Plundering the world’s natural resources and setting up proxy points of guaranteed distribution back to the Motherland is the lead stratagem behind an Imperialist-capitalist agenda that for centuries held their own class as chief inhabitants of the planet.
Foreign and domestic policy today is almost entirely dictated by the interests of a few, a ruling Imperial class under the influence of lobbyists and front groups from any number of extractive industries, among other powerful corporations and rogue nations— all equally clamoring to shape the course of things.
Phony diplomats, doubling as mercantilist-shills for the most powerful corporations, working in mutual accord with corrupt foreign officials in host client-nations, are selling mass natural resource extraction to “developmentally poorer” countries as a way to prosperity. Alongside the practice of resource extraction, a powerful propaganda machine has emerged to create something of a national identity crisis for the many caught in between its razor sharp teeth. In their effort to quash popular rebellion and dissent—both domestically and abroad— the Imperialist class has found it advantageous to wipe out interfering indigenous cultural practices and to co-opt and pervert other ideologies, resistance movements, religions or truths that might stand in their way. Corporate interests have become state interests and the incessant drives for profit along with the notion of never-ending economic expansion have become mechanisms for this class warfare.
At the expense of the majority of the world’s population and the natural environment, the Imperialist class has been operating almost universally at home and abroad—and in many instances; inciting regional conflicts on the basis of subsurface sectarian divides. Conflicts to which there are no other reasons for involvement than the need to assert the influence necessary in order to maintain the steady conduit of material and economic inputs required to continually grow the empire. As domestic resources dry up, more and more will the Imperialist class employ tactics meant to destabilize other areas rich in resources or in geo-political significance because in doing they open them up to neo-liberal forms of shock exploitation and extortion.
Humanitarian aid and the US government’s professed aim to uphold human rights standards around the world falls flat in the face in the examination of their tools for manipulation: modern warfare, genocide, economic sanctions, aid blockades, structural adjustment programs, privatization, the support of military dictatorships, indefinite detention, torture, right-wing coup d’états, paramilitaries, death squads and alliances with rogue apartheid nations and groups. Also in their toolkit is an agricultural and economic policy designed to transfer the majority of the world’s most fertile land and food resources into their fold—a connection not commonly viewed as resource extraction but functions in the same capacity.
According to the National Resources Inventory (NRI); during the 25-year period between 1982 and 2007, 23 million acres of America’s agricultural land was lost due to development—an area roughly the size of the state of Indiana . Also according to NRI, every single state in the US has experienced this encroachment on arable farmland. The research shows the most prime, fertile land being developed at a disproportionately high rate. Currently about 38% of the most fertile land in the US has already been developed . An even bleaker picture is painted when this rampant urban sprawl is combined with the millions of hectares of farmland currently being diverted from food production to biofuel—and to drug plantations. The trend to divert farmland from food production to tradable commodities is not unique to the US; African, Asian and Latin American countries are coming under increasing pressure from the West to adopt its model of chemical-laden monocultures and to increase their “portfolio” of exportable cash crops—emphasizing the supposed virtues of this exercise in comparative advantage.
In the colonialized world, cash crops such as coffee, cotton, cocoa and corn and drugs, which are highly valued in the West, are increasingly planted over subsistence farming because of their high export value. This diversion of farmland from subsistence farming to an export-oriented model is causing poorer countries to import a larger proportion of their food off the free-market—making them more vulnerable to all the climate disruptions, market shocks and fluctuations completely outside of their control. In places like India, the imported practice of mechanized agriculture, free-trade agreements and the focus on export-led commodities cultivation, along with the disruptions brought on by burgeoning urbanization has driven a rash of farmers to suicide, unable to pay their debts . Cotton is India’s leading cash crop and because of the reliance on expensive foreign seeds and fertilizers for GM crops like cotton sold by transnational corporations, despair among farmers is common. The number of land “cultivators” in India has gone down while the number of agricultural laborers who don’t own the land has gone up . This is neo-feudalism in the modern age and the lords are the biotech corporations.
Greater shares of the populations are losing touch with their own self-sufficiency and important cultural and traditional practices passed down for generations are losing their wide-reach. As the imported model of highly mechanized, industrial agriculture takes over from the traditional labor-intensive farming practices of the campesino (as in Mexico), labor and a sense of national identity are being squashed. In countries which traditionally boasted of large segments of the population working in and owning stake in agriculture, this has meant for many having to relocate to urban areas (or across the border) in search of new livelihood—to hazardous factory jobs, maquiladoras in free-trade zones, sweatshops, oil rigs, manufacturing plants, etc.— e.g. perpetuating wage slavery and debt peonage.
As with all phases of industrial agriculture and animal husbandry, from the confined-animal feeding operations that keep livestock imprisoned and overcrowded to the over-grazing of cattle on pasture land, a recklessly exploited environment is being normalized. Heavy application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers compromise our food quality, while glyphosate-based pesticides and neonicotinoids are implicated in the collapse of pollinating bee colonies. According to the 2006 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock emit about 18% of the world’s equivalent of the greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide . Others challenge that number as too low and have demonstrated the impact of industrially-kept livestock to be as high as 51% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide . Regardless, any estimate between these two figures is alarming and should be a call to action.
Rural land gets cannibalized by the cities to provide the food and energy needed for them to survive. The big cities and their suburbs are not self-sufficient and the convenience of supplies ready to consume and waste is a dream soon to be awakened from. The major metropolitan centers plundering from and polluting their immediate outsides can be viewed as a microcosm for the Western imperialist conquest of foreign land to service its economy—e.g. extending reach further afield as the more regional land is occupied, destroyed and ultimately abandoned.
On the periphery, in countries or regions plagued by poverty but rich in resources, the Imperialist class has designated whole areas as sacrifice zones. These contained areas, far enough away from the posh eyes of a receiving metropolitan center, increasingly have to choose between continued poverty or socioeconomic redemption through polluting or extractive industries. The distinction between both paths however is a false dichotomy given their interlinked relationship, made especially obvious when examined through the lens of history. The poverty in the rural areas is in relation to the excessive industrialization happening outside them which isolates them. As industrialization occurs in urban or rural areas and manufacturing picks up steam so do service-oriented jobs, engineering, architecture, entertainment, the arts and hospitality. Boom towns spring up and offer up a glimmer of false progress. Resources that are extracted from rural areas get funneled into the major cities where jobs are plentiful and a propaganda machine there exists to brainwash people into committing wholeheartedly to the consumerist lifestyle and to ignore the mass production problem of the manufacturing and waste industry—thereby feeding into the positive feedback loop. As the wealth inequality between the rural poor and urban gentry class grows, the population drains from the former to the latter. Gone are the old habits of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness that have endured for millennia, as specialization and the division of labor instill a sense of short-sighted superiority and temporary command over nature.
Some 7,000+ years ago as Neolithic groups settled down and began supplementing their foraging and scavenging with farming practices, new forms of social order sprung up around community life to organize society. Once animals were domesticated and new technologies like the plow were invented, Neolithic modern peoples were able to more efficiently increase their acreage under agricultural control which freed them up for other pursuits. As technology increased over the many thousands of years, the advances considered as being capable of controlling or taming nature were held to high regards. In the Middle Ages, when the Benedictine Church accepted technology and the arts as useful tools in personal salvation and redemption to achieve the patriarchal, “Adamic” transcendence of returning Man to his original God-like state after the fall of Adam and forfeiture of immortality, it took on a decidedly more apocalyptic turn . Freemasonic male priests within the church and their scientific, technocratic advisors felt that technology imbued within them a sense of superiority over nature and a level of control akin to God’s powers of creation and death. The technology became both the justification and means for the ensuing ecological crisis and oppression felt by many of the disenfranchised people of the world. The freemasonic-scientific elite wielders of technology continue to lay bare all that rests in their path but take solace in their “divine” protection from its wrath—however temporary.
Environmental Justice in the Face of Imperial Tyranny
Ituzaingó, a working class neighborhood of 6,000 people in central Argentina is host to an ongoing environmental justice campaign against the usage of agrochemical pesticides in the nearby soy fields. The group, Mothers of Ituzaingó, conducted the first epidemiological study of the area and concluded that residents of Ituzaingó had cancer rates 41 times the national average in addition to high rates of neurological and respiratory diseases, birth defects, and infant mortality . The world’s elite sit quietly and reap enormously while a rural town in the Global South gets sacrificed by industry. Meanwhile in an effort to silence the group, there exists a smear campaign to tarnish the reputation of the group’s leader, with attempts made even on her life, to end her campaign. To demonstrate the level of indoctrination of the community by the Biotech industry, police officers, town residents and local business owners have all been implicated in issuing insults and threats against Gatica . In this case, the Biotech industry, acting as an enforcer to the Imperialist class, has deprived the residents of Ituzaingó a choice concerning the future of their land and have brainwashed (or bribed) some residents into acting contrary to their own self-interest. It is a clever ruse by the world’s elite to pretend their own interests are the same as those they seek subordinate to make exploitation easier and to provide political cover when needed.
It is a time-tested approach how a polluting industry has a certain way of situating itself in or around communities that are believed capable of only offering up weak resistance. Extractive industries such coal mining, precious metals and mineral mining, oil and gas drilling, deforestation and industrial agriculture along with chemical companies, manufacturing and processing plants, oil refineries, waste incinerator plants, landfills and waste transfer stations all share in common their preference for entry in the path of least resistance. Race and Income have a lot to do with this preference as the Toxic Wastes and Race report by the United Church of Christ has uncovered .
The Appalachian region for most of the beginning of the United States history was viewed as an impediment to movement and settlement and thus attracted little positive attention. It wasn’t until the dawn of the Industrial age in the early 1800s when settlers began to view the region as a hotbed for precious commodities—an energy landscape rich in the hydrocarbons needed to fuel the ongoing industrialization. As technology advanced, so did the extractive methods for removing coal, oil and other minerals from the mountains. Unlike the Native Americans before them, who collected the oil for use as a skin-coloring agent and took only enough to just satisfy their needs, the colonists were determined to exhaust the supplies whenever they could and move on to virgin land. Though Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania—today known as Jim Thorpe—was rich in anthracite coal in the 1800’s, little of it remains to prove it . Northwestern Pennsylvania today seems like such an unlikely place for having been so rich in coal and petroleum in the Industrial Age since virtually none of it remains other than the hydrocarbons still locked deep within the shale formations—though in keeping with the death-cult legacy of extraction, modern methods of extraction such as hydraulic-fracturing are determined to get at what remains.
The early settlers seemed to view natural resources as existing solely for their use and allowed their capitalist thirst for profit to rule over the ability for nature to replenish itself. It seems apparent that as long as capital remains flexible enough, the focus of extraction remains fixed in a single place until ultimately its usefulness is exhausted and new areas are needed. The devastating ecological and social legacy of pollution, abandonment and poverty that the extractive industry leaves behind is only for the locals to deal with . Appalachian living is for Appalachian folks, those fortunate enough to move on, move on.
In the Appalachia as whole forests are clear-cut, mountain tops are blown off to expose the coal to surface mining, acid mine drainage seeps deep into the ground and water supplies, toxic coal slurry wastewater is dumped in impoundments and sealed off in ponds and dams that have been known burst and avalanche down into valleys killing anyone and everything in its way, what becomes of the inhabitants? As the commons are destroyed by capitalist timber barons clear-cutting their way to profit and coalfields are blasted apart unleashing toxins into the environment, entire ways of life and traditions are being destroyed. Without adequate forest canopy protection and the right amount of beneficial microorganisms in the soil to support a healthy and diverse root system, many ecosystems are vulnerable to collapse. Without a working forest, traditional ways of life that were intimately tied to the land are severed from future generations. Knowledge of plant medicines and wild edibles, fungi, fauna and flora, sacred spots and flowing streams with an abundance of fish and waterfowl become lost to later generations.
When mines are abandoned they are just as dangerous as when they were active, leaching hazardous chemicals and metals into the ground, water and air. The mines are also an eyesore on an otherwise natural landscape—pockmarked with crater-sized holes. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 requires all coal companies to restore the area of a mining operation to its approximate original contours (AOC) after its usefulness has been exhausted. Under the Act, coal operators in mountaintop removal operations can obtain an AOC variance if their site is used for “higher or better uses” after it has been mined. This creates a perverse moral hazard for the coal operators to make the postmining site as flat as possible for later commercial or residential development. Their attempts to flatten the land and cover it with grass seeds is easily exposed by most activists as another industry promoted technological-fix that falls short of its promises . The techno-fix doesn’t address the issue of mining at all or call into question the practice of mountaintop removal but instead allows convenient cover to industry professionals looking to continue business-as-usual.
In Western North Carolina a coalition of activists, concerned citizens, hunters, fishermen and timber barons have aligned to protest the destruction of their national forests, the commons, from even-aged clear-cutting . This method of clear-cutting indiscriminately knocks down trees without regard to age or importance in the biome. Entire old-growth forests are being decimated by a handful of corporations who wish to transform these trees into profitable commodities and end-use products. The Nantahala and Pisgah national forests in North Carolina were commonly-held and their resources—the trees, streams, wildlife, minerals and flora—were widely recognized as valuable and precious resources to the people of the region . Before the 1960’s when the Forest Service relied on all-aged, selective cutting of only mature trees, the timber harvest still left behind trees of various ages—keeping the forest canopy and its environs largely protected . The Cut the Clearcutting! Campaign in Asheville, North Carolina connects people from all walks of life who understand that the corporations destroying their forest are also threatening their way of life and in many cases, their sustenance and livelihood too. Local citizen groups are realizing that short-term extractive jobs do more harm for an area than the temporary riches and elevated social status they may provide.
Just as the Imperialists seek to do abroad, the Imperialists at home act as territorial mercantilists attempting to quarantine and sacrifice areas deemed rich in natural resources. The Appalachian people are no different than those being sacrificed overseas by transnational corporations seeking to benefit off the bounty of “others” lands. Income status has a lot to do with it and the overall average income for people living in the Appalachian region is lower than most of the US . Running contrary to the general environmental racism theme of situating sources of pollution nearer to black or brown poplulations, the Appalachia region is largely white and poor. A higher socioeconomic status in the Appalachia positively correlates with higher levels of pollution and land destruction because that’s where industry is —contaminated water, air pollution and mercury from coal-fired power plants, particulate releases from manufacturing and chemical plants and, heavy vehicular traffic. Though the economically-depressed areas of the Appalachia are for now less polluted, a clear dilemma is presented to inhabitants of the region who must choose between a life of poverty or pollution .
Overseas, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is currently a massive labor shift away from farming to mineral mining—particularly for precious mineral ores such as cobalt, diamonds, gold and copper—that is leading to food shortages and insecurity . Having some of the richest soil quality and most favorable climate conditions for food production in the whole of Africa, the DRC used to be one of the major food exporters to the rest of the continent. The labor shift away from subsistence farming to mineral mining, and the internal conflicts and illegal occupations stemming from the abundance of untapped natural resources has brought so much meddling destitution upon the Congolese people that they cannot even grow enough food to feed themselves now . Food insecurity is a pattern seen repeatedly when a poorer country experiences an uptick in the international interest in the local affairs and appropriation of its natural resources—land, labor and capital. The minerals being extracted in the DRC are used in the technology being advanced in the Western world to fill a widening spiritual void. The foreign pressure sets a rising demand for yet more extraction—setting in motion a vicious cycle to exhaust the reserves faster than they can naturally replenish—firmly in keeping with the legacy of extraction.
Debt bondage is perpetuated among miners in the DRC as miners are unable to pay back debts in the face of absolute poverty, turning slavery into a de facto institution of the mining industry. Weak government agencies have failed to enforce Congolese law and as a result, mining operations have become host to many labor violations. There is little hint of social or environmental justice in the workplace for the miners working in contaminated areas as minimum wage laws are shirked, work week hours lengthened, over-time pay and adequate rest cut back and as child labor amounts for up to 30% of the mining labor force . Transnational corporations receiving minerals from rebel and militia groups in the region, who are committing systemic terror and human rights abuses, are complicit in the abuse as these militia groups compete for the corporate market access from their illegal mining operations .
Miners in the DRC, with complicit support from their international corporate sponsors, operate artisanal, small scale operations in river beds. The resulting soil erosion on the banks and heavy silt and clay deposits polluting the waterways are damaging tracts of formerly fertile lands and irrigating rivers. Mine tailings or “gangue”—uneconomical, waste discards from mineral ore separations—often contaminated with mercury and cyanide, are dumped into rivers in postmining operations and endanger the health of rivers. Rivers that have served humanity and wildlife for thousands of years are turned into virtual cesspools over night in efforts to cut corners and cut costs, shedding any responsibility for alternative, perhaps safer, disposal methods . As commoditized mineral ores are depleted from mining sites, miners, along with environmental refugees, relocate to new areas for continued extraction and habitation.
Growing drugs for the empire is another non-choice inflicted upon embattled peoples. About a year and a half before the US invasion of Afghanistan, in July 2000, the Taliban turned their back on its CIA-handlers in the west and banned the growing of opium in its territory in hopes to eradicate heroin production and usage. There was a 99% reduction in opium-poppy farming in the Taliban-controlled areas, amounting to a cut of roughly three quarters of the global supply of heroin at the time . There is some belief that the Taliban, working secretively with corrupt officials, drug kingpins and warlords, were practicing a form of market manipulation by keeping huge stashes of opium in secret locations and reaping enormous profits during the price surges after the 2000 ban but there is little doubt that the ban effectively cut into CIA drug-related profits. Since the US and NATO’s illegal occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, opium poppy production has been on the rise. Based on the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there has been more poppy cultivation in the four growing seasons between 2004 – 2007 than in any one year under Taliban rule. The trend to divert more farmland to opium poppy production in Afghanistan is increasing as foreign occupation and war ravages the countryside. In the war-torn territories it is more economically-viable to grow opium for heroin production than it is to grow food and keep livestock for survival due in part to the characteristics of the CIA-controlled, global drug trade assigning opium high export value as a cash crop . Due also to the land scarcity caused by overzealous opium production and, perpetual war, ecological degradation, poverty and economic instability, farmers in Afghanistan are finding it harder to practice subsistence farming and to obtain the loans needed because of rent-seeking money lenders looking for the highest possible returns—which favors opium production.
Drugs are a resource commodity and the Imperial world seeks to monopolize their production and distribution much like any other extracted or cultivated natural resource assigned high monetary value—while sticking the people with the violence and land destruction. This is why it’s imperative for the US via the CIA to protect its drug-related interests overseas, securing places like Afghanistan, Mexico, West Africa and Latin America for its own exploitation. Foreign imperial land grabs in the Global South and in impoverished places of the world are all too common and the imposition of the dominating culture on indigenous peoples is an attempt to secure the continual exploitation of the land and its people. Exporting a vapid Western sub-culture of materialism and consumerism on the subjugated lands is a way of distracting the hearts and minds of people away from their immediate destruction and cultural disintegration, and towards yet more neo-colonial extraction. A distracted public at home, inundated with 3 to 5 second visual cuts from a propagandist corporate media provides the sufficient cover needed for private mercenaries to continue to operate overseas with almost complete immunity.
Meanwhile foreign occupiers operating transnational corporations in Indonesia are clear-cutting rainforests to plant monocultures of acacia and eucalyptus pulp wood to fuel the growing pulp and paper trade . Palm oil, used in the manufacturing of processed foods, has grown so much in demand to the US in the recent decade, that it has sparked mass deforestation all over the globe. In places like Indonesia and Malaysia, there is a massive conversion taking place of old-growth forests into palm oil monoculture plantations . These vast plantations have been cited in numerous human rights violations, with allegations ranging from the use of forced and child labor to conservationist land-grabbing of Indigenous and community forests . As with people in the Appalachia losing their homes and livelihoods to extractive industries, Indigenous communities in Indonesia are being denied access to community forests they’ve relied on for thousands of years through the loss of biodiversity and racist zoning rules. According to the UN’s Environment Program (UNEP), “98% of Indonesia’s forest may be destroyed by 2022, the lowland forest much sooner”. After the US and China, Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change—approximately 85% of its emissions coming from rainforest and peatland destruction .
In a great betrayal to the Nigerian people, the corrupt Nigerian federal government is collaborating with transnational oil corporations to appropriate all of the country’s oil wealth for privatized profit on the export market. Production of oil in the Niger Delta is linked with the violent oppression and exploitation of the people of the region, whose lives and local environment are being sacrificed in the pursuit for corporate profit. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is a loosely-connected umbrella group of dissidents, armed guerillas and resistance fighters who seek to emancipate their country’s oil reserves from the exploitation by foreign corporate occupation . MEND has already claimed responsibility for cutting Nigeria’s oil production by 30%—translating to a loss of roughly US $57 million a day .
Meanwhile the pollution produced by the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta are dispossessing people from their lands, destroying mangrove forests home to high concentrations of biodiversity and polluting local waterways. Oil spills due to the corrosion of pipelines and tankers account for 50% of all spills, with sabotage at 28%, oil production at 21% and the remainder by inadequate or nonfunctioning production equipment . In December 2006, 200 Nigerians died from an oil line explosion near the city of Lagos . Nigerians see their government as corporate stooges who have sold out their people to the international oil companies that put privatized profit before the health of its people. The Imperialist class has designated Nigeria a sacrifice zone and has permitted the oil companies the privilege to self-regulate in the face of weak regulations put forth by the corrupt crony government in power.
The legacy of extraction is predicated on the belief in Patriarchy and in Manifest Destiny—that some classes and races of people are superior to others and should therefore control or at least regulate the resources and peoples of those below. When the coveted natural resources of one region or country are depleted and left fallow, the prevailing ethic dictates a transfer of suitable extractive technology and human resources to new areas for continuing the extraction. Increasingly human resources are relying on forced and child labor to accomplish its goals—a throwback to the early days of slave-plantations. Environmental activism, long viewed with suspicion as a luxury issue compared with more the immediate concerns of poverty and hunger, has come a long way since its initial old-line conservation days of protecting “scenic landscapes” to fighting toxic industries and taking a stand against global disparities in pollution exposure.
Activist organizations and whistle-blowers bringing attention to these issues are causing a blowback to the Corporate-Imperial state seeking to get away with more. Corporations and politicians now must rely on sophisticated white/green-washing public relations campaigns to vindicate their reputations even as these tactics are being readily exposed. The corporate state is feeling the increasing pressure mounted on them and is in awe and fear of a truly populist, non-violent, resistance movement mobilizing against their domination.
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Indigenous Peoples Threatened by Resource Exploitation