Sacrifice Zones

Dear Friends,

[Check out this week’s Fallon Forum: Plan Bee, G7 Summit, Nuke a hurricane, and the rebirth of Paradise, California, where 87 people died last year in the Camp Fire.]

Speaking of the California mountain town of Paradise (which President Trump called “Pleasure” — and you thought Joe Biden had the corner on gaffes), no place is safe in the New Climate Era. Paradise exposes the folly of “moving our people to higher ground,” as Andrew Yang suggested during the last presidential candidate debate.

High or low, climate change will impact all of us. In fact, many communities have already been damaged or destroyed, sacrificed on the altar of fossil-fuel extraction. Last week, twin sacrifice zones spawned by the unholy alliance of an uber-wealthy Indian and the Australian government came to my attention.

The Mundra station is the largest private coal-fired power plant in India. [Credit: Rebecca Conway for The New York Times]

A Gujarati billionaire, Guatam Adani (same first name as the Buddha, hailing from the same state as Gandhi, for whatever irony that’s worth), has grown rich and powerful due to his ability to arrange “good deals” with the Indian and Australian governments.

As this August 15 story in The New York Times states, “those good deals have come at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world, who inhale the pollution that coal-fired power plants produce, drink water tainted by ash, and, often, support those coal projects with their tax money.”

The site of the Godda power station, which will be part of a special economic zone. [Credit: Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times]

Thanks to the Australian government’s willingness to sell out as an accomplice in the scheme, Aduni hopes to ship coal from Australia to his coal-fired power plant in India, where “the land for the plant, acquired by the government from a swath of lush paddy fields, was home to some of India’s poorest farmers.

“The earthmovers arrived to begin construction during the last monsoon, accompanied by the police. Coconut palms were uprooted. Paddy fields and a mango orchard were removed. A cellphone video taken at the time shows local women screaming, pulling their saris over their heads in deference and falling at the feet of a company representative, begging him to spare their land.

“Soon, a concrete boundary wall went up. Then, makeshift offices. Then, a chilling message went out to locals who dared protest: The police charged five men, who did not want to give up their land, with criminal trespassing.”

Gautam Adani

We saw this in Iowa during the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, where two landowners, Homer Martz and Cyndy Coppola, were arrested on their own land for resisting the pipeline.

Another barrier around Adani’s construction site near Godda. The new plant would sell power to Bangladesh. [Credit: Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times]

Adani’s theft of poor farmers’ land “was made possible only after a change in Indian regulations in early 2019, to allow the Adani project to go forward.”

The company “would be exempt from several levies, including on imported coal and equipment. The project has also been approved for a roughly $700 million loan from the state-owned lender that funds power plants and for another $700 million loan from a second state-owned company designed to help electrify Indian villages.”

Aduni is the kind of “self-made” rich man that would make President Trump proud. Trump has declared bankruptcy six times, but the public subsidies that have built his empire are even more obscene. See How the Trump’s Got Rich.

People across the world are coming together to fight unbridled greed and the accompanying destruction of our land, water, and planet. One measurement of this vast, diverse, growing movement is the build-up to the September 20-27 Global Climate Strike. If you don’t see an event on the map near you, organize one!

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