Shared Responsibility over Oil Abuse

Pedro Campos*

Havana Scene - photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 30 — One more warning.  Governments and misgovernments met in Copenhagen last December and not a thing for the good of humanity came out of it.  Much ado about nothing.  The world continues its casual stroll toward disaster, hand in hand with the production doctrine of all capitalists, who only care about the profits extracted from the sweat and the thought of others.  The means of extraction are not important.

The Machiavellian pragmatism that gripped minds is still the predominant world philosophy because the class that exploits wage labor in all confines of the planet dominates.

Then, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth took place on April 19-22.  Although some delegations were only made up of functionaries and the popular environmental movements of some countries are not represented, it was an historic opportunity to seek out real grassroots solutions.

The abyss is in sight, many scientists say; but if you think about it, we began descending down it a long time ago.  How much has Mother Earth changed in the last 50 years?  The gouging consequences for European geography of the Second World War, which happened over half a century ago, are insignificant compared to the disasters, and the resulting living conditions, that have occurred since then on the planet.

Most experts on the subject agree that the fundamental direct cause of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases from burning oil, which affects the ozone layer.  The developed capitalist countries burn oil sold to them by underdeveloped countries that are capitalist too.  It is impossible to hide the destructive role of the capitalized bipedal beast that thinks only of how to live better today … “tomorrow? … tomorrow we’ll be back with more,” says a leading sports journalist in Cuba.

We heap all the blame on the imperialist countries: the major consumers and leading producers of all the garbage and gases that are destroying the planet.  But are the imperialists the only ones responsible?  What about the underdeveloped countries of the Third World where the predatory-productive system of capitalism dominates and where, moreover, most oil burned by the rich developed countries is produced?  Must it be produced because there is an international demand?  Or could it be that money must be made regardless of the consequences?

We fight drug production.  Fine.  But has anyone asked which does more harm to humanity, drug production or the production and burning of oil?  Does Marijuana —speaking as one who has never tried it— destroy the atmosphere or the ozone layer, warm the planet and melt the polar ice?  How much is spent on fighting drugs and how much on combating the abuse of nature by the most barbarous of all terrestrial beings?  How many millions of human beings will die if we continue with this oil madness, with the current culture of the individual petro-car?

Has anyone wondered why we have tried to bailout financial speculation capital with multi-million dollar figures vastly superior to investments in new technologies seeking alternatives to fossil fuels?

We certainly cannot impose emission reductions on the imperialists.  But can’t we do more than criticize and blame them for everything?  Is it not time now to launch an international campaign against the production and burning of oil, including boycotting products from the major predators of the planet?

Great cures for great evils

At the gathering, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa suggested decreasing oil production to try to curb consumption.  More recently at the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean he presented the Yusuni ITT initiative designed to end the exploitation of 846 million barrels of oil that lie in the soils of the National Park of the same name and to ensure its biodiversity.  Could other producing countries follow suit?

For this, Correa deserves to be nominated for the most important award given for preserving the environment.  The global environmental movement should support his proposals and his nomination.

What if oil-exporting countries cut back their production, say 20%, or at least announced their willingness to cease expanding their areas of exploration and prospecting?

Prices would rise, it’s true.  But wouldn’t it stimulate an accelerated search for alternative energy?  Would force be used?  Would there be wars?  Wouldn’t this decrease the consumption of oil considerably and consequently the production of harmful gases?  Great cures for great evils.

It’s time to assume joint responsibility for the environmental disaster and to stop blaming others while the “underdeveloped” countries continue producing oil and more oil and exploring more and more areas, to sell it to those who burn it and thereby make more money for the governments and states of the Third World, for their bureaucracies, for their bourgeoisie, for their plans  of “development” or should we say “destruction” … because in reality how much has the hundreds of billions of dollars generated by Third World oil helped the poor out of poverty, beyond short-term relief?

Who controls in one way or another the exploitation and commercialization of oil if not the international capitalist companies?  Could it be otherwise without changing the capitalist system of wage exploitation?

Far Western Cuba. photo: Caridad

Are the people taken into account whenever a government decides to expose a geographical area to oil drilling?  In addition to the expected earnings, has anyone calculated how much harmful gas will be contributed to the environment with the opening of a new well?

Is it possible that the sale of oil is not also part of the capitalist production paradigm or that it does not contribute to the continued production of huge amounts of poisonous and destructive gases?

Sometimes it sounds hypocritical when certain Third World governments call for a resolution to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s what we have to feed our weak economies.”  They might reply.

At the cost of contributing to the further poisoning of the atmosphere, of diminishing the years of life on earth?  Is it that simple?

“Socialist” China has proposed something like: the First World countries, that have higher living standards, could reduce their production and let the Third World reach those standards (of consumption), in a ratio that offsets gas emissions.

And perhaps the final equation of destruction for all is not the same?

The world needs firm, effective, definitive solutions: steps such as those of the Ecuadorian government and some other proposals we saw in Cochabamba.

Why not use the powerful weapon of oil production, in the hands of the Third World, to force a reduction in consumption?

Imperialists will launch wars, they say.  Invade 10 countries simultaneously?  Can they handle 10 wars at the same time?  Could the environmentalist forces of the First World do nothing?

Don’t we say that the survival of the planet is the most urgent global issue?

Shouldn’t that be the main platform for the creation of an international front against the system of capitalist exploitation, which is more responsible than any particular country?  The U.S. is the worst gas emitter, but the culprit is their socio-economic system.  Capitalism is the dominant global system.  It is the culprit.  It is to be attacked on all sides, as Evo Morales said, in the First and the Third Worlds and in the other poor countries that are not so assuredly part of this World.

Some scientists believe that oil should not be burned because it offers extraordinary possibilities for different kinds of polymers with diverse applications in products necessary for everyday life. So burning oil does not only produce gasses that are gradually making the earth inhabitable, but it also destroys a major resource for life in the future.

There is much talk of alternative energy production, but according to much scientific research, the main reason it is not being pursued is because capitalist enterprises, linked to the exploitation, production, processing and consumption of oil exert control over the market.

The answers to complex questions are often very simple.  The difficulty arises when implementation collides with enormous vested interests.  Accordingly, the major oil consumers are not interested in technological changes and advances that displace them from the market. Does the same go for the big producers?

Oil exporting countries and others attracted by sales prospects are investing heavily in increasing production capacity and putting new exploration and exploitation areas in the hands of foreign companies.  Is that a positive contribution to a promising future for humanity?

We need resources.  It’s true.  But why look for them in the expected disaster that we criticize so much?

Finding alternatives

Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate all our efforts on other types of energy, to find sources of income in actual productive work, and especially to exchange the current consumerist philosophy of the capitalist production concept of wage exploitation for a more rational way of life akin to a system of freely associated workers?

Some alternative energies, like solar for instance, also produce toxic by-products.  But nevertheless solar energy production is less harmful because the by-products are more easily recycled, it’s less complex to transport, manage and decentralize and it’s cheaper and more in line with the micro-project concept, which is considered by many progressive economists to be the basis of sustainable development for the coming decades and which is similar to the idea of cooperative socialism.

The global dependence on oil for energy production is also a weapon of hegemonic control over the populace.  Energy dependence is necessary to guarantee any kind of hegemonic control of society.

Now that the ground shakes everywhere and tsunamis are forming, has anyone recently investigated the relationship between these phenomena, the movements of the telluric layers that produce earthquakes and underground cavities left empty by the extraction of oil and gas?

We must find fundamental alternatives as quickly as possible.  Correa’s proposals and Evo’s words against capitalism should make all stakeholders sincerely contemplate the prolongation of life on earth.  But, in addition, we must act.  We can’t leave it solely in the hands of governments.  It’s time for the people.  Let’s demand.

Something is very clear: doing is the best way of saying, according to Martí, and Fidel has taught us to lead by example.  We have come to understand that in this world there is no room for the hasty thought of Louis XV when he said “After me, the deluge.”

*Pedro Campos can be reached at: [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Shared Responsibility over Oil Abuse

  • Great talk on finding alternatives, but the problem is that we already have alternatives to oil (bio-fuel, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas, the tears of orphans, crushed puppies…etc) and to switch an entire country to these alternatives is pretty damn expensive. Even after all the most developed nations actually switch to renewable energy in probably in a century, the lesser developed nations will still depend on oil. Oil is cheap, powerful, and reliable. China and India, with over a billion people will be the most problematic nations in the future. Unless everyone drives a very compact car that only runs under 30mph, the economy will heat up, slow down, and grind like this rave I once saw…and wished I was hip enough to actually care about joining.

    This site needs a forum. If it does have one, please enlighten me. Also, is Wikipedia accessible in Cuba?

  • Everything Pedro says here is valid.

    What’s the point to keep in focus? It’s just what Pedro and all of the scientists are saying: “If we don’t stop destroying the climate, oceans and the whole world environment, our species is in great jeopardy.”

    This article’s focus on oil as the main source of greenhouse gases is slightly off the mark. In the US & other countries the insane mining & burning of coal is at least as much responsible for greenhouse gases as is oil. Oil, coal & natural gas are all part of the problem. There is no solution without reducing & finally eliminating the production & over-use of all three. I’m sure Pedro knows this full well.

    The ITER, fusion nuclear power research being done a Cadarache, France is one part of the solution, but that potential source of clean, unlimited electrical power is 2 decades away. What’s needed now is massive R & D on solar, esp. “concentrated solar” technology. Solar technology can save us now.

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