Direct Action fund appeal: Capitalism fouls things up

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has once again focussed attention on the environmentally disastrous petroleum fuel industry. The devastating impact on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico — along with the impact upon the livelihoods of hundreds of communities reliant on the waters of the Gulf — is far from a unique event.

In the oil and natural-gas rich nations of Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan for example, oil spills occur on a regular basis. On average there are 300 spills a year in Nigeria alone, mainly in the oil rich Niger River delta. Officially this equates to around 2300 cubic metres of spilt oil per annum, though some estimates place the figure as much as 10-times this amount. Most if not all of Nigeria’s coastal rainforest has been lost, and possibly up to 10% of its extensive mangrove forests, due to oil exploration and production. Countless hectares of wetlands, indigenous farming and hunting lands have been polluted by oil spills, sparking resistance from traditional landowners and harsh repression from the Nigerian state.

In August 2009, one of the worst oil spills recorded off the coast of Australia began when the West Atlas oil rig operating in the Montara oil field in the Timor Sea malfunctioned, resulting in a leak of at least 400 barrels of oil a day for nearly three months. The full environmental impact of this spill is yet to be revealed. The spill took place in an area known as a “marine superhighway” due to the large numbers of migratory whales, turtles, fish and other marine fauna which traverse this otherwise pristine body of water.

In April this year, when the coal carrier MV Shen Neng 1 took a short-cut through the Great Barrier Reef and ran aground, it did more than create an oil spill in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It also left a three-kilometre long grounding scar in a section of reef, coating it with toxic anti-fouling paint from the ship’s hull.

Of course, the shipping magnates and CEOs of the big fossil-fuel corporations have been trying to convince us for some time of their “green” credentials and alleged concern for the environment. They pour billions of dollars into slick media campaigns and lobbying of parliaments (or outright bribes) in an attempt to have their polluting industries seen in a good light. By and large they get away with it. After all, it was only in November that David Rainey, BP’s vice president and deepwater exploration manager in the Gulf of Mexico, told a US Senate committee hearing that offshore oil drilling “has been going on for the last 50 years, and it has been going on in a way that is both safe and protective of the environment”.

Far from this fantasy, what really has been going on for the last 50 years is that the big oil corporations have been contributing to major environmental disasters, plundering the globe for profit with the backing of armed might of the imperialist states. They are at the centre of the capitalist system which is incapable of reversing the deepening climate change crisis — a crisis which can only fundamentally be overcome through the radical overhaul of how society is run, with decision-making put into the hands of working people.

Direct Action seeks to help build a movement which can bring about this change. For this we need your help. Please consider making a donation to the Direct Action fund appeal and help us reach our $35,000 target by the end of 2010. So far we have raised $17,022.54 thanks to our supporters. You can make a donation by sending a cheque or money order to Direct Action, Suite 72, 65 Myrtle Street, Chippendale NSW 2008.