Author Topic: True Left breakthrough: seriousness in environmentalism  (Read 925 times)


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Re: True Left breakthrough: seriousness in environmentalism
« on: December 04, 2021, 05:38:38 am »
A new book by Andreas Malm, a professor of human ecology at Swedenís Lund University, asks a simple but perplexing question: Given the stakes, why hasnít the global climate movement become far more radical than it is?

Itís a fair question. If we as a species were serious, if we really believed what we already know about climate change, we would be doing everything humanly possible to shift course. And yet weíre not. Even the most ambitious policy proposals on the table, with little chance of passing, are scarcely sufficient. This is the starting point of Malmís book, and if you follow his logic it leads to some conclusions you may find uncomfortable.

He says it bluntly: We should ď[d]amage and destroy new CO2-emitting devices. Put them out of commission, pick them apart, demolish them, burn them, blow them up. Let the capitalists who keep investing in the fire know that their properties will be trashed.Ē For Malm, we have a choice: Destroy the property thatís destroying the planet, or sacrifice the Earth on the altar of that property.

Malmís book ó itís titled How to Blow Up a Pipeline ó is obviously meant to provoke. But embedded in the provocation is a morally serious challenge to how we think about, and act on, the crisis humanity faces.
Andreas Malm

Well, to begin with, I donít know that it would succeed. Itís not like I have a crystal ball where Iíve seen that weíll win if we start doing this. But I think that the situation is so dire, so extreme, that we have to experiment, have to try. What we tried so far has only taken us so far. Itís given us limited success, but we still havenít managed to dent the curves and bring emissions down and start the transition.

I mean, after a summer like this, and after all the disasters that keep raining down on us, it strikes me as paradoxical that people let these machines, these properties that are destroying the planet, continue to operate without going into the facilities and shutting them down and wrecking them.

I do think that the past experiences of social struggles suggests that if youíre fighting a very powerful enemy, you need to engage in tactics that can impose costs on that enemy. This usually includes forms of property destruction and confrontation with the ruling order that goes beyond absolutely peaceful civil disobedience. I donít know of any relevant analogy or a parallel struggle in the past that has succeeded without an element of more militant methods. I donít see how we can imagine that we will win this fight while staying as gentle and kind and polite as we have in the climate movement so far.
Andreas Malm

Some people say that, including the Catholic workers that I write about in the book, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, who systematically destroyed property along the Dakota Access pipeline when it was being constructed. They come from a particular radical Catholic tradition where they see this as falling under the definition of nonviolence. So they would destroy a lot of equipment, burn it, blow it up, and classify that as nonviolence.

I myself have no problem with that logic. But most philosophers, as far as I can tell, would say that this is a form of violence because the owners of these things perceive themselves to be harmed, their interests being harmed, even though their own bodies are not being harmed. Therefore, the argument would be that this is a kind of violence. But all philosophers that Iím aware of see this as a form of violence qualitatively different from actually targeting the bodies of the people in question.
Andreas Malm

The struggle against fossil fuel production would not need killings, nor would such acts benefit the cause ó no matter how catastrophic the future risks might be. So I do think respect for this line is essential. That said, I am not a pacifist in the sense that I rule out the taking of lives in all contexts, on moral or strategic grounds; in retrospect, I fully support the Northern side in the US Civil War and the struggle of anti-fascist partisans in Europe, to take only two obvious examples.

But I donít see the moral calculus changing in this fashion, partly because I donít see how hurting people ó as human bodies ó in the present could even hypothetically save future lives.
Andreas Malm

No, of course, of course. There are all sorts of pitfalls and dangers and risks, and weíre so late in the day that no path forward is risk-free. If you just continue with business as usual, that entails an enormous amount of risk.

Peaceful civil disobedience as an exclusive tactic for the climate movement has the risk of inefficacy.
Again, the George Floyd uprising last year is a case in point, because I think that there was collective discipline about the level of violence that the radical edge of that movement engaged in.

There was a general realization that if the movement oversteps that boundary, that very important limit, and starts killing people, the backlash will be tremendous. There are many other cases where you have militant movements deciding that, ďWeíre engaging in this specific kind of violence. Weíre not going to harm individuals, weíre not going to kill people, but weíre going to harm property,Ē and have successfully maintained that limit and that boundary. I donít think thatís impossible.

Malm is a communist, so he hasn't seemed to realize that consumerism-based communism (and its foundations of Marxism--which literally relies on "materialism"!) is not actually a radical opposition to what is causing environmental problems. He thinks environmental problems are all rooted in capitalism.

From the excerpt of the interview quoted above, he also thinks retaliatory violence against material things is fundamentally different from retaliatory violence against individuals. Who designed the machines in the first place? Who manufactured and paid for the machines to be built? Who runs the machines? Who profits from the machines running? Who has capital to produce more machines? Who bribes the politicians to prevent climate laws from being passed and enforced? Who pays for constant propaganda to make the public think climate change is fake? Who prevents solar and other green energy companies from getting government subsidies to get their industries off the ground?

The earth is not dying, it is being killed. And those who are killing it have names and addresses. -Utah Phillips

A non-sentient machine on its own is just a heap of metal. That's not radical--it does not get to the root of the problem.

But, at least leftists are beginning to realize climate change is indeed something which needs to be taken more seriously.