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Plenty of 'Collusion' for The Ultimate Crime: Lighting the Earth on Fire


Plenty of 'Collusion' for The Ultimate Crime: Lighting the Earth on Fire

Tom Engelhardt

As Notre Dame burned, as the flames leapt from its roof of ancient timbers, many of us watched in grim horror.


Polly Higgins (RIP) called this ultimate crime ecocide:

There’s a growing recognition that a lot of campaigning is not getting us where we need to go, and just saying fossil fuel extraction should stop is not enough. It has to be criminalised.

I do everything I can in my personal practices (veganism is a savvy option all around anyways), but the supremely criminal status of fossil fuel extraction, the very act of violating Mama Earth, of ecocide, must be recognized. That can only arise from collective action. So long as the eco-rapists are allowed to continue drilling, we’re not serious. We’re not yet hearing the unsubtle angry tone of Mama’s voice.

Your essay is amazing, Tom: emotive and informative in exactly the right proportion. Writing students are well advised to scrutinize how you pack so much into your masterful prose.


Increasingly the divides within our society are becoming more clearly obvious.

In this instance it is the divide between the controlled messages about the climate crisis and the far larger segment of the human population who are aware of the existential catastrophe taking place.

Most of us are fully aware that the MSM is corporate owned and therefore dominated by the special interests countering any comment about where we’ve been heading for decades now, as this piece clearly lays out.

Just as our economic world is increasingly split, slanted to the upper echelons of income and wealth, so too the media’s disproportionate share of what passes for dialogue about this and other issues, sways to their small group.

But are we not living in a different age, where information is available through a wide range of avenues, thankfully outside the MSM? Maybe I’m too old to understand it all, but I am optimistic that those who do are accessing and acting upon the information that will make the difference in all of our futures on this planet.


Some of the things that people dearly want are driving this energy crisis, despite the dire warnings of clear and irreversible climate damage. The drivers:

  1. Desire to be able to navigate the Arctic for shipping, mining, oil, and defense.
  2. Mining across Antarctica after decades of study there to see what is below the ice. We now know what is down there! Gold, uranium,…
  3. The lust everywhere for everyone to have their own car.
  4. The desire for everyone to have their own house.
  5. Speedy Air travel.
  6. Oh, this should be number one. Military exercises and destruction.

We know what. We know why. We know how.

What is lacking is umph. Guts. Determination. Common sense. And leadership. The only leader in the world in this field is sixteen years old.


RE: “…things that people dearly want…”

As if your average person has been pining for Arctic navigation and mining? The “lust” to own your own car? This was Henry Ford’s idea, or more simply the effect of marketing. People would be happy with efficient mass transit if it were available. “People”, just people, not particular sectors of the ruling class, want “military exercises and destruction”?

This could have come straight from a PR firm.


The poles? Russia and Canada are tickled to have their ocean melting, I believe. The South Pole? You tell me what all the scientists have been doing down there. Who funds it? I don’t believe it is all cryogenic research. I have seen reports of minerals beneath the ice.
I may be out of touch for the US. I have been living in China for most of the last twelve years. My many trips out have been jolting but short. China has excellent mass transit, everywhere. All kinds and some of the best in the world. But it has also in recent years become the number one buyer of cars in the world. Sure, China has a lot of people. But none of the folks I know here need a car. At a certain median level of income, it becomes a reflex to have one.

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Great article about the ‘arsonists in charge’. Thanks!


Tom, I think this verges on bullying. Helen is right about ordinary folks in a lot of ways and you know it. Of course people are too receptive to being led around by the nose, but that’s part of the problem Helen is addressing. Certainly we the people of the USA have tolerated soft-core and hard-core tyranny far too long. All three of us probably agree about that.

The question is how to climb out of that hole. Around here, I see far too much misdirected paranoia – usually phrased as accusations of trolling. When that’s aimed at someone obviously sincere, like Helen – that’s when it verges on bullying. We need to think about how to come together, my friend.

Incidentally, there’s not one thing wrong with the rest of your post, in my humble opinion. Just that last line for emphasis was ill-advised.


Much of what is propagated by corporate media does originate in PR firms. This is not a conspiracy theory. When people regurgitate that with all the reactionary attitudes buried inside, we should just be nice?

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When I mentioned “marketing” I am talking of course about advertising. The purpose of advertising is to manufacture wants and make them needs. China is a capitalist country just as the US is.


Hi helen, I think what you are saying is very clear and I agree, so to worry about using the word “people,” is kind of silly. No matter, as CEO, or general or advertising maven, or bank CEO, or manager—they are still people.
If you can find some video of China’s Olympics, and how they stopped cars from driving during the games, it is amazing to see skies go from gray to blue in a short amount of time. As for “people” wanting more ,“things.” that goes on every where, and so often that urge to emulate kings results in ruining life for many.


I appreciate your reply, and I’m on thin ice going there with you, since I honestly have no correction to offer you. But let me offer an interesting result I’ve encountered here. I’m rather an addict of Victorian fiction, so sometimes I default to scrupulously correct politeness without even thinking about it…

Occasionally, when I’m overly polite here to someone regarded by others as undeserving of respect, people think it’s hilarious. Honestly, I’m not trying to be polite or funny! I guess I’m glad if I can make people giggle – it’s therapeutic, goddam it.

Where the “you’re a troll” flame wars get tiresome (and I’m not accusing you of this) is to the degree they just stifle a dialectic which might be interesting to hash out. I grew up in a family where we all just told each other to “shut up!” all the time. That’s a line of discussion I find abusive.

Once again, sorry to lay all this nonsense on you.


Not a minuscule, measureable, fraction of necessary action on any single pressing issue will occur, until the tens of thousands of corporate gangsters, in positions of abusive power are arrested or eliminated permanently from office. Just your reactions to that fact, (all of you), that statement, alone, is a certainty that no movement will occur - none! To accomplish something, one must do what is needed and nothing less


I have heard Americans talk about that before. I was in Beijing that summer. They also closed 200 inefficient factories. Cars in China are new, not as dirty as old ones in some places. Old vehicles have disappeared. The bigger problem is coal-burning and polluting factories. Cars use up SPACE with roads and parking needs, and do burn oil or natural gas, but factory pollution is still the big deal. Anywhere in the eight provinces I have lived in, on holidays the factories turn off and cars crowd the road–and the skies clear up.

Cars were restricted so tourists could get around without any gridlock.


Correction, do burn gasoline or natural gas or electricity nowadays


Capitalist or Communist? Whatever. I’ve called China a capitalist country on this site before, but the details are actually not so clear cut.
China has private factories owned by Chinese people, foreign-owned factories, and state-operated factories, sometimes within the same industry. The same with retail. My husband did a study within one heavy industry for a potential joint-venture with a division in his company about fifteen years ago. He found that those state-run operations were less efficient and had more overhead.
China has health insurance but health costs are so incredibly cheap, even in the hospital, that few have it. Health costs are NOT free, but outside the hospital, doctors don’t charge for the advice, only for the meds and procedures.


Hi helen:
Thanks for that information , but China can certainly organize well as those Olympic dancing and synchronized crowds of dancers and marchers showed. Now if we could just get the air cleaner—but China seems to be going forward into a more ecological way----- while American government agencies sell their collective souls to the corporate ones.: (

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China’s land mass and economy are both so big that anything it does affects the whole world now, where once maybe you could say that about the US only.
They are planting trees in place of old farms everywhere I go. When they trim trees they REALLY trim them–it has occurred to me that this might be a superior technique for harvesting wood instead of cutting whole trees down, because the trees recover in just a few years. :slight_smile:
Putting people into highrises certainly reduces ravaging the land. :slight_smile:
Elderly are cherished and given public space for recreation. :slight_smile:
I wouldn’t put anyplace on a pedestal, just try to point out a good way to move in. From my point of view, China’s biggest issue is perhaps overall still worshipping wealth, and the display of wealth. Consumerism around the world will have to be gutted to keep this earth habitable. Not just transport, but consumer plastics as well.


Hi helen: wow trimming the trees instead of cutting them all up ------that makes sense, but then, China plants more trees too. Sigh—and yes Consumerism trumps religion in every nation. : (


Approximately 2.5 billion people to approximately 7.5 billion people in about 70 years. At a similar rate of increase, 200% over 70 years, the population in 2090 would be around 22.5 billion people. Of course the population grows exponentially, not linearly, so 22 billion would arrive some time before 2090. I believe this will not occur, and I’m glad I won’t be around to see it not occur.