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Culture Change e-Letter #18

The cost of oil security
No more war
—Become informed, and act

by Jan Lundberg

Despite world opinion, and the flimsiest of justifications for war being transparent, peace has lost out again. What can now motivate people to see how and why they are being manipulated? How do we deal with the consequences of oil dependence, which are not limited to war? The totality that any concerned citizen should grasp includes climate change, U.S. citizens’ health now at greater risk, and the food supply being compromised as never before. Approaches to dealing with these crises in a fair and comprehensive fashion are available today for those who turn off the television or take a day off from the job.

The recent holocaust against Iraq was also against U.S. soldiers and journalists. This is because depleted uranium was again used, as in Gulf War One which resulted in deadly Gulf War Syndrome for almost a quarter million Americans. Now we’ve had untold thousands of tons of carcinogenic nuclear waste again dumped into the global environment without your permission.

After Gulf War One—the first nuclear war—Iraqi newborns are lucky to be all there with two arms. Substantial radiation will take less than a year to hit Americans’ daily air supply. If this sounds acceptable, perhaps you did not know that the Chernobyl disaster shortened the lives of approximately 10,000 North Americans.

Yet, the perception remains—even among most who have heard about depleted uranium—that the destruction of Iraq is Iraqis' problem. The huge preponderance of birth defects among U.S. personnel who contacted depleted uranium (DU) goes on and on beyond some victimized newborns: spouses are contaminated and the air is fouled with carcinogens from cremations of DU-contaminated victims of the oil wars. The half-life of DU’s U-238 isotope is 4.5 billion years.  Uh-oh.

That risk of war was not severe enough for the majority of the U.S. population, who (if polls can be trusted) generally supported the war. They permitted a planetary atrocity even though Iraq was not as much of a threat to the world as Israel, the UK, the U.S., and apparently North Korea. As our daily survival is openly linked to petroleum consumption, and this state of affairs is touted as prosperity, it’s easy for the American worker-drone to figure "Oh well, we got the oil we need." (See last month’s Culture Change Letter on the New York Times’s notion of Iraqi prosperity, with a correction on the high per capita gross domestic product in Iraq two decades ago:

Recognizing oil’s threat
So, what could possibly get a pro-war or apathetic citizen to take action against more war? Congress is for now useless. Beyond our becoming informed on the horrors of war hidden by the Pentagon, the White House and the corporate media, we must weigh the benefits of presumed oil security with the costs of seeking it. If we do this and follow through, we will be finished with war, especially over oil.

Since the oil derived from Iraq will be seen as not liberating anybody, and will not make a significant dent in the ominous downward curve of global petroleum extraction, and DU is "somebody else’s problem," we need another reason to wake up and smell the oil: Climate destabilization.

The U.S. government and its major industrial constituents have blocked the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The reason was not because of scientific uncertainty—that red herring was laid to rest by this Bush’s own EPA—but rather for reason of maximizing short term profit. The materialist insecurity of needing to get richer and richer, and have convenient toys such as fancy cars and walled compounds for homes guarded by "armed response," has stolen our future and consigned countless species to extinction. This isn’t to be laid only at this George Bush’s feet, because the Kyoto Protocol was basically blocked by Clinton/Gore at The Hague in November 2000.

Since I am not well funded by the establishment, especially foundations doling out grants dependent on stock market returns-on-investment, I will go further than suggesting that we just need to understand the problem and try to educate the public and policy makers. The problem is not a matter of our failing to get the information out, or not reaching out to family, friends and officials to try to make sense of the out-of-control nightmare of U.S. culture. Yes, there is much to learn and keep in mind. But the problem is in not going beyond that. What should be done now?

Tactics and Strategy to Bring the War Home
Besides pointing out with words and images the urgent need to act, direct actions both of the tried-and-true and imaginative kind are constantly planned and executed. In San Francisco, Calif., and Portland, Ore, "Day X" designated the day after the bombing of Iraq began. Protesters who had prepared for months appeared in the streets by the thousands and disrupted business-as-usual in the financial districts. Critical Mass bike rides took over bridges in Portland, but in New York City protesters were pretty much penned by the police, literally.

A host of actions can be taken in the context of fostering awareness of the oil-related state of global resource war (GRW). People need to see that tomorrow’s global climate has been traded for some Iraqi oil designed to perpetuate the global corporate economy. One tactic goes across the Atlantic to hit home in the U.S:

The U.S. embassy in London is the scene of weekly demonstrations against the U.S. government by people upset that the Kyoto Protocol is being rejected. The Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) has been protesting outside the embassy ever since the Hague Climate Talks broke down. If the U.S. embassy could be shut down by throngs of irate citizens jamming the streets of London, this would make international news and reach the insulated consciousness of the cheeseburger-munching car-and-TV addicted U.S. people who are oblivious to the fossil-fueled economy’s war on the planet. The CCC can be contacted at

Climate of fear
The threat of climate change—"oil-company weather"—can be understood as a runaway train that has barely started downhill and has so far mowed down only a few hundred people in the last few minutes: it is accelerating and headed for an explosives depot in a high populated area: your area, my area, our one and only world.

Here is why sea level rise of a few feet by the end of the century, for example, means so much:

The die-off of plant matter that will be caused by encroaching tides means much CO2 emission from the dead plants and trees. That means more global warming, which in turn means higher sea levels, and more vegetation killed by the seas. Similarly, as tundra melts, or peat is exposed, the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane are released as the climate warms. The increased warming melts more tundra—you get the picture.  Same with methane ice crystals in cold oceans: melt it, and this causes more warming and more melting.... These are only some of the "positive feedback loops." Worse to consider is that the gases emitted today will not register their effect until 50-80 years. What could be ahead is a Venusian greenhouse planet, regardless of whether we allow the nukers to totally ravage Earth.

It is tempting to declare a personal war on the fools stupidly destroying our world. Clearly, many actions and strategies are justified. I asked a well known Veteran for Peace, Bill Thompson, what he felt like after hearing gov’t whistle-blower Dr. Leuren Moret’s speech on depleted uranium in Arcata’s Old Community Center. He agreed it is hard to now get any madder at this government. Instead of ‘Destroy what destroys you,’ which sounds too much like combat (of which he has had enough) we must rely on the public’s awakening. I told Bill somewhat bitterly that people are not getting informed, such as on the reality of DU after Gulf War One twelve years ago. But as he went through the co-op checkout line, he offered a glimmer of hope: "Agent Orange took more than 30 years to become understood, and we’ve cut that down to ten years regarding DU." And, unlike the long Vietnam War educational process, Gulf War II was immediately exposed (and widely so) as based on fraud and manipulation.

All manner of resistance against the mass destroyers of life is appropriate, if it is effective and compassionate. All manner of resistance against the police-state encroachment of our freedoms and human rights is also justified and necessary. That is, unless you maintain that our domesticated breed of modern humans today are the only valid version of homo sapiens. It would be a mistake to contemplate or use violence or terror, even if no one is physically hurt, because it only begets much worse violence.

In Arcata, in the Humboldt Redwood Nation—famous for resisting the Patriot Act and declaring the city a war-resister’s sanctuary during Gulf War I—one is actually not allowed to sit on the sidewalk or have a reasonably merry party at one’s home without the wrath of the law coming instantly to terminate such disorder. These measures sound oddly repressive, but, consider that a multinational timber corporation that dominates Humboldt County is permitted to call nonviolent protesters "terrorists" and its supporters are trying to recall the District Attorney who is suing the corporation for fraud.

Whether we are thinking or acting globally or locally, we would do well to elevate the struggle. Frogs in a heating pail should start hopping out instead of letting the water boil. Time to get creative and jump off the money-go-round in order to appreciate and honor Life. Although social movements may be eclipsed by oil’s imminent devastating, historic depletion, and climate destabilization has begun, we have to be free NOW so that we can usher in a sustainable world with life’s diversity. "Gotta be free now," sang The Kinks in 1970. To our peril we did not heed the call. We traded our freedom for a thousand brands of bread and other petro-freedom.

Now we find that population has increased almost 50% in the U.S. since 1970 at the height of the 1960s consciousness/anti-war revolution. Petroleum-food made it possible. In recent years immigration and U.S.-born children of immigrants account for eighty-seven percent of population growth. It wasn’t out of compassion that this was allowed; rather, Congress is told by its corporate funders to increase the labor supply in order to hold down wages and to jack up the pool of consumer/customers for products. With more and more people, there is greater oil demand and more pressure for global resource war.

Petroleum’s exit from the center of today’s modern lifestyles will result in termination of this consumption frenzy and will cause a die off of unprecedented proportions. Better living without petroleum dependence and climate-changing transport and agriculture will manifest itself soon.

Let the wildness reign: As Henry David Thoreau stated, "In wildness is the preservation of the world."

- Jan Lundberg 5-03-2003

See Dr. Colin J. Campbell's foreword to Richard Heinberg's oil book The Party's Over by clicking here

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