Guest essay by by Eric Worrall
The climate visionaries have set the target. Now it is up to you engineering types to figure out the details.
How do we solve climate change? Abolish fossil fuels
P.E. Moskowitz 12 hours ago
- Our climate change goals are way too small for the severity of the crisis.
- Calling for the complete end of fossil fuel extraction is the only way forward.
- Other movements have proven that bold calls for abolition can radically change politics.
- P.E. Moskowitz is an author, runs Mental Hellth, a newsletter about capitalism and psychology, and is a contributing opinion writer for Insider.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
As Joe Biden campaigned for president in 2020, he outlined an environmental agenda that included achieving 100% clean energy in the US by 2050. The goal was ambitious, but details were scant on how to get it done. How, for example, would Biden meet the target while simultaneously promising to not ban fracking, an extractive process that contributes tremendously to the climate crisis?
Even the ambitious climate goals laid out by politicians in campaign promises fall far short of what’s needed to stop the climate crisis.
Having a concrete goal (stopping the worst effects of climate change) with a concrete target (stopping oil and gas extraction) is the only way to move a pro-environment agenda forward.
There are already many groups who have gotten the memo to push for massive, systemic change on climate. Students have forced over 100 colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel corporations. Indigenous rights movements blocked 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from being released through protest campaigns, pipeline blockades and other actions, equivalent to 25% of the emissions of the US and Canada each year.
But these movements, as powerful as they are, still remain on the fringe of the fight against climate change. As Klein points out, mainstream environmental organizations push for incremental change, while people thirst for something more radical.
We cannot end climate change without ending the extraction of fossil fuels. But if we keep considering that an unrealistic proposition, we’re doomed to use up massive amounts of people’s energy to push for small reforms, a cycle that creates cynicism and defeatism.
It’s a tall order to abolish all fossil fuel extraction, but the first step is simply naming it as a goal.
According to her bio, P.E. Moskowitz is the author of two books: How to Kill a City and The Case Against Free Speech. They write the newsletter Mental Hellth, which explores our current discourse on psychology, self-help and care, and critiques popular conceptualizations of mental health from an anticapitalist perspective. They are the co-founder of Study Hall, a freelancer services and advocacy organization with over 6,000 members. They also guest-lecture on media, democracy and free speech at SUNY Purchase. They’ve written for many magazines and websites. P.E. was born, raised, and lives in New York City. Their dog’s name is Remi.
Moskowitz’s main website, “Mental Hellth“, has posts like “How to break through our neoliberal selves – a Buddhist therapist on how capitalism fractures psyches, and how to repair them“.
What can I say – I don’t like breathing exhaust fumes any more than anyone else.
But many years ago I tried working a small vegetable plot by hand, to feed my family during a particularly lean year. Back breaking physical work, yet even with the aid of lots of pesticide and fertiliser, I only produced enough vegetables to feed us for three months.
That is why people die young in peasant societies, or hunter gatherer communities. Only the very young can keep up the magnitude of physical effort required to keep themselves and their loved ones alive. By the time they reach their 40s, assuming they haven’t died of disease, or overwork, or injury, most people’s bodies simply cannot maintain the effort required to keep up with their needs. So they slowly starve to death.
Or in communities which live in particularly harsh environments, like the old time Inuit, in bad times the old folk asked their relatives to help them die. They did the honourable thing, they removed the burden of their continued maintenance from their edge of survival community.
Fossil fuel liberated us from all that.
Fossil fuel is the reason why people like P.E. Moskowitz have the leisure time to pontificate about the need to end the extraction of fossil fuel, on their fossil fuel powered computer made of plastic.