We Can’t ‘Just Stop’ Fossil Fuels. People Would Riot

Scenes from the recent Kazakh protests, caused by many things, but triggered by fossil fuel prices

If you cut off fossil fuels, people will not be quiet. They’ll fucking riot. Look at Kazakhsatan now. Look to Myanmar or France in the past. In Sri Lanka our cooking gas cylinders have been exploding, forcing people onto renewables (firewood). This is good for the climate I guess, but we’re fucking pissed.

This is what many western climate activists do not understand. Yes, greedy elites sell fossil fuels for profit, but the hungry masses also use this shit to eat.

Hence why the fuck would any government actually reduce emissions? Any government that does what’s actually necessary would cease to exist. They’d get toppled within days. Fossil fuels are a death wish for human civilization in the future, but stopping them is a death wish for any government right now.

This is the circle climate activists need to square. How do you save the future without starving the present?

Why We Can’t ‘Just Stop’

Vijay Prashad puts it best, I’ll just quote him here:

The climate justice movement is a movement that says we’re worried about our future. What future? What future? Children in the African continent, in Asia, in Latin America, they don’t have a future. They don’t have a present. They’re not worried about the future. They’re worried about their present.

Your slogan is we’re worried about the future? What future? That’s some middle-class, bourgeoise, western slogan. You’ve got to be worried about now. 2.7 billion people can’t eat now. And you’re telling people ‘reduce your consumption’? How does this sound to a child who hasn’t eaten in days? You’ve got to clue into this guys. You’ve got to clue into this. Otherwise this movement will have no legs in the Third World. No legs.

When I first heard Vijay saying this at COP (Out) 26, I was a bit surprised. Of course we need to think about the future, I though, people in the Third World will actually get it the worst. But now I’m experiencing what he’s saying.

In Sri Lanka we use LPGs (liquified petroleum gas) to cook and those cylinders have been blowing up for some reason, killing people. For that and Forex reasons, they’re broadly unavailable for most people. As a result we’re actually switching to more ‘renewable’ energy sources, ie burning firewood.

I went down South and people were walking along the road, carrying firewood on their heads. Working people are now working extra hours gathering sticks. What the fuck are you going to tell them about the future? They’re literally losing today.

From my privileged position (we have an induction cooker) I am actually OK with it. Doing the abstract calculation, I actually support physically destroying fossil fuel infrastructure right now. I think the future costs make it worth it and anyways, I’m not paying. But climate activists to not understand how revolutionary (and bloody) ‘just stopping’ fossil fuels would be.

I shit you not, every government from Indonesia to India to Bahrain to Ghana to Chile would fall if you cut off fossil fuels. Almost every person in those countries would get on the streets to bring fossil fuels back. As Raekwon and Ghostface said,

What do you believe in? Heaven or hell?
You don’t believe in heaven cause we’re livin’ in hell
You don’t believe in heaven cause we’re livin’ in hell
So it’s your life

What The Fuck Are You (and I) Talking About?

So we got people driving 700 kilos of steel full of 20 kilos of lithium and taking flights to Glasgow (where we can’t get a visa) and telling us to reduce. Reduce what? We don’t fucking have anything. If y’all were serious you’d fucking kill yourselves.

In all seriousness, the simplest, fastest way to reduce emissions would be to guillotine the 1% of people causing double the emissions of the bottom 50%, seize even middle-class resources, and redistribute everything based on a dictatorship of the proletariat. But nobody’s calling for that. Everybody’s just making ‘pledges’ for 2050, when most of the guilty will be dead. People want to have their climate cake and eat it too.

Hence you get rich people making movies and having conferences and doing all this shit ‘about’ climate change without actually doing anything directly. Because change would cost something and they—like everybody else—do not want to pay. We’re just kicking the can down the road with increasing degrees of guilt, but it’s still going to explode.

Now, I am one of the global 1% (mainly through my wife, my actual income is well below $34,000) and so, probably are you. As Michael Corleone said in the Godfather, ‘our offer is nothing’ and ‘we’re both part of the same hypocrisy.’

The Calm Before The Storm

The inconvenient truth is that we know what we need to do, we just don’t wanna. We need to (violently) overthrow governments, redistribute resources among the people, and plan economies around the needs of the many and not the needs of the few.

We also know the cost, from last century. Revolution, suppression of counter-revolution, and reduced access to many consumer goods and even freedoms. This is the sacrifice the future requires and yet we just don’t wanna. We offer prayers to the gods but not the human sacrifice they require. We want really big change without really changing anything, and it just doesn’t work that way. So we meet our fate in the electric car we take to avoid it.

The fossil fuels we all cling to today offer only a temporary stability. We can certainly cook our food and drive to work today with fossil fuels, indeed we can for a while. But eventually the harvests will collapse and there will be no food to cook. Eventually the roads will flood and wash our cars and houses away. Unlike our made-up debts to each other, our very real debt to nature must be paid.

The truth is that we can only delay overthrowing our governments and all the violence and chaos that brings, we cannot avoid it. All we can do is pass the hand grenade onto our children, as our parents passed the parcel onto us. Call me Noah and consider this article a paper boat. The gods are fucking furious. There will be flood.

Maybe I’ll follow this up with what we should ‘start’, but it’s honestly an academic exercise. It’s Shiva time.