Considering our leader’s lies on climate action, why is nobody doing this? We used to be more…assertive in our own defense.
Climate change is advancing, leaders say they’ll take action, but are quite clearly lying. So why is the climate movement restraining itself from damaging oil and coal and gas equipment? Why do they (we) persist in blocking traffic, which just pisses off people who often have no choice but to commute to work?
But it’s bigger than that: inequality is growing at a spectacular rate, especially among nonwhite people. Even for us blancos, my parents bought an average, single-family home in Toronto in 1965 for $30,000. My mother was teaching (no degree was required at the time) and my father had literally just graduated as an engineer. And they had me in 1961 and my sister in 1965. They were lower-middle class at the time (in terms of income), with two kids, and they bought a house. Today, entire generations have been priced out of even owning a basic condo. And people of colour – much, much harder.
Canada used to have a world-class public healthcare system. It is being deliberately destroyed so it can be privatized. Giant corporations like Telus – a telecom company – are now getting into human and pet healthcare. The former is subsidized by the government, and it wouldn’t surprise me if pet care was, too. Conglomerates and oligarchs are once again in control of our governments – the US has been considered a de facto oligarchy for decades now. If you don’t believe me, “pro-union” President Joe Biden recently legislated railway workers back to work with zero (0) sick days, ever. Remember ‘progressive’ President Barack Obama? He did the exact same thing.
Where are the Riots?
Andreas Malm wondered the same thing, so he wrote a book called How to Blow Up a Pipeline. He wondered why today’s climate and social justice campaigners are refusing to damage property, even that of the rich – who are largely responsible for climate change and inequality.
Malm correctly points out that many – maybe all – all prior social justice movements involved violence or the threat of it. Here’s how that works:
- People arise in peaceful, nonviolent protest and are assaulted by the police, rented thugs, and reactionaries opposed to change. For example, the Civil Rights protests in the US were viciously opposed by white racists.
- A splinter group from the original nonviolent group forms. They embrace property damage as an acceptable way to force change. Malcolm X in the USA, for example, or the British Suffragettes. The latter engaged in extensive property damage. In one march in London, they smashed thousands of windows of banks and businesses.
- The powers-that-be get worried that the militancy will grow. Malm’s view is that the property damage accelerates the goals. Government and business leaders decide the best course of action is to accede to some of the demands to stop the damage.
This is Malm’s thesis: The property-smashing groups make the peaceful protesters seem reasonable and so the government makes deals with them. He maintains that without the militancy, without the threat of violence, those with power will never give any up.
Prominent and respected voices such as Professor Michael Mann most definitely do not. Mann maintains, and has posted studies proving his point, that militant actions damage the cause – they actually set it back. Mann has written books advocating for action on climate, so he is well clued-in, far better than most of us.
That said, what do we do as leaders keep bullshitting, not to put too fine a point on it? Because they show no signs of stopping, and in fact are doubling down on saying they are acting on climate while in reality they are plunging ahead with all kinds of new fossil fuel developments. Time is running out.
- Canada: Prime Minister Trudeau has told a number of whoppers, including that he will act on climate. Well, he’s acting, but in the wrong direction. $15B in subsidies to the oil industry last year, $18B the year before. His Minister of the Environment is a former Greenpeace activist who has sold out and is now approving offshore oil wells.
- USA: President Joe Biden passed the Inflation Reduction Act with all kinds of good progress on climate. Then this happened: “I was thrilled with the promises from the Biden administration but over the last two years its been a slow walk back to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference between Biden and [Donald] Trump on overseas fossil fuel finance”
- The UK is looking at approving new coal mines.
- Germany is literally demolishing entire towns and wind turbines in order to expand the dirtiest possible coal mines.
These people will not change course unless forced.
Power is not a material possession that can be given, it is the ability to act. Power must be taken, it is never givenThe Anarchist Cookbook
Climate scientists (including Professor Mann) have been very clear that there cannot be any new fossil fuel development. None. Zero. Not one new coal mine, no Arctic and offshore drilling for oil, and gas is not a bridge fuel, it’s a trap. Yet almost every government on the planet is digging and drilling. Fossil fuels get $11,000,000 per minute of government subsidies, i.e. the most profitable corporations in history receive trillions of our money.
Globally, fossil fuel subsidies are were $5.9 trillion or 6.8 percent of GDP in 2020 and are expected to increase to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2025International Monetary Fund (IMF)
For comparison, most NATO countries refused to spend the promised 2% of GDP on national defense before Russia invaded Ukraine. Note: They realized the need to spend more on defense because they were forced to by Putin’s invasion. Suddenly everyone woke up to the reality that another Hitler will always be possible.
The reasons I’ve come to the conclusion that Malm is correct and militancy is now needed are these:
- Most of our leaders are narcissists, as are many CEOs. Elon Musk is a great example. Trump is a narcissistic psychopath. I’m pretty sure Trudeau is a covert narcissist. Boris Johnson is unquestionably a narcissist. Jair Bolsonaro is another narcissistic psychopath.
- Narcissists can only care about themselves. I say “can” with intent. Their brains never developed the parts necessary for empathy, love, loyalty – basically the qualities that make us human. This also means they don’t care about ‘the future,’ they only care about themselves, now. They can be charming, though.
- Large corporations are fundamentally sociopathic and there is no way to make them not. They are designed to seek profit by the least costly means. If it’s cheaper to pollute or to bribe politicians and corrupt democracy, that’s the path they take. Any Christian should recognize that megacorporations are the love of money institutionalized, and therefore the root of all kinds of evil.
How do we get pathologically selfish people and their corporations to get serious about climate change and inequality? Hint: It’s not by persuasive arguments. I invite anyone saying persuasion will work to look at the record of the last 40 years. We are accelerating in the wrong direction despite all the scientific and now real world evidence that the climate is changing and this is dangerous.
We must force them to do what needs to be done. Leaders have learned they can ignore protests of all kinds. They are also vastly expanding their surveillance powers and criminalizing even mild civil disobedience. People have been arrested in the U.K. for holding up signs protesting the monarchy. Arresting for holding a sign, in a supposed democracy.
And here is the other reason force is required: Democracy in many countries has failed to protect citizens from COVID, climate change, pollution of all kinds, huge inequality, homelessness, drug epidemics…the list of failures goes on. Democracy in many countries has been captured by industry. We live in oligarchies where the government serves the interests of the rich and their corporations, not citizens.
Power to the People, Baby
Given that our leaders do not want to do what we need them to do, and that they are directed in their actions largely by rich and corporate interests, they must be forced to change. In effect, we live in a time of taxation without representation, and so our governments lack legitimacy.
Mass protests have been proven not to work. The next possible steps in order of my preference are:
- A general strike. Mass strikes are happening in the U.K. right now due to inequality, but could they be enlarged to include climate change and social justice?
- Property and economic damage, which is the only thing the elites care about.
- Attacks on individuals blocking action.
The problem with#3: assassinating people is that it risks a downward spiral into violence. The problem with #4: revolutions is that they usually end with someone worse in charge. (You might be wondering why I don’t consider it a problem to murder certain people – it’s because a solid case can be made for self-defense. These people are literally destroying our world and our children’s future and they’ve had many chances to change. They have to get out of the way, one way or another.)
Is a general strike possible? Unions are willing to strike for fair pay and decent working conditions. Can we bring together unions and social justice groups to strike for climate and social justice?
The Recipe for Effective Action
Because if we don’t, I guarantee #2 is going to start in a serious way very soon. Malm describes tire-flattening protests he took part in that were very successful because they were very careful about how they did it. Here’s the recipe:
- Hurt no people
- Damage the property of rich people or corporations
- Advance a clear message
That’s it. Not that hard. And proven to work. Malm and his fellow activists described deflating hundreds of tires of SUVs by simply unscrewing the valve cap, putting something like a lentil in the valve, and then screwing the cap back on enough to start air hissing out. He said it took about an hour for the tire to totally deflate. They would walk in a group at night through luxury areas deflating tires.
And the wealthy and their cronies were furious. Enraged is not too strong a word. Some of them said the activists were terrorists who deserved to be killed – for causing the inconvenience of a deflated tire. But it got tons of press and the more the rich railed about executing tire-deflators, the more people sided with the activists.
Another highly effective protest has been against private jets. They are unnecessary and a huge waste of everything except the rich person’s time. Celebrities and executives routinely take flights of under 20 minutes in their private/corporate jet. They don’t care about climate change, obviously. People have little sympathy for entitled rich prats who think they can pollute us to death.
So why did that peter out? It was effective, it was forcing change. Malm wonders the same, and he points to climate activists like Prof Mann who advocate strongly against property damage. But Malm and I think it is time for a militant wing of the climate and social justice movement. Our leaders don’t care about evidence, or morality, or what’s fair and right. So they must be forced to do the right thing.
Time to Eat the Rich
How to do this? Why not get back to going after the rich? They cause most climate change and inequality. They also block action on both while continuing to rake in billions for themselves. It’s time to eat the rich – billionaires are a failure of capitalism. We don’t need them, and in fact they stand in the way of much that is good and right.
So go back to deflating SUV tires in luxury subdivisions. Block private jets from taking off. The rich will complain bitterly about this (as they will about any threat to ‘their’ money), but who cares? They caused the problem, they can bear a tiny fraction of the burden. We can’t let them jet away to their private islands while the world literally burns.
How about yachts? Nobody needs one and they are massive polluters. Why not wreck them? Wrap cables around their propellers, damage the rudder, drill holes in it. (I’m not an expert on damaging yachts without harming people.) The public has no sympathy for mega-yacht owners.
The plain fact is that COP27 just passed and we are still accelerating in the wrong direction. We must accept that our ‘democratic’ governments have been captured by the rich and their corporations. Voting is not nearly enough. Getting involved politically is not enough, either, because the political parties have been captured, too. Eager and honest people get into politics all the time and make very little difference because the whole system has been captured. (Captured: corporate politics doing the bidding of the rich while corporate media normalizes it.)
So what’s left?
- Submit. Give up. Sacrifice your children for a bit of comfort now.
- General strike. Bring their precious economy to its knees until they submit.
- Property damage. Start breaking things the rich hold dear, like their luxury cars, private jets, and yachts.
Here’s what not to do: Inconvenience (or worse) the people we need on our side,
e.g. anyone working or middle class.
The choice is ours. Keep voting, keep sending delegations to COPs, keep pretending our leaders’ lies are truth, keep sliding backwards toward the collapse of civilization.
I know what I favour.