Thomas Jefferson wrote some pretty cool stuff. What he wrote in a letter to James Madison, in 06 Sep 1789 contains one of my favorite quotes. Their correspondence generally discussed rights. Very good reading IMO, Im glad it was preserved. Over the years it has been cut and sliced many ways. The Constitutional law web site has a nice article on this letter.
"The question [w]hether one generation of men has a right to bind another. . . is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. . . . I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, 'that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living' . . .."
Usufruct, the keyword, as defined in Webster:
..the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another.
Latin ususfructus, from usus et fructus use and enjoyment
What belongs to another, that you may enjoy the fruits and profits thereof? Hint: It's in the title...
Land is passed from one owner to another. You, the present owner of the land, may benefit from it, but with conscience, you may not damage it, so as to make it unusable for the next owner. This is a violation of their usufruct rights.
I relate to this thinking, as an argument against the Oil & Gas Corporations pimp-like relationship with local landowners, both allowing it to be laid waste. The money is flashed under the noses of Jed Clampett's all over this country and "Oooh-weee! Hot diggity!" I'm afraid it's way more complicated than "shootin' at some food" Jed. I bet they had to move because of the environmental damage?
How can the owner not care that one well, maybe the one they pimped, was the cause of fouled drinking water for more than 15 million people? Pimping the land is as bad as being a polluter, because the landowner enables the crime of polluting.
"Well it's my land and I can do as I please with it, it's my right", seems to be a common argument. However, if times were just a little different, the government could take those natural resources, the land or both and give control to the Oil & Gas utilities for the common good. Land that you think is yours to pimp is now for public utility use. Gas generated electricity is for the benefit of all and all they need to do is offer "due monetary compensation", whatever that means. "Eminent domain", bam...your rights to ownership, of a parcel of land, is null and void. Don't speak of rights, when it's ultimately not yours to begin with.
But, just to make it fair, the utility companies can't render it useless either. Nor can the government change the laws to remove the environmental resposibility of these firms. In doing so, they are complicit to the act of pollution. The earth belongs to the living, not the dead, not the government, not you and especially, not to a corporate personage who thinks they are above the law. We all have an obligation to protect the earth.
The Oil & Gas industry only leases the land, because that is easier than fighting for it, its better public relations too. If all the land with gas or oil in Pennsylvania were seized, there would a lot of pissed off Pennsylvanians.
The corporations will still make a killing leasing your land and you and/or your taxes will clean it up, if it can be cleaned up. They know they could easily make the local, state or the federal governments see the light of eminent domain and something like the societal chaos, caused by not having enough electricity, justifies it. The "dire" need for electricity is justification to remove environmental liability too. Halliburton was good at that manipulative crap, eh? Pure evil genius.
So, those enticed by greed, band together and form landowner associations, then they crawl into bed. What comes next is always the same. The sound of people holding their breath, waiting for the first "accident" and it will come. This sound is void of even crickets. Even they are appalled by human crimes against nature and the inaction against this crime.
Right this minute, there is an exploratory well in the Delaware River Basin, upstream from the Lackawaxen River, which is one accident away from rendering all the work, of many good people, to no real value. All the land, they've worked so hard to own, can be fouled by the resulting carcinogenic slurry. The wells used for generations now have a foul odor and cause lesions on your family.
Imagine your good friends purchasing property, gutting and repairing a generational mountain home, only to have it unsalable because there isn't a drop of fresh water to drink. I know such friends and they don't deserve property worth nothing or water that makes them sick.
The oil and Gas companies are cruel, uncaring and deserve harsh punishment for negligence, malfeasance and violation of the earth. So are the land pimps, IMO.
" ..that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living…"
No my friend, you might "own" the land, but this important moral and legal concept of usufruct ownership, means you can't pimp it to make money and jeopardize it for the next generation. Your decision to kill the land infringes on their rights, to enjoy and prosper as you did. That goes for the domain crashers too.
We are the responsible parties, responsible to the future owners of our land. We are responsible morally and legally, because we made obtaining our natural resources more important than Mother Earth herself.
Humans make me sad sometimes. Thanks for reading.