The comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there
So far in 2016 an energy expert insists Jordan Cove will very likely receive its Record of Decision and described FERC as “a rubberstamp agency”. The World reported that from the State’s perspective if the project’s application meets all criteria “it gets the permit.” A Veresen representative added brutal emphasis to these harsh realities speaking before a crowd of anxious boosters at a recent luncheon. If Jordan Cove doesn’t get one or two permits he explained, the company will simply reapply. “There isn’t a permanent kill-switch,” he explained.
These are hard truths for environmental activists but recognize that the forests that scrub our air, provide oxygen and clean our water along with the rest of the septillion dollar (priceless) infrastructure nature has provided, without which we cannot survive, has value in today’s economy only and after it has been converted to property, extracted and sold. Agencies like the FERC and Oregon’s DEQ and DSL exist to regulate the exploitation of nature and the transfer of its common resources to private hands.
Thankfully the present LNG market is hindering Jordan Cove’s progress for the foreseeable future but consider that once the company has the RoD it could break ground in a decade with nary a warning trumpet.
Here is the sad truth of our environmental protection laws and a condemnation of our activism. The NEPA went into force in 1970, (ironically in response to the Santa Barbara Oil Spill). The EPA, established that same year, is now reporting that less than half of America’s waterways are capable of sustaining healthy aquatic life and only 21% can maintain “healthy biological communities.” The number of healthy rivers dropped 7% between 2004 and 2009 and we have had countless breaches and spills and environmental tragedies including the catastrophic Gulf Oil Spill since Santa Barbara.
Ocean health is dire. The Global Ocean Index is less than 70% with the Northern Pacific High Seas rating as low as 53%.
Last year, for the first time in recorded history, CO2 levels soared past 350.org’s minimum safe level to 400 ppm. NASA scientists reacted saying, “we are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels.”
Clearly, we have to try something new and game changing. Owing to public pressure for abolition, instead of establishing a Department of Human Trafficking regulating how many lashes could be administered to a slave US laws matured to recognize that human beings are not property. Our environmental activism is failing the planet because we are complicit in treating nature like property every time we negotiate with the regulators how many parts-per-billion of contaminants, in other words how many lashes, our ecosystems must endure. This path is like trying to solve a problem with the very same thinking that created it, Einstein’s very definition of insanity.
Environmentalists recognize the unfairness of the restricted free speech zones we all know as the public comment period. Frustration is sometimes expressed by accusing hearings officers and agency staff of bias. Some have gone so far as to blame the journalists for reporting the rules under which regulators operate but the blame lies with the system. Industry help write the very rules that regulate their developments. The system is fixed, to be effective our activism needs to break it not play in it.
The existing environmental protection processes are familiar and well entrenched in our culture. Environmentalists dutifully work within those confines filing comments and pleading with the “decision makers.” Breaking away from fossil-fuels is scary for the corporations that have made their fortunes at the expense of the planet. So too, it is hard for activists, especially after years of honing their comment writing skills, to break free of the regulatory comfort zone.
Earth needs a New Year’s Revolution
Bolivia and Ecuador now recognize the Rights of Nature to thrive and flourish thereby enabling ecosystems to intervene in court when non-sustainable development threatens those rights. The Unist’ ot’ en people in British Columbia are using their right of self-government to simply say NO to a non-sustainable fossil-fuel pipeline. The Yurok, the largest tribe in California, aren’t negotiating and just passed an enforceable GMO free zone to protect their lands and people from chemical trespass.
Nationwide, more communities are taking bold steps to break the fixed system and are enacting constitutional protections by writing ordinances exercising the right to local self-government. The largest, Pittsburgh, PA, banned hydraulic fracturing on grounds the process violates citizens’ right to clean air and water. Some naysayers say community rights will not work. That remains to be seen but 40 years of data confirm our present approach to protecting the environment positively doesn’t work.
Fight for community rights. This is our community and our choice. Visit cooscommons.org because as someone once said, “the comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.”