Arquivo da tag: Ação direta

Why Blowing Up Pipelines Will Not Solve The Climate Crisis (Forbes)

Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash

May 1, 2023,01:18am EDT

Permian Basin In West Texas In The Spotlight As Oil Prices Soar
MIDLAND, TEXAS – A petroleum pipeline running along the ground in the Permian Basin oil field on March 13, 2022 in Midland, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Does slow climate progress justify violence against fossil fuel infrastructure? This subject was thrust into the limelight by a recent movie, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which is based on the book by Andreas Malm. In the film, eight activists seek to blow up a fossil fuel pipeline in Texas’ Permian Basin. Their argument is that given the severity of the climate crisis and the role of fossil fuel companies in enabling it, they have the moral authority to damage fossil fuel infrastructure.

In recent years, some climate groups have resorted to disruptive action to focus public attention on climate policy lethargy. Activists have thrown tomato soups on paintings in prominent museums, blocked trains and major highways, picketed oil terminals, and glued themselves to the floor of BMW showrooms. So, why not escalate disruption by attacking fossil fuel infrastructure?

The Logic of Disruptive Action

Some suggest that radical action increases support for mainstream groups and facilitates policy action: social movement scholars call it the “radical flank effect.” Scholars have studied this tactic in the context of the emergence of democratic institutions, the women’s movement, the anti-nuclear movement, and the civil rights movement.

Yet, when it comes to the climate question, some surveys suggest that the public does not support disruptive action. Indeed, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a prominent UK-based climate group, recently announced that that it will temporarily suspend mass disruptive action. This motivated a group of scholars to write an open letter in support of nonviolent direct action. They underlined the idea that radical action does not equal violence.

Why is violence problematic? Apart from the moral and legal issues, violent activism undermines the climate cause and diminishes positive sentiments about climate advocacy in policy conversations. Moreover, the theory of change motivating violent action is weak. Most in the world recognize the climate challenge. Climate inaction does not reflect media neglecting climate change which can be corrected by newsworthy action. It reveals deeper distributional conflicts rooted in pushback from the fossil fuel industry and unions, fossil-fuel-dependent communities, rural residents opposing renewable energy projects, and the working class opposing higher energy prices. Thus, slow climate progress is not a simple story of the ruling capitalist class impeding policy change over the objections of the majority.

This means that the movement should resolve these complex issues through political mechanisms. Moreover, violence-based activism allows climate opponents to brand climate movement as eco-terrorism. At least 17 U.S. states have enacted “critical infrastructure” laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel pipelines. Violent actions to damage fossil fuel infrastructure will justify their actions and even motivate a wider crackdown.

Moral and Legal Implications of Property Violence

In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, eight activists view property violence as an advocacy tactic because they feel this is the only way forward and their lived experiences have convinced them about the moral justification for their actions. The problem with this position is that individuals prioritize different issues. Many also feel disenfranchised. Should these aggrieved individuals resort to violence? Who decides which issues are worthy of violent advocacy and which are not?

Democracies have a process for policy change. Sometimes, the policy we favor gets enacted, and sometimes it does not. If we feel that policy inaction causes an existential crisis, we are frustrated. But we can voice our frustration in elections, in the media, and through non-violent advocacy. This is how citizens negotiate their differences. A commitment to ballots not bullets is crucial because both liberals and conservatives have grievances. We must ensure that grievances do not spin out of control into violence—especially important in this era of sharp polarization and angry rhetoric.

Some might argue that violence against property is different from violence against people, and property violence against corporations is different from say burning down the home of an individual. We disagree. The modern corporation’s functional logic is to pool resources from shareholders (both individuals and institutional investors such as pension funds) and use them to run a business. Eventually, violence against corporations is an attack on the livelihood and financial security of people whose assets the corporation manages.

This does not mean that activists should avoid subjecting corporations to economic pressure; they should do so through legal means. Shareholders can assess how their wealth might suffer because the firm faces problems on regulatory issues or social legitimacy grounds. The risk-return trade-off is a part of the bargain shareholders strike with corporations. And if shareholders consider corporate actions or inaction to be harmful, they can use economic and legal mechanisms such as shareholders’ vote or even divest.

What if property violence against corporations hurts the livelihood of impoverished communities? There is widespread poverty in many fossil fuel communities. They often view climate change as an elite issue favored by a predominantly urban climate movement. Might these communities view violence against fossil fuel infrastructure as an attack on their livelihood—on their very existence?

Even lesser actions such as transportation disruption can invite a backlash from affected parties. Consider the incident in London in 2019: “as XR began a second two-week mass mobilization in London, one local branch staged an action in Canning Town, a predominantly Black and Asian working-class neighborhood, in which several XR members clambered onto a subway car, preventing the train from leaving. Commuters dragged the protesters down onto the platform and beat them.”

About 24% of U.S. counties have enacted local ordinances to restrict solar and wind facilities. They view such facilities as spoiling rural landscapes. In some cases, environmental groups and native nations have joined protests against new renewable energy sites. There is also a backlash against new mining projects that will provide critical minerals for energy transition. The lesson is that some actors and communities oppose climate policies, not because they question climate science, but because they view climate action as imposing unfair burdens on them. To mitigate the opposition, underlying climate justice issues need to be addressed and violence is clearly the wrong way to accomplish this task.

What is the Way Forward?

Climate efforts are impeded by, among other things, rising energy prices. As the Ukraine crisis has reminded us, energy politics has economic and national security dimensions. Energy inflation provokes domestic backlash. This is why the Biden administration, which has shown a remarkable commitment to climate issues, sold oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve and allowed the Willow project. Instead of dismantling pipelines, it is permitting new LNG infrastructure for exporting natural gas to Europe. The lesson is that supply disruptions by destroying fossil fuel pipelines will not serve the climate cause. They will probably do the opposite—by raising energy prices, they could motivate new drilling and investments in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Biden has enacted at least two major laws to fund climate transition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the Inflation Reduction Act. It is undertaking administrative actions as well, as in vehicular tailpipe emissions. The reality is that in most countries, the climate movement is supported by the political establishment. Moreover, in the U.S., the movement now has the opportunity to take on the fossil fuel industry in the legal arena. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed local governments to sue the fossil fuel industry in state courts as opposed to federal courts which the industry wanted. It is possible that the industry might seek a settlement instead of risking jury trials, as happened with the tobacco industry, the opioid industry, and more recently Fox News. Thus, the movement should exploit these new legal opportunities to push the fossil fuel industry to take aggressive pro-climate actions.

Nives Dolsak is Stan and Alta Barer Professor in Sustainability Science and Director of the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs. Aseem Prakash is the Walker Family Professor and the Director of the Center for Environmental Politics. Both are at the University of Washington, Seattle.

The People vs. Shell (Truthout)

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 00:00 By Emily Johnston

Scientists told us in January that we can't drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming. (Photo: Emily Johnston)

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming. (Photo: Emily Johnston)

This week, if all goes well, I will probably commit a crime.

I don’t say this lightly, not at all: My mother is 88 years old, and though I expect her to live a good while longer, every day is a gift at 88, and I would always regret time I couldn’t spend with her if I were to go to prison. I also have a dog I’m deeply attached to, not to mention a whole life: not just loved ones (who could visit), but runs and walks and open windows; trees and birds; darkness and quiet and solitude; good coffee and homemade bread; dinners and poetry readings and the pleasure of building things with my hands.

I may not go to prison, of course – I fervently hope I won’t – but I know, too, that I may. I’m willing to take the chance, because the alternative is to let disaster unfold – for countless people, for other animals and for whole ecosystems. Given the scope of the threat, and given that we live in the country that is most responsible for it, sitting on the sidelines does not feel to me like a moral possibility.

Apart from walking my very mannerly and older dog off-leash around the neighborhood, I’m about as law-abiding as a person can reasonably be. But my respect for the laws of physics, in truth, has turned into a terror; I know that we have to heed them now to avoid disaster. If you’ve been following the science, you know what I mean; we are right at the edge of several tipping points, any one of which may bring harrowing, unmitigated disaster. Together they are unthinkable. If we keep on precisely as we are for even a few more years, we will likely have lost the chance to avoid a terrible future.

For years, I have used earnest, legal methods. They were inadequate to the task. Far better people than I am have used them for decades, to better, but still inadequate, effect.

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming.

Governments have failed us; the fossil fuel industry’s money and influence had too much weight. Scientists have done their best, but they are exceedingly cautious in their predictions, and only in the last few years have most of them accepted the hair-on-fire urgency of climate change. If ordinary people don’t force attention to this matter by making it very clear we’re willing to risk our own lives and liberty, we will all have failed the most important test humanity has ever been given.

So we have to change the world – now – or lose it.

What terrible act will I commit? I will continue to help plan, and, with any luck, execute a blockade of Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs as they attempt to leave Seattle. Along with many other people – some of them risking their careers, some of them in their 80s, most of them utterly new to something like this – I will paddle my small self in a 40-lb. plastic kayak in front of a 46,000-ton industrial monster to stop its progress. I don’t really believe we’ll be able to keep the rigs here forever, of course, but neither is it merely symbolic: By making a difference in the length of Shell’s (already brief) drilling season, we may buy a little time for the powers that be to shut this catastrophic project down; they have many reasons to do so. Alternatively, by making it clear that the company is exceedingly unwelcome in Seattle, we can deprive it of its desired, and bargain-priced, berthing option – which could make a material difference to its decision to proceed. Money is a language Shell understands; the only one, it seems.

Why pick on this one project, when we’re all still dependent on fossil fuels? In truth, we’ll have to pick on a lot of bad projects, but this one may be the worst. To say we can’t object to it if we ever drive or heat our homes is like saying we can’t object to someone going 120 mph on a 30 mph street if we’ve ever gone 45. The second is a genuine concern; the first is notably likelier to lead to tragedy, and soon. My family lives on that street; so does yours.

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management told us in February that drilling in the Arctic has a 75 percent chance of a major spill within the first 15 years (and “hundreds” of smaller spills). Again, Shell just kept coming – despite the fact that a former US Coast Guard Commandant has indicated that, in the case of a big spill, “we’d have nothing” for cleanup capacity in the pristine but harsh Arctic environment and despite the fact that the Chukchi Sea has been called the “nursery of the planet” for whales, seabirds and polar bears.

Shell has also ignored permit requirements from the city of Seattle; mooring requirements in our state Constitution; problems in April with pollution-control equipment (that the company then tried to hide); and a spill record for one of its rigs that’s 2 to 3 times higher than the industry “norm.” It just kept coming.

It’s no secret why the company is so intransigent: Shell has invested several billion dollars in its Arctic campaign, engaging in a climate strategy called “narcissistic, paranoid, and psychopathic” by the UK’s former top climate envoy. This is a classic sunk-cost fallacy, but eventually, even Shell will understand that it’s throwing good money after bad; every other player has given up the US Arctic as too risky and too expensive.

It’s also no secret that this is standard operating procedure for Shell. Perhaps the best example of Shell’s idea of stewardship is its behavior in the Niger Delta, a haven of biodiversity and treasured wetlands that has been utterly devastated by Shell’s drilling operations. In 1995, the company supported the Nigerian military government in its sham trial and execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, and after extracting many tens of billions of dollars in profit from the region over 50 years, Shell has left its waters so polluted with carcinogens that some drinking wells exceed World Health Organization standards for benzene by 900 times. In the three years since the UN Environment Program report on necessary cleanup, Shell has undertaken “almost no meaningful action” on its recommendations.

The future begins when people cease to accept the “inevitability” of a terrible reality, and rise up against it.

Shell wants us to believe that it has learned from the fiascos of its 2012 Arctic foray; these recent examples make it clear that it has not. It’s shown nothing but contempt for the human lives and ecologies of the places where it drills; nothing but contempt for local laws; and nothing but contempt for the overwhelming catastrophe of climate change, which its own scientists have indicated will inevitably result from any scenario in which Arctic drilling is economically rational (for the company only, needless to say: Your costs and mine will not be covered).

Being inside the “safety zone” of the rig is a crime – even if we’re paddling outside of the zone, and the rig starts coming at us. (No “safety zone” has been established around the Maldives, the Philippines, or the rest of us. No crime has yet been codified for destroying the livability of the planet.)

Let me be clear: I am not an especially brave person, and I’m deeply attached to my loved ones and my daily life. I have lost sleep over this. But climate change scares me far more than prison does. It scares most people that much, I think, but they don’t let themselves think about it.

If we value our lives – if we value any lives, it’s time to think about it.

I may be foolish to announce my intentions here – risking my ability to do what I intend to do, perhaps, and certainly abandoning all chance of pretending I didn’t know it was against the law – but it feels important to be completely clear and open about this: I am willing to risk criminal charges in order to help stop a monstrous project that threatens everything we hold dear. I do not believe that because we live in the modern world (and are thus in some measure culpable), we are forced to accept the devastation of everything, without question, outrage or action. I do not accept the lies of industry or the blandishments of politicians.

I do believe that there is another way and that we can find the imagination, the intelligence and the courage to follow it.

This week or next, that belief will be the star that guides me on the water: My friends and I will put aside our normal lives for a while, and use our bodies and our kayaks to express our commitment to this beautiful world: The buck stops here. The future begins when people cease to accept the “inevitability” of a terrible reality, and rise up against it.

Is 40 lbs. vs. 46,000 tons doomed to fail? Not even close. It’s not about plastic or steel. Sitting there staring up at the monstrous rig – maybe through the night, maybe cold, and stiff and hungry – all of us will sit with the knowledge that we’re one group among countless others taking shape around the world, filled with this passion and resolve.

Love doesn’t make us invincible, of course. But I wouldn’t bet against us, if I were Shell.

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