Robert Meeropol

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Pipelines, the Environment and War

March 20, 2014

Tags: Mass gas pipeline, antiwar & environmental movements

Over the weekend Elli and I attended a meeting to prevent a new gas pipeline in our backyard. This high pressure line would carry fracked gas across the northern part of Massachusetts through some of our state’s most productive farmland and sensitive eco-systems. The meeting was packed with people from surrounding communities determined to stop a dangerous and environmentally destructive project.

This is not just a local matter. At the meeting we learned that because of the crisis in Ukraine, our government is making it a priority to increase natural gas production and fast-track approval of the infrastructure needed to ship what we produce overseas. On the local level this indicates that the fledgling coalition will face seemingly irresistible forces in its attempt to prevent the pipeline’s construction, but it also has ominous global implications.

The Obama administration’s policy has been to increase gas and oil production to record levels. The reason most often cited is to rid ourselves of dependence on foreign energy sources, but our efforts to build oil and gas pipelines to connect the points of extraction with major ports also appear designed to facilitate fossil fuel exports. Obama seeks, among other things, to counter Russia’s dominant position in supplying Western Europe with natural gas. This is how the proposed local gas-line project is connected to what is happening in Ukraine. Much of the Russian gas is shipped through Ukraine to Europe; if the United States can supply Western Europe with an alternative, our companies will make a lot of money and we will weaken Russia’s international clout.

This brought home that despite rhetoric to the contrary the United States, and Russia, not to mention other fossil fuel producing nations, are competing to produce the most fossil fuel, and therefore, the most greenhouse gases. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous contest when the only sure way to prevent the destruction of the vast majority of life on our planet is to keep as much of the gas, oil and coal in the ground as possible.

It is essential to resist this suicidal competition, but it will be an uphill struggle. The anti-global warming movement needs to find allies to broaden its base of support, and anti-war activists should be prime targets. The environmental and peace movements are natural allies because war is the worst environmental disaster of all, and battles to control fossil fuel resources have become the major cause of military posturing and war.

Environmental activism must confront the fossil fuel industry, but it can’t do this effectively without addressing the industry’s codependence with the military. Simply put, we must publicize and attack the carbon footprint of the military industrial complex. The peace movement, in turn, can expose the environmental destruction, as well as the human suffering, caused by war. It can also sound an alarm about how our worldwide network of bases and the manufacture and fueling of our boats, planes, tanks and other motorized vehicles are degrading the planet.

The international pursuit of more natural gas and oil, and the inevitable confrontations this will spark, are proof that the two struggles need to coordinate their activities. Such coordination may not immediately short-circuit this self-destructive race to poison our planet, but it is a step in the right direction.

Selected Works

"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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