Our Extinction
by Philip Ochieng
 
Profound ignorance is clearly the reason Westerners allow their governments and corporations to get away with brutal environmental murder. It is not merely that the culprits do it surreptitiously. There is that. Much of the assault on man's only source of livelihood is concealed ignored by the corporate media.

But this only contributes to the more important kind of ignorance, unawareness of what constitutes ecological death and degradation of the human habitat and what that portends for humanity.

That is why, only a few weeks after he took office, US President George Bush does not feel embarrassed or threatened when he publicly reneges on an election campaign pledge. His administration has rejected all of the international treaties recently made to protect mankind from a habitat rapidly rotting.

He can go back on his word because he knows few Americans will challenge him on it. Apathy feeds on the ignorance, daily encouraging the political system acting chiefly for a deliriously greedy corporate family to perperate heinous crimes against mankind.

For the state and the pachyderms called corporations are but the head and tail sides of the same coin. The President comes from a Texas family so avarious for oil that in 1991, when his father was the occupant of the Oval Office, the state squandered huge public resources to brutalitalise the Middle East to secure oil to feed the maws of corporate industry.

Of course, the big media being part of that family could not put it that way. Bryan Appleyard comments in Brave New Worlds: Genetics and the Human Experience: "Even when the real justification for warfare is economic or strategic, the rhetoric of war is invariably moral. In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the Allies did not free Kuwait from Iraq...with cries of 'Oil!' but rather with cries of 'Freedom!'..."

Apologists often argue that the corporations do not do it wilfully, that, if they cause any destruction, it is only because they cannot foretell the environmental consequences of deploying any technique.

Here, for instance, is Barry Commoner in The Closing Circle: "Driven by an inherent tendency to maximise profits, modern private enterprise has seized upon those massive technological innovations that promise to gratify this need, usually unaware that these innovations are often instruments of environmental destruction."

To which Herbert Schiller retorts as follows in Communication and Cultural Control: "The basic factor in the introduction of new technology is obviously the quest for profitability. The 'unawareness' of the consequences is usually [only] an indifference to the social costs the ensuing environmental degradation that affects society, not the producer."

This is obvious. Environmental law is flouted deliberately and often defiantly. The White House, especially when occupied by a "neo-con", routinely appoints well known anti-conservationists to head the National Environment Protection Agency.

Take the ozone layer and hear what scientist Carl Sagan says in his Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science: "By accident a few research groups in atmospheric photochemistry discovered that halocarbon propellants from aerosol spray cans will reside for very long periods in the atmosphere, circulate to the stratosphere, partially destroy the ozone there, and let ultraviolet light from the sun leak down to the Earth's surface. Increased skin cancer for whites [my italics] was the most widely advertised consequence." 

How did halocarbon producers react? Ask Sagan: "DuPont Company, the principal manufacturers of halocarbon propellants, for example, took the curious position in public debates that all conclusions about halocarbons detroying the ozonosphere were 'theoretical'.

"They seemed to be implying that they would be prepared to stop halocarbon manufacture only [after] the conclusions were tested experimentally that is, when the ozonosphere [has been] destroyed."

You can fully test this "theory" only by attacking the ozone to the last atom, by which time there will be no DuPont because all living things will have been killed by ultraviolet. But profit hunters think only of the present. They are never really interested in the future, even of their own children.

That is the point Sagan is making on cancer. It is that when ultraviolet hits the earth full-blast, white people will be the first to go because, in his words, "...blacks are neatly adapted to increased ultraviolet flux..." For they contain more eumelanin, the stuff that darkens the skin against ultraviolet, than Caucasians. 

But, as I say, overnight profit is what makes corporations tick. These is no thought for posterity even where they know their present activities mean sure future death for their own children. That is why they would rather destroy the environment now to heighten their profits than conserve it for others.

Such utter irresponsibility epitomised by US corporations fills one with trepidation. How can individuals with the biggest stake in the world seek to push that world to the brink of extinction just to surfeit vegetable desires?

It may be redeeming that, on this issue, their political spokesman, the US government, is voting increasingly alone in all international councils. But how can that help the world when by far the richest and most powerful state contumaciously refuses to co-operate?p

This columnist can be reached at ochieng@nation.co.ke

Copyright Nation Newspapers Limited

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