Little Scraps of Humanity
By Press Action
January 18, 2012
“I have a question for you. How do you do it? How do you come into offices like this and squabble with people like me over a few extra inches? How is that you can sit there in your politeness and your grace and basically ask people for nothing? How do you do it? How do you beg for little scraps of humanity?” – Fast-food executive Richard Cranehill, grilling an animal welfare group representative in the film Bold Native.
The Sierra Club is running a “high-saturation” television advertising campaign in major media markets in Ohio, thanking President Barack Obama for protecting Americans from toxic pollution.
Some political observers wondered whether Obama would lose the support of Big Green groups, given his penchant for appeasing business interests at the expense of the environment. But most astute analysts understood that the mainstream enviros would always come back to Obama, no matter how bad his policies were for the environment.
Indeed, the Sierra Club’s advertising campaign indicates Obama’s reelection bid is on a fast track toward receiving the group’s endorsement. Given how Ohio is expected to be a proverbial swing state in this fall’s presidential election, one could argue that the Sierra Club is already campaigning for Obama through this advertising blitz. And once Mitt Romney or another candidate essentially clinches the Republican nomination, the other Big Green groups will follow suit with their own endorsements of Obama, followed by the launch of a campaign of scare tactics against the Republican nominee.
Here we go again, getting distracted by the presidential election racket. That’s exactly what the nation’s ruling elite and Big Green groups want. The ruling elite don’t want us embracing real political power. Instead, they want us to believe that elections make a democracy. The Big Green groups don’t want us joining together to force systemic change that could actually save the planet. They want us to work inside the system, focusing only on slowing down the rate of the planet’s destruction. The mainstream enviros are more interested in sustaining their donor base by portraying minor shifts in the nation’s environmental policies as major victories.
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Natural gas-fired generation. Utility-scale solar. #NoXL. You name it. These aren’t real solutions to the environmental crisis. They won’t reverse the destruction of the planet. They are what Richard Cranehill, a character in the indie film Bold Native, calls the “little scraps of humanity,” or negligible measures that reformists are too willing to accept as major victories.
Bold Native is a low-budget drama about an animal liberator. Cranehill is a fast-food executive and father of the animal liberator. After getting an education about real change from his son and other radical animal rights activists throughout the movie, Cranehill finally begins to ask all of the right questions.
In the closing scene, Cranehill meets with an earnest activist named Jane Harold who works for an unnamed animal rights/welfare group—an organization similar to PETA or the Humane Society of the United States.
“Our first request is that you consider matching the humane standards as practiced by the other fast food companies that we’ve been dealing with,” Harold tells Cranehill. “Our first requirement is that your suppliers provide 72 square inches per laying hen.”
Cranehill, played by Randolph Mantooth, best known for his starring role as a paramedic in the mid-1970s medical drama Emergency!, catches Harold off guard by telling her he’ll do whatever she wants. He then cuts to the chase. He asks Harold how she can rationalize working in a position in which she is urging companies that torture and brutally murder hundreds of millions of animals a year to do basically nothing. “How do you beg for little scraps of humanity?” he asks.
Officials with the Sierra Club and the other Big Green groups are playing the same game as Jane Harold. They are begging for little scraps, minor concessions from governments and large corporations. They can’t see beyond what they view as pragmatic or realistic. They refuse to acknowledge that the ruling elite’s economic and political systems are the primary roadblocks to restoring the planet’s health.
Back in Ohio, the Sierra Club’s advertising campaign and its praise for Obama reveal how little it takes to appease mainstream, corporate-minded environmentalists. “President Obama stood up to polluters,” the Sierra Club ad says. But how boldly is Obama standing up to polluters? Let’s take a look at his record.
Devil in the Details
This is the same president who in September 2011 withdrew tougher new ground-level ozone standards that had been drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama’s decision to overrule the EPA on the smog standards was praised by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, certainly no friend of the environment. “Stopping this job-killing ozone standard has been one of my top priorities, and I am pleased that today’s announcement offers some good news for Oklahoma and the nation,” Inhofe said in a statement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also hailed Obama’s decision to back down on toughening ground-level ozone standards. “The U.S. Chamber is glad the White House heeded our warning and withdrew these potentially disastrous—and completely voluntary—actions from the EPA,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “This an enormous victory for America’s job creators, the right decision by the president, and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses.”
This is the same president who in May 2011 decided to delay a rule that would cut emissions from power plants at major industrial facilities. This month, a federal court scolded the Obama administration, ruling that the EPA had needlessly suspended implementation of what is known as the boiler MACT rule. The court called the delay “arbitrary and capricious.”
This is the same president who in March 2011 opened a large part of Wyoming to coal mining. “The decision was the carbon equivalent of opening 300 coal-fired power plants,” author and environmentalist Bill McKibben said.
This is the same president who, after a government-mandated moratorium on drilling that ended in the fall of 2010, has allowed the oil and gas industry to get back to business as usual in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil disaster that started in April 2010. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s recent western Gulf oil and gas lease sale attracted more than $337 million in high bids, and now the Obama administration is preparing to hold 10 more Gulf of Mexico lease sales.
This is the same president who this month released a report praising the boom in U.S. natural gas production, despite the extensive environmental damage caused by the shale gas revolution in communities across the country. In the report, the Obama administration writes: “The potential benefits to the U.S. economy are substantial.” The report ignores the environmental devastation caused by shale gas drilling. The shale gas revolution has resulted in the rapid industrialization of the land that sits atop the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays. For the hydraulic fracturing process, huge amounts of water are used. Waste pits are rampant near drilling sites. New roads are being built to provide access to the drilling sites. New pipelines and compressor stations are being built, destroying forests and animal habitats. Each phase of the natural gas production and gathering process requires the use of products, such as concrete, steel and asphalt, that use tremendous amounts of oil-based products and coal during a very energy-intensive manufacturing process.
This is the same president who touts endless economic growth, despite the fact we live in a world with finite “natural resources.” In the same report released earlier this month, the White House writes:” We are seeing some encouraging economic signs, including 22 straight months of private sector job creation, a measurable improvement in the competitive position of U.S. manufacturing, and an expansion of our domestic natural resources that further supports business investment.” The report lacks a basic understanding of sustainability. Obama and the rest of the ruling elite believe in protecting an economic system that is making ecosystems extinct. “Industrialization is the tacit premise, that’s assumed to be what needs to be saved, rather than the world that it’s threatening,” explains Roxanne Amico, a Buffalo-based artist, independent radio producer and activist.
This is the same president who decided during the summer of 2011 to delay finalizing new regulations for the disposal of coal ash and other coal combustion waste. More than three years after the coal ash spill at TVA’s Kingston plant in Tennessee, the EPA still has yet to establish new federal protections for coal ash.
This is the same president who in his rejection of the presidential permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL crude oil pipeline on January 18 emphasized that the rejection was not based on the merits of the project, but the “arbitrary nature” of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information “necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.” In its recommendation to the president, the State Department emphasized that the denial of the permit application “does not preclude any subsequent permit application or applications for similar projects.” In other words, TransCanada is welcome to file an application for a similar pipeline project that the president will be more than happy to approve after the November election.
And this is the same president who continues to let the world’s worst polluter of all, the U.S. military, destroy communities and ecosystems around the world. Mickey Z. writes: “Keep this in mind the next time you hear the phrase ‘war on terror’: Our tax dollars are subsidizing a global eco-terror campaign and all the recycled toilet paper in the world ain’t gonna change that. In other words, if we don’t want our legacy to be one of inaction, we must create drastic, permanent change very, very soon.”