Knowing Your Enemy
At the Occupy Wall Street campgrounds in lower Manhattan, you can find just about anything. Like the sign held by a Marine vet wearing a "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt (with a "Ban Fracking Now" sticker on one sleeve) and military pants: "2nd time I've fought for my country, 1st time I've known my enemy." It could give you chills.
And then there were the older women who cornered me on a visit to the encampment. They were noticeable in part because Zuccotti Park is largely a stakeout for the young and in part because they were insistently shoving a petition at me. It was a call to stop fracking -- the practice of injecting water and potentially dangerous chemicals into rock formations to release natural gas, which can poison local drinking water. (I signed.)
That vet and those women are living reminders that, along with the Wall-Street-focused economic grievances of the new movement, there are other things “too large to fail” in this country which threaten to bring us all down. If they, too, get swept into this movement, it may truly prove a moment to reckon with. After all, our wars, including the now decade-old one in Afghanistan and the drone-fed global war on terror (as well as the military-industrial-homeland-security profiteers who accompany them) have proven a quagmire of corruption and failure, as well as a drain on the national treasury.
At the same time, big oil’s mad pursuit of every last drop of fossil fuel anywhere in the Americas or on Earth, no matter how dirty or destructive to the environment, threatens -- as our last year of rampaging weather may indicate -- to destabilize the planet itself and further degrade our lives. In the case of the environment, there is already a kind of “occupy” movement forming, in particular to protest the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline that is to bring the dirtiest “tough oil” from Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. For its construction to begin, however, its “environmental impact” must be assessed by the State Department and then the president must give it the thumbs-up.
As on Wall Street, as in our wars, here, too, corruption is proving almost too deep to fathom. The New York Times recently reported that the State Department assigned the supposedly impartial environmental impact study “to a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator [TransCanada]... At TransCanada’s recommendation, the department hired Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston, even though it had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a ‘major client’ in its marketing materials.”
You can’t get much seedier than that. As Bill McKibben, who has been at the forefront of the environmental “occupy” movement, writes in his latest post, “Obama’s Failing Emails”: “This is… potentially the biggest scandal of the Obama years. And here's the thing: it's a crime still in progress. Watching the president do nothing to stop it is endlessly depressing.” (Although McKibben’s idea of being “depressed” is to organize a demonstration around the White House on November 6th!)
Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt