Only days after this report came out, to little fanfare in the mass media, a group of freelance militants was acquitted by a nullifying jury of their white peers on charges of taking over and doing probably irreparable damage to a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
And for the past several months, another group of uniformed, state-sanctioned militants has been arresting and assaulting, with absolute impunity, the people protesting an oil pipeline on pristine land long protected for both environmental and cultural reasons.
This week's score: Man 3, Earth 0.
First, let's mull over the frightening, yet much-ignored, news that wild vertebrates are dying at a rate about three times faster than had previously been believed. This die-off is an unexpected surge in the mass extinction being caused by climate change, wars, and pollution: a/k/a the cancer of unfettered capitalism.
From The Guardian:
The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.Much of the extinction is caused by the habitat destruction of farming and logging. Only 15 percent of the earth's surface is protected by law. Rivers and lakes are the hardest hit, with animal populations down by nearly 80 percent since the 1970s. The culprits are water extraction for industrial agriculture in dry areas like California, dam construction, and chemical pollution.
The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a foreword for the report.
This accelerating (unprecedented since the dinosaurs) loss of wildlife will rapidly become part of a lethal closed feedback loop of human conflicts building upon each other. Human greed produces conflicts, which engender food and water insecurity, which engenders more competition for survival and more escalating conflicts.
Despite the grim statistics, the Living Planet report does contain some optimism. The Giant Panda is starting to recover, thanks to human protective efforts. And more people are abstaining from the consumption of polluting meat, especially beef, which could also help slow down the environmental disaster.
But tell that to the Bundy Clan of Nevada, whose self-bestowed right to graze their cattle on protected public lands led to both a stand-off with Feds in that state, and their subsequent invasion of a federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon. All seven of those charged with the armed insurrection were acquitted on Thursday. As reported by the New York Times,
The surprise acquittals of all seven defendants in Federal District Court were a blow to government prosecutors, who had argued that the Bundys and five of their followers used force and threats of violence to occupy the reserve. But the jury appeared swayed by the defendants’ contention that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public....The Bundy clan are, at least, still in federal custody as they await a separate trial on the Nevada charges, by another jury of their Wild West peers.
In a monthlong trial here, the defendants never denied that they had occupied and held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters for nearly six weeks, demanding that the federal government surrender the 188,000-acre property to local control. But their lawyers argued that prosecutors did not prove that the group had engaged in an illegal conspiracy that kept federal workers — employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management — from doing their jobs.
As famed author and Oregon resident Ursula K. LeGuin wrote during the Bundy siege, the Malheur occupation was never, as widely reported in the press, about defending their Constitutional rights or "freeing federal land."
It was probably because of the very remoteness of the venue from ruling class East Coast movers and shakers that the "occupation" was allowed to go on for so long - far longer in fact, than the Occupy Wall Street encampments of 2011. Le Guin blogged last winter,
And that brings us to our third and final related story of the week: the siege at Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands of North Dakota, where uniformed officials, armed to the teeth with their high-tech surplus military grade weapons, are not showing quite the same patience with Native American protesters as they did, for such a long patient time, with the white nativist Bundy Clan.If a federal property in New Jersey was occupied by armed outsiders calling themselves “militiamen,” justifying their occupation by a radical theocratic re-interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and calling for mass resistance to law enforcement, would four of them be allowed to continue the occupation indefinitely?If important ongoing scientific studies and reclamation programs under federal auspices in a suburb of Chicago or Washington were being paralyzed and trashed by four hooligans carrying guns, how long would they be allowed to continue the irreparable destruction?
The latest escalation in the months-long standoff between protesters and police acting on behalf of the Dakota Access Pipeline came Thursday with more than a hundred new arrests. Some 200 local police officers in riot gear pushed the people off the land with armored tanks, and dispersed them with pepper spray.
As reported by The Guardian, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault is requesting that the Obama administration send in federal troops to protect the people from the corporate state-sanctioned militants:
DOJ can no longer ignore our requests. If harm comes to any who come here to stand in solidarity with us, it is on their watch. They must step in and hold the state of North Dakota and Morton County accountable for their acts of violence against innocent, prayerful people.The late ecologist Raymond Dasmann observed decades ago that World War III has already begun. And now there's no denying the fact that it's a war of late stage industrial human capitalists against the whole Earth and all its living things. The greedsters haven't gotten the message that there is only so much you can deplete out of the planet in the Bundyesque name of "freedom" before the whole thing collapses in upon itself.
The Obama administration has asked DAPL to voluntarily halt construction until the review process has been completed, but DAPL has ignored these repeated requests. By deploying law enforcement to support DAPL construction, the State of North Dakota is collaborating with Energy Transfer Partners and escalating tensions.
We need our state and federal governments to bring justice and peace to our lands, not the force of armored vehicles.
We have repeatedly seen a disproportionate response from law enforcement to water protectors’ nonviolent exercise of their constitutional rights. Today we have witnessed people praying in peace, yet attacked with pepper spray, rubber bullets, sound and concussion cannons. We urge state and federal government agencies to give this tense situation their immediate and close attention. We also call on the thousands of water protectors who stand in solidarity with us against DAPL to remain in peace and prayer. Any act of violence hurts our cause and is not welcome here. We invite all supporters to join us in prayer that, ultimately, the right decision—the moral decision—is made to protect our people, our sacred places, our land and our resources.
We won’t step down from this fight. As peoples of this earth, we all need water. This is about our water, our rights, and our dignity as human beings.
What he called The First Law of the Environment goes like this: "No matter how bad you think things are, the total reality is much worse."
And that is probably why climate change and the environment have not been considered fit topics for discussion in the quadrennial winner-take-all electoral sweepstakes which I have dubbed, quite aptly I think, Neoliberal Death Match 2016.