This burning crater called “The Gateway to Hell” is in the Karakum desert of Turkmenistan. If reckless plunder weren’t the neoliberal ethos, it would stand as a giant red alert against fracking.
In 1971, Soviet petroleum engineers began excavating for oil & came across one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. But the ground collapsed during drilling, creating this sinkhole. Fearing the crater would emit poisonous gases & thinking to outsmart nature, the engineers set the thing on fire expecting it to burn off. Forty-four years later it’s still burning, emitting the noxious smell of sulphur.
About five years ago, the president of Turkmenistan named Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, showed he hasn’t learned a damn thing from the sinkhole & ordered it sealed so it won’t impede efforts to increase production of natural gas for export. And still it burns.
Berdimuhamedow’s regime has been cited by several groups for all sorts of human rights violations including discrimination against ethnic groups, suppression of freedom of the press, religion, & dissent, & restrictions on citizens traveling. Not unlike Stalinist regimes & very much like neoliberal regimes. The country is something of a gulag with a personality cult around the less than redoubtable Berdi. Last year a Chinese oil company, likely sucking up to Berdi to get a leg up on plunder, paid Jennifer Lopez $1.5 million bucks to sing “Happy Birthday” to him in a private performance. She later apologized saying she wasn’t aware of Berdi’s human rights record. She should fire her minions but it still doesn’t erase the unseemly image of her groveling for money.
(Photo by Igor Sasin/AFP/Getty Images)