Noise Pollution

Environmental repercussions are not only a national interest, in terms of issues such as hydraulic fracturing and carbon emissions, but also an international concern, as they often jump physical and cultural boundaries. Activists would be well served to take some lessons from their corporate opponents.

Many corporations have expertly relied upon network power to bolster their agenda. A recent example can be seen in the way TransCanada has networked to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline project to the public. By paying people to stand in as pro-pipeliners, by the State Department’s hiring of Cardno Entrix, “an Australian company that has just bought a mine or two itself” to conduct an “environmental review”, and by selling it all to the American people via local interests such as job creation, cheaper gas, and energy security, they have successfully enlarged their network. These initiatives also have powerful brokers such as Paul Elliott, chief lobbyists and former national deputy campaign manager to Hillary Clinton. He has also brokered a deal with Montana’s Senator Max Baucus.

A problem that arises is that often the interests of global and local are at odds with one another. Sid Tarrow, author of Transnational Activism, provides an example of this tension through the local interests of farmers in India to use the American genetically modified seeds due to a short time-horizon as opposed to the attempt to lobby against the importing by the wealthy Western Europeans. Because we live in a globalized world, the needs/wants of another state have profound effects on the needs/wants within our own state; therefore, by investing in education, business development and health in local areas we will be in turn investing in our own growth.

Even in our own State, contentiousness arises from conflicting interests. Addressing the question of whether or not the TransCanada Keystone XL is a national interest “takes in a universe of conflicting, interlocking issues, from short-term economics to global climate, from the discontent of a rural belt losing population to issues of national energy security, joblessness, corporate power and prices at the corner pump.” Though local protestors need to be forming coalitions at the macrolevel with international institutions, state and nonstate actors, transnational activism can “hold the danger of detaching activism from the real-life needs of the people they want to represent” (Tarrow, 76). Environmental problems pose the opportunity of a global civil society. The traditional boundary between domestic and international politics begins to fray at the intersection of air pollution or increasingly melting glaciers or the reduction of wetlands causing higher storm surges (it all ties back to Louisiana). All of these human acts reverberate back onto man. What is more local than the body? With an exponentially growing population, increasing dependence on oil, environmental degradation, and challenges to food and water security, what will happen when we run out of resources?

Part of the reason the energy discussion has stalled is due to the conflicting discourses. On one side there are those who push for carrying through with the project on the grounds that it will provide jobs and security—two local issues. On the other side there are those who ask that we look deeper into the environmental repercussions of these actions. But are our decision-makers really engaged in a discourse? Because it often appears that pundits are talking at one another, without much practice by way of listening.  The methods for advocating can be puzzling. Though it might be clear that linking local interests to global interests is beneficial, should we adopt the same one-way communication structure that politicians and corporations have utilized? Or would it be more effective to engage in a dialogue through cultural representations?

It is Nature with whom we converse daily. In the end, who is responsible for telling nature’s story? Inevitably it is the task of those who suffer from her wrath. But Nature doesn’t need a storyteller, nor an advocate. It is we who we advocate for when we protest for Nature’s cause.  If protesting is the extrovert’s way of advocating for change, documenting is the method of the introvert.

observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars
-Thoreau

Sarah Inman

Sarah is a former Georgetown CCT student and assistant managing editor for gnovis. She comes from Louisiana where she studied Political Science, wrote for a local newspaper, and ran from hurricanes. She is interested in exploring the invisible and forgotten--from infrastructures to human beings. Her writings aspire to raise questions about technology's role in politics, identity, and international development. When she's not studying, writing or talking to all of you, she likes to brew beer, laugh at improv comedy, dream about living in the Wind River Mountain Ranges, and go to live shows.