And unto Midian (We sent) their brother Shu’eyb. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other god save Him! And give not short measure and short weight. Lo! I see you well-to-do, and lo! I fear for you the doom of a besetting Day. O my people! Give full measure and full weight in justice, and wrong not people in respect of their goods. And do not evil in the earth, causing corruption. That which Allah leaveth with you is better for you if ye are believers; and I am not a keeper over you. They said: O Shu’eyb! Doth thy way of prayer command thee that we should forsake that which our fathers (used to) worship, or that we (should leave off) doing what we will with our own property. Lo! thou art the mild, the guide to right behaviour. He said: O my people! Bethink you: if I am (acting) on a clear proof from my Lord and He sustaineth me with fair sustenance from Him (how can I concede aught to you)? I desire not to do behind your backs that which I ask you not to do. I desire naught save reform so far as I am able. My welfare is only in Allah. In Him I trust and unto Him I turn (repentant). Quran 11:84-88, Pickthall translation
Kinder Morgan, an energy infrastructure company, has proposed the Palmetto Pipeline, a spur pipeline which would take refined petroleum products from a point on an existing pipeline in northwestern South Carolina through Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida. A coalition of environmental advocates and landowners has organized to oppose the pipeline.
I attended the premier screening of the film At What Cost? – Pipelines, Pollution and Eminent Domain in the Rural South, directed by Mark Albertin.
One of the potential landowners affected is William S. Morris III, who owns Morris Publishing Group LLC, the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle and The Savannah Morning News. Morris is also the co-founder of Landowners for Property Rights, which funded and produced Albertin’s film. Albertin is an award-winning filmmaker who works for Morris Communications Co. [Augusta Chronicle, January 13, 2016]
The film is divided into three parts. The first contains interviews with landowners whose properties may be sold to Kinder Morgan for the pipeline and overviews of the use of eminent domain for pipeline construction. The second contains interviews with the Riverkeepers of the basins which the proposed pipeline may impact. The third examines the future of renewable, non-carbon-based fuels in Georgia.
I oppose construction of this pipeline for carbon products for the same reason I oppose them elsewhere: humanity needs to get off the carbon fuels to avoid environmental catastrophe. Pipelines, especially near ecologically sensitive areas such as marshlands, have uniquely harmful impacts.
I am thrown off somewhat, however, by being on the same side as Billy Morris, whom I view as the Emperor Palpatine behind regressive politics in East Georgia. His newspaper’s editorial page denies global warming and screamed incessantly for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Secret World of Oil by Ken Silverstein has a chapter about similar conflicts between the oil industry and landowners in Louisiana.
My guess is that Billy Morris and many of the landowners whose properties are threatened by Kinder Morgan’s use of eminent domain and documented environmental neglect don’t think twice about people evicted from their homes due to defaulting on their mortgages. Have they ever thought that the city of Augusta should have used eminent domain to seize properties from banks and restore them to residents to preserve the integrity of neighborhoods and relieve people of the burden of dislocation and homelessness? They were happy to act like big fish until they discovered that they were swimming in a small pond. As soon as a channel was opened up to the neighboring ocean and Kinder Morgan swam in to swallow them, they suddenly remembered that they’re part of a community.
If the Messenger Shu’eyb ﷺ was here today, would Billy Morris and some of the people in Landowners for Property Rights say things similar to what the disbelievers in Midian said? What does religion have to say about how I should spend my money? If I own something, I can do whatever I want with it. Etc.
Despite these misgivings, I hope progressives do fight this pipeline because it is an important environmental issue.
Here’s a trailer for the documentary. I should mention that I thought it was well done.
P.S. This is not the first time that prominent “small-government, conservative” Billy Morris has switched to the other team when it served his personal interests.
Updated February 14, 2016. The entire documentary is now available online!
Updated February 14, 2016. Billy Morris is now a fan of Chris Hedges!
Updated December 13, 2016. Billy Morris’s Augusta Chronicle, on a different issue, finds that the Savannah Riverkeeper with whom he cooperated to stop the Palmetto Pipeline, is not a good human being.
Updated December 13, 2016. Author Naomi Klein noted a similar contradiction between the public and private lives of enemies of the global environment, in this case Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.