No 898 Posted by fw, October 29, 2013
“He [US House member Michael Grimm] sounds like he’s speaking for the oil and gas industry. He’s telling you all of the lies that we’ve been hearing forever. The primary fallacy is natural gas is clean. It’s not clean….it is actually much more destructive than — with its carbon footprint — than coal is. And there’s so much more than carbon that we need to be talking about. We need to talk about methane. We need to talk about…all of the chemicals that are released in the process, as well as when the gas is shifted through different infrastructure projects. And so, it’s a huge problem. It doesn’t bring in all those jobs they promised. I talked to people working on the pipeline while they were working. You know where they were from? Minnesota. They were from South Dakota. They were not from New York City. It’s not local jobs. It’s not clean. It’s dangerous. What we need to be doing is actually investing in a system that is not going to exacerbate climate change also, because if we’re talking about rebuilding resiliently in the Rockaways, then there has to be a process that is allowing for not making that any worse, not having to deal with more problems, not making extreme weather worse through our energy choices.” —Jessica Roff
This abridged post illustrates how disaster capitalism has come to the Superstorm-stricken coastal region of New York City, in the form of a high-risk natural gas pipeline, just what the residents do not need. But nobody bothered to ask them. The pipeline is the brainchild of an ethically-challenged Republican member of the US House of Representatives, who, according to a Wikipedia entry, also happens to be the co-owner of a bio-fuel company.
Read below a greatly abridged transcript of a Democracy Now interview with two women who have been involved in the Superstorm Sandy recovery and rebuilding project. An embedded version of the 21:46-minute video is also included. The abridged transcript serves as a case study of disaster capitalism.
Alternatively, watch the video on the Democracy Now website where you can also access the full transcript.
Amy Goodman — Today marks the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy hitting the New York region, becoming one of the most destructive storms in the nation’s history…. Today we’re spending the hour looking at the state of recovery after Superstorm Sandy. We are joined by two women who have played key roles in the region’s recovery: Terri Bennett is with Respond and Rebuild; Jessica Roff, Restore the Rock—both part of the overall umbrella Occupy Sandy.
Video clip of Naomi Klein talking about ways of using crisis to hoard power, circumvent democracy
[Fast-forward to video’s 7:27-minute mark]
Amy Goodman — In November last year, award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein spoke in New York about her article, Superstorm Sandy—a People’s Shock? in which she argued reconstruction after Sandy provided a way to usher in progressive change.
Naomi Klein — The problems that I call out in the book [The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism] are not responding strongly to disaster. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re having a crisis, you should respond strongly. It deserves that. It’s these particular ways of using crisis in anti-democratic ways, to hoard power, to centralize power, to circumvent democracy. So what I’m calling for is the opposite of that, is, in moments of crisis, to broaden the democratic space.
And I think thinking about how a community responds after a disaster like Sandy, it’s a great example, because often what you have are very elite-driven reconstruction processes. You know, a committee is struck, filled with industrialists—this has just happened—to come up with a reconstruction plan, often very, very wealthy people who are supposed to attract more donors. And often the affected people are treated as so traumatized and so victimized that they of course could not participate in the reconstruction process themselves. And this is simply not true. In fact, the best way to recover from a trauma is to overcome your helplessness by participating, by helping. And that’s what you see in the extraordinary Occupy Sandy response to this particular crisis, where it comes in a spirit not of the traditional relief organization that just comes into a community, says, “We know what you want,” and hands out whatever people decide that they want, and it’s a very much of a client relationship. The volunteers involved in Occupy Sandy are coming in in the spirit of what they call “mutual aid,” which is saying—asking people, “What do you want?” you know, and trying to empower communities, not only to respond to the immediate emergency, but also the recovery afterwards.
“In relation to what Klein was saying, the lack of community involvement has really heightened.” They’re building a natural gas pipeline when what we really need is to build a sustainable, renewable energy system
Jessica Roff — I think one of the reasons we were more effective in our response was because we were out talking to people every day and listening, and we were a flexible—I don’t even want to use the word “organization,” per se, because we were really—you know, we were all-volunteer. We were making things up as we went along. But we were seeing each person that we were talking to, and we were seeing their situations, and we were responding accordingly. We were learning what people needed and how the best way to respond to them was. And we were hearing, like Terri was saying, that people were really feeling deserted.
In relation to what Naomi Klein was just saying, that the lack of community involvement has really been heightened, I think, by the storm, as opposed to there being a shift in our democratic process. People in the Rockaways have felt, you know, deserted and left out for years and have had not a strong voice in the government and in other organizations. And now that’s really being exacerbated, even though supposedly many of these programs that the government and not-for-profits are running are engaging with community response. But they’re not really impacting the decisions, or it doesn’t seem that way. So, one of the things we’ve been doing is talking to a lot of people about energy and what’s happening out there.
So, in the context of that, instead of rebuilding and instead of giving more protection, which is what all of the communities are talking about in every single meeting, in every single hearing, in every opportunity they have to talk with government and other agencies, what is actually happening is they’re building the Rockaway Lateral Pipeline out there, which is a natural gas pipeline, along with—there’s like 30 other infrastructure projects throughout the course of the entire state of New York, including the Spectra pipeline whose natural gas actually goes live on Friday, which is a huge problem. So this is happening. They’re building a natural gas pipeline. They’re dredging the ocean in a very unstable area, to begin with, because, as I said, it’s a barrier reef where there’s been tons of landfill and dumping along the years and years of use. It’s going to bring in this gas that’s radioactive, that’s toxic, that’s highly explosive.
[The natural gas is] to power our stoves and our heating systems. And it’s really a problem that we don’t have an infrastructure in the city that will allow us to make the renewable shift. And what we need to be doing is actually changing how we’re building out our infrastructure, and building a sustainable and renewable energy process, as well as sustainable communities.
[Fast-forward to video’s 13:14-minute mark]
Amy Goodman — One advocate of the new pipeline has been Congressmember Michael Grimm. His district includes Brooklyn. He says it would bring clean energy to New York.
Rep. Michael Grimm — This project will be the first bulk natural gas transmission project in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens in more than 40 years. The 5.2 million people living in these three boroughs are demanding more and more natural gas. Natural gas, as we all know, is reliable. It’s clean. It’s domestic. And it’s economical. On September 15th of last year, New York City Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway testified before the National Parks Subcommittee in its support—there in support of the Grimm-Meeks bill. I appreciate all the courtesy shown to him on that day. In his testimony, the deputy mayor stated energy demand in New York City is increasing and will continue to grow; therefore, getting the Gateway project done is a major effort that includes the private sector, the city, state and federal governments. The Gateway pipeline project will generate approximately $265 million in construction activity, create almost 300 local jobs, and bring in about $8 million in annual local revenue for the City of New York, providing much-needed short- and long-term boost to our economy.
Jessica Roff — I mean, he sounds like he’s speaking for the oil and gas industry. He’s telling you all of the lies that we’ve been hearing forever. The primary fallacy is natural gas is clean. It’s not clean. The process starts—from cradle to grave, it is actually much more destructive than—with its carbon footprint than coal is. And there’s so much more than carbon that we need to be talking about. We need to talk about methane. We need to talk about, you know, the—all of the chemicals that are released in the process, as well as when the gas is shifted through different infrastructure projects. And so, it’s a huge problem. It doesn’t bring in all those jobs they promised. I talked to people working on the pipeline while they were working. You know where they were from? Minnesota. They were from South Dakota. They were not from New York City. It’s not local jobs. It’s not clean. It’s dangerous. What we need to be doing is actually investing in a system that is not going to exacerbate climate change also, because if we’re talking about rebuilding resiliently in the Rockaways, then there has to be a process that is allowing for not making that any worse, not having to deal with more problems, not making extreme weather worse through our energy choices.
Terri Bennett — We’re not dealing with issues of resiliency on a large scale, and we’re also not dealing with it on the immediate scale of rebuilding. The Rapid Repairs program was a great idea. [However] it was done really hastily, and it was done in a way that people didn’t have the choice to maybe upgrade to more resilient forms of heating their homes or even raising their electrical panel up into the second floor of their home in case there’s another storm half the size of Sandy that’s going to cause the same amount of destruction. So we think a lot of that money is eventually going to be flushed down the toilet.
We also don’t see a disaster relief industry that is promoting resiliency or sustainability. Nonprofits are often more concerned with numbers, because granters want to see numbers, and not more sustainable methods of building or materials for building. And we don’t think it’s economically sustainable, either, because it’s much more likely that—in terms of being competitive for disaster relief funding, it’s much more likely that an organization based in San Diego with disaster relief experience is going to be more competitive than a more suitable community-based organization in an affected area that is not as desirable to funders because they have not been given the resources to be competitive in that. And I think that in coastal regions and in regions, in general, that are prone to disasters, we need to start thinking about making our community-based organizations the ones who deal with the disasters, because, like Naomi Klein said, these are the experts. These are the people who know what the community needs. And right now we don’t have a disaster relief industry that takes that into consideration.