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Terrarism and the Terrarists

Tar Pit #3

Terrarism, terrarists and terracide: words coined on the TomDispatch blog to refer to the the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet: giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell.

It’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world.  Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific  … and the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either.  But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.

In the case of the terrarists … you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.

What’s the crime? Destroying the planet and engaging in a deliberate, mass cover-up of what they’re doing.

They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with.

Tom Engelhart (the “Tom” in TomGram) compares these tactics to those of the cigarette lobby and the asbestos lobby – criminal enterprises that knew the dangers of their products and deliberately went about suppressing the information and creating doubts about the medical science as they doubled down on sales and advertising while people got sick and died. (And now that they’re unpopular in this country, they’ve simply moved their activities to developing countries where they prey on children to get them hooked.)

As Time magazine has written about climate change denialism:

All of the naysayers seem to be following the playbook written by the tobacco industry in its long, ongoing war against medical findings about the dangers of smoking. For both Big Oil and Big Smoke, that playbook is lethally simple: don’t straight-up refute the science, just raise skepticism and insist that the findings are “unsettled” and that “more research” is necessary. Repeat that again and again regardless of the latest research, and you help block the formation of the solid majority needed to create any real political change. That’s made all the easier because whether you’re quitting smoking or oil, the job is painful — and voters don’t like pain.

In the case of Big Oil, it’s not just people who are getting sick and dying; it’s everything and everyone that lives on the planet – and generations to come.

Engelhart notes how the oil companies mounted a massive counterattack after President Jimmy Carter spoke to the nation from the Oval Office in 1979. Carter said:

“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun… Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war.”

The oil lobby promptly swung into action, and Carter’s words were quickly labeled “the malaise speech”, with the media accusing the President of being a depressing bore. Not to worry, though. Carter was soon replaced by the Big Oil shill Ronald Reagan, who immediately began to dismantle, quite literally, what Carter had put in place … starting with the 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House. (Obama has made the small gesture of putting the solar panels back up.)

Exxon-Mobil, Shell, etc. could have taken some of their vast profits and made a serious investment in clean energy. Instead, they’re pouring those vast profits into producing the dirtiest and most dangerous kinds of oil yet to be mined: the tar sands, fracking and deep-water drilling.

[It’s] the equivalent of a tobacco company situation, but on a planetary scale.  To complete the analogy, imagine for a moment that they were planning to produce even more prodigious quantities not of fossil fuels but of cigarettes, knowing what damage they would do to our health.  Then imagine that, without exception, everyone on Earth was forced to smoke several packs of them a day.

If that isn’t a terrorist — or terrarist — attack of an almost unimaginable sort, what is?  If the oil execs aren’t terrarists, then who is?  And if that doesn’t make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term?

To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?

Of course, the oil companies have their enablers. That would be the rest of us. We’re all in on the act, gassing up, and getting upset and shouting “Drill, baby, drill” when oil prices go up. We’re hooked on oil as we were hooked on tobacco. Plus, it’s very hard for human to recognize a threat until it really hits us.

That day is now beginning to dawn.