We Can't Have Our Climate Cake And Eat It Too
Why we need to blow up pipelines, and why people will hate it
In his book How To Blow Up A Pipeline, Andreas Malm asks "when do we start physically attacking the things that consume our planet and destroy them with our own hands? Is there good reason we have waited this long?"
Well, there is a good reason. We don't fucking wanna. We wanna have our climate cake and eat it too. It's not just elites, ordinary people will not give up power. Just cut people's fossil fuel supply and see.
Last week we had a 6-hour power cut in Sri Lanka and journalists were crying to bring the military out. It was nuts. People were saying that armed men should go round up the trade unionists. As Martin Niemöller said of the Nazis,
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
You could overthrow any government in the world with a one-week powercut, and the masses would protest for fossil fuels. In France, Myanmar, and Iran masses of people have turned out in the streets when gas prices went up. Any state that loses electrical power is perilously close to losing actual power. People don't actually care that much where the power comes from as long as it comes.
The argument, of course, is that we could just switch to renewables. Sri Lankan electricity is historically at least 50% renewable (hydro) and God knows we get enough sun. However, we're still building coal power plants and working with the dodgy Americans on natural gas. And people don't really care. People fundamentally don't care where power comes from as long as they have it, and the same goes for governments. We are all part of the same hypocrisy.
Malm's book is called How To Blow Up A Pipeline, and he's absolutely right that we need a revolutionary movement to actually destroy fossil capital, but the fact is that such a movement would be wildly unpopular. The heroes of the future would be terrorists today, as it always has been.
Right now the climate change movement is so popular because it's so fucking toothless. It's a house pet, and the house is on fire. Fossil fuel companies use climate wokeness in their advertising campaigns. BP is literally 'Beyond Petroleum'. Climate adaptation is just another consumer choice, not the upending of the entire capitalist system that's required. As Elton John said, "it's no sacrifice, No sacrifice, It's no sacrifice at all".
The popular climate movement is all about having your climate and eating it too. You can save the polar bears... by driving this car. You can be a good person by reducing emissions. The truth is we need a social shift towards public transport and we need to eliminate emissions completely. We can't just change our consumption patterns, we have to change the world. Instead we're getting sold climate adaptation like any other self-indulgent product.
It's all an ad campaign. It's all a comfortable, comforting choice ($1 dollar of the $100 you're spending goes to climate programs and nevermind where the $99 is going). Everybody wants a first-class ticket to the Revolution and it simply won't work out that way. Either voluntarily or involuntarily, there will be blood.
Malm is right that there needs to be property damage and militant resistance on the scale of anti-colonial resistance throughout history. I would go further and say that actual violence against property-owners will be required. In the history of the world, no one has ever made an omelette without breaking eggs. I'm not calling for violence, I'm just calling it the way it is.
The truth is that the gods demand sacrifice. The sooner we make it the sooner they'll be appeased, but humans are lazy and comfortable and we just won't do it until the last minute. And so the gods of air, water, and earth will rise up and take their due themselves. That's what climate collapse is. The holy wrath of the Earth.
Either we sacrifice capitalist infrastructure now or storms will devour all infrastructure indiscriminately. Either we adapt our cities or the oceans will simply swallow them up. If human don't choose revolution, evolution will be foisted upon us. Either we change or the climate changes us.