Our Planet, Our People Are Not Expendable!

Revolutionary cartoonist, Stephanie McMillan, co-authored 'As the World Burns,' with Derrick Jensen.

The following is a draft, and part of an on-going effort to form a new organization in Florida.

The article originally appeared on Minimum Security.

by Stephanie McMillan

The Gulf of Mexico has been destroyed. Immeasurable, irreparable damage has been done to wildlife, the health of the ocean, and people’s livelihoods. We have been cursed for years to come. It can not, as BP promises, be “made right.” In fact, even after this utter catastrophe, crimes against the planet and its inhabitants continue without pause.

We are told that the government is supposed to guarantee the rights of the people. But when a big corporation decides our rights are not in their interests, then POOF! They vanish into thin air. In a clear violation of our rights to free speech and a free press, government agencies have assisted BP’s lies and cover-up by restricting media access, threatening journalists with felony charges and $40,000 fines. Uniformed police officers in Louisiana have harassed photographers at public beaches. BP has threatened workers with firing if they talk to anyone about anything.

We are also told that the government’s purpose is to protect the country and us. But instead the government helps big corporations plunder the country and trash our lives. The Minerals Management Service allowed BP to cut corners and violate safety regulations, leading finally to the fatal decision to save a few hundred thousand dollars by not installing a backup valve.

When BP ignored an order by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop using the dispersant Corexit 9500 (a poisonous compound banned in Europe), the EPA did absolutely nothing. Millions of gallons are still being dumped into the Gulf, even as it has been shown to evaporate and fall as toxic rain, and is damaging plants far inland.

BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates during the past 20 years, with the biggest portion going to Obama. It also spent $15.9 million on lobbying last year alone, for the purpose of controlling energy policy.

What does all this tell us?

The government repeatedly sells us out to corporate interests. It sells out our rights, our health, our safety, our livelihoods, our lives, and the natural world. The government is merely a tool to facilitate the conversion of life into profit.

The BP spill is not an accident. It is an inevitable consequence of a global economic system that values profit over life. The BP spill is not unique. Oil companies have ruined large areas of the Niger Delta, Ecuador and other parts of the world, and they will continue to do so until they are stopped.

The ruthless pursuit of profit has caused 98% of old growth forests to be cut down. 99% of the prairies are gone. 80% of rivers worldwide no longer support life. 94% of the large fish in the oceans are gone. 120 species per day becomes extinct. Now the Gulf of Mexico has been ruined. Clearly, a global economic system based on perpetual growth is unsustainable. Yet those who run this system do not stop, will not stop.

At what point will we stop accepting this?

We can not stand by while big corporations like BP, with the assistance of the US government, destroy our lives and our planet. We should have stopped them a long time ago. Now we must stop them before they do even more damage, before they kill everything. We depend upon the natural world — we must now urgently come to its defense.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Cecilia B.

    What can we do to "come to the defense" of the natural world? Many of the Minimum Security strips make the valid point that buying "green" products, etc., really doesn't do anything to change the whole system and consumeristic culture that contributes to destruction of the environment.

    I'll admit that I try to get "natural" products in place of harsher chemicals and petroleum-based cleaners and such. But I don't think it's the solution and I don't think I'm not still having a negative impact on the environment. I figure it's better than nothing though.

    On the other hand, lifestyles in opposition to the standard American way of life - freeganism, etc. - are typically viewed as "extreme" and impractical for the general public to adopt.

    Is it possible to take a stance that combines the best of both methods? What will it take for the masses to unite behind an effective solution? Obviously the destruction already occurring hasn't been enough to bring us to the tipping point.

  • Guest - Stephanie McMillan

    Dear Cecilia,

    Thank you for discussing this!

    There is no consumer choice that we can make that will help save the planet. What we buy and waste as individuals is so minute compared to the destruction wrought by industry - production, mining, agribusiness, etc - that even if every person in the US followed all "10 Things You Can Do" listed at the end of Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth," it would only be a one-time 23% cut of CO2 emissions -- completely inadequate to the problem. Exxon-Mobil all by itself creates 5% of the world's CO2 emissions. The US military uses 395K barrels of oil per day.

    The only thing that will save the planet is the same thing that can end the exploitation of people: the ending of profit as a motive for production. We have to overthrow the existing state and impose a sustainable economy. It can't be done under the current system.

    Freeganism, while it has some appealing aspects, depends on the waste generated by capitalism, so it's not really an answer.

    As for using environmentally-friendly products in the meantime, I do that too because I want to cut down on poisoning myself and the planet as much as possible in this current context, but we can't delude ourselves into believing that this will significantly mitigate the damage being done by the system as a whole.

    To come to the defense of the planet, we must smash capitalism and institute a state that will facilitate (and impose when necessary) a sustainable economy (which I believe has to be completely non-industrial, but that's another huge discussion), and suppress all would-be exploiters of the planet and its inhabitants (human and non-human).

    What do you think?

    Best wishes,

  • Guest - Stephanie McMillan

    Cecilia, I'll come back to your other extremely vital question ("What will it take for the masses to unite..") a bit later. I want to talk about that too, but I need to think more about my response.

  • Guest - Jim Sanders

    It's great to see one of my favorite activists on one of my favorite website. Thanks for being in the struggle Stephanie. Thanks to Kasama for putting your work in.

    Jim Sanders
    Fort Lauderdale

  • Guest - Stephanie McMillan

    Jim, thank you for saying that!


    "What will it take?" is something I wonder about all the time. How far does the murder of the planet have to go? Do we really have to be starving and gasping for breath before we break through denial? We're almost at that point now, and denial is still rampant.

    Part of the problem is that most people in this culture don't have any idea how to live without industrial production -- without water from the tap, without food from grocery stores. If the only source of basic necessities is this system, and people don't know any other way to live, then they will continue to defend the system that provides them.

    It's like the demand for jobs. In the context of this society, most of us can't live without jobs, though they're the arena in which our exploitation takes place. So until we understand that the whole system must be done away with, and until we can live some other way, we end up demanding that the system provide more jobs.

    I saw a TV program where someone showed common vegetables (eggplant, tomato, etc) to schoolchildren, and none of them could identify them. In the last couple generations, most of us have lost the ability to grow food (even when we can still identify it). More importantly, most people have no access to land.

    A lot of people argue that we should form communes, permaculture "eco-villages," community gardens and so on to serve as examples of how we could live sustainably. I don't think there's anything wrong with doing those things, but they're not going to be what's needed to defeat this system.

    There were many cultures who used to live sustainably on this continent, and they've been systematically all but wiped out. So it's not enough to withdraw. As soon as the system wants what you have, or demands your participation, they will violently destroy anyone who doesn't cooperate.

    What will it take? The same things it'll take to make revolution to uproot all forms of exploitation and oppression.

    In the first stages:

    * Broad realization that this system is killing the planet, and that to save all life, including our own, we need to defeat and dismantle the system.

    * A recognition of who the enemy is.

    * The sense that it is more dangerous to let things go on as they are than it is to rise up and fight back.

    * A vision of a viable future.

    These ideas are spreading, and we need to spread them more, to unite as many as possible in a powerful movement to take this system on. We need to connect the struggle for saving the planet with the struggles for social justice -- the enemy is the same.

    All best,

  • Guest - Radical Eyes

    Well said, Stephanie!

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