Why does the tragedy of pollution repeat itself again and again?

It’s a great thing: in that wasteland just outside your door, a treasure that has been dormant for hundreds of millions of years has now been discovered. There is no need to worry about mining technology. There is already a technological innovation called “hydraulic fracturing”, which releases natural gas from shale. Unlike coal, this is a clean energy source, and mining companies are also big companies. This will not only bring land rents to the locals, but also the job opportunities that come with it, and more importantly, it will give the poor people hope in life.   However, when the project was rolled out, people realized a little bit that they had actually signed an agreement with the devil: not only natural gas rose from the ground, but also 10% of the water and chemicals used in the fracturing method~ 40% will return to the surface, including radioactive material, and bacteria that have resurfaced in 400 million years, all piled up in open waste ponds. The familiar rural landscape has changed, and people gradually began to feel various physical discomforts. However, it is not possible for ordinary people to prove the connection between these diseases and mining. What followed was a protracted lawsuit, and people had to go through a long wait for an unpredictable verdict. Ultimately, the company’s way of apologizing was with money—people’s hidden pain turned into a business deal.   Basically, that’s the synopsis of The Bottom Line of Fracturing. To be honest, the story itself is not surprising, just like “Toms River” and “The Long Lawsuit”, too many similar events start, evolve and end like this (some have not waited for any results), However, why do such tragedies repeat themselves again and again?

  Of course, there is something special about this story: it takes place in western Pennsylvania, where oil was first discovered in 1859, the birthplace of the American oil industry. For locals, the boom in energy extraction was “the good old days”, so why can’t the natural gas boom that began sweeping the region in 2004 be a “recurrence”? The original title Amity and Prosperity was taken from the names of two local towns, “Amity” and “Prosperity”.
  People are not without vigilance in embracing prosperity that seems to be at their fingertips, after all, this is an old industrial area, people of course know that “energy development often means the exploitation of local residents”, hate big business destroying the land, but at the same time, they also hate Those urbanites and preaching environmentalists who use electricity too casually, these people not only do not understand the hard life of miners, but also degrade them who are working hard to support their families as a group of scumbags who do not understand the dangers of mining, let alone The bankruptcy of a coal mining company can destroy a town. This area is the hardest hit area of ​​the “rust belt” since the de-industrialization of the United States for nearly half a century. People urgently need a job to restore dignity and confidence in life.
  Yes, the poor have few options, and for them, pollution itself is not the worst thing for them – unemployment, poverty, food and shelter are more pressing issues , which depends on a stable job. As for pollution, that’s for the future.
  The crux of the matter is this: benefits are immediate and immediate, while harms are indirect, latent, and sometimes almost impossible to prove. What’s more, even when the damage has occurred, there are still people who turn a blind eye to it, because it is seen as a necessary evil – and if it is someone else who is responsible for the consequences, it is less of a concern.
  American sociologist Allie Hochschild investigated environmental pollution in Louisiana, the state with the lowest GDP per capita in the United States, and found that locals don’t care much, and they are not outliers, all over the country: “In 2010, If you were born in a county with high exposure to toxic pollutants, you are more likely to think that Americans are ‘too concerned’ about the environment and that the state is ‘over-reacting’ to environmental issues.” Accepting these industries is a “resistance” Smallest Personality”: Living in a small Midwest or Southern town for a long time, with low education, traditional values, not involved in social issues, and tends to be a conservative Republican. Sadly, their tolerance of pollution has put themselves and their families in a more dangerous and filthy situation, and the prosperity they hoped for has often turned out to be a vain – in the end, pollution is not only bad for health, but also affects agriculture, Fishing, tourism, and real estate will depreciate.
  Worse still, since they can tolerate such an environment, companies won’t automatically improve it. Profit-seeking is the nature of an enterprise, and it is always the cheapest to discharge industrial waste in the open air. Environmental enforcement has always been difficult in the United States. The EPA relies on less than 20,000 employees to oversee hundreds of thousands of polluting companies. After the Great Recession in 2008, the budget of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was cut by another 27%. This leaves compliance with only spontaneous reporting and negotiation. For polluting companies, the conclusion is clear: it is not cost-effective to abide by the law, it will drive up costs and damage market competitiveness, it is better to dress up as the savior who brings prosperity, and it will be more able to buy people’s hearts, anyway, wait until people wake up. Come here, they have already made a lot of money.
  It has always been difficult to promote awareness of the dangers of environmental pollution, and it is even more difficult to unite communities to take concerted action. Because the effects of environmental pollution are often covert and long-term, it is difficult to identify victims, often accompanied by heated debates, and strong enforcement is seen as a disruption to business activities, which requires local communities to organize themselves through constant dialogue Only then can we learn to gradually change our understanding and make a consistent voice.
  Local people may not have the experience to deal with these sudden changes, but it is certainly not the first time that polluting companies have encountered such a thing. They know that fracking creates pollution that is difficult to clean up, and that it is difficult to establish a causal link between exposure and illness, and even before mining, they have calculated the strength of environmental law enforcement in each state and county and the possible resistance of local people, and of course There are PRs and lawyers to deal with a bunch of protests that might arise. The only thing they may not be able to estimate accurately is the tenacity of the client. An intriguing detail in the book is that the two lawyers, the Smiths, insisted on it year after year, so that the company asked inexplicably: Who paid them?
  Persistence does not necessarily lead to victory, as lengthy lawsuits often end in negotiation and settlement, a liberating compromise where the victim’s demands are unlikely to be fully met. In the end, it was neither the protests of residents nor environmental law enforcement that stopped fracturing, but the market has changed: since 2005, the global oil price has soared, which not only drives the demand for natural gas, although the cost of fracturing is relatively high. High can also bring a lot of money; but after the summer of 2015, oil prices fell by half in just six months, which hit the highly leveraged U.S. shale oil industry hard, and fracturing has become unprofitable.

  In any case, the story has a poor ending, but to be honest, it’s hard to expect every similar game to be won by the local community, after all, it depends on so many unusual factors – since this is a story about courage story, it’s hard to expect people to show such a scarce quality every time. In fact, the energy companies may be right about one thing: There should be a long-term reciprocal relationship between communities and the extractive industries they depend on. But this shouldn’t be a deception, it has to be true reciprocity, and that means tighter environmental red lines, more open and transparent operations, and deep community involvement.

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