Exploited, indeed

Apr 12, 2020 By Aaron Dunbar Letter to the Editor Parkersburg News and Sentinel

A couple of weeks back I submitted a letter to the News and Sentinel, discussing the lessons we should be learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, and what they can teach us about our response to climate change.

I anticipated that this might not sit well with some readers, and sure enough, I faced a small amount of online backlash from commenters, who accused me of exploiting a crisis in pursuit of my own personal goals.

I would not be writing about this publicly, except that I doubt that these online commenters were alone in their opinion. And I actually do agree that the crisis we now face is being exploited, by those with shortsighted self-interest in mind.

On Thursday, March 26 for instance, Trump’s EPA announced that it would indefinitely suspend the enforcement of environmental laws throughout the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, essentially giving the fossil fuel industry free rein to regulate itself (or not) for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in Canada, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation has spent months trying to prevent an illegal natural gas pipeline from being built on their land. The fight against said pipeline essentially bled straight into the coronavirus outbreak, and Coastal Gaslink, the company responsible for the pipeline, has reportedly taken advantage of public distraction to try and push through construction, putting Indigenous communities in danger as they fail to properly screen outside workers for health risks.

Also throughout the past few weeks, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia have all passed controversial legislation designed to stifle peaceful protest against fossil fuel infrastructure, using the mass disarray of the coronavirus outbreak as cover. It’s worth noting that such legislation, drafted by the fossil fuel industry in response to the Keystone XL Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, has been sweeping across U.S. states like its own form of infectious disease. As with the Wet’suwet’en, Standing Rock infamously entailed the Great Sioux Nation fighting back against an unwanted pipeline on their land, and even featured a shared villain with the Wet’suwet’en struggle- TransCanada, otherwise known as TC Energy.

Are you beginning to notice a pattern here?

This is only a handful of examples I’ve picked up on over the past week or so. I’m sure there will be even more out there by the time this letter makes it to print.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t agree more that the crisis we now face is being exploited. But I don’t believe for a second that this is being done by climate activists, who are seizing this moment to try and wake people up to the existential dangers of climate change.

Instead, this crisis is being exploited by the same bad faith actors who’ve preyed on society since the inception of their industry. Who’ve lied for decades about the climate crisis, who’ve taken advantage of their employees, put them at risk, and stolen their healthcare and pensions, and who’ve leveled poor communities for the sake of greed.

All of us need to look out for one another in these difficult times. And those moneyed interests who would seize this crisis to inflict further suffering upon humanity should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.