There were 2900 temperature records set in the United States in January. Exxon Mobil reported yesterday that its quarterly profits had increased to $9.6 billion on revenues of over $70 billion. It’s 60 degrees on February 1 in New York City. These facts are connected. I continue to think that one reason Bloomberg evicted OWS was that he lost patience with waiting for it to get cold enough to drive the Occupiers out.
I have proposed that “debt is death.” It sounds a bit melodramatic. You can in fact map connections between the debt-financed globalized industries, direct violence caused by their expansion, and the indirect but nonetheless deadly violences of climate change.
Here’s a metonymic example from the flows of media that pass through our tired brains seeking for attention. My friend Shuddhabrata Sengupta, the artist and academic, circulated this video of events in Orissa, India. At a protest outside a Jindal Steel plant on January 25, 2012 at least 160 people were injured, some seriously, including over 50 women. According to The Times of India:
Most people injured in the incident have been simply lying in the verandah of the Angul district headquarter hospital and are not receiving proper treatment
The protestors were villagers, who are set to lose their land to global steel conglomerate Jindal Steel and Power.
Fearing further violence, the villagers refuse to meet the company except in the presence of media representatives. Jindal themselves tell the media they have no objection to this but in fact have evaded doing so. These people are the local costs of the “growth” solution to the global economic crash.
Shuddhabrata further points out that via its Foundation, Jindal is a major supporter of Art India magazine, a leading art journal with top national and international contributors. Jindal USA also promote themselves arts and culture donors, although the link simply takes you to the Indian site.These patterns of “art-washing” are familiar enough, as are the disclaimers about doing some good and so on.
Jindal take it a step further by their intricate association of debt financing to support global expansion of the most damaging forms of heavy industry in terms of carbon emissions and other toxic pollution. It has a giant $9 billion steel plant in Texas and is building a “2,640 megawatt coal-fired power plant in the northern province of Tete, home to some of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves” in Mozambique. Together with expansion in India, the company is set to deploy $6 billion, two-thirds of which it will borrow.
At a conference in Australia this week, Jindal revealed the basis for this confidence: it will use a new form of steel-forging, using soft coal and iron ore rather than expensive coking coal to generate heat. As a result, Jindal is buying its own coal mining concessions in India.
Soft coal is recognized to be far more polluting even than standard “hard” coal, creating higher emissions of greenhouse gases because it generates less heat per unit burned and because its side-products are more toxic. Of course Jindal would deny this and they have boiler plate on their website about the environment.
In one sense it doesn’t really matter. The International Energy Authority reported last year that if you calculated all the power stations that were already scheduled to be built, that alone would take carbon emissions to the maximum if temperature rise is to be restricted to two degrees celsius and 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide and equivalents. Each of these billion dollar expansions, debt-financed and justified in the name of growth, adds more emissions to the atmosphere, pushing us still further into environmental crisis.
The women in Orissa who have no homes thanks to Jindal will not be the last. Making these interfaces visible needs a new Rachel Carson. MInd you, were she to be at work, she would not find a receptive audience. Republicans in Congress today ordered the arrest of Academy-award nominated filmmaker Josh Fox, whose Gasland vividly shows the disasters of fracking. Presumably they didn’t want the publicity. Just like Jindal. This is why we occupy: it creates a medium, which creates a message.