“Good for the economy” not a valid argument


Sometimes progress is to say NO to something which is wrong.

In the 19th century, a good part of the American and European economies were built on slavery. It was painful and horrendous to the slaves, but it was “good for the economy”.

150 years ago, slavery represented a sixth of the American society’s resources. Within the culture of slavery, which had lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?

Even so, eventually a movement of people with morals said it was time to stop the slavery. They said that certain things in our society are more important than economic gain based on slavery. And those people, eventually, won the argument.

Today we understand that this was what human progress looks like.

Our current resistance to the fracking industry is no different. The debate which takes place in the inquiry halls of Victoria in these months keeps circling around the exact same question: should we say yes to fracking because it is “good for the economy” – or should we ban it simply because it is wrong?

The rest is chitter-chatter nitty-gritty bla-bla over technical details, thrown back and forth in the room between opponents and defenders, while the public and elected leaders are left in doubt about who to believe.

Just like all the technical details over the benefits of slavery were being debated one and half century ago.

At the bottom of the fracking inquiry lies this basic moral question which ought to be asked again and again to those politicians who write the laws and who now must make up their minds about the issue of extracting gas with the use of chemicals. They must weigh up a moral question based on the concern for what we leave behind for our children and future generations against corporate profiting on gas exploitation and pollution of soil, water and air.

We say no to polluting the Earth not only because when we damage it, we are damaging ourselves and our livelihood, but also because it is wrong. We simply cannot continue burning gas, coal and oil to the tune of 40 billion tonnes a year.

Since Pope Francis published his latest encyclical, it is even immoral in an official kind of way according to the highest Catholic teachings.

On top of that, it is a risky and expensive way to generate energy which nowadays can be generated in much smarter and more health- and environment-friendly ways.

Onshore gas mining doesn’t make any logical sense any longer. Just like slavery, its time has come to an end, as did the tobacco and the asbestos industries – two further examples of human progress driven by civil society and individuals who stood up against corporations that were only interested in making a profit, while totally disregarding the human consequences of their business. Even prepared to lie and manipulate to protect their interests.

A government which understands this would permanently ban fracking without even having to spend people’s time and taxpayers’ money on making any inquiry into the matter.

The fact that a little group of industry people claim to be able to make a short-sighted profit from it because they don’t have to pay the bill for cleaning up after themselves – or for polluting the skies with nasty consequences for our long-term climate and the ecological balance on the planet – holds just as little weight as the arguments coming from those slave-owners in the 19th century who claimed that slavery had to continue to ensure that their businesses and society could thrive.

Saying no to fracking is a decision based on an overall moral choice.
Coming to realise this and being able to make such a decision is progress.
This is what human progress looks like.

. . .

The Victorian State Inquiry Regional Hearing into unconventional gas mining takes place on Wednesday 12 August 2015 at Surf Coast Shire Council, 1 Merrijig Drive, in Torquay.

» Read more about who will be speaking and see inquiry submissions on www.frackfreegeelong.org

» Sign the petition: Ban Unconventional Gas drilling in Victoria


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One comment

  1. Great points, Mik.

    A few other thoughts about the way the government (and maybe also Labor) is thinking:

    • There is much discussion about the costs of taking various actions; there should be at least as much discussion about the benefits of taking effective action. Economics is almost always about costs and benefits. Why is there no national discussion about the benefits?

    • For those who ideologically really believe that the free market should be allowed to run virtually unimpeded, they must surely recognise that allowing polluters to avoid paying some of the costs of their pollution results in massive distortion of economic activity in favour of polluters over non-polluters. This is surely not concordant with the free market philosophy.

    • This afternoon, Tony Abbott is once again painting this issue in the simplistic terms of the environment OR the economy. Tony Abbott may well be unteachable but the public are not – we need sound evidence to move the public beyond that mindless simplicity.

    Still frustrated by the Government’s lack of adequate action and their deceptive rationalisations (but feeling a bit better now I’ve let off some steam…)


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