It is not a matter of optimism or pessimism, of knowing or not knowing elementary facts, or being responsible or not for events. Those who profess to be politicians should be tossed into the waste bin of history when, as is the rule, they have no idea of anything or almost anything related to this activity.
Of course, I am not talking about those who, during several millennia, turned public matters into instruments of power and wealth for the privileged classes, an activity which has set veritable records for cruelty, imposed during the last 8,000 or 10,000 years about which certain traces are available of the social conduct of our species, whose existence as thinking peoples, according to scientists, barely exceeds 180,000 years.
It is not my intention to involve myself in such issues, which would certainly be boring for virtually 100% of people continuously bombarded with news via the media, ranging from the written word to the three-dimensional images starting to be screened in costly movie theaters, and which will soon also predominate in what are already fabulous television images. It is no coincidence that the so-called leisure industry is based in the heart of the empire which is tyrannizing us all.
What I am attempting to do is to place myself at the current starting point of our species in order to talk of the march toward the abyss. I could even talk of an "inexorable" march and I would certainly be closer to the reality. The idea of a final judgment is implicit in the religious doctrines most prevalent among the inhabitants of the planet, without anyone describing them as pessimistic. On the contrary, I consider it the elemental duty of all serious minded and sane persons – who are millions – to fight to postpone and possibly prevent, this dramatic and fast-approaching event in the current world.
Numerous dangers threaten us, but two of them, nuclear war and climate change, are decisive and both of them are constantly more distant from any solution.
The demagogic language, declarations and speeches of the dictatorship imposed on the world by the United States and its powerful and unconditional allies on both issues does not allow for the least doubt in this context.
January 1, 2012, the Western and Christian new year, coincides with the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution in Cuba and the 50th anniversary of the October Missile Crisis of 1962, which placed the world on the brink of a nuclear world war, which obliges me to write these lines.
My words would have no sense if their objective was to impute some of the blame on the American people, or those of any other country allied to the United States in this unprecedented adventure; they, like other peoples of the world, would be the inevitable victims of the tragedy. Recent events in Europe and at other points demonstrate the mass indignation of those for whom unemployment, scarcity, income reduction, debts, discrimination, lies and politicking are leading to protests and brutal repression by the guardians of the established order.
There are increasingly frequent references to military technologies affecting the entire planet, the only known inhabitable satellite at hundreds of light years from another which might possibly be suitable if we move at the speed of light, 300,000 kilometers per second.
We cannot ignore the fact that if that if our marvelous thinking species disappears, many millions of year will pass before another one with the capacity for thought emerges, given governing natural principles as a consequence of the evolution of the species, discovered by Darwin in 1859 and now recognized by all serious scientists, believers or non-believers.
No other era in the history of humankind has experienced the current dangers humanity faces. People like me, who have lived for 85 years, had reached 18 years of age and had a high school diploma before the first atomic bomb was manufactured.
Today, devices of this nature ready for use – and incomparably more powerful than those which produced the heat of the sun over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – amount to thousands.
Weapons of this kind additionally held in depositories, added to those already deployed in virtue of agreements, reach figures in excess of 20,000 nuclear missiles.
The use of barely 100 of these weapons would be sufficient to create a nuclear winter which would provoke a horrific death within a short period for all humans inhabiting the planet, as Alan Robock, U.S. scientist and professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has brilliantly explained using computerized data.
Those in the habit of reading the news and serious international analyses are aware how the risks of an outbreak of war involving nuclear weapons is increasing as tension grows in the Near East, where hundreds of nuclear weapons in full combat readiness are accumulating in the hands of the government of Israel, whose condition as a strong nuclear power is neither admitted nor denied. Tension is likewise growing in the context of Russia, a country with an unquestionable response capacity, threatened by a supposed European nuclear shield.
The yankee affirmation that the European nuclear shield is also for Russia’s protection from Iran and North Korea is laughable. The yankee position on this delicate issue is so weak that its ally Israel has not even bothered to guarantee prior consultation on measures which could unleash war.
On the other hand, humanity does not enjoy any guarantee whatsoever. Cosmic space in the proximity of our planet is saturated with U.S. satellites designed to spy on what is happening, even on the roof terraces of homes in any nation of the world. The lives and habits of every individual or family have become targets for espionage; the tapping of hundreds of millions of cell phones and the subject of conversations of any user anywhere in the world is no longer a private matter but information material for the secret services of the United States.
This is all that remains of the right of citizens of our world in virtue of the laws of a government whose constitution, approved in the Continental Congress of Philadelphia in 1776, established that all men were born free and equal and that the Creator granted all of them certain rights, which they no longer have, neither Americans themselves nor any other citizen of the world, not even that of communicating their most intimate feelings with family or friends by telephone.
War, however, is a tragedy which could occur, and it is highly probable that it will occur; but, if humanity were capable of delaying it for an indefinite period, another equally dramatic event is already taking place at an increasing rate: climate change. I shall confine myself to noting what eminent scientists and experts of global prominence have explained through documentaries and films which nobody has questioned.
It is well known that the United States government opposed the Kyoto agreements on the environment, a line of conduct which was even incompatible with that of its closest allies, whose territories would suffer tremendously and some of which, like Holland, would almost entirely disappear.
The planet is currently marching without any policy on this grave problem, while sea levels are rising; the enormous ice caps covering Antarctica and Greenland, where more than 90% of the world’s freshwater is accumulated, are melting at an increasing rate; and, this past November 30, 2011, humanity officially reached the figure of seven billion inhabitants. In the poorest parts of the world this figure is growing in a sustained and inevitable way. Is it likely that those who have devoted themselves to bombing countries and killing millions of people in the last 50 years are concerned about the destiny of other peoples?
Today, the United States is not only the promoter of these wars, but also the largest producer and exporter of weapons in the world.
As is known, this powerful country has signed an agreement to supply $60 billion in weapons over the next few years to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the transnationals of the United States and its allies are daily pumping 10 millions barrels of light oil; in other words, one billion dollars in fuel. What will become of this country and the region when these energy reserves are exhausted? It is impossible that our globalized world can placidly accept the colossal waste of energy reserves which nature took hundreds of millions of years to create, the squandering of which is making essential expenses more costly. That would be totally unworthy of the intelligent nature attributed to our species.
In the last 12 months that situation was considerably aggravated by countless technological advances which, far from alleviating the tragedy arising from the squandering of fossil fuels, are considerably aggravating it.
Scientists and researchers of world prestige have been pointing to the dramatic consequences of climate change.
In an excellent documentary from French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand, titled Home, and produced with the collaboration of eminent and well informed international figures, which came out in mid-2009, Bertrand warned the world with irrefutable data of what was taking place. With sound arguments he explained the disastrous consequences of consuming, in less than two centuries, energy resources created by nature over hundreds of millions of years; but the worst part was not the colossal waste, but the suicidal consequences for the human species. "…You are benefiting from a fabulous legacy of four billion years, supplied by Earth, you are only 200,000 years old, but you have already changed the face of the world."
He was not blaming, nor could he blame, anyone at that point, he was simply pointing to an objective reality. However, today we all have to blame ourselves for what we know and do nothing to try and remedy.
In their images and concepts, the authors of this documentary include memories, data and ideas which we have a duty to know and take into account.
In recent months, another fabulous film screened was Oceans, directed by two French producers, and considered the best film of the year in Cuba; perhaps, in my view, the best of this era.
It is a material which shocks with the precision and beauty of images never previously filmed on camera: eight years and 50 million euros were invested in it. Humanity will have to be grateful for this evidence of how principles of nature adulterated by humans are expressing themselves. The actors are not human beings: they are the inhabitants of the world’s seas. An Oscar for them!
What motivated me to write these lines did not emerge from the events referred to here, which in one way or another I have addressed before, but rather others which have been manipulated by transnational interests and have been intermittently coming to light over the last few months. In my opinion, they serve as definitive evidence of the confusion and political chaos reigning in the world.
Just a few months ago, I read for the first time about the existence of shale gas. It was stated that the United States had enough reserves to meet its needs for this fuel for 100 years. As I currently have the time to investigate political, economic and scientific issues which could really be of use to our peoples, I discretely communicated with several persons living in Cuba or outside of our country. Curiously, none of them had heard one word about the subject. It was not, of course, the first time that this has happened. One is unaware of important events which are in fact hidden in a veritable ocean of information, mixed in with hundreds or thousands of news items circulating around the planet.
I persisted, however, in my interest in the subject. Several months have transpired and this shale gas is no longer news. By New Year’s Eve, enough facts were known to clearly see the inexorable march of the world toward an abyss, threatened by dangers as extremely serious as nuclear war and climate change. I have already spoken of the first and as for the second, in the interest of brevity, I will limit myself to expressing known facts, and some less known, which no political leader or sensible person should be unaware of.
I do not hesitate in affirming that I observe both events with the serenity of the years I have lived, during this spectacular phase of human history, which have contributed to the education of our valiant and heroic people.
The gas is measured in Tcf, which can refer to cubic feet or cubic meters – not always explained if one or the other is being used, since it depends on the measurement system used in a given country. On the other hand, when billions are discussed this usually refers to the Spanish billion which equals a million million, a figure described in English as a trillion, something else to take into consideration when analyzing the abovementioned quantities of gas which tend to be voluminous. I will try to indicate this when necessary.
The U.S. analyst Daniel Yergin, author of a weighty classic history of oil, affirmed, according to IPS, that a third of the gas produced in the United States is already shale gas.
"Extracting shale gas from a platform with six wells can use 170,000 cubic meters of water… The method of extracting shale gas… can also cause seismic activity. Disposal of the waste water may cause pollution of surface and groundwater… and other harmful effects, including destruction of the landscape."
"According to statistics from British-based oil giant BP, the largest deposits are in Russia (1,580 Tcf), Iran (1,045 Tcf), Qatar (894 Tcf) and Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan (283 Tcf each)." This is gas being produced and sold.
"A study by EIA – a U.S. governmental agency – published in April 2011 found practically the same volume (6,620 Tcf) of shale gas deemed recoverable in just 32 countries, and the reserves are differently distributed, with China possessing 1,275 Tcf, the United States 862, Argentina 774, Mexico 681, South Africa 485 and Australia 396 Tcf.
Shale gas is gas de esquisto [in Spanish]. Note that according to what is known, Argentina and Mexico have almost as much as the United States. China with the largest fields, has reserves equal to almost twice those and 40% more than the United States.
"Furthermore, some countries long dependent on foreign suppliers would have a huge resource base compared with their consumption: for example France and Poland, which import 98 and 64 percent, respectively, of the gas they consume, are in possession of shale gas reserves estimated at over 180 Tcf each."
In order to extract the gas from the lutite shale - IPS indicates - a process called fracking is used (hydraulic fracturing) which involves the injection of water with sand and chemical additives into the earth.
"The carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases emitted by the process - is much greater than for conventional gas production. Fracking involves injecting this fluid under pressure into drill holes deep in the earth's crust, to create fractures in the rock that increase the rate of recovery of shale gas. This process runs the risk of damaging the subsoil, soils, surface and underground water tables, the landscape and communication routes if the arrangements for extracting and transporting the material are defective or mishandled."
It’s enough to point out that, among the numerous chemical substances injected with the water to extract the gas, are benzene and toluene, terribly carcinogenic substances.
Lourdes Melgar, an expert at the private Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), told IPS, "The technology involved is very controversial. Shale gas is found in areas where there is no water."
Gas bearing shale, according to IPS, is an unconventional source of hydrocarbons, embedded in rocks which protect it, requiring the use of hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking) to free the gas on a large scale.
"The generation of shale gas involves large volumes of water and the excavation and fracturing generate liquid residues, which may contain dissolved chemicals and other contaminants which require treatment before their disposal."
"Production of shale gas in the United States was 4.87 Tcf in 2010, compared with 0.39 Tcf in 2000, and by 2035 domestic production could supply 45 percent of the country's gas consumption, according to the EIA."
"But recent scientific work has unearthed some negative environmental effects of shale gas."
"The paper ‘Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations’, by Robert Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, published in April in the journal Climatic Change, concluded that shale gas is more polluting than oil and conventional natural gas.
"The footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon, and is comparable when compared over 100 years," the study says.
"Methane is one of the most polluting of the greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming.
"In active gas extraction areas (one or more gas wells within 1 km), average and maximum methane concentrations in drinking-water wells increased with proximity to the nearest gas well and were a potential explosion hazard," says the paper by Stephen Osborn, Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel Warner and Robert Jackson of Duke University, a private research university in Durham, North Carolina.
"These results bring into question the energy industry's reasoning that shale gas could replace coal in electricity generation and lower greenhouse gas emissions, to help mitigate climate change.
"It is too premature and too risky a venture.
"In April 2010 the U.S. Department of State set up the Global Shale Gas Initiative (GSGI) to help countries identify and develop their unconventional gas resources safely and economically, with a view to furthering U.S. economic and commercial interests, including those of U.S. multinational corporations."
I have inevitably been extensive; I didn’t have any other option. I am composing these lines for the Cubadebate website and Telesur, one of the most serious and honest broadcasters in our suffering world.
To address the issue I let the holidays for the concluding and the New Year go by.
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 4, 2012