[Marxism] “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.”
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 31 07:42:27 MDT 2011
NY Times op-ed August 30, 2011, 10:27 pm
Profits Before Environment
By MARK BITTMAN
I wasn’t surprised when the administration of George W. Bush
sacrificed the environment for corporate profits. But when the
same thing happens under a Democratic administration, it’s
depressing. With little or no public input, policies that benefit
corporations regardless of the consequences continue to be enacted.
No wonder an April 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found
that about only 20 percent of Americans have faith in the
government (it’s one thing upon which the left and right and maybe
even the center agree). But maybe this is nothing new: as Glenda
Farrell, as Genevieve “Gen” Larkin, put it in “Gold Diggers of
1937,” “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.”
But is anyone in power even trying? Last winter, the Department of
Agriculture deregulated Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa,
despite concerns about cross-pollination of non-genetically
modified crops. It then defied a court order banning the planting
of genetically modified sugar beets pending completion of an
environmental impact study.
Monsanto engineers these plants and makes Roundup, the herbicide
they resist. But Roundup-ready crops don’t increase long-term
yields, a host of farmers are now dealing with “superweeds” and
there is worry about superbugs, nearly all courtesy of Monsanto.
In fact, this system doesn’t contribute to much of anything except
Monsanto’s bottom line. Yet Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave
Monsanto the nod, perhaps yielding to pressure from the White House.
The United States exerts that same kind of pressure abroad.
WikiLeaks cables show that U.S. “biotechnology outreach programs”
have promoted genetically modified crops in Africa, Asia and South
America; they’ve also revealed that diplomats schemed to retaliate
against any European Union countries that oppose those crops.
Sacrificing the environment for profits didn’t stop with Bush, and
it doesn’t stop with genetically modified organisms. Take, for
example, the Keystone XL pipeline extension. XL is right: the
36-inch-wide pipeline, which will stretch from the Alberta tar
sands across the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast, will cost $7
billion and run for 1,711 miles — more than twice as long as the
Alaska pipeline. It will cross nearly 2,000 rivers, the huge
wetlands ecosystem called the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala
aquifer, the country’s biggest underground freshwater supply.
If Keystone is built, we’ll see rising greenhouse gas emissions
right away (tar sands production creates three times as many
greenhouse gases as does conventional oil), and our increased
dependence on fossil fuels will further the likelihood of
climate-change disaster. Then there is the disastrous potential of
leaks of the non-Wiki-variety. (It’s happened before.)
Proponents say the pipeline will ease gas prices and oil
“insecurity.” But domestic drilling has raised, not lowered, oil
prices, and as for the insecurity — what we need is to develop
wiser ways to use the oil we have.
They say, too, that the pipeline could create 100,000 new jobs.
But even the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers
Union oppose the pipeline, saying, “We need jobs, but not ones
based on increasing our reliance on Tar Sands oil.”
Sounds as if union officials have been reading the writer and
activist Bill McKibben, who calls the pipeline “a fuse to the
biggest carbon bomb on the continent,” and NASA scientist Jim
Hansen, who says the oil Keystone will deliver “is essentially
game over” for the planet.
Game over? No problem, says the State Department, which concluded
that the project will have no significant impact on “most
resources along the proposed pipeline corridor.” The Sierra Club
quickly responded by calling the report “an insult to anyone who
expects government to work for the interests of the American people.”
I do expect that, and I am insulted. President Obama can deny
Keystone the permit. A truly environmentally friendly president
(like the one candidate Obama appeared to be) would be looking for
creative ways to leave fossil fuels underground, not extract them.
Perhaps he doesn’t “believe in” global warming at this point, like
When government defends corporate interests, citizens must fight.
McKibben has helped organize protests at the White House against
Keystone, and he’s one of hundreds who’ve been arrested in the
last couple of weeks. These people are showing that the role of
government as corporate ally must be challenged.
As it will be in the fight against carte blanche for genetically
modified organisms: From Oct. 1 to Oct. 16, there will be a march
from New York City to Washington to demand that genetically
modified foods be labeled, something a majority of Americans want.
This small, perfectly reasonable request has run into joint
opposition from the biotech industry and (here we go again) the
Food and Drug Administration.
Why are most of us are filled with mistrust of the government?
Maybe because we, like Gen Larkin, know it’s so hard to be good
under the capitalistic system.
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A version of this column appeared in print on Aug. 31, 2011.
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