portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary global

corporate dominance | environment

Intergenerational Injustice: Oil and the death of an Ocean

A vast ecosystem is dying before us. The Gulf of Mexico is soaked in oil. Millions upon millions of creatures -land, sea and sky are dead or dying. The gulf waters are dead to oil and greed. What have we done to stop this from happening? What have the generations of people living on the Earth done to leave a liveable planet behind after they die? Why are we not standing up?
We are numb.

A vast ecosystem is dying before us. The Gulf of Mexico is soaked in oil.Millions upon millions of creatures -land, sea and sky are dead or dying. The gulf waters are dead to oil and greed. Photos of dying jellyfish filled with oil, dead porpoise, dead and dying birds and fish project out to us humans over the t.v. and internet> The media is used to keep us stunned and still. We are unable to move, it is like a nightmare. It all seems so unreal but not unexpected. We are just where THEY want us.

We watch as we are told that a upcoming Hurricane season could further throw this oil pollution across the surrounding lands and swamps. The talking heads on the t.v. and Youtube report that in the case of a large hurricane, the oil could be carried into the jet stream and ocean currents to be spread across the world.

We sit and wait and listen and watch.

We are feel powerless to do anything. We can't remember how to organize ourselves.

We were not bred to be village and community dwellers. We were bred to consume,and compete with each other for scraps from the tables of the elite. We go out everyday and drive our cars and consume petroleum based crap and we cannot stop ourselves even though it is killing us and all the creatures and plants and the earth.

Each generation presently on the planet has contributed. We are leaving nothing for the children or the ones still unborn. We are leaving nothing for the next generation let alone the seventh generation.

For the last 150 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution the people of planet earth have been talked off the land, away from the forests, away from the wild places that is our real home. We have been indoctrinated to believe that we are concrete and asphalt dwellers and that this is our natural state. We have been told that humans that live in the forest and natural areas are wild and "third world". We have allowed ourselves to believe that destroying the natural world and consuming toxic waste is our natural way of living. We are even called 'consumers" by the elite.

They own us and we have no place to escape to.

We allowed it. Now the oceans are dying and we watch in horror and are unable to organize or stand up or tell others what we think and worst of all - WE ARE UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!

We have lost the skill to cooperate with each other. We have been carefully groomed to be self-absorbed and compliant. We have allowed ourselves to be mentally and spiritually raped and manipulated.

And for what?

Native plants and food plants are dying worldwide. This includes valuable medicinal plants and plants that support the web of life. These plants
are dying because of destruction of habitat, use of herbicides, pesticides, petro chemicals, industrial forestry practices, global climate change and destructive behaviors of three of the five generations alive on the earth at this time.


In an area that stretches from Colorado up through British Columbia to Alaska, thousands of acres of lodge-pole pine are dying. These are old forests, thousands of years old that have lived through many short-lived climate changes. They are dying because of Global Warming. The trees are infested by an insect called the Pine-bark beetle. The insect is very sensitive to cold. If the temperature during the winter months does not fall below minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) for a week or two, the insect reproduces rapidly.

The earth is warming due to pollution and climate change. WE ARE THE POLLUTERS!!

As the winters in North American have gotten warmer, the range of the beetle has expanded faster than their natural predator. The area of devastation has expanded fastest in British Columbia and Alaska. The dead trees are providing fuel for massive forest fires which are also increasing carbon emissions. Pine trees are not the only species of trees dying. Maples, oaks, cedar, spruce, and many other large trees species are being wiped out.

This is just one example of the continuous loop of damage that is being done to our planet.

Dr. James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for space studies is a leading scientist on global warming and one of the first "experts" to stand up and be concerned about future generations. He is also an activist who was recently arrested for protesting the destruction of whole mountains during coal extraction. The US extracts over 1 million pounds of coal every year from four southern states.
I recently saw him speak at a student sponsored and organized event at Oregon State University.

Dr. Hansen claimed that climate change is a matter of "intergenerational justice" - we are borrowing the Earth from the generations to come and must 'return' it to our children in the same condition or better than at the time of our birth.

On March 2, 2009 Dr. Hansen joined other earth activists in West Virginia coal mining area and called for civil disobedience to stop the production of coal. On March 3, 2009 he joined over 2500 climate activists to successfully shut down the Capitol Power Plant located in Washington D.C. The plant burns coal and provides steam and cooled water for the United States Capitol and other buildings in the Capitol Complex. The plant burns over 30,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.

In June 2009 Hansen was arrested along with 31 other people as they protested against mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia. Pro-mining workers stood nearby "defending" their jobs. One man said he needed the job to feed his family.

The valleys around the coal mining towns are filled with poisonous sludge from the mine. The cancer rate in the town is very high. Death from black lung disease comes often and even to the towns people; young and old. According to prominent scientists like Susan Soloman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration we have more than reached the tipping point. She reports according to findings from a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that turning off the carbon dioxide emissions won't stop global warming, the change is irreversible and will last for more than a thousand years.

Soloman reports that the maximum amount of planet-warming carbon pollution the earth can handle without experiencing destructive change is 350 parts per million. The problem she says is that we're already at 387 ppm and rising, which is why the ice-caps are melting and forests are being eaten by insects, and forest fires worldwide are also contributing to global warming.

Each generation since 1900 has contributed to mass the extinction of plants, animals, and other species that has endangered the web of life, of which we humans are a part.

Each time we engage in global war we bring the dredges of warfare to the land in the form of heavy industrial chemicals,petroleum products, pesticides and herbicides:

Agent Orange became 245T-Silvex a powerful herbicide that was shown to cause cancer and spontaneous miscarriages. Yet it was dumped on the National Forests to "control" unwanted plants for 20 years. Nerve gas from World War I and World War II was spread across the industrial world and marketed as a pesticide and solvent cleaner. Oil and petroleum products are a leftover from war. Oil permeates our lives, our food, our shelters and clothes and transportation. It is all around us and chocking us slowly. For most people, more than a third of their income goes to support a car. We pay for fuel, insurance, repairs to cars, taxes to maintain roads and stuff to put in or on our cars. We are slaves to the oil industry. Most of this money goes back to the oil elites to make more war, more stuff, and more pollution.

Much of the industrial world is covered a thin layer of chemical waste that is destroying life and cause massive damage to human, plant and animal life. Humanities heavy addiction to oil, pharmaceutical drugs and hormones used in birth control are polluting the land, the water and the air. We have created a chemical soup that nothing on the planet can escape from.

Plants are excellent remediators: they suck up the chemicals that engulf us and try to get them out of our ecosystems. Many plants are now just too dangerous to eat. They are full of heavy metals and other industrial chemicals. Many of these plant families are mutating because of this chemical ingestion and are no longer producing seeds or attracting pollinators. Our plant-based food, medicine and shelter supply is in danger of disappearing off the earth.

What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico cannot be remediated by plants. The damage is too severe. The pollution of petro chemicals is too wide and the destruction of life too extensive. Many species that were only found in the Gulf region will be wiped out entirely.

Human life is at risk too. Pollinators, birds, insects, plants,animals... all are needed for humans to be able to live. We are not concrete and asphalt dwellers. We are wildlands, forest, desert dwellers. We need clean water, air and earth to thrive.


We who live on this the planet have caused so much devastation that many scientists believe the only action to take now is to stop all burning of coal, fossil fuels and prepare ourselves to live very differently.But these same scientist/activists also admit that we are addicted to burning up and polluting our planet and too few of humanity are willing to make real changes in their lives. As addicts, we are unable and unwilling to stop our destructive actions.

Like most addicts we carefully follow the stages of addiction: We are
emotionally addicted to our need to pollute. The things we consume and the way we treat the earth feeds a need emotional or social comfort or provides excitement.

We are mentally addicted to our destructive acts and need to consume harmful substances. We have been brainwashed by TV, the internet and other media-we commit an act to support our emotional need- we collect people around us who will support our need also. They remind us every day that we need to have these things that destroy us.

We are physically addicted - even though our actions are causing us great
stress and many times loss of health and wellbeing, we commit the act more
often to support our belief that it is good for us even when the act is
destroying our lives.

And last we feel emotional pain and guilt because we cannot stop the action that is destroying us. We feel so much pain and guilt that we find ourselves stupefied, unable to move and needing to find comfort. And, then we begin again. Because we seek relief from our actions, we continue to consume, to use fossil fuels, to destroy the environment. We live in a culture of isolation and consumption that really gives us no real depth of relief. We justify our actions by creating a philosophy of denial. We pretend that the problem does not exist. We create blogs and websites to deny global warming and environmental destruction, we shame
those willing to stand up; we incarcerate those who actively try to stop the process of destruction.

A few of us walk in circles in the street saying "NO!" And even that has not helped to stop the warming of the earth and destruction of thousands of species each and every day. Many of us say that we will be dead in 50 years so who cares what the earth will be like then. "The earth is over populated anyway"... (We throw
in a little compassion to show we are still human) "Just don't let it be
my family, my friends who will suffer."

We know we are doing it but cannot stop ourselves from buying cars, burning gas and petroleum products, burning coal. We consume anything thrown before us. Like any good addict we make deals; CAP and TRADE,concessions, deals to distribute the damage across the globe.

We are like a deer standing in a roadway, looking into the headlights of oncoming semi-truck. We seem unable and unwilling to move.

When surveyed many Americans reported that they could not give up their cars because there was not an infrastructure in place to support bicycling, they lacked physical ability to ride a bike long distances,they had to commute too far to work each day, and they needed space to transport their stuff and/or their children.
Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. (World Watch Institute).

Attempts at changing the way we burn fossil fuels have been outright thwarted by industry. Who can forget the extreme actions taken by the auto industry to destroy the production of the electric car in America?

What is most unfair is that most of this pollution and destruction has occurred in the last 50 years mostly by the generation of people who lived through the great depression and the Baby Boomers and generation X. And the most change around us is estimated to start within the next 50 years, just when those two "great" generations will be gone from the earth.

Those two generations WWII and boomers, when surveyed are mostly fixed on their own survival. When asked if they had concern for people who will be on the earth in 2050, most said we should pay attention only to the people on the earth at this time. The focus is on consuming; putting away money for retirements, investing in ANY stock that will bring dividends (even those that support war, environmental degradation and harm to others),owning the best and the newest. Consuming machines and gadgets that create an illusion that they are still young and virile: sports cars, Viagra, Prozac, more and more stuff. Most are working as hard as they can to keep up a life style that is not sustainable, healthy or protective of
seven generations into the future. We have no concern for intergenerational injustice. We brag to the world that "we are spending our children's children's, children's inheritance. What we are spending is not a sea of plastic shit, but the earth and all its resources. What we know is that each day, many of us seem to live as if in a fog, unconcerned for the affect we are having on the environment we live in.

How did we become so delusional? How did we not think that our personal actions might not come back to destroy the very earth we live on. This Earth that has supported humans for millions of years, but may not be able to support us anymore in just 50 years from now?

Many philosophers believe that the steps leading to our deep delusions began when humanity left the land and adopted power-over relationships with each other, with the earth, with the animal and plant world and with ourselves. We developed a deep hatred of the feminine divine and the Mother Earth. In living this way, we have been cut off from our souls and the web of life.

The internet is full of websites disputing the idea that global warming is real. We still have enough to eat, we still have gas for our cars, we still have a place to live out of the elements, and we have drugs to control our emotions so we will not have to be aware of our suffering. We have drugs to feed our addictions and proclivity to want to be "high" all the time. Why should we care for the future generations?

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". The Hopi have a word to describe these times, "Koyaanisqatsi" it is a Hopi word meaning one of five things: "crazy life, life in turmoil, life disintegrating, life out of balance, and a state of life that calls for another way of living."

The Hopi along with many indigenous peoples believe we are to live lightly
on the earth and every action should support seven generations beyond us.

Is everyone insane?

No, some are preparing... and working in cooperation with one another. A few know that the problem is too big to control now, so they are creating a world view and way of life outside of the corrupted world.

Next time --Intergenerational Injustice part II: Preparing to survive
outside the concrete walls - the urban farming movement of Portland,
Oregon. Earth Activist Training and the Permaculture Movement. Steps to
speaking to each other in a healing, cooperative manner. Organizing
methods in a time of revolution.

Part three: Who has stood up in the last 100 years to speak the truth? The Hera and heros: Remembering those who have tried to warn us.
(1) Dalai Lama quote -Source: Imagine All the People: A Conversation with
the Dalai Lama on Money, Politics, and Life as it Could Be, Page: 52
(2)  http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/why/environment.php Survey
results on Americans use of bikes vs. autos.
(3) Earth Activist Training including permaculture, resistance, pro-active
skill development -  http://www.earthactivisttraining.org/