“Remarks on Capitalism and the Environment It Produces” is a recently discovered draft paper of Harry Magdoff’s. The exact date and location of its presentation is unknown; however the occasion was quite clearly a panel on economist Michael Tanzer’s The Sick Society (1971). We can therefore assume that it was written in 1971 or 1972. It is provided here in its original form with only minor copyediting. The title has been added. In our view, the chief importance of the paper is Magdoff’s early development of ecological ideas, ideas that are now much more common on the left.
In two Monthly Review special issues, “Education Under Fire: The U.S. Corporate Attack on Students, Teachers, and Schools” (July-August 2011) and “Public School Teachers Fighting Back” (June 2013), we sounded an alarm regarding the rapid restructuring and privatization of U.S. K–12 public schools. In terms of the scale of nationwide restructuring, the corporate takeover of education is unprecedented in modern U.S. history. The closest comparison we can come up with is the destruction of the street car systems across the United States and the building of the interstate highway system—in which freeways went right through cities for the first time, often in the face of neighborhood and community resistance. With respect to K–12 education, unimaginable amounts of private funds have gone into pressuring and corrupting government at every level, while the control mechanisms of the new educational system are increasingly left in private, not public, hands. The Common Core Standards and related high-stakes tests are at the center of this new system, and are the product of private corporate groups outside the direct reach of government.
Auto companies shield their low-tech exploitation of workers behind high-tech displays of mechanical prowess. The less a consumer knows about the blood and guts of manufacturing, the easier it is to buy the dream. So how does America think all this crap gets built?… Last summer, in a desperate attempt to entice young viewers to buy grandpa’s dream car, General Motors (GM) ran a TV ad that featured a chorus line of robot arms dancing to techno music around a series of Cadillacs strutting like runway models on chrome-plated wheels.… Don’t let yourself be seduced and deluded. The auto industry’s master talent isn’t robotics, it’s the ability to automatize humans—including drivers.
From humanitarian and ecological viewpoints, many aspects of the capitalist economic system are irrational; although they are certainly rational from the more limited standpoint of the individual business or capitalist seeking to make profits.… With regard to the environment there are scores of examples of irrational behavior by capitalist businesses that have the ultimate goal of making profits. Many practices and side effects of the way the system functions degrade the ecosystem and its processes on which we depend and may also directly harm humans. For example, it is not rational to introduce chemicals into the environment, including into products we use daily, that are either toxic or cause illnesses of various types. Yet there are over 80,000 chemicals used in the United States; few of them are tested for their effects on people or other species, and many commonly used ones are suspected to be carcinogens or have other detrimental effects.
Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything [argues that the source of the looming crisis from climate change] is not the planet, which operates according to natural laws, but rather the economic and social system in which we live, which treats natural limits as mere barriers to surmount. It is now doing so on a planetary scale, destroying in the process the earth as a place of human habitation.… In the age of climate change, Klein argues, a system based on ever-expanding capital accumulation and exponential economic growth is no longer compatible with human well-being and progress—or even with human survival over the long run.… In this way Klein…signals that she has now, in William Morris’s famous metaphor, crossed “the river of fire” to become a critic of capital as a system.… [This] has led to a host of liberal attacks on This Changes Everything, often couched as criticisms emanating from the left. These establishment criticisms of her work, we will demonstrate, are disingenuous, having little to do with serious confrontation with her analysis. Rather, their primary purpose is to rein in her ideas, bringing them into conformity with received opinion. If that should prove impossible, the next step is to exclude her ideas from the conversation.
Had Marx written Capital in the early twenty-first century, knowing what he could not discern in 1867—that the global dominance of capital, through the military and imperialism, would be realized by the United States—this is the book he may have written using the methodology he developed in the mid-nineteenth century.… What Walter Johnson desires is to change entirely the way we think about the history of the United States, particularly the development of capitalism. He also wants to change how we think about the application of dialectical materialism to the United States. Like Marx, Johnson marshals thick description to disclose the theses that emerge.
The most demolishing article I have seen nowadays about Latin America was written by Renán Vega Cantor, full professor at the National Pedagogical University of Bogotá, which was published three days ago by the website ‘Rebelión’ under the title “Ecos de la Cumbre de las Américas” (Echoes of the Summit of the Americas).
It is a brief article and I need make no copy here. Those who specialize on the subject can look it up at the aforementioned website.
I have referred more than once to the infamous agreement that the United States imposed on Latin American and Caribbean countries when the OAS was founded at the foreign ministers meeting held in the city of Bogotá on April, 1948. Just by sheer coincidence, I happened to be there on that date, helping to organize the celebration of a Latin American students’ congress whose main goal was to struggle against the European colonies and the bloody tyrannies imposed by the United States in this hemisphere.
One of the most brilliant political leaders in Colombia, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who had managed to unite, with ever growing strength, the most progressive sectors in Colombia that opposed the Yankees’ miscreation, had offered his support to the celebration of the students’ congress. No one doubted he would win during the upcoming elections, but he was treacherously murdered. His death led to a rebellion that has kept alive for more than half a century.
Social struggles have been taking place throughout millennia, since human beings, by resorting to wars, were able to take hold of a surplus production to satisfy the essential needs of life.
As is known, the years of physical slavery, the most brutal form of exploitation, went on in some countries until a little more than a century ago, as it happened in our own homeland during the final stages of the Spanish colonial domination.
Even in the United States, the enslavement of African descendants continued until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. That brutal form of slavery was abolished there hardly thirty years before it was abolished in Cuba.
Martin Luther King dreamed about the equality of black Americans until almost 44 years ago, when he was vilely murdered on April, 1968.
The accelerated development of science and technology has been a sign of our times. Whether we are aware of it or not, this is what will mark the future of humanity. This is an entirely new era. What prevails in every corner of this globalized world is the real struggle of our species for its own survival.
As for now, all Latin American nations, particularly our own, will be affected by the process that is taking place in Venezuela, the home country of the Liberator of the Americas.
I barely need to reiterate what you already know: the close links that exist between our people and the people of Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, the promoter of the Bolivarian Revolution and the United Socialist Party he founded.
One of the first actions promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution was the medical cooperation with Cuba. This is an area where our country has achieved a special prestige, which has been recognized nowadays by the international public opinion. Thousands of health centers equipped with state-of-the-art technology manufactured by the world’s specialized industry have been founded by the Bolivarian government to provide medical assistance to its people. Chávez, on his part, did not choose to go to expensive private clinics to care for his own health. He trusted it to the same medical services he was offering to his people.
Besides, our doctors have devoted part of their time to the training of Venezuelan doctors in classrooms that have been properly equipped by the Venezuelan government. The people of Venezuela, regardless of their personal incomes, began to receive the specialized services offered by our doctors. It is now among the ones with the best medical care in the world and their health standards have obviously begun to improve.
President Obama knows this only too well and has talked about it with some of his visitors. He candidly told one of them: “The problem is that the United States sends soldiers while Cuba, however, sends doctors”.
Chávez, a leader who has not had a minute of rest in the last twelve years and enjoyed an iron constitution, was, however, affected by an unexpected illness that was discovered and treated by the same specialized staff that usually assisted him. It was not easy to persuade him of the need to pay maximum attention to his own health. Since that moment, with an exemplary behavior, he has rigorously followed the treatment prescribed without neglecting his duties as Head of State and leader of his country.
I would dare to describe his attitude as heroic and disciplined. Not even for a single minute does he forget about his obligations; at times he does that to the point of exhaustion. I can attest to that because I have not ceased to be in touch and exchange with him. He has not stopped to devote his fertile intelligence to the study and analysis of the problems of his country. He finds the vile remarks and slanders of the spokespersons of the oligarchy and the empire to be amusing. I never heard him utter any insult or vile remarks when referring to his enemies. That is not his kind of language.
The enemy knows the features of his character and is multiplying its efforts with the purpose of slandering and attacking President Chávez. I, for one, do not hesitate in stating my modest opinion –which emanates from more than half a century of struggles- that the oligarchy will never again be able to govern that country. That is the reason why the US government’s decision to promote the overthrow of the Bolivarian government under such circumstances becomes a source of concern.
Besides, to insist on a slanderous campaign stating that among the top leadership of the Bolivarian government there is a desperate quarrel to assume command of the revolutionary government if the President is not able to overcome his illness, is tantamount to building a gross lie.
Quite on the contrary, I have been able to see the closest unity among the leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Under such circumstances, any mistake made by Obama could provoke rivers of blood in Venezuela. The Venezuelan blood is also Ecuadorian, Brazilian, Argentinean, Bolivian, Chilean, Uruguayan, Central American, Dominican and Cuban blood.
It is necessary to bear in mind this reality when analyzing the political situation in Venezuela.
Is it now understood why the workers’ anthem is a call to change the world by doing away with the bourgeois empire?
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 27, 2012
I was surprised today when I listened to the speech delivered by Jose Miguel Insulza in Cartagena. I thought that the person who was speaking on behalf of the OAS would at least claim some respect for the sovereignty of the peoples of this hemisphere which were for years colonized and cruelly exploited by colonial powers.
Why didn´t he say a single word about the Malvinas Islands, or demand respect for the sovereign rights of the sister nation of Argentina?
The Cartagena Summit went through episodes that will not be easily forgotten. It is true that its celebration required a huge effort. Despite of the several hours that have elapsed since its inaugural session, we have no idea of what ever happened during the lunch sponsored by Santos, with which he attempted to make it up for the colossal amount of energy used up by the participants in that Summit.
Those who may find this entertaining, will very seldom in their lives have the opportunity to watch the faces of more than thirty political leaders in front of the TV cameras since they got off the car until the moment when, after the heroic and final effort of walking down a long and carpeted corridor, they climbed up the ten or twelve little steps to the stage where the host, smiling and happy, awaited to greet them. It didn´t matter whether they were young or of age, or whether they had flat feet, kneecap surgeries or difficulties in one or both legs. They were forced to keep on to the top. Whether rich or poor, they were compelled to observe the protocol.
Curiously enough, Obama was the only one who took advantage of that trajectory to do some workout. As he was walking all by himself, it was easier for him to do so: he adopted a sport-like pose and jogged up through the steps.
The women attending the Summit either as companions or as Heads of State were the ones who did it best. Once again they proved that the world would be a far better place if they took care of political affairs. Perhaps there will be fewer wars, although no one could be sure of that.
Anyone would say that, out of obvious political reasons, Obama was the figure that caused the worst impression in me. However, this was not the case. I saw he was pensive and at times quite absent. It was like if he were sleeping with open eyes. No one knows how much rest he had before arriving in Cartagena, which Generals he spoke with, what problems were on his mind; whether he was thinking about Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea or Iran. Quite certainly, of course, he was thinking about the elections, the Tea Party moves and Mitt Romney´s sinister plans. At the very last minute, shortly before the Summit, he decided that the contributions of the richest should account for at least 30 per cent of their incomes, like it used to be before the Bush junior administration. This, of course, would allow him to portray a clearer image of his sense of justice before the Republican right.
But the real problem is this: the enormous debt accumulated by the federal government, which exceeds 15 trillion dollars and demands no less than 5 trillion dollars in resources. The tax to be imposed on the richest will contribute around 50 billion dollars in a period of ten years, while the need for money will increase to 5 trillions. Therefore, he will be receiving one dollar per every 100 that are needed. These estimates can be made even by an eighth grader.
We should remember very well what Dilma Rousseff demanded: “relations ‘on equal terms’ with Brazil and the rest of Latin America.”
“The Euro-zone has responded to the economic crisis with a monetary expansion, thus provoking a ‘tsunami’ that has led to an appreciation of the Brazilian currency and has damaged the competitiveness of the national industry”, she stated.
Those realities do not escape Dilma Rousseff, a capable and intelligent woman who knows how to address them with authority and dignity.
Obama, who is used to say the last word, knows that the Brazilian economy is emerging with an impressive strength and that, in association with others like those of Venezuela, Argentina, China, Russia, South Africa and others from Latin America and the world, will trace the future of the world´s development.
The biggest problem of all is to preserve peace from the increasing risks of a war that, given the destructive power of modern weapons, would push humanity to the edge of an abyss.
I realize that the meetings in Cartagena are taking a long time and the sweetened realities are fading away. Nothing was said about the guayabera shirts presented to Obama as a gift. Somebody will have to compensate the Cartagena designer Edgar Gómez.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 14, 2012
The search for the political truth will always be a difficult task even in our times, when science has placed in our hands a huge amount of knowledge. One of the most important was the possibility to know and study the fabulous power of the energy contained in matter.
The person who discovered that energy and its possible use was a peaceful and amiable man who, despite being against violence and war, asked the United States to develop it. The US president back then was Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man who had adopted a well-known anti-fascist stand; he was the leader of a country that was going through a deep crisis and helped to save the nation by adopting strong measures that earned him the hatred of the extreme right of his own class. Today, that State imposes on the world the most brutal and dangerous tyranny ever known to our fragile species.
The news received from the US and its NATO allies refer to their misdeeds and those of their accomplices. The most important cities in the United States and Europe are the theatre of continued pitched battles between demonstrators and a well-trained and well-fed police, equipped with armored cars and helmets, beating and kicking and throwing gases against women and men, twisting the hands and the necks of people, young and old, showing to the world the coward actions that are committed against the rights and the lives of the citizens of their own countries.
How much longer these barbaric acts would last?
I will not expand on this, since these tragedies will continue to be seen, more and more, on television and in the entire press; they will be like the daily bread that is denied to those who have less. I will just quote the news received today from an important western news agency:
A previous estimate in 2003 estimated that the maximum height of the wave would be less than 20 meters (66 feet). The Fukushima plant was designed to withstand a tsunami of 6 meters (20 feet), less than half the height of the wave that hit the plant on March 11, 2011.
But, there are no reasons to worry. Another piece of news dated two days ago, on March 30, could give us some peace of mind. It was published by a really well informed media. I’ll summarize it in just a few words: “If you were a soccer player, an Arab sheik or an executive of a big multinational, what kind of technology would make you sigh?
Let us suppose that we have left our mansion and we are already tired of hanging around with our yacht, limousine, helicopter or jet. We still have the choice to buy an individual submarine or a submarine for two persons.
The offer goes on to advertise cells with stainless steel casings; 1.2 GHz and 8G memory processors; NFC technology to make payments through cell phones and Ferrari camcorders.
Capitalism, compatriots, is a truly wonderful thing! Maybe it is our fault that not every citizen has its own private submarine at the beach.
It was them, not me, who mixed up the Arab sheiks and the executives of the big transnationals with the soccer players. The latter, at least, entertain millions of persons and are not enemies of Cuba; I should state that very clearly.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 1st, 2012
This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away. At that time, a handful of leaders of the most powerful countries were in charge of the world. They applauded my words as a matter of mere courtesy and placidly continued to dig for the burial of our species. It seemed that on our planet, common sense and order reigned. For a while economic development, backed by technology and science appeared to be the Alpha and Omega of human society.
Today, everything is much clearer. Profound truths have been surfacing. Almost 200 States, supposedly independent, constitute the political organization which in theory has the job of governing the destiny of the world.
Approximately 25,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of allied or enemy forces ready to defend the changing order, by interest or necessity, virtually reduce to zero the rights of billions of people.
I shall not commit the naiveté of assigning the blame to Russia or China for the development of that kind of weaponry, after the monstrous massacre at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by Truman after Roosevelt’s death.
Nor shall I fall prey to the error of denying the Holocaust that signified the deaths of millions of children and adults, men or women, mainly Jews, gypsies, Russians or other nationalities, who were victims of Nazism. For that reason the odious policy of those who deny the Palestinian people their right to exist is repugnant.
Does anyone by chance think that the United States will be capable of acting with the independence that will keep it from the inevitable disaster awaiting it?
In a few weeks, the 40 million dollars President Obama promised to collect for his electoral campaign will only serve to show that the currency of his country is greatly devalued, and that the US, with its unusual growing public debt drawing close to 20 quadrillion, is living on the money it prints up and not on the money it produces. The rest of the world pays for what they waste.
Nor does anyone believe that the Democratic candidate would be any better or worse than his Republican foes: whether they are called Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Light years separate the three characters as important as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. It is really unheard-of to observe such a technologically powerful nation and a government so bereft of both ideas and moral values.
Iran has no nuclear weapons. It is being accused of producing enriched uranium that serves as fuel energy or components for medical uses. Whatever one can say, its possession or production is not equivalent to the production of nuclear weapons. Dozens of countries use enriched uranium as an energy source, but this cannot be used in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon without a prior complicated purification process.
However, Israel, with the aid and cooperation of the United States, manufactured nuclear weaponry without informing or accounting to anybody, today not admitting their possession of these weapons, they have hundreds of them. To prevent the development of research in neighboring Arab countries, they attacked and destroyed reactors in Iraq and Syria. They have also declared their aim of attacking and destroying the production centers for nuclear fuel in Iran.
International politics have been revolving around that crucial topic in that complex and dangerous part of the world, where most of the fuel that moves the world economy is produced and supplied.
The selective elimination of Iran’s most eminent scientists by Israel and their NATO allies has become a practice that motivates hatred and feelings of revenge.
The Israeli government has openly stated its objective to attack the plant manufacturing Iran’s enriched uranium, and the government of the United States has invested billions of dollars to manufacture a bomb for that purpose.
On March 16, 2012, Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham published an article revealing that “A top US Air Force General has described the largest conventional bomb – the re-invented bunkers of 13.6 tones – as “fantastic” for a military attack on Iran.
“Such an eloquent comment on the massive killer-artifact took place in the same week that President Barack Obama appeared to warn against “easy words” on the Persian Gulf War.” Herbert Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for US Air Force operations added that probably the bomb would be used in any attack on Iran ordered by Washington.
“The MOP, also referred to as ‘The Mother of All Bombs’, is designed to drill through 60 meters of concrete before it detonates its massive bomb. It is believed to be the largest conventional weapon, non-nuclear, in the US arsenal.”
“The Pentagon is planning a process of wide destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and massive civilian victims through the combined use of tactical nuclear bombs and monstrous conventional bombs with mushroom-shaped clouds, including the MOABs and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) that exceeds the MOAB in destructive capacity.
“The MOP is described as “a powerful new bomb that aims straight at subterranean Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities. The giant bomb -longer than 11 persons shoulder to shoulder, or more than 6 meters from end to end’.”
I ask the reader to excuse me for this complicated military jargon.
As one can see, such calculations arise from the supposition that the Iranian combatants, numbering millions of men and women well-known for their religious zeal and their fighting traditions, surrender without firing a shot.
In recent days, the Iranians have seen how US soldiers occupying Afghanistan, in just three weeks, urinated on the corpses of killed Afghans, burned copies of the Koran and murdered more than 15 defenseless citizens.
Let us imagine US forces launching monstrous bombs on industrial institutions, capable of penetrating through 60 meters of concrete. Never has such an undertaking ever been conceived.
Not one word more is needed to understand the gravity of such a policy. In that way, our species will be inexorably led towards disaster. If we do not learn how to understand, we shall never learn how to survive.
As for me, I harbor not the slightest doubt that the United States is about to commit and lead the world towards the greatest mistake in its history.
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 21, 2012
7: 35 PM
It is not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic, knowing or not knowing elementary things, of being responsible or not for events. Those who would like to be thought of as politicians should be thrown onto the trash heap of history when, as the norm goes, they have no idea about everything or almost everything related to it in that activity.
Of course I am not speaking about those who throughout the various millennia turned public affairs into instruments of power and wealth for the privileged classes, an activity where the real records of cruelty have been imposed during the last eight or ten thousand years about those we have certain traces of the social behaviour of our species, whose existence as thinking beings, according to scientists, barely covers 180,000 years.
It is not my purpose to get involved in such topics that would surely bore almost one hundred percent of the people continuously being bombarded with news across the media, going from the written word to three-dimensional images that are starting to be shown in expensive cinemas. The day is not far away when they shall also predominate in the already fabulous television images per se. It is no accident that the so-called leisure industry has its headquarters in the heart of the empire that tyrannizes everybody.
What I would like to do is to rest on the current starting point of our species to speak of the march towards the abyss. I might even speak of an “inexorable” march and I would certainly be closer to reality. The idea of a Last Judgement is implicit in the most practiced religious doctrines among the inhabitants of this planet, without anyone classifying them for that as being pessimistic. On the contrary, I think it is a basic duty of all serious and sane persons, who number in the millions, to fight to postpone and perhaps to prevent that dramatic and imminent event in today’s world.
Numerous dangers threaten us, but two of them, nuclear war and climate change, are decisive and both are ever farther away from coming close to a solution.
Verbose demagoguery, the statements and speeches of the tyranny imposed upon the world by the United States and its powerful and unconditional allies, on both topics, do not admit the slightest doubt in that respect.
January 1st of 2012, the western and Christian New Year, coincides with the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution in Cuba and the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis of 1962 that put the world on the brink of a nuclear world war and this forces me to write these lines.
My words would be lacking in meaning if they had the objective of blaming the American people, or on any other country which is an ally of the United States in the unusual adventure; they, like all the other peoples of the world, would be the inevitable victims of the tragedy. Recent events happening in Europe and elsewhere show massive indignation by those who are led to protest by the unemployment, shortages, reductions in their incomes, debts, discrimination, lies and politicking and lead to brutal repressions by the guardians of established law and order.
With growing frequency one speaks of military technologies that affect the entire planet, the only satellite known to be inhabitable hundreds of light years away from any other that may perhaps be suitable if we were to move at the speed of light, three hundred thousand kilometres per second.
We should not ignore that if our marvellous thinking species should disappear, many millions of years would go by before another one capable of thinking would arise, by virtue of the natural principles that rule as a consequence of the evolution of the species, discovered by Darwin in 1859 and which today is acknowledged by all serious scientists, whether they are religious or not.
No other era in the history of mankind has known the dangers that today humanity faces. Persons like me, at 85 years old, had reached our 18th birthdays with high school graduation degrees before the first atomic bomb had been put together.
Today artefacts of this type, ready to be used – incomparably more powerful than those that produced the heat of the sun over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki─ add up to thousands.
Weapons of this kind that are kept in storage, added to those already deployed by virtue of agreements, reach figures that surpass twenty thousand nuclear missiles.
The use of just one hundred or so of those weapons would be enough to create nuclear winter that would cause a horrible death in a short time for all the human beings living on the planet, as the American scientist and Rutgers University professor Alan Robock has brilliantly explained along with computerized data.
Those used to reading news and serious international analyses know how the risks of the outbreak of war with the use of nuclear weapons increase as the tension grows in the Middle East, where in the hands of the Israeli government hundreds of combat-ready nuclear weapons are accumulated, and whose nature as a strong nuclear power is neither admitted or denied. Likewise, tension grows around Russia, a country with unquestionable capacity for response, threatened by a presumed European nuclear shield.
The Yankee statement that the European nuclear shield is there to also protect Russia from Iran and North Korea is laughable. The Yankee position is so feeble in this delicate matter that its ally Israel does not even bother to guarantee prior consultations on measures that might unleash war.
Humanity, in contrast, does not enjoy any guarantee. Cosmic space, in the vicinity of our planet, is overcrowed by US satellites destined to spy on what is going on even on the roofs of houses in any nation of the world. The lives and customs of any person or family became objects of espionage; listenning to hundreds of millions of cell phones and subjects of conversations by any user anywhere in the world stops being a private matter and becomes information material for the US secret services.
That is the right that is being left to the citizens of our world by virtue of the acts of a government whose constitution, approved by the Philadelphia Congress in 1776, established that men were born free and equal and the Creator has given them all those rights, which they now no longer have, not the Americans themselves or any citizen of the world, not even to communicate by phone with relatives and friends about their most private feelings.
Of course war is a tragedy that can happen and it is very probable that it will happen; however, if humanity were capable of delaying it for an indefinite length of time, another equally dramatic event is happening at an increasing pace: climate change. I shall restrict myself to point out what eminent scientists and world-class exhibiters have explained through documents and films that are questioned by nobody.
It is well-known that the US government was opposed to the Kyoto agreements on the environment, a line of conduct that didn’t even agree with its closest allies whose territories would suffer tremendously and some of which, such as Holland, would practically disappear.
The planet goes on today without a policy to solve this serious problem, while the levels of oceans rise, the enormous ice caps covering Antarctica and Greenland, where more than 90% of the world’s fresh water is accumulated, are melting at a growing pace, and now humanity, on November 30, 2011, officially reached the figure of 7 billion inhabitants which, in the poorest areas of the world grows in a sustained and inevitable manner. Could it be that those who have dedicated themselves to bombing countries and killing millions of persons in the last 50 years could be concerned about the fate of all the other peoples?
The United States today is not just the promoter of those wars, but it is also the greatest manufacturer and exporter of weapons in the world.
As it is well-known, that powerful country has signed a covenant to supply 60 billion dollars in the next few years to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the transnationals of the US and its allies extract on a daily basis 10 million barrels of light oil, in other words, a billion dollars in fuel. What will happen to that country and the region when those energy reserves should run dry? It is not possible that our globalized world will accept without a murmur the colossal wasting of energy resources that nature took hundreds of millions of years to create, and whose dilapidation increases essential costs. It would in no way be worthy of the intelligent nature attributed to our species.
In the last 12 months, that situation has worsened considerably because of new technological advances which, far from alleviating the tragedy coming from the squandering of fossil fuels, considerably make things worse.
World class scientists and researchers have been pointing out the dramatic consequences of climate change.
In an excellent documentary film by French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand, entitled Home, and filmed in collaboration with prestigious and well-informed international celebrities, published in mid-2009, he warns the world with irrefutable data about what is happening. Using solid arguments, he shows the deadly consequences of consuming, in less than two centuries, the energy resources created by nature in hundreds of millions of years; but the worst of it is not the colossal squandering, but the suicidal consequences for the human species. Referring to the very existence of life, he admonishes the human species: “…You benefit from a fabulous legacy of 4,000 million years supplied by the Earth. You are only 200,000 years old but you have changed the face of the world.”
He didn’t blame nor could he blame anyone up to that time, he was simply pointing out an objective reality. However, today we have to blame ourselves for what we know and we are doing nothing to try to fix it.
In their images and concepts, the authors of that work include memories, data and ideas that we have the duty to know and take into account.
In recent months, another fabulous film was Oceans, made by two French film-makers, considered to be the best film of the year in Cuba; perhaps, in my opinion, the best film of this era.
This is amazing material because of the precision and beauty of the images never before filmed by any camera: 8 years and 50 million Euros were invested in the making of it. Humanity must thank that proof for the way in which the principles of nature adulterated by man express themselves. The actors are not human beings: they are the inhabitants of the world’s oceans. An Oscar for them!
What inspired me with the duty to write these lines did not arise from the events referred to up till now, which in one way or another I have commented on previously, but others that, managed by the interests of the transnationals, have been coming to light sparingly in the last few months and in my opinion serve as definitive proof of the confusion and political chaos rife in the world.
Just a few months ago I read for the first time some news about the existence of shale gas. It was stated that the US had reserves to supply their needs for this fuel for 100 years. Since I now have time to do research on political, economic and scientific topics that could be really useful for our peoples, I discretely got in touch with several people living in Cuba or abroad. Oddly, none of them had heard a word about the matter. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that happened. One is amazed about important facts that are hidden in a veritable sea of information, mixed in with hundreds or thousands of news items that circulate the planet.
Nevertheless, I persisted in my interest on the subject. Only a few months have gone by and shale gas is no longer news. Just before the new year enough information was known to clearly see the world’s inexorable march towards the abyss, threatened by risks of such great seriousness as nuclear war and climate change. I have already spoken of the first of these; about the second one, in the interest of brevity, I shall restrict myself to reveal known data and some to be known, that no political cadre or sensible person should ignore.
I don’t hesitate saying that I am observing both facts with the serenity imparted by the years I have lived, in this spectacular phase of human history, that have contributed to the education of our brave and heroic people.
The gas is measured in TCF, which can be referred to in cubic feet or cubic metres – it is not always explained whether they are dealing with one or the other – it depends on the system of measurement that is used in certain countries. On the other hand, when they speak of billions they tend to refer to the Spanish billion that means a million millions; that figure in English is called a trillion, and we must keep that in mind when analyzing the references to the gas which tend to be copious. I shall try to point that out when necessary.
The American analyst Daniel Yergin, author of a voluminous classic on the history of oil stated, according to the IPS news agency, that now a third of all the gas produced in the US is shale gas.
“…exploitation of a platform with six wells can consume 170,000 cubic metres of water and even create harmful effects such as influencing seismic movements, polluting surface and groundwaters and affecting the landscape.”
The British BP group informs us that “proven reserves of conventional or traditional gas on the planet add up to 6,608 billion ―million millions― of cubic feet, some 187 billion cubic metres, […] and the largest deposits are in Russia (1,580 TCF), Iran (1,045), Qatar (894), and Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan with 283 TCF each”. We are dealing with gas that is being produced and marketed.
“An EIA study ―a US government energy agency ― published in April of 2011 found practically the same volume (6,620 TCF or 187.4 billion cubic metres) of recoverable shale gas in just 32 countries, and the giants are: China (1,275 TCF), United States (862), Argentina (774), Mexico (681), South Africa (485) and Australia (396 TCF)”. Shale gas is gas de esquisto. Take note that according to what is known, Argentina and Mexico have almost as much as the United States. China, with larger deposits, has reserves that equal almost the double of those and 40% more than the United States.
“…countries secularly dependent on foreign suppliers shall count on an enormous base of resources in relation to their consumption, such as France and Poland which import 98 and 64 percent respectively of the gas they consume, and in shale or lutite rocks they would have reserves greater than 180 TCF each”.
“To extract it from the lutite ― IPS points out― they resort to a method called ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing), with the injection of great amounts of water plus sand and chemical additives. Carbon traces (proportion of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere) are much greater than those generated in the production of conventional gas.
“Since we are dealing with bombarding layers of earth crust with water and other substances, the risk of damaging the subsoil, soil, surface and groundwater tables, the landscape and communication channels is greater if the facilities for extracting and transporting the new wealth presents handling defects or errors.”
Suffice it to point out that among the numerous chemical substances that are injected with the water to extract this gas we have benzene and toluene, substances that are terribly carcinogenic.
Lourdes Melgar, expert from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores of Monterrey, has the opinion that:
“‘It is a technology generating much debate and they are resources located in zones where there is no water…”.
“Gas-bearing lutites ― IPS states― are unconventional hydrocarbon quarries, encrusted in rock that protects them, therefore fracking is used to release them on a grand scale.”
“Generation of shale gas involves high volumes of water and the excavation and fracking generates great amounts of liquid waste that may contain dissolved chemicals and other pollutants that require treatment before they are disposed.”
“Production of shale leaped from 11,037 million cubic metres in 2000 to 135,840 million in 2010. In the event of expansion following this pace, in 2035 it will cover 45 percent of the demand of general gas, according to EIA.
“Recent scientific research has warned on the negative environmental profile of lutite gas.
“Professors Robert Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea from Cornell University in the US have concluded that this hydrocarbon is a greater pollutant than oil and gas, according to the study ‘Methane and the traces of greenhouse effect gases from natural gas coming from shale formations’ published in April last year in the Climatic Change review.
“‘Carbon trace is greater than that from conventional gas or oil, seen on any time horizon, but particularly within the lapse of 20 years. Compared to carbon, it is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than double in 20 years’, the report underlined.”
“Methane is one of the most polluting greenhouse effect gases, responsible for the rise in the planet’s temperature.”
“‘In active extraction areas (one or more Wells in one kilometre) average and maximum concentrations of methane in wells of drinking water increased with proximity to the closest gas well and were a danger for potential explosion’, states the text written by Stephen Osborn, Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel Warner and Robert Jackson, from Duke State University.
“These indicators put into question the industry argument that shale could replace carbon in generating electricity and, therefore be a resource for mitigating climate change.
“‘It is an adventure that is far too premature and risky’.”
“In April of 2010, the US State Department started up the Shale Gas Global Initiative to help countries seeking to use that resource in order to identify and develop it, with the eventual economic benefit for US transnationals.”
I have been inevitably extensive, I had no other option. I write these lines for the Cubadebate website and for Telesur, one of the most serious and honest channels in our long-suffering world.
In order to deal with the subject, I let the holidays of the old and the New Year slip by.
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 4, 2012.