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Is American fracking a sign of desperation?

0 votes
Obama wanted an "all options" energy solution, yet the predominant solution seems to be focused on hydraulic fracturing to get fossil fuels. Given the threats to groundwater and the wording of law to where proof lies on the accuser to show fracking is poisoning our groundwater, there is definitely a profit motive, but I feel there is more to it than just simple exploitation of resources.

From what I can tell, military build-up seems to be occurring in many nations with minor war pretexts to justify the mobilization of regional powers (China and Russia being the best examples). Just as talk of eugenics preceded and carried through the two world wars, there is a great deal of talk about energy and collapse. There is no viable solution to erase this conversation and there are plenty of doubts that even though the United States may be permanently destroying the water supply of North America, this measure is only a solution for one generation of people.

I can't predict the future and I might speculate that a population destroying war is coming, but I'm more concerned if others see the "solutions" to the energy crisis as a Band-Aid and if a country is willing to destroy itself to keep its edge on power, it would seem that even though the United States is still in an imperial golden age, this is under threat due to the energy crisis. Though I'm answering my own question, I'm hoping for confirmation and perhaps information sharing so this isn't such a speculative endeavor. If there is disagreement, some good reasoning would help and I'd also enjoy that.
asked Apr 8, 2014 by hpwombat (4,070 points)
I added "social analysis" as a tag. I believe it was Lawrence who detailed in one of the Anarchy Magazines that anarchists need social analysis as well as an analysis of themselves and their ethics. That would be a related discussion I'd also enjoy.
it's fine if someone wants to respond, but i do consider this (anarchist analysis of current events) outside the purview of this site. not to shut anyone down, just sayin'. seems like more an anews/blog direction.

1 Answer

+2 votes
I had to go away and think about this one for awhile.  There are some broad, serious undercurrents in that question, probably three or four questions worth. (i apologise for the length, economy of words just isn't me.)

okay, first let us unpack that question:
1) you're pretending that the public statements of a politician mean anything ... we'll just call that a slip of the keyboard.
2) energy crises and bandaids...  
3)"great deal of talk about energy and collapse.", military posturing etc...
4) "the United States is still in an imperial golden age, this is under threat due to the energy crisis" ... i don't know wtf to say to this?  (I'll just pretend i'm reading that part wrong.)


(Reading my notes on this revealed a disturbingly reformist line to my references, can anyone offer some more radical readings along these lines?  Please?  I'm tired of yelling "bullshit" at my screens.)

- Energy crises and bandaids...  
We should probably broaden this out to 'resources' instead of the narrower 'energy'.  Since the u.s. dams the rivers flowing into mexico, at the border!, and diverts most of the flow to its own capitalist exploitation while leaving a dirty trickle to the ecologies downstream; and is hardly the only nation/state to abuse geography in this manner.  And your vegetables are cultivated by immigrant labor treated somewhat between serfs and slaves. And, and...

This is really two threads:  the capacity of a society/culture/civilisation to exploit a resource to extinction, and the capacity/stupidity of the ruling-class/aristocracy of a civilisation to waste vast resources instead of directly addressing a critical ecological/social crisis.
The first is obvious, yes cultures will exploit resources - be it ecological or fossil fueled - to extinction.  The less obvious part is that (pre)historically this only happened when a diaspora was colonising new places and hadn't yet developed the customs to live within their new ecological bounds (such as the Polynesians exterminating the giant clams they found on new islands), or when a cultural shift destroyed the pre-existing cultural bounds (every fucking civilisation that ended up in tears and ashes - including ours).  There is embedded in this an element of blind faith, that technology will find new solutions, that we'll find new coal mines, that the fish will come back, that the rain will fall this year, that the gods will provide, if only...
The second is also obvious, since it surrounds us everyday.  But i'll give the examples of two American cultures, both critically dependant on water management (I can't recall if these are from Mann or Diamond, there is substantial overlap).  Outside of modern St.Louis was a mound-building corn-growing culture; not with city as such, but a hundred villages crammed together until their fields merged, with irrigation channels, and a ruling class on their hilltop.  In time, this was threatened by recurrent flooding and erosion, and other problems.  Did the aristocracy address the water works? - No, they embarked a vast monument building program! - and thus failed to address the pressing problem while wasting the human labor that could have fixed the problem if left alone.  The example of the Mayan princedoms in the Yucatan is similar - they occupied themselves with symbolic raids against their neighbors and neglected the water works critical to their own survival.  Both cultures collapsed entirely.
Modern civilisation seems content to treat the symptoms of its disfunction while ignoring the underlying causes.  Like a doctor administering an inhalor to a patient who is having trouble breathing - while conscientiously ignoring the sucking chest wound.  Like a corporate/state poisoning its land and water through fracking to get a few more years of fossil junk - while ignoring the reality that its addiction to fossil fuels is terminal.

Two books i'd recommend for an anthropological viewpoint are:
1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus  by  Charles Mann, and (not so much)  Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed  by J. Diamond.  Both available at your local library, no need to lift them.
Also various books by Jeff Rubin; he's an economist, and so subject to the usual blind spots, but his critiques are powerful, fueled as they are by insider information.
Also:  Green Anarchism and Oil Depletion: How close is the Collapse?
by Richard Heinberg
This is dated, and I disagree with much of the article's conclusions, but it gives another take on the issue, and it obliquely references another related issue:

- the Fortress World concept, as outlined in
Great Transition (A report of the Global Scenario Group)  by Paul Raskin et.al  [a dated, reformist, grossly optimist work, but...]
"...As the crisis unfolds, a key uncertainty is the reaction of the
remaining powerful institutions - country alliances, transnational corporations, international organizations, armed forces.  In the Breakdown variant, their response is fragmented as conflict and rivalry
amongst them overwhelm all efforts to impose order.  In Fortress
World, powerful regional and international actors comprehend the
perilous forces leading to Breakdown.  They are able to muster a sufficiently organized response to protect their own interests and to create lasting alliances.  The forces of order view this as a necessary
intervention to prevent the corrosive erosion of wealth, resources and
governance systems.  The elite retreat to protected enclaves, mostly in
historically rich nations, but in favored enclaves in poor nations, as
well. ...
      The stability of the Fortress World depends on the organizational capacity of the privileged enclaves to maintain control over the disenfranchised. "

Instead of a "population destroying war", this seems a more likely outcome/target of our current creeping ecological and social degradation.  This would seem to be consistent with the mindset of our ruling aristocracy; it would be seen, by some sub-sects of the aristocracy at least, as a logical extrapolation or even a desirable outcome.  Various powers compete for regional dominance but stop short of open conflict (that would be bad for business and the personal enrichment of their respective aristocracies...).  The only populations destroyed are those murdered in 'police actions' to control the disenfranchised.  In other words, the same as now, only moreso.

- Conditioning of the populace...
Here the military posturing comes in, and the relentless media babble of 'resource wars' (mostly oil and water, but also rare ores necessary for electronics) and zombie movies and survivalist spectacle.  We've heard this all before, but ... media and punditry ('culture of experts') manufacture consent, trying to instill enough fear in the general populace of "Breakdown" to accept the necessity of Fortress World.  ('Manufactured consent' only brings Chomsky to mind, surely there are more relevant references?)  Interestingly, Peter Gelderloos in  How Nonviolence Protects the State  makes the point that reformists and mainstream pacifists manufacture dissent - a very safe, domesticated, non-threatening form of dissent; the flipside and complement of manufactured consent.  Since 'manufactured dissent' won't break through the conditioning,...
answered Apr 9, 2014 by clodbuster (1,950 points)
edited Apr 11, 2014 by clodbuster
- How do we break conditioning??
Not so much personally, since we are somewhat aware of our own conditioning and already struggling against that conditioning; but how do we 'pierce the veil' of the individuals around us?  At an individual level, at our neighborhood/village level, at a regional level?  (As nation/states are part of that conditioning, speaking of 'national' levels is probably delusional, or something.)
  In his permaculture writings Mollison kept harping on about intensive interventions in small areas - establish an oasis, get it thriving, and spiral outward until everything joins up and you have forest everywhere.  I firmly believe this works socially as well as in horticulture.  I'm just not sure where to stick my spade.


It's the end of the world & I don't feel fine
by Anu Bonobo
            "...  Like many, I believe that something big and bad is coming and that we should prepare emotionally, spiritually, ecologically, socially, and politically for a drastically different way of life. But I further recognize that faith and fear about the future should be balanced by a revolutionary politics for the present.
People living today were born for this confrontation with history. Will we face up to the task?"

Fight or die.

(added as a comment since this friggin' software says i'm too longwinded.  piss on that!)
(I've retained my previous rant here at the end, more for its
heat than its light.)
[warning:  this post contains impolite language.  (i'm in one
of my moods, please deal with it.)]

Yes, dear Wombat, fracking is a sign of desperation; and it
is not confined to the u.s.of.a, the uk is seriously mulling
slashing their wrists over this (having pissed away their
north sea booty), and indigineous resistance in kanada is
already resulting in flaming cop cars (their natural state,
of course)  [i should note that the resistance in
newbrunswick is an alliance of local first nations, local
farmers/residents, and people of conscience].
And just to please the Dot ... this is entirely within the
anthropological/deep-green criticism/prediction of a
civilisation-wide death spiral.  Though i could talk about
Easter Island and some dumb bastard cutting down the last
tree to drag a fucking statue across a shitty little piece of
rock, i won't ('cause it's their fucking rock and if they
want to starve for four centuries to satisfy their
delusionary hierarchical, patriachical, stratified
religion/cilivisation ... then fuck them.)  I will say that
one issue everyone (corporate/government/media) avoids like
the plague is "depletion"; this basically says how long a
resource can be exploited before it is depleted or fucked
beyond economic redemption -- the whispers i hear are five
years -- five years and then the well is dead and you have to
replace it or your production declines.  And if you stop
drilling or you hit the edge of the field, then five years
and your pipelines start running dry.  When I (in a former
life) worked in northern alberta, one gas field had a
depletion rate of three years ... they had to redrill (and
destroy land in the process) one-third of their wells every
year!  And every well fracked carries the gamble that the
aquifers above and the land above will be destroyed - not
just for a few years, but in human terms forever (two hundred
years ago, europeans stole this land -- two centuries from
now, those fracked aquifers will still be poison; five
hundred years ago, some bigotted freak from Portugal washed
up in the caribean -- five centuries from now, still
poisoned;  one thousand years ago, outlaw vikings paddled
down the coast of labrador -- still fucking poison!)  
When a culture intentionally (intentionally!) risks
destroying the chance of its descendants to survive at the
most rudimentary level, what can you say?  Every
civilisation/culture that has collapsed (to date) at least
left the option for its peasants to fan out into the
jungle/hinterlands/wilds and scratch out a living for
centuries to come.  (Usually after burning the temples and
the Royal Household to cinders -- Hurrah!)  Now the corn
fields of america are sterile sand dunes -- two decades of
permacultural grace would be required to even _begin_ to
rebuild some soil fertility.

So, the good news is that the imperial household is in its
death throes  --  the bads news is that it will take a
century or more for it to get the message that it is dead,
and it is taking out the rest of the fucking planet in the
process.  If you were hoping that resource depletion would
weaken the corporate/state, it won't -- the corporate/state
exists in an irrational dreamworld, and it won't die until we
(those it parasitizes upon) do; (or someone drives a fucking
stake thru its heart, if it had one).
The fracking (obscene as it is) is not so important as that
it serves as an indicator of distress in general; this
distress is shared across all aspects of the corporate/state,
and to varying degrees, in every industrial nation/state.  
For comparison, note that exxon (a pox upon their eyes) et.al
are playing in the "tar sands" of northern alberta - this is
really bitumen/asphalt... if you walk out into your
urban/suburban environments and see a blacktop road -- this
is exactly the shit they are digging up and trying to turn
into gasoline.  If your mind doesn't reel from the nonsense
of this, then you really need a vacation somewhere quiet.  It
is probably easier to extract carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere (entirely practical), and upgrade that to diesel
fuel, than to break asphalt down into gasoline.
As a parting point, i'll note that this distress is not just
noticed by you, or shit disturbing radicals; but also far-
right survivalists, liberal "preppers", reformists, well-
meaning grandmothers, etc....  Damn near everyone can see
that the system is fucked-up and teetering on the brink of
catastrophic collapse - but blinded by their conditioning,
they can't envision anything existing outside that system of
exploitation -- just like the Easter Islanders couldn't see
outside their culture of exploitation.  They didn't have
anywhere else to run to ... and neither do we.
Fight or die.
...