Wrong Kind of Green
June 8, 2016
by Forrest Palmer and Cory Morningstar
Between 1830 and 1850, the United States committed one of the most genocidal movements in the history of this country, although still unacknowledged as such to this very day. During the aforementioned time period, the U.S. government forcibly removed all of the major indigenous tribes from their homelands in the Southeast portion of the country to West of the Mississippi River in the Oklahoma territory and the surrounding areas. This mandatory migration came to be known as The Trail of Tears. The removal was comprised of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” (given this moniker because they were seen to be most equipped to appropriate the traits of Western civilization, such as clothes, customs, economy, Christianity and other signs of being ‘humanized’, i.e. white). These five tribes included the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee Nations. Yet for all of these tribes perceived signs of being “civilized”, when the land that they inhabited was needed by the state, their designated ethnic inferiority was the single most reason for them being compulsorily extracted from their only home. During the migration, these indigenous First Nation members were made to walk the entire length of this most inhuman journey, which was over 1,000 miles. Of the approximately 60,000 total members of the tribes who were expelled from their homelands, anywhere from 8,700 to 17,000 were killed by making this treacherous trek , which is between 14.5% to 28.3% of the victims.
Mississippi Choctaw group wearing traditional garb, c. 1908. Photographer unknown. Public document.
Most recently, approximately 2,000 miles to the North of the general vicinity where the natives in the U.S were finally housed in the most deplorable conditions imaginable on the reservations, there was another exodus that happened recently in Alberta, Canada that had similar characteristics. As a result of a raging, out of control forest fire, there was a mass evacuation out of this region that was reminiscent of what we saw a couple of hundred years ago during the native death march to the south. The primary difference is that this exodus wasn’t done at the barrel of a gun, but at the behest of something much more powerful than any weapon devised by man: Mother Nature.
In the energy oasis of northeastern Alberta, Canada where the oil tar sands are found, approximately 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray had to leave their community with wildfires nipping at their heels. Fort McMurray is the primary residence of the people that work in the Alberta Tar Sands, comprising about 80,000 “permanent” citizens and 40,000 expatriates who came to Great White North seeking fortune in the lucrative yet environmentally destructive tar sands oil development. The region is most famous due to the Keystone XL pipeline and the ongoing attempts to run this pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States, primarily located in Houston Texas. Although the tar sands oil provides millions of barrels of oil today, this effort has still been used as a red herring by the mainstream environmental movement to give the false impression that it isn’t daily business as usual in the fossil fuel industry which is the problem, since this global effort VASTLY outweighs the drop in the bucket contributed by the tar sands, whether or not Keystone XL comes online or not. (Unbeknownst to most, the pipeline is already up and running with the fourth and last phase being the only one under dispute and the other three phases already being used right now, as well as rail moving significant amounts of tar sands oil as I write this).
Image: Racism At Core Of Native Teen Suicides [Source: Red Power Media]
As a testament that the abuse of the natives really knows no end, the indigenous were spared no mercy at the hands of the state yesterday nor the corporations today. Over past fifty years when the first barrel of oil rolled off the assembly line in 1967, there have been harmful effects visited upon the indigenous community in the surrounding region over time due to the amount of cancerous byproducts that are dumped into Lake Athabasca. The tailing ponds (the dumping ground for the polluted water that is used to assist in tar sand extraction and production) measure about 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) and reside in close proximity to Athabasca River. Although unacknowledged by the industry, the state or the mainstream media, the sediment from the tailing ponds has been leaking into the Athabasca River. This river is a contributory downstream to Lake Athabasca, where the community of Fort Chipewyan uses for fishing and a freshwater source. This community is comprised of approximately 1,000 people, almost entirely indigenous First Nation. As proof of the deleterious effects of the tar sands pollution, the community has experienced the rarest forms of cancers that belie such a small community somehow logically showing up with such disproportionate illnesses as compared to the general population . Yet, this medical anomaly doesn’t even fall on deaf ears since the people don’t even have a voice.
Tar sands at night. Alberta Oil Sands: “Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet’s greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.” [Source]
In relation to this turn of events with Fort McMurray currently, the definition of the term ‘poetic justice’ is experiencing a fitting or deserved retribution for one’s actions. In destroying the environment and visiting unacknowledged depredations to the people of Fort Chipewyan and the surrounding areas, as well as contributing to the devastation of which they are facing presently since the entire community relies on the fossil fuel industry, it is poetic justice by any honest estimation that these residents had to run fleeing from their comfortable houses in the middle of the night. This is even more justified since the people in the Fort McMurray area are indicative of the climate change denier clique as only 33% accept that anthropogenic climate change is real to any degree. Hence, these people are unwilling to even accept that their own hands were on the trigger that caused their own communal maiming through the most dangerous game of Russian roulette known to humanity.
The reason that this is the case is because the masses were in the region specifically to rape the land and destroy the environment. There is no rationally sane debate that wouldn’t admit ecological devastation and the resulting climate disruptions increased the likelihood to something such as this happening to almost a certainty. Hence, if their actions were the singular, primary or only a contributing factor to their speedy migration from Fort McMurray, it must be acknowledged that the mere physical presence of the now fleeing residents in the city was the reason that they had to run from a hell of their own making. To be succinct, if the residents wouldn’t have put their economic wants above their environmental needs, they wouldn’t have been in a position of vulnerability since the only reason the population was so large in the area was due to the oil industry. Ultimately, any impartial assessment of the situation comes to the conclusion that the citizens have no one to blame but themselves for this self-inflected catastrophe.
Therefore, we are now in the beginning stages of seeing a grand change in the migratory patterns of humanity. More times often than not migration was due to the collapse of civilizations by way of a lack of resources, which are the basis of any society. As Western civilization has been able to move masses of people to whatever area of the world that it needed in order to continue the economic system of capitalism, be it the forced migration of the indigenous in North America to the concentrations camps called the reservation, or the worldwide diaspora of the African through the global slave trade, or the coolie labor system where Southeast Asians were dispersed across various continents, it has fostered a god complex in the Western world that only the system and the people who control it can ever dictate who goes anyplace at a given moment in time.
As such, the Western world has lived under the delusion that it had conquered nature itself and was the ultimate arbiter of who and what was going to go where and when. This latest episode is just a single example of many recent ones that are increasing in rapidity in the Western world. The Westerner embodied in the prototypical anglo male is now being made to do the one thing that he thought he was immune to in this world: forced to go somewhere he didn’t want go when he didn’t want to leave.
Luckily, the Western world still has the resources and the economic ability to move with relative ease when disasters like this occur, although this will not be the case for too much longer. Soon, the daily movements that are effortlessly accomplished by plane, train, ship, car and automobile will lead to having to hurriedly leave a demolishing area with the only thing that nature has given us to move and will be the last thing we have when the infrastructure isn’t available to utilize the previously mentioned contraptions : our feet. The same feet that carried the native all those hundreds of miles in the distant past.
Illustration by Gord Hill, Kwakwaka’wakw
As our feet will be the thing to carry us to parts unknown as we will have to go to places we have no choice to go for survival in the not too distant future, I would think that poetic justice would include that we be relegated to the same existence that was imposed on the ones so long ago by such a self-designated exceptional civilization such as this.
Poetic justice indeed.