An argument for abolition.
Every second of every day, we emit climate-changing gases into the atmosphere, threatening the stability of our planet’s climate and the vitality of civilization as we know it. Mountain glaciers are melting away, threatening the water supply of billions. Rainfall patterns are changing in unpredictable ways, increasing floods in some places and droughts in others, making it harder for farmers to predict which crops to plant. Islands are falling beneath the waves, while low-lying lands are threatened. The world’s poor, who have had a virtually immeasurable contribution to the problem, are being forced to bear the brunt of the effects, as they suffer higher rates and ranges of tropical diseases, more powerful storms that threaten to destroy their structurally unsound homes, higher food prices, decreasing access to fresh water, and forced migrations.
The same activity that is the primary cause of all of these horrible things – burning fossil fuels – is also responsible for countless other calamities. From funding petro-regimes, like Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc, to increasing the rates of asthma, cancer, and airborne illnesses in our communities, to lung cancer and mine collapses for coal miners, to massive spills in oil tankers and on deep-ocean rigs that cause untold destruction to our natural world, fossil fuels are just bad.
And what, after knowing all of this, is our response?
“We should reduce our emissions.”
Excuse me? Reduce our emissions?
Did abolitionists call for us to reduce the number of slaves? Did the Civil Rights Movement call for reduced segregation? Did Gandhi rally the people of India around a goal of reducing Britain’s domination of their homeland? Did suffragettes demand reduced barriers to the ballot? Did our forbears call for reduced taxation without representation?
What successful social movement has ever been formed around the notion that something is so bad that we must have less of it?
When something is wrong, people in the past had the COURAGE to call a duck a duck, and say that it was wrong, and that it needed to STOP. They did not call for there to be less of it, they called for its end, for its abolition. That’s what you do when something is wrong. You are rightfully pissed off, and you say ENOUGH! NO MORE!
But not us. We are afraid people will not take us seriously if we call for the only solution that makes sense: an end to the combustion of fossil fuels.
People know when you’re being insincere. And by suggesting that we can make do with fewer emissions, instead of calling for their elimination, we are not being sincere. We know from the science of 350 that there’s already too much carbon in the atmosphere. And we know from the gut-wrenching scenes of oil-coated animals on the gulf, and the wailing screams of mothers whose sons never return from the collapsed coal mine, and from the troubling sound of coughing and wheezing young asthmatic children who live in the shadow of coal plants that even if fossil fuels were not causing climate change, we would still have a moral imperative to do away with them.
So why do we wait? What do we cling to this falsity that everything will be okay, just as long as we ‘reduce’ our emissions. I think it is because at the end of the day, your average environmentalist is more interested in being liked than being right, in seeming reasonable, than in being reasonable. It’s easier to tell people they have to just make little changes, to adjust the margins a little, and everything will be okay. But that’s a flat-out lie, and it sends a very mixed message. If something is wrong, we must campaign against it, not for less of it.
Yes, some might ignore us initially, others might laugh at us. But the fact of the matter is, that abolishing fossil fuels is the only logical response to the situation that lies before us. There are some economic and technical (not to mention political) challenges to be sure, but our consciences know the truth:
We must stop burning fossil fuels.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”