Man Camps and Sacrifice Zones

There  is no limit to industry’s reach. The corporation – who some want to be regarded as “people”- has no moral guidance, no mission of ethics, no feelings. Corporatists often throw up their hands and say, “What can we do? We are legally beholden to the shareholders to make as much money as possible” the part about disregard for quality of life for anyone but upper management goes unspoken but is understood.” As Chris Hedges says, “These corporations know only one word, and that’s more”.

Oil industry Man Camps Offer No Stress Living – this article offers a local paper’s view on the fracking boom. Reducing options, free time, and family time relates to being stress free in a similar way that a prison cell mate relates to feeling secure.

Another description of the man camp in assumably favorable terms -you will find the link on their own company’s website here.

The camps are basically a series of mobile homes linked together, only each doublewide is flanked with double occupancy bedrooms. Dining is group, there are group exercise rooms,  Here is one excerpt from the Billings Gazette:

Crew camp compounds are typically are made up of small, bedroom-sized units that are interconnected. The facilities usually are leased by companies in the oil industry, and can be deconstructed in days.

“When the bust comes, and it will, these facilities will be farming fields again,” Lash said. “We’re not sticking around, and will move them to the next great opportunity.”

Most counties in western North Dakota are ill-equipped to handle the swarms of workers, many of whom have been forced to live in campers, cars and tents.

“We’re running out of water, out of sewer, out of electricity, and until those get taken care of, how do you add more man camps to the mix?” said Dan Kalil, a commissioner in Williams County, the hub of the oil bonanza.

In Dickinson, in the southwest corner of the oil patch, the planning and zoning commission on Wednesday approved what would be the state’s largest man camp, a 3,000-unit facility in an industrial area near the wastewater treatment plant.

It makes no sense. The workers can’t afford to live there, so they fly home every two weeks to see their family. If an industry can’t allow a human being to live a decent life with their family (not next to a wastewater treatment facility), they should have to offset the environmental costs to the rest of us for their wreckless encouragement of such a high carbon impact lifestyle. Government subsidies to these fossil fuel companies should cease immediately – fracking included.
The article later speaks of the boomtown/ghostown phenomenon in a small town; like a gold/oil/gas rush. Longtimers have high hopes for the revival of their town, industry stays focused on the bottom line, and everyone else scrambles for a living wage any way they know how, moving where the work takes them.

As if that wasn’t cheery enough, here’s a companion piece, aRawStory article featuring Christopher Hedges with Bill Moyers. I’ll leave you with this (and there is a video at the end of this article) to ponder. Perhaps tomorrow we can discuss some of the issue that arise. I would love to hear your input.

Journalist and activist Chris Hedges appeared Friday on Moyers & Company to talk about the conclusions of his latest book. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is dedicated to investigating the most exploited and impoverished places in America, places that he says are “virtually off the radar screen in terms of the commercial media.”

“It’s absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does,” Hedges emphasized. “These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.”

When Moyers asked Hedges what he meant by saying there are no impediments left, he explained, “The political system is bought off, the judicial system is bought off, the law enforcement system services the interests of power, they have been rendered powerless.” Even worse, Hedges believes these devastated communities represent the future for all of us.

Hedges was particularly eloquent in describing the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, which “in terms of national resources is one of the richest areas of the United States [but] harbor the poorest pockets of community, the poorest communities in the United States. Because those resources are extracted, and that money is not funneled back into the communities.”

“Not only that,” he continued, “but they’re extracted in such a way that the communities themselves are destroyed. … They no longer want to dig down for the coal, and so they’re blowing the top 400 feet off of mountains poisoning the air, poisoning the soil, poisoning the water. … You are rendering the area moonscape. It becomes uninhabitable. … It’s all destroyed and it’s not coming back.”

Hedges went on to talk about Camden, New Jersey, which since the disappearance of manufacturing has become the poorest city in the United States and one of the most dangerous. “It’s a dead city,” he said. “There’s nothing left. There is no employment. Whole blocks are abandoned. The only thing functioning are open-air drug markets, of which there are about a hundred. And you’re talking third or fourth generation of people trapped in these internal colonies. They can’t get out.”

He spoke also about the Pine Ridge Reservation and migrant workers in Florida, saying, ” It’s greed over human life. … We, in that biblical term, we forgot our neighbor. And because we forgot our neighbor in Pine Ridge, because we forgot our neighbor in Camden, in Southern West Virginia, in the produce fields, these forces have now turned on us. They went first, and we’re next.”

“These corporations know only one word, and that’s more,” Hedges went on. “And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.”

“We have become complicit,” he noted sadly, “because we’ve accepted this as a kind of natural law. And the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it is going to ultimately trigger our demise.”




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4 thoughts on “Man Camps and Sacrifice Zones

  1. Robert Malt says:

    “The workers can’t afford to live there, so they fly home every two weeks to see their family.”

    Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. These oil workers are paid pretty well. There is a shortage of housing because these oil operations are starting near very small towns with few or no hotels, and little excess housing to buy or rent, not because the workers aren’t paid well. New motels and other housing are being constructed, but it takes some time to catch up to the sudden demand. And some of the men prefer these lesser accommodations because it is cheaper, so they can keep more of the money that they have earned. This blog post is just more misinformation to try to advance a political point. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

    • Amy Meier says:

      You believe I’m wrong, I’m citing articles from the field. There is documentation that the workers cannot afford housing. I can’t find the article I’m thinking of, but one quick google search and I came up with several articles. Just searching “fracking” along with “affordable housing”. Here is an excerpt of one about how the town just decided to outlaw living in RVs due to the workers living in them, “This decision is understandable, but it’s going to be a tough blow to both workers and employers. Not everybody employed in the area is an oil field worker making $80,000 per year or living in a man camp or other company housing. For many of the people employed in the service and construction industry in Williston, housing costs are still too high to be affordable. Some even expressed that they would have to leave town when the ordnance takes effect on September 1st.”

      Aside from the immediate housing issue, these fracking fields don’t have long lives, they get used up and pollute the area then move on. It is not pragmatic or healthy (mentally or physically) for an individual or family to have to jet around and live under the thumb of a private company, always wondering if an inflated temporary paycheck is actually a good deal or not. Cost of living is relative. High pay means little if everything else in the area is proportionately inflated.

      Fortunately we are both entitled to our opinions and can both find facts to suit our arguments. It’s one of the principles I’ve laid out on this site that the Facts ALWAYS Fit the Frame. We can both quote facts until we are blue in the face and throw a thousand citations at one another – you’ll go on not believing my sources and I’ll go on not believing yours – that’s why winning an argument means connecting at the values level (as I explain here

  2. Robert Malt says:

    “live under the thumb of a private company”

    These workers choose to work hard and make $80,000 per year. No one is forcing them. Why is this so hard for liberal-progressives to understand?

  3. Robert Malt says:

    “…these fracking fields don’t have long lives, they get used up and pollute the area then move on.”

    Where are your facts? What little I was able to find on the useful lives of fracking wells suggests that they are not short-lived. A Duke study that sampled 68 wells near fracking operations found no contamination in any of them. Well water is contaminated most frequently from surface contamination that leaches down into the water table. Fracking occurs well below the water table. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that are “no ‘proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water.'”

    Having said this, I believe that there are legitimate environmental concerns regarding fracking, but to just make blanket statements that all fracking operations cause pollution to all drinking water in the entire area is just not supported by the facts.

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