Our Global Gas Chamber

One of the great (mostly) untold stories of the Age Of Oil is the array of toxic chemicals in hydrocarbon exhaust and the accumulation of exhaust-borne particulates in the bloodstream and brain. We are largely indifferent to these byproducts of our industrial-grade obsession with hydrocarbons, but our willful ignorance cannot hide the facts the way catalytic converters hide the odors they produce.

A particularly daunting informational pdf from the State of New Hampshire details the chemical miasma we find ourselves in:

Gasoline emits ethanol, benzene, toluene, xylene and toxic air pollutants (TAPs) such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, diesel particulate matter, acrolein, cadmium, chromium, and lead.

Diesel engines emit unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, NOx, sulfur oxides, PM, black carbon, VOCs and carbon dioxide.

Lawn and garden equipment emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, VOCs, NOx. Factsheet ARD-22: Lawn and Garden Equipment

Additionally, the Google summary for the pdf notes that:

Natural gas emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.

Oil emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, arsenic, and benzene.

Coal emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, arsenic, and benzene.

We are pumping megatons of this crap into the air that we breathe. It is also the air that the disappearing birds and dying insects depend upon. In fact, I was thinking about this intersection on Saturday when I was tending to the familial fig tree … and realized there weren’t any birds around.

None. Nada. Zippo.

Twenty years ago, the fig tree would be alive with a variety of birds drawn to its high perches brimming with sweet fruit.

Saturday, I didn’t see a single bird, nor did I see any evidence that any had been by for a free feast. No half-eaten fruit. No feces. No nothing.

In years past there would’ve been birds singing, too. That was always a part of my childhood in Livermore … the irrepressible sound of birdsong.

Saturday there was silence.

All summer long I walked past a pile of birdseed that had obviously been disgorged from my mother’s old, worn-out bird-feeder by a human bumping into it. It was strewn across the concrete in the shade in front of the living room window. I didn’t clean it up … I just walked past it every Saturday … and it didn’t change in size. It just sat there uneaten like an epitaph silently screaming out the word “ecocide” to anyone who’d take the time to notice.

I noticed.

And I notice the increasing absence of life all around me. I saw one dragonfly this year. One. I feel like a parched desert traveler stumbling upon an oasis if I see a butterfly … the rareness of that once-common event becoming more and more like the sighting of a comet with each passing year.

There are fewer insects, too. Not the teeming communities the figs and grapes once sustained. Not the armies of flies on the fallen fruit. Just a few stragglers barely keeping alive a story that seems to be coming to an ignominious end.

Then I drive back home like a lemming in a tiny metal box, jockeying for position in an endless, almost mob-like pack of toxin-spewing vehicles that, when you project it out globally, is forcing whole ecosystems to try to breathe in a de facto gas chamber we are expanding into every corner of the planet.

Of course everything is dying. And we are willy-nilly killers forever hustling to get to something that won’t really matter if we end up taking the whole damn planet with us.

This column originally appeared on NewsVandal.

More articles by:

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.

Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Manuel García, Jr.
Heartrending Antiwar Songs
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Poetry and Political Struggle: The Dialectics of Rhyme
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
David Yearsley
Performance Anxiety