Call climate change what it is: violence

Rebecca Solnit makes the case that Climate Change is violence of fossil fuel corporations against people.

If you're poor, the only way you're likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.

But if you're tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you're the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.

So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.

Or so I thought when I received a press release last week from a climate group announcing that "scientists say there is a direct link between changing climate and ...". What the scientists actually said, in a not-so-newsworthy article in Nature two and a half years ago, is that there is higher conflict in the tropics in El Nino years, and that perhaps this will scale up to make our age of climate change also an era of civil and international conflict.

The message is that ordinary people will behave badly in an era of intensified climate change.

All this makes sense, unless you go back to the premise and note that climate change is itself violence. Extreme, horrific, longterm, widespread violence.

Climate change is anthropogenic – caused by human beings, some much more than others.

Rather than worrying about whether ordinary human beings will react turbulently to the destruction of the very means of their survival, let's worry about that destruction – and their survival.

People revolt when their lives are unbearable. [emphasis mine]

In every arena, we need to look at industrial-scale and systemic violence, not just the hands-on violence of the less powerful. When it comes to climate change, this is particularly true. Exxon has decided to bet that we can't make the corporation keep its reserves in the ground, and the company is reassuring its investors that it will continue to profit off the rapid, violent and intentional destruction of the Earth.

... the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality. [emphasis mine]

Tags: Climate Destabilization, ExxonMobil profit, violence

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Replies to This Discussion

"[Exxon] is reassuring its investors that it will continue to profit off the rapid, violent and intentional destruction of the Earth."

Telling it like it is! As you said, we need to expose the brutality.

And their violence from above does translate into more violence from below. The Environmental Justice Foundations says that

... every 1 degree Celsius (C) rise in global average temperatures is estimated to cause a 14% increase of intergroup conflict and a 4% increase of interpersonal violence.

UN - climate 'perfect storm' is already here. Time to slay Zombie B...

It only seems fair that that violence be directed partly toward the initiators of the cycle of violence.


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