Summer Heat: The Movement Against Ripping the Face off the Earth for a Brief Fossil-Fueled “Party”

By Michael Hoexter

350.org’s “Do the Math” educational campaign and documentary film points out a crucial fact for our time:  that most of the known reserves, the assets of the fossil fuel industry, must remain in the ground untapped, for the climate to remain something remotely like what we have known throughout the history of civilization.  Civilization requires agriculture, which is dependent on a few sensitive species to produce a surplus of food for masses of people with comparatively lower levels of labor or mechanical work.  If we make the climate inhospitable to these species, as well as to ourselves, via fossil fuel use and degradation of  the carbon buffering capacity of the environment, we will make it vanishingly likely that our own success as a species will continue.

Another 350.org initiative for summer 2013 in the US, one of the centers of the worldwide fossil fuel industry, “Summer Heat”, is attempting to build a movement that draws the connection between climate change and keeping fossil fuels in the ground and pushing this connection into public awareness and onto the political agenda of ruling elites.  “Summer Heat” will attempt to build a framework of common meaning around a series of movements against the more desperate, “unconventional” fossil fuel extraction practices that exact a more obvious toll on their points of extraction than the “easy” fossil fuel extraction of the days of oil gushers and natural gas driven upwards through vertical boreholes by underground pressure.  These movements are for the most part geographically distributed and sometimes have different points of entry into their opposition to the new and more violent extraction methods of the fossil fuel industry. 

The growing fight against the Keystone XL pipeline points out the much higher chances of damage to local environments from the more corrosive tar sands-derived heavy oil/bitumen in transit in the pipeline as well as the obvious open sore of the tar sands mining efforts in Alberta, Canada.  The refining of tar sands is a process that is dirtier and has a higher chance of corrosion damage to facilities than conventional oil and leaves behind petroleum coke, a dirty form of coal.  

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking does not leave such large open scars as tar sands extraction but instead creates a more widely dispersed patchwork of drilling sites and laces toxic chemicals and methane/natural gas into the water table in densely populated and highly productive agricultural lands.  Fracking is a technique that can be used to extract “tight” and heavy oils trapped in rock formations, as well as the now more common fracking for shale gas.

In West Virginia, mountaintop removal mining, radically alters the Appalachian landscape to extract coal and has stirred some resistance.  Other techniques, considered less controversial perhaps simply because they are older or occur in remote locations, are strip mining of coal in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, which also leaves large open sores in the land, or deep water drilling, which with Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 showed how damaging it can be to an entire ecosystem.  These unconventional fuels and techniques have for the most part higher carbon emissions per unit usable energy both from the more energy intensive process of their extraction and refining as well as accidental emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas in fracking for gas.

Those fossil fuel extraction processes that have attracted opposition by social movements have gained energy because of the dramatic destruction or poisoning of various landscapes that have taken place because of these newer, more invasive, more energy-intensive “unconventional” fossil fuel extraction techniques.  If we were truly rational beings, we might, at this point in history, be almost as upset about the conventional “easy” forms of fossil fuel extraction and combustion as we are about the fossil fuel industry physically altering the landscape or its viability to get at fossil fuels.  It has been difficult to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis via the abstraction of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, so the visual aids as well as immediate dangers of local toxins from fossil fuel extraction and refining help add urgency. 

A Perception Problem

While the destruction of landscapes and the injection of known toxins into drinking water and the ground provide an additional spur to action, there are dangers that the public by observing this movement from afar and through the lens of the mass media will not quite get the problem of the invisible, insensible injection of more carbon into the atmosphere and oceans.  These “local” pollutants can easily get filed by the public into a couple of familiar mental categories that will allow people to evade further thinking on this matter:

1)    conventional pollution: poisons and impurities which provoke fear and avoidance

2)    a mental category “environmentalist”, meaning someone who is perceived as hypersensitive to and exaggerating the dangers of poisons and impurities or can afford to do so because of relative wealth and privilege.  Alternatively an environmentalist can sometimes be thought to harbor an unrealistically high standard or vision of a how society should function in relationship to nature, which may in fact be the case with some environmentalists.

3)    the focus on the local effects of unconventional fossil fuels can lead to a political focus on “cleaning up” the extraction of fossil fuels rather than stopping their extraction.  The call for “best practices” will appeal to “serious” people and obscure the call to end the practices of relying on fossil fuels altogether.

I contend that even members of the climate movement can get caught up in political positions that are indistinguishable from conventional environmental positions when it comes to the toxics produced by the fossil fuel industry that have primarily local effects.

There is then a critical “and” that must be present in the messaging and appeals of the climate movement when confronted with a demand, for instance, for clean up of oil spills or reducing methane leaks from fracking wells, otherwise the message of transitioning off fossil fuels gets lost.  The movement may, perhaps gleefully, in accumulating the list of “bads” associated with the target of their protests and actions, not realize that they can be shunted into a narrowed role that doesn’t address the climate change that affects everyone.  I am active in a group in the Bay Area that is affiliated with 350.org that has among others different groups that are opposed to hydro-fracking as well as to tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline.  We are currently hammering out a coherent message out of a diverse list of demands for an August 3rd event at the largest Bay Area oil refinery in Richmond, CA  Just the complexity of each of these issues and the variety of possible demands that can be raised against them, all of them in some way worthy, may lead to the movement’s energy being temporarily sidelined into one or the other “reforms” of fossil fuel extraction techniques.

The “and” is critically important also because it also implicates everybody who uses or enjoys products made with the help of fossil fuels in the massive project of transforming our societies and economies before it is too late.  By dwelling on local pollution, the full moral impact of the climate crisis is dampened and directed away from personal engagement in political and economic action.

Furthermore, the technical complexity of some of these issues also presents the possibility that the movement itself becomes too “technical” in its language and approach to the politics to appeal the broad swaths of the population that know somewhere that we need to change our energy system.  I have a proposition that this movement should adopt as a conceptual and rhetorical option a still more emotive and simplified language to describe the overall direction of climate activism as regards the rise of unconventional fossil fuel extraction and the opportunity it represents to educate the public.

Desperate Destruction to Feed a Brief “Party” 

I am proposing that the climate movement, which will only grow in the future, is in a stage right now where we are a movement “against ripping the face off the earth for a brief fossil fueled party”.  The metaphor of “ripping his face off” is most current in our language because of the language of Wall Street traders.  In the frat-boy language of securities traders, “ripping his face off” is a boast that they had taken advantage of counterparties in various trades, sometimes in the case of trading divisions attached to investment banks, these counterparties would be clients of the bank that employed these traders.  The glee bordering upon psychopathy at humiliating others expressed in this language is worth commenting on in itself but the metaphor seems to resonate in a different way and context to the current strategy of the fossil fuel industry.

Unconventional fossil fuel extraction techniques are almost literally “ripping the face off” the earth to get at the fossil fuel resources that we supposedly “need” for our society to function but that fossil fuel industry wants to ensure that we “need”.  Tar sands excavation, more conventional open pit coal mining and unconventional mountain top removal coal mining all fit the “ripping the face off” metaphor perfectly.  Fracking is not quite a literal match for this metaphor but the damages to densely populated landscapes used for among other things agriculture of fracking fluid and methane leaks are as damaging as the open sores that various surface mining techniques create.  Deep sea oil drilling has very high risks as we have seen with Deepwater Horizon, which poisoned the ecosystems of the gulf 

Then what is being expressed by the “ripping the face off” metaphor is a desperate or calculating disregard for the consequences of extracting these oil, gas or coal deposits, something that should be made obvious by the climate movement but isn’t..yet.  The question that the climate movement should be asking the greater society is the following:

“Are we the kind of society that defiles the earth and almost certainly jeopardizes our future in search of a temporary patch to our energy problems” 

Or more emotively:

“Are we the type of people who rip off the face of our mother/father Earth to have a brief fossil-fueled party?”

I don’t see the point of soft pedaling the emotional component of what is also a rational, scientific argument for a sustainable energy and land-use policy.  Disgust, self-disgust and anger need to lead people to act.  The public needs to recognize the mounting desperation of our fossil fueled society and the fossil fuel industry that is leading it down the road to perdition.  A simple accounting of tons of carbon or of methane leakage percentages does not entirely capture the stakes involved.

I believe that a unified movement, a concept that should be used to explain why fracking, tar sands development, mountain top removal, and open strip coal mining are of one piece is that it turns us into a species that is driven by temporary wants as opposed to long term objectives and principles.  We are all implicated in the techniques that the fossil fuel industry uses.

The question remains:  Who wouldn’t want to join the Movement Against Ripping of the Face of the Earth?

Coda:  Fleeting vs. Semi-Permanent Benefits from Tearing At the Earth

I am not one of those who believe that we will next transition to a primitive or tribal society or that we would want to.  There may be some in the climate movement who treasure that thought.  They are strict and dogmatic preservationists or Earth Firsters, who are, whether they know it or not, neo primitivists.  Many of these people haven’t quite thought through their insistence that all of the damages or changes in the land left by humanity should be or could be erased.

I am of the opinion that the next, better economy and civilization we will have will use a fair amount of the earth’s resources and will still have substantial impacts on the earth’s surface.  We will still live in the “Anthropocene” era, where humans profoundly shape though do not necessarily consciously control the earth.  To build an economy that uses renewable energy converted to electric energy to do useful work (by far the most likely route), we are going to need copper, iron, rare earth metals, and lithium among other elements to build that economy and civilization.  This civilization, however, will of necessity need to work to undo at least some of the worst excesses of our current civilization, including reversing deforestation and of course radically reducing our fossil fuel use as soon as possible. 

But the foolishness of our civilization is made obvious by ripping up, using up, and poisoning the productive, protective, and sustaining capacity of the earth to “enjoy” only a brief injection of energy.  We need to throttle the forces that push elements in our societies to spur on this quest with only a brief benefit to a very few people within the long chain of human existence.  I will in the next essay address the only tools that we have to achieve these goals, tools that have been for the most part overlooked in the brief history of climate change and alternative energy policy.

 

23 responses to “Summer Heat: The Movement Against Ripping the Face off the Earth for a Brief Fossil-Fueled “Party”

  1. typo alert: “we will make it vanishingly likely that our own success as a species will continue ” should be ‘unlikely’ or will (not) continue.

    • I THINK I got the language right: “vanishingly likely” = very small chance… of “success as a species” = positive outcome… right?

    • reve_etrange

      Actually, it’s correct as written (“vanishingly likely” == “highly unlikely”) . Confusing though, I also did a double take.

  2. Sunflowerbio

    The emotive image is a powerful one, but the problem is that a significant number of us are, “the type of people who rip off the face or our mother/father Earth to have a brief fossil-fueled party”. Though that number may be small, it is a powerful (rich) group. A larger group is the one that feel there is no practical alternative. This is the group that screams the loudest when gasoline or electricity prices go up a few cents. Of course this second group is encouraged and supported by the smaller first group because it is to their advantage. Ultimately the second group must be convinced by example and legislation that there is a viable alternative, then the guilt and emotion will become superfluous. Until then, they will party on.

  3. –to “enjoy” only a brief injection of energy.–

    If the hidden treasures of Nature are properly dig out for human welfare then some environmental damage will have to be tolerated. Let us now wait and see what kind of tools are given to us by Michael to reduce these damages?

  4. Sunflowerbio said “A larger group is the one that feel there is no practical alternative. ”

    There’s a great line in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman gets some advice. Here’s my word for the practical alternative: thorium!

  5. Economics doesn’t tell us what to do with the natural resources bestowed upon us by the Earth. This is an important point to remember; as consumers we are all in the drivers seat when it comes to consumption outside of our basic needs for food and shelter. Certainly there are other ways to keep ourselves employed and amused outside the cheap kicks fossils provide us?

    Burning fossil hydrocarbons is not the highest best use for this resource at this point in history.

  6. Charles Fasola

    You can attempt to educate our population. Education will not educate the uneducated or effect their ignorance. So face facts, the average citizen of this nation care more about what kim kardashian wore wore to the beach than their own or the general welfare. You can protest until you cross what those in control establish as the tolerable line. Then the psychopathic thugs employed by government from the local to federal level, who prostitute themselves for a guaranteed paycheck will be turned upon dissenters; and they will act as the barbarians and murderers they are. The troops so many amerikans hold in honor are simply murderers; face it. Many of the organizations who lead the efforts against environmental destruction accept money from major corporations. Check out some of the contributors to the sierra club, 350.org and others. amerikans do not possess the fortitude to stand their ground when the forces of fascism move forward. amerikans are a timid, scared bunch who should take the time to see how people with brass ones react, the Egyptians during their arab spring are an example of persons with real conviction. amerikans hide behind their misinterpretation of the second amendment because they lack real ones. Face it, until you are willing to act in the same way as those who seek their demise and the demise of the planet, ruthlessly and at the same time in a morally superior manner we will not win. Those who wish to turn you into slaves will. It’s all over until the majority commit to actually fighting back. I do not foresee it happening any time soon. amerikans are not that hard.

  7. 350 PPM CO2 is plant starvation. Ask any horticulturist. Ask any greenhouse worker. Ask a farmer. Or watch this movie about growing cowpeas: Seeing is Believing. Global crop production has increased 30% since 1990, saving millions from starvation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2qVNK6zFgE
    Or consult your marijuana grower:
    http://growweedeasy.com/co2-marijuana-yields

  8. rare earth metals

    Really? Another ‘rich boy in a developed country’ idea with no regard for the catastrophic destruction it causes the people who produce it. Not to mention that while the Tea Partiers were sewing teabags onto their hats in February 2009 over their catatonic anger at a BLACK MAN! in the White House, the Chinese were quietly buying up the remaining global sources of ore (Chile, South Africa) for rare earth production, a capability we had in the bag until 1994 when Clinton decided this natural resource wasn’t worth protecting. So the Chinese now own 95% of supply world wide (and produce 98% of it), which they have decided to restrict mostly to internal production as of 2013. But it has the dirtiest production values of all. Click on this and scroll down. See it for yourself. Catastrophic radioactive waste and pollution
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-tru…ns-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

    Last year a consortium of rich investors met in NYC to bid on rare earth deposits in Northern Quebec, which they plan on developing. Wait until the Quebecois discover what they’re in for. The rivers there flow into the Arctic Ocean and this radioactive effluvium is going to poison those waters, because the radioactivity isn’t just in the waste dust, it’s in the water needed to create the rare earths.

    Making rare earths is a four-part process. One or two non-Chinese companies worldwide can do all four. But the last part, the fourth part, is more art than science, an art Americans are no longer in command of since the Clinton admin decided the Nevada/California mine (Molycorp: with its specialist scientists) was not worth subsidizing. It isn’t some blithe thing you can ask any old worker to do, like making steel. It takes real skill and knowledge, if you’d bother to investigate the science, which is why China is in the vanguard in production. It would take a decade and a half for the US to catch up to what it threw away in the 90s. The real challenge now, according to experts, is finding what can replace rare earths.
    http://www.techmetalsresearch.com/2012/12/rare-earth-terminology-a-quick-refresher-on-the-basics/
    http://pac.iupac.org/publications/pac/pdf/1993/pdf/6512×2453.pdf
    http://www.nature.com/news/japan-and-vietnam-join-forces-to-exploit-rare-earth-elements-1.11009
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42510.pdf
    http://www.techmetalsresearch.com/2011/08/heavy-rare-earths-in-america-crystal-balls-brass-balls/
    http://agmetalminer.com/2011/09/19/china-re-nationalizes-rare-earths-part-one/

  9. The refining of tar sands is a process that is dirtier and has a higher chance of corrosion damage to facilities than conventional oil and leaves behind petroleum coke, a dirty form of coal.

    This was debunked less than seven months ago, and reported in Canada’a NYT, the Globe & Mail.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/ener…study-eats-into-oil-sands-opponents-corrosion-claims/article5578801/

    Study eats into oil-sands opponents’ corrosion claims
    NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE

    CALGARY — The Globe and Mail
    Published Friday, Nov. 23 2012, 5:00 AM EST Last updated Friday, Nov. 232012, 5:00 AM EST

    It has taken on the air of fact among those seeking to halt pipelines designed to carry crude from the oil sands. The diluted bitumen those pipelines would carry, critics say, is more corrosive than “normal” crude. In other words, the chemical nature of oil sands crude places the steel it travels through at risk.

    But a new study conducted by federal scientists finds exactly the opposite: Diluted bitumen is not more corrosive. In fact, when comparing four types of dilbit, as it’s called, with seven other kinds of oil, the dilbit is among the least corrosive.

    The study is a major strike against a key argument made by opponents of pipelines such as TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.

    Just last week, Quebec Environment Minister Daniel Breton argued that Alberta crude was found to be more corrosive on older pipelines and could result in spills, as he warned Quebec could oppose a plan to pipe western oil through the province to eastern markets.

    The challenge to those claims comes from work conducted by a Natural Resources Canada lab in Hamilton.

    The scientists found

    It builds on efforts that have seen government researchers test the corrosive qualities of oil since 1993. For the latest study, conducted this year they compared various types of oil with a salt solution, which corroded pipeline steel at a rate of nearly 20 milli-inches per year. Anything below four is considered non-corrosive. The dilbit came in at three and below.

    In fact, “we are not seeing any corrosion rate which is more than around four … in all the around 100 crude oils we have tested so far” in two decades of work, said Sankara Papavinasam, a research scientist with Natural Resources Canada.

    As for dilbit, “we did not see any difference whatsoever. We could not differentiate” it from other types of oil.

    Dilbit also tends to be a more acidic crude, but “we did not see any correlation between TAN” – that refers to Total Acid Number – “and the corrosion rate under pipeline operating conditions,” said Mr. Papavinasam.

    And this from the end of the article:

    Anthony Swift, an energy analyst at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council…was the lead author on a report that made public the notion that dilbit could be risky. That February 2011 publication, whose information has often been repeated by pipeline opponents and even U.S. legislators, concludes that “There are many indications that DilBit is significantly more corrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude.”

    Asked if the federal study would persuade him to acknowledge that science has found differently, Mr. Swift said: “if it does, we will.” He reiterated that temperature creates concerns both for internal and external corrosion, and that friction from the oil travelling through the pipe also serves to elevate the temperature.

    But in some ways, the science already has spoken, and Mr. Swift’s concerns are not shared by at least one of the scientists tasked by the U.S. government to provide a definitive evaluation of the dangers of dilbit. Frank Cheng holds the Canada Research Chair in Pipeline Engineering at the University of Calgary. He is the sole Canadian researcher among 12 experts chosen by the National Academy of Sciences to examine the corrosive properties of oil sands crude for the U.S. Congress. Their report is due at the end of 2013; it is primarily a literature survey, and will rely in part on the Natural Resources Canada work.

    • And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you…

      You are according authority to industry hacks, who Mr. Swift has adequately exposed as being at least extreme uncritical consumers of data and as reassuring the public that they can be reassured that no more spills like those in Michigan and in Arkansas will occur:

      http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aswift/tar_sands_pipeline_safety_risk.html

    • sunflowerbio

      Even if dilbit were as mild as water (which corrodes pipelines also), the fact remains that it is by far the dirtiest form of oil to extract and process, and contains too much sulfur to be refined into gasoline or diesel fuel that can meet US standards without greatly increased, costly processing. The solution will be to export it to China and let them burn it and return the sulfur dioxide to us on the jet stream; again externalizing the costs onto the public. Then there are the costs of refinery byproducts pollution and disposal, and spill clean up as in Michigan and Arkansas. Thanks, but no thanks.

  10. Dr. James Hansen wrote on August 29, 2000 vol. 97 no.18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, his peer-reviewed abstract:

    “A common view is that the current global warming rate will continue or accelerate. But we argue that rapid warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as chlorofluorocarbons, CH4, and N2O, not by the products of fossil fuel burning, CO2 and aerosols, the positive and negative climate forcings of which are partially offsetting. The growth rate of non-CO2 GHGs has declined in the past decade. If sources of CH4 and O3 precursors were reduced in the future, the change in climate forcing by non-CO2 GHGs in the next 50 years could be near zero.”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/97/18/9875.long

    Mr. Hoexter, you need to get better sources than McKibben, an author and advocate bankrolled since inception by the oil-funded Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

    • And here you are claiming that James Hansen undermines his almost entire life’s work with one phrase…Hansen has in too many papers to count found that fossil fuel use has been one of the main drivers of warming.

      At random, here is a 2013 peer-reviewed paper in which Hansen again reiterates the role of CO2 among other GHGs:
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/011006/

      There are tens and maybe even hundreds of these papers that can be selected by anyone with the ability to do the most basic library research.

      It’s my understanding that Hansen has retired from NASA in part because he wants to pursue full-time the role of advocate for a carbon tax and for climate action.

      I’m wondering what motivates YOU to deny what Hansen and 97% of his colleagues are, as much as scientists can, yelling at the top of their lungs about for a couple decades. Are you in the pay of the fossil fuel lobby? Or are you just someone who can’t handle the truth?

  11. Brooks Gracie III

    Let’s get real here. We are talking gasoline. We have enough fissionable material to run the entire electricity grid through nuclear energy if we were willing to commit the resources to do so. France does, for instance, and Japan, despite the horrible disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was well on its way to a nearly-fully nuclear powered electrical grid.

    But you can’t stick a uranium-fuel rod in a car and get to work. So we are dependent on fossil fuels, like it or not. The fast catastrophe of foregoing fossil fuels overwhelms the slow march of too much carbon in the air. I just finished reading the Larry Niven novel “Fallen Angels”, and it gave me a counterpoint to the Global Warming argument. We are conveniently between ice ages–in fact, all of civilization has occurred during this unusual period between ice ages and mini-ice ages. What IF all this extra carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere is preventing the glaicerization of NYC and the absolute freezing over of Great Britian? It is not like these things didn’t happen in the past.

    I am no global-warming denier, but I am still skeptical as to what the actual effects of a 3-4 degree (F) warming will actually cause significant damage. Certainly Canada wouldn’t complain, nor would Scandinavia or Russia. And I think the desertification argument is completely overblown, and may be subject to offsets where certain current deserts would bloom. For example, did you know that having extra carbon in the atmosphere actually increases the formation of clouds and rainfall?

    Having said all that, the less we have to depend on carbon to keep our world fed, clothed, sheltered, etc., the better. If the US would just get its act together, get rid of the Tea Partiers, and start taxing our citizens like we did in the 50’s and 60’s, we could use all those funds for basic and applied research and potentially find a cost-efficient method of utilizing sunlight to power the world–or maybe even find the holy grail of reusable hydrogen fusion. Hey, when we felt threatened by Sputnik our country suddenly kicked into high gear and achieved the greatest thing mankind had ever dreamed of–walking on the moon. When we saw how important it was to decode the human genome, we did it in record time. My guess is the same could be done with energy, if we could redistribute private resources to public goods (well, that and nationalize the oil companies). But the current power structure in our vaunted “democracy” is much too undemocratic and short-term dollar oriented to permit such a crash-program. First, it would destroy the oil companies–fat chance of that happening given any resemblance to our current Congress. Second, it would require the wealthy to pay taxes at rates they did 50 years ago, and since it is estimated that 98% of congressmen/women have a net worth of over $1M, it is pretty unlikely that we will return to realistic tax rates–especially if the money is going to be thrown at “pointy-headed liberal scientists and academics”.

    Mankind’s biggest threat is not an asteroid out of the sky–it is his or her competition between each other that will be our collective undoing. In a just and rational society, immeasurable wealth concentrated in the hands of the 0.01% should be criminalized. Imagine an alien race landing on earth and examining our glaring disparities between the super-rich, the average (used to be called middle-class, but they are a dying breed), and the growing severely impoverished. The aliens would think us an insane race.

    I don’t blame the strip-miners, frackers and their like for our problems. I blame the absolute collapse of meritocracy, the lack of basic human decency in such selfishness as the wealthy refusing to fund basic science to improve the lot of everyone, the US educational system which was once the crown jewel of society, but has now turned into a debt-scam created simply to enslave people who are trying to get ahead.

    If I had kids, I would encourage them to become plumbers, electricians, tradesmen, rather than go into debt to attend college and come out with nothing but a pile of debt and a job where they have to ask on a daily basis: “Do you want fries with that?”. As a completely overeducated and overindebted person with multiple degrees and in a field with absolutely no new job openings, I sure wish I had gone the route of a trade school, and learned the rest of my education through using the internet (Wikipedia is the greatest invention of the last 10 years) and science fiction for my education. Four years of college and four years of law school, I would gladly trade in for a plumbing internship and a refund of all that student debt. And I finished in the top 5% of my class–doing all the “right things” that the previous generation urged us to complete.

    We have become a very warped society–swallowing the lie of globalization and corporatism, allowing Wall Street to own our “elected” officials. I am only 47 years old, and the changes I have seen since my teens and pre-Reagan years, has made me realize that personal values have deteriorated to the point that the thought that “we are all in this together” has become a nostalgaic pipe dream.

    Just think, 44 years ago we walked on the moon, and now we don’t even have a space shuttle program. Yes, we are beginning to see a return to the Dark Ages.

  12. Brooks Gracie III

    P.S. please feel free to disabuse me of my dystopian rant. I will keep track of comments, and hope someone can show me some evidence of how we are going to potentially overcome this mess. Or just do your best to help Elizabeth Warren to become president and the second-coming of FDR.

    • If the US would just get its act together, get rid of the Tea Partiers, and start taxing our citizens like we did in the 50′s and 60′s, we could use all those funds for basic and applied research and potentially find a cost-efficient method of utilizing sunlight to power the world–or maybe even find the holy grail of reusable hydrogen fusion.

      Brooks: It is not necessary to “start taxing our citizens like we did in the 50′s and 60′s”. The US government COULD NOT “use all those funds” because the US government does not and can not get funds from taxation. The US government creates funds (US base money, reserves, dollar bills) by the act of government spending. Taxation destroys/redeems money.

      I would support “start taxing our citizens like we did in the 50′s and 60′s” – but because of what it would directly do – make rich people have less money. They have too much, and most/many of them got it in less than savory ways. The estate tax is the most painless method.

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more. Great article, thank you!

  14. As long as there’s money to be made and we allow energy companies to get away with not paying for the damage they (and we) are doing, the “face ripping” will continue with all their power. The Keystone XL Pipeline decision can be considered a crossroads in human history that defines humanity as either rational or insanely self-destructive. Thus far, evidence shows the latter is true and thus our civilization is doomed. But that won’t stop us from fighting those insane forces, only to be labeled and persecuted as “eco-terrorists.” We may discover in the long run that civil disobedience is the only way to try to defeat an all-powerful bully that respects no one.

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