|On the way to Chihuahua, Mexico, 10.15. Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee|
First, Friday, October 2nd: I recognized my fine friend and ally, David--even tough we'd never met in person--when he pulled up in front of the El Paso, Texas Airport in a well-utilized truck with Mexican plates. The flight had been arranged fairly hastily, and I was already counting the hours before my class the following Monday afternoon at 5PM.
But all of this--the flight, the class, the country--soon gave way to that delightful and all too rare gift called conversation, the kind we have with old friends, even the ones whose faces are new to us. Wending our way through the gorgeous spareness of Chihuahua, Mexico's highland desert is bounded by the endless Sierra Madre, and is one of the most biologically diverse desert eco-regions on the planet (http://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na1303).
It's also among the most endangered by a host of industries flying the flags of NAFTA's free trade beneficiaries--and most recently by Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos) whose intention is to begin fracking despite what are now well-established hazards to the ecologies, the habitats, the communities and the peoples whose voices they routinely ignore.
With an estimated 600 Trillion cubic feet of "recoverable" shale gas, the only wonder is why we haven't seen more gas rigs already (https://ejatlas.org/conflict/resistance-to-fracking-in-chihuahua-mexico).
But this is because Pemex and its corporate colleagues are going to have a real fight on their hands.
In Veracruz they already do.
Crossing the border into Mexico, David and I were on our way to the city Chihuahua, Chihuahua for the Foro Binacional: En defensa del desierto y el agua. No al fracking, where I was scheduled to speak to an audience of activists, insurgents, organizers, indigenous people all gathered to discuss, strategize, share ideas, and work out conflicts in the interest--I soon came to understand--no so much of protecting property, but of defending land.
Property--that is a thing owned whose value can be commodified as the price paid to transform it into the primary instrument of capital; it is the space of exchange and labor, a site for the creation of wealth and the disposal of waste.
Land--that is the soil which makes possible the place, the life, the ancestral sensibilities, the culture of long-rooted human and nonhuman communities whose own ebb and flow reflect the living ecologies to which they pay tribute.
|Photo, Chihuahua, Wendy Lynne Lee, 10.15.|
Property is not land, and land is not property.
Yet it's "property" that continues to dominate the discourse of too many American anti-fracking activists who, even when they advocate for environmental protections for state parks seem to think more in the horse-trading terms of one mile set-backs, negotiated subsurface agreements, and the salvage of wood lots surrounded by well pads, than in terms of the organic, the historical, the aesthetic, or the experienced.
We seem to think only in terms of surfaces, parcels, and right of ways-- when there is far more to be said about ways of life whose peoples know the earth by its very texture and smell.
I don't know--would not pretend to know--what might have been on the mind of one young indigenous woman who smiled at me from across what seemed centuries of culture and tradition at the Foro Nacional. Unmistakable, however, was her pondering sober gaze from behind a scarf whose bright colors bespoke a world as old as it was rich and living, a world of land.
|Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee|
Still, I knew her to have travelled a long ways with her husband and baby because she understood intimately--no doubt in her very blood--the threat Pemex and its multinational analogues pose to her rootedness of place in the world of her family, her plants, her animals, her life.
By the time I had finished what offering I had to make to Foro Nacional, by the time I had struggled through countless conversations outside an auditorium alive with strategy, planning, and new ideas, I had come to realize that Socrates really was right when he asks us in The Apology for what we're willing to give up our lives.
And that I would keep it.
What follows is a presentation I am very honored to be able to give October 3rd, In Chihuahua, Mexico, at the Foro binacional:
“En defensa del desierto y el agua. No al fracking."
The conference description is as follows:
"Chihuahua vs fracking, la Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking y la Fundación Heinrich Böll convocan al foro donde especialistas, organizaciones y comunidades afectadas por la fractura hidráulica o fracking y por gasoductos informarán con datos científicos y experiencias sobre las consecuencias que esta práctica conlleva."
The paper itself, part personal reflection from the Pennsylvania shalefields, part factual survey of immediate destruction and likely future impacts, and part analysis of continuing fossil fuel extraction in light of climate change, stems from my current book project: "Eco-Nihilism: The Philosophical Geopolitics of the Climate Change Apocalypse," available, I hope in later 2016, Lexington Press.