We don’t just burn fossil fuels. We eat them and fuck them. If you’ve ever eaten food or used vaseline as lube, you have both eaten and fucked fossil fuels. Almost all food is made using fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. Some food, like ‘truffle-flavored’ oil is literally made with petroleum. Fossil fuels, far from being ‘fossilized’ are deeply, viscerally entrenched in our lives. Fossil fuels are alive.
Coal is dead trees. Natural gas and oil are dead sea creatures. Coal and methane are dead land creatures. All ‘fossil’ fuels were once alive. They are still alive in the sense that they have energy. They’re actually undead. Our civilization technically run on zombie energy. We have no understanding of this because we’re so far removed from our energy system. We never see it. Which is perhaps why we don’t understand it or use it wisely.
Generally, one should be very wary of dead creatures and digging up graves. Yet this is what we are doing, wherever we find them. We are using science to find the tombs of long-dead, much more powerful lifeforms, and using their bodies to power machines. If this were a movie you’d know this was a bad idea in the first act.
Yet because we think of fossil fuels as some anodyne, distant ingredient—that just appears processed in our cars or laundered into electricity—we have no proper reverence or fear of them at all. To me petrol is a liquid that I don’t even see unless something goes wrong. I just lower my car window to pass my debit card and get a smell, which I quickly block out. Petrol smells woody, but noxious, a bit like something decaying, which it is. That smell isn’t added to petrol like it is to natural gas. You can smell that petrol is alive. But then you roll up the window and drive on. Such is the blissful ignorance of modern life. As the Stone Temple Pilots said in their song Vaseline,
It isn’t you, isn’t me
Search for things that you can’t see
Going blind out of reach
Somewhere in the vasoline
You’ll see the look
And you’ll see the lies
You’ll eat the lies
And you will
Flies in the vasoline we are
Sometimes it blows my mind
Keep getting stuck here all the time
As the Buddha said, it is ignorance leads to suffering. Not ignorance exactly but Avidyā, not-seeing, not-knowing, not-knowingly-seeing. The ignorance here is not that we don’t know facts about fossil fuels, we know lots of facts. But we don’t look. We don’t touch. We fundamentally don’t know what we put in our bodies and vehicles and civilization and scientists cannot do knowing for us, they just produce discrete bits of information in isolation. Science is thus intrinsically tied and used by Capital to produce interest for it and not the interests of human beings and absolutely not the family of the living. So we use our highest science to find the most hidden tombs and dig them up and burn them. Then science on the other hand wrings its hands about how bad this all is. There is no understanding anywhere. Just ignorance, and you know how that goes.
All of us driving around today, seeing through plastic lenses, and putting truffle oil on our avocado toast don’t know where any of this shit comes from. Not really. We just get the miracles produced by fossil fuels and don’t ask where they come from. But just follow your nose. Natural gas smells like (added) sulfur. We’re getting energy from the underworld, and you know how deals with the devil go. It’s devilish fun for a while, but he always gets his due.
That’s why I talk about eating and fucking fossil fuels. I don’t use vaseline as lube (anymore) but I do use it cause my nose gets dry. I feel super weird about this, I’m literally putting some run-off from an oil rig up my nose. But it works. Petroleum Jelly is a wonder, just like all petroleum byproducts. The hydrochemical life force stored up in there is incredibly powerful and mysterious and dangerous. God-like, in short.
This terrifies me because we have dug up the tombs of ancient, greater gods and smeared them on our dicks and lit them on fire. We have used them to power great metal automatons that now dominate our cities and kill us and our children in shocking numbers. We have industrialized human greed to the point that the waste changes the weather and makes the oceans rise. We can see all the signs but we miss the destination because our understanding of the daily products we use is nil. We have no cultural reverence, fear, or explanation for what we do, only prices.
This is what we miss in our dismissal of myth and religion as superstition and dumb. Myths and stories and imaginary beings give you ways of understanding, fearing, and revering the natural world. And this understanding is true. The names and details may be off, but these stories about elephants riding mice and sisters giving agriculture produce understanding in a way that science and reason do not.
People say they believe in science but have no idea where their food or lube comes from, let alone their energy. So of course people make bad decisions about energy, and are exploited by the worst among us. We have no cultural understanding, we have no religious understanding, we have no higher understanding at all. We make no attempt to commune with higher beings so we just dig ourselves deeper all the time. The fact is that cultural consciousness is what drives history and we simply haven’t had time to adapt our religions and cultures to fossil fuels. They’ve simply come on too fast, in the matter of a few centuries, a blink in earthly gods eyes. Religion and culture will someday catch up, but as it is we’re left with the musings of narrow-minded economists and fuckboi entrepreneurs as the wisdom of our times. And they’re not very smart, so the wheel of history keeps going in the wrong direction, towards inevitable resource collapse and decline.
Yes we eat and fuck fossil fuels, but we only fuck ourselves in the end. As Ice Cube said in his song No Vaseline, presaging the whole climate crisis, ’Cause you’re gettin’ fucked out your green by a white boy, With no Vaseline.’