I’ve been reading Shale, the magazine of the oil and gas industry. It’s not the sort of thing I often look at: a magazine totally devoted to Business as Usual with full colour pictures of (in this edition) female CEOs and marketing managers. There are adverts for ways to use gases normally burnt off from drilling sites ( flared) and conferences on subjects such as Quality Measurement of Natural Gas.
The magazine represents a world which has little overlap with mine. Let’s look at one article called “An Eloquent Warrior in the Mad War on Energy”. No, it’s not about a Native American activist, but looks at a book called Fueling Freedom: The Mad War on Energy. One of its authors Kathleen Hartnett White is from the Heartland Institute (“The Heartland Institute has received at least $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998 but no longer discloses its funding sources”.)
In this article, there are glancing references to the importance of protecting the environment but climate change is not mentioned once except for mention of activists who wish to ” shut down the global economy for fear of climate catastrophe (on which there is certainly no scientific consensus)”.
Language is a kind of magic and Shale magazine exercises the magic of making confusion. If questioned, the writer of this article, one Bill Kaffer of Texas Tech University School of Law, could rightly say that the eventual outcomes of the man-made warming now occurring on earth are uncertain due to the many variables involved. But there is scientific consensus on the rate at which warming has occurred and is occurring and the likely effects of temperature rise by stated numbers of degrees.
Keffer refers to the “mad war on energy “and in roughly 1000 words uses the term “muscle fuels” 10 times, never once using the term ‘fossil fuels’. Natural gas and oil are mentioned, (they are muscle fuels) but never the term fracking.
Another piece in the magazine on the Dakota access pipeline, the opposing sides are characterised as “corporate energy interests” versus “Global Environmental Inc. (funded by corporate nonprofits and billionaire sympathisers).” Note the pathetic lack of capital letters for the corporate energy interests who are, of course, puny little firms like Exxon and Shell.
In the same piece the wish to “keep it in the ground “is being portrayed as only about water quality. The risk to climate stability posed by burning fossil feels is ignored. So is any mention of the threat to indigenous rights and well-being.
The unequal power relations inherent in an invitation to “participate in discussions regarding granting an easement for DAPL” are, of course, similarly ignored.
I realize that it would be impossible in this context, that the sacredness of the land be mentioned – and of course it isn’t.
To this sector of our world, the economy, based on fossil fuel is what must be preserved at all costs. This economy, of course, equates to an extraordinarily high standard of material wealth for those in the US and other early adopters of industrialisation. It is an entirely anthropocentric view of the world, and largely American:
“We have to determine how to protect our environments and reduce our global environmental footprint. Second we have to determine how not to ruin our economy. Third we have to determine how not to sacrifice our national security. And all must be equitably addressed.”
Words can be treacherous things. The same word often has totally different meanings in different contexts and yet seems to be one thing.
In the fifth century BCE a military treaty called The Art of War was published in China.
It says :
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be put at risk even in a hundred battles.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
More briefly this is expressed as “know your enemy”.
So read the Daily Mail and newspapers and websites you don’t agree with. Read Shale and other trade publications of the fracking industry. Don’t get embroiled in pointless debate but quietly learn what your enemy is like.
It will inform your activism for the better .