[Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, a member of the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a member of The Shalom Center’s board, gave this talk as in effect the “sermon” of the “Blessing of the Waters” ceremony on September 20 in Philadelphia. The “Blessing of the Waters” was celebrated in connection with a major regional demonstration against fracking in the Marcellus Shale region running from Ohio and West Virginia to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.]
In memory of Barry Commoner, honest scholar and passionate advocate for justice and the Earth, I’m going to use the next few minutes to connect fracking to a larger picture. Fracking pollutes the water, air and land, it is harmful to animal and human health, and it destroys natural beauty – all for the sake of energy and profit. It is a logical outcome of the industrial growth society that we live in.
The industrial growth society is based on this system of values and beliefs:
- That human beings are separate from each other and separate from the ecological system that we are part of.
- That the Earth is a storehouse of resources that can be extracted at will with no regard for ecosystems.
- That the individual, not the community, should be our focus.
- That money is to be valued over people.
- That our life-model should be domination or survival of the fittest, not cooperation or partnership.
- That the needs of the present trump those of future generations.
This operating system promotes production, consumption, and profit. it works against peace, justice, sustainability, and a fulfilling life.
These cultural norms are one major factor keeping the system in place. The other is power.
Power in our time is held by the large multi-national corporations, many of whose economies are larger than the GNP of over 100 nations. In our country, the Supreme Court has ruled that they have the rights of human beings. Never before has corporate power been so concentrated. Our current day Pharaoh is corporate power. Some of the largest corporations in the world are at the fracking industry conference in Philadelphia: ExxonMobil, Halliburton, GE —- as well as the politicians that they buy through corporate donations and revolving-door jobs.
Corporate power has neutralized government regulations of the fracking industry. Remember the Halliburton loop- hole exempting fracking from the clean water and air regulations, allowing them to literally spread poison. These are the same corporations that support the disinformation campaign about climate change, using the same tactics and even the same ad agency that was used in the disinformation campaign about the harmful effects of tobacco. Disinformation is the polite word for deliberately lying.
Fracking is part of the global warming problem. Even the industry admits that over 6% of the methane is released into the air, and methane is over a twenty-year period many times worse than CO2 for global warming. And the next 20 years are crucial for our planet.
Several studies have shown that global warming has the most severe effect on the poor countries. Between 1990 and 2009, 50,000 people died directly from extreme climate events, the majority in the poorest countries of world. In addition many more died indirectly. We need just to look at New Orleans to see who is most affected by climate catastrophes.
Fracking is just one of the many ways that our system of production spreads poisonous substances. And the poisoning of the world does not affect us all equally: In the US, African Americans and poor people in general are disproportionately affected, and this is true the world over. Cancer rates in neighborhoods close to toxic environments are much higher and these are much more likely to be in poor areas. We just have to look a few miles down the road to Chester, a largely African American city. Chester is a dumping ground for biohazards dangerous to human health. It has four toxic waste dumping/processing facilities
We have created toxic sacrifice zones to feed late capitalism, and those zones are predominantly where poorer people live.
Another example is the skyrocketing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments in our inner cities, again disproportionately affecting African Americans — all caused by poor air quality. And now this is happening in our rural areas as fracking pollutes the air.
Fracking is a link in the chain of environmental justice.
The worldwide industrial-growth society is addicted to cheap energy in order to fuel profits and growth. The entire economic model is based on cheap fossil fuels. As other fuels grow scarcer and more expensive, the industrial-growth system grows desperate for fracking, and so it is spreading all over the globe. Fracking can only thrive because of corporate power and the big lie that we are separate from each other and from nature.