What do coal, gold, & natural gas have in common? Or water, petroleum, & uranium?
They are all natural resources that mining and other resource-extraction companies take from the ground and sell to others. It seems to be a common pattern for these ‘extractive industries’ to be ready and willing to harm people and the natural environment in their quests for profits. (I believe it’s absurd to think anyone can own such natural resources, but that’s a separate matter.)
Depleting the Earth’s natural assets is a misguided way to fuel the demand for energy and wealth, because in the process of extracting the resources, they also pollute our soil, air, and water—and harm the health of all who are exposed. The Pennsylvania Constitution says:
‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.’
Unfortunately, reality doesn’t match the words. In this part of the country, mountaintop-removal coal mining (MTR) and fracking for natural gas are among the worst major environmental health threats — posing grave risks to people, to natural ecosystems, and to communities. In the west, natural gas and petroleum still vie with cyanide-solution gold mining and uranium mining for being the worst despoilers. In both west and east, areas with long histories of coal mining now suffer from the greedhead frackers and MTR coal-mining companies. Do their so-called property rights trump the human rights of real, live people?
(The same industries that show such disregard for environmental health have often used violent anti-union tactics — even to the extent of killing people who tried to organize workers.)
We all depend on the natural ecosystems for life itself — we need renewal and regeneration, not more destruction!
For a creative picture of some of the effects of coal mining, read ‘Progress’, by poet Lisa J. Parker.
Over the last few years, there have been movements to assert community rights and the rights of nature above claims to profits and property by corporations and individuals. You can read more about them under Rights of Nature/Rights of Mother Earth & Community Rights.
Individual communities have adopted community rights ordinances; the 2012 Earth Summit passed the Rights of Mother Earth — and Bolivia has enshrined the Rights of Mother Earth in its new Constitution!
What can you do to help stop the resource rapists?
- Shale Gas Outrage – September 20
- Marcellus Shale – Apply the Precautionary Principle!
- Karen Feridun: ‘Protecting the Interests of the People’
- Nöel Jones: ‘The Importance of Being Radical’
Local action on fracking:
- Marcellus Shale / Anti-fracking action
- Lehigh Valley Gas Truth
- Berks Gas Truth
- Sierra Club – Lehigh Valley
Organizations Working to Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining:
- Appalachian Voices
- I Love Mountains
- Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC]
- Earth Justice
- Coal Country – the movie