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Why is Black History a Threat to Big Pharma and Big Oil (Petro-Pharmaceuticals Industry)?



When we hear “Black History Month,” Most think about Black people specifically African-Americans, but the fact is that “Black” history is 80% of human history. We are all one family called humanity, and it all started with Black Africans. Understanding Climate justice and how to take care of the environment is rooted in understanding this history. We can learn from Black history how Africans cared for the planet for tens of thousands of years, living in harmony with their environment. Black history can return us to ourselves and a healthy life for the planet.


Pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on petroleum. In the same way cows expel methane, healthcare runs on fossil fuels. “Approximately 3% of petroleum production is used for pharmaceutical manufacture, but nearly 99% of pharmaceutical feedstocks and re-agents are derived from petrochemicals.” Drugmakers create life-saving treatments and breakthrough cures. But the problem is the price. Big Pharma alone controls their prices - and they alone can lower them for Americans today. Instead, they continue to raise prices year after year - even several times a year - making health care more expensive for everyone.


According to Former Senator Chuck Hagel in a moment in the revelatory PBS Frontline docuseries The Power of Big Oil, about the industry’s long campaign to stall action on the climate crisis, the former Republican senator Chuck Hagel reflected on his part in killing US ratification of the Kyoto climate treaty. In 1997, Hagel joined with the Democratic senator Robert Byrd to promote a resolution opposing the international agreement to limit greenhouse gases, on the grounds that it was unfair to Americans.


The measure passed the US Senate without a single dissenting vote, after a vigorous campaign by big oil to mis-characterize the Kyoto protocol as a threat to jobs and the economy while falsely claiming that China and India could go on polluting to their heart’s content. The resolution effectively put a block on US ratification of any climate treaty ever since.


Over a quarter of a century later, Hagel acknowledged that fossil fuel companies manipulated Congress with a stream of false information, and accused the oil industry of malignly claiming the science of climate change was not proved when companies such as Exxon and Shell already knew otherwise from their own research.

“What we now know about some of these large oil companies’ positions says Hagel … they lied. What we know about our politicians says history...They were complicit and paid to ignore the facts or accept what they heard from Big oil as facts and now the world suffers for their greed.


Today, price is the greatest barrier to equal access to medicines, and price gouging is a fact of life—and often a matter of life and death—even with hundred-year-old medicines like insulin. Americans with diabetes pay more than the citizens of any other country, spending an average of $571.69 per month on diabetes costs. Even with insurance, this means that some Americans spend almost half their income just managing their condition. There are documented accounts of diabetics setting up GoFundMe campaigns to pay for insulin, then dying when they came up short. In 2017, a 26-year-old diabetic was found dead in his Minnesota apartment after rationing his insulin because he had “aged-out” of health coverage under his parents’ plan.


In 2022 Accountable.us released a new report, “Dirty Discrimination: Big Oil’s History of Environmental Racism,” detailing how communities of color both domestically and internationally have disproportionately been forced to pay the price for the oil and gas industry’s environmental degradation. The release of this prescient analysis follows recent efforts by Senators Alex Padilla (CA) and Richard Durbin (IL) to fund the Department of Justice’s newly established Office of Environmental Justice.


The analysis opens with a chilling example of industry callousness:

In 2017, the NAACP released a study finding that Black Americans faced higher levels of oil-sourced pollution than white Americans – findings even later confirmed by the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency before it was shut down. (EPA).


As a 2022 article in Earthjustice.org recounts:


"Everyone in Ironton knew about the bones at St. Rosalie."

The 200-acre plot in Louisiana, where oak trees spread a canopy over wafting grasses, was once a sugar plantation where enslaved people labored in the 1800s. Residents of Ironton, where everyone is Black, can trace their roots directly to those people – a rare genealogical feat within the diaspora. Not everyone treated St. Rosalie with reverence. In 2019, an energy company tried to build a sprawling oil complex on the plot, which could have desecrated the remains of Ironton’s founders and poisoned their living descendants with toxic emissions.


The company tried to hide the worst effects of its plan from Ironton’s residents, state permitters, and anyone who might stop them. Had it succeeded, it would have become the latest act of cultural erasure against Black residents who’ve resisted brutal segregationist leaders, greedy fossil fuel corporations, and countless threats to their existence."


Petro-pharmaceutical companies survive on three things. The oil and gas industry survives on three things: the sacrifice of marginalized people, the complicity of politicians, and the legal cloak of empty statements. black history is American history...Black History is World History It is impossible to understand the social, economic or political structure of the United States or world trade without also grappling with the history of the Global African Diaspora and African-Americans.


Martin Luther King Jr. illustrated this fact in a 1965 speech on the steps of the Alabama state capital, in which he explained how segregation shaped the broader class struggle. Toward the end of Reconstruction, King said, poor Southerners, both white and black, began to unite against the wealthy elite. “To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development of a segregated society,” with the aim of dividing the working class, he said. The result was that when the white man’s “wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.”


As King made clear, institutionalized racism was used to get poor white Southerners to line up behind wealthy, white elites. The study of black history illuminates a key fact about the broader class struggle in the United States. Ideologies of ignorance — racism, xenophobia, even climate change denial — are used to divide the working class.


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