Home | About | Donate

The Fossil Fuel Industry Needs Our Consent. We Can and Must Refuse to Give It


The Fossil Fuel Industry Needs Our Consent. We Can and Must Refuse to Give It.

Emily Johnston

On November 9, like a lot of people around the world, I was stunned and devastated. In the days and weeks afterward, I was hit by new waves from that same feeling, worrying in turn about Muslim registries, the undocumented, the future of life on a rapidly warming planet, and much else.


I can finally see where my activities can support my social beliefs. Following the example set by the Mahatma Gandhi in India--using nonviolent methods of obstruction--we can disrupt and bring national attention to corporate misdeeds. Some of the firsts on my list? Any organization supported by the Koch brothers and that particular abomination, Nestle.


An ultimate victory over the fossil fuel industry can only come through transitioning to other sources of energy. It less a matter of fighting the industry than making it irrelevant. The main means of making the transition is to increase the use of solar and wind power and improve energy efficiency. The US still depends on fossil fuels for almost 80% of its energy and the global figure is similar. To defeat the fossil fuel industry two things have to happen. The demand for energy must be reduced and the percentage of fossil fuels used for energy must be reduced. Within a few decades we need all electricity to be produced without fossil fuels and the use of fossil fuels needs to be sharply reduced for transportation and heating.


Excellent article. It is a joy to read an article that gives simple, concrete examples of what everyday, ordinary people can do to disrupt the system. While I agree with Lrx that we will have to transistion to other sources of energy, TPTB are busily writing legislation to prevent that from happening. Solar energy is being defunded in places where it is an obvious answer (Vegas, for example) and the FF industry is doing everything it can to impede progress.

The kinds of civil non-violent disruptions are exactly what needs to happen in order to make business-as-usual less profitable and more problematic.


Along with denying our consent to fossil fuels, we can deny our consent to the government... Because no government can endure in the long term, w/o the consent of the governed.
Emily has nailed the methodology.


The author leaves out a critically important component--the same one nearly everyone leaves out, because it's even more unpopular than risking arrest or sitting in front of armed uniformed orcs in cold weather. With a massive drop in demand, those pipelines will not flow and new ones will not be built. It's fine to say as Lrx does, that we need to build renewable infrastructure to have an alternative. We do And that we need to block transport and funding of fossil fuels--we do. But we also need to face up to the necessity of drastically reducing consumption which means having no more than one child, not having a car if urban and using the car as little as possible if not--arranging a livelihood that does not require commuting, and does not require working for a corporation...stop watching TV so as to enhance creativity and free your mind; grow some of your food if possible--and even for unbanites, joining or starting a community garden may be a possibility. Forming groups to fight for better local policies. Stop flying entirely. Create partnerships between farmers who transition to sustainable methods that enhance soil fertility and sequester carbon, and city people who value the clean, safe produce coming from such farms. Compost organic wastes. Put solar panels on your roof or in your yard, or perhaps a small wind or water turbine, or work with neighbors to create a community energy plant. Steadily reduce the flow of your money to ANY corporations, not just banks that fund horrible projects.. Yes, it's easier to say all this than to do it--that's why you should start now, with whichever items are the easiest, most convenient or most fun for you in your circumstances. There are all kinds of ways we can stop contributing to the problem while increasing our own security. And meanwhile, we can continue with the activism suggested in this article--it's not either-or.


"In a democracy, passivity is implicit consent. In any political system, hopelessness is self-fulfilling. When we fight, we win."

We tried tuning in, turning on and dropping out because we were tired of having to forever put our asses on the line. Luckily, technology has given us the means to govern ourselves free of oligarchs, commissars and other dictators. If nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, the time has come for online direct democracy.


Very well stated.


Not any more! Now Trudeau say's this (and no, I'm not surprised at the Trump-Trudeau revival of Keystone XL)....


While your heart is in the right place your timeline is off by decades.

BTW Kevin Anderson hasn't flown since about 2004. He took a train from Manchester to Korea for a conference.


I am thinking of Eric Snowden - of Julian Assange - and now of Emily Johnston.

Will her life be put on indefinite hold ?

I like this article - Emily's thinking is unusually deep and well thought out.

But I can never read about the talk of non-violent protest without cringing.

Just as an economic sanction is an act of war - so too non-violent protest is - and the consequences can be just as deadly.

I would prefer if we stopped any resort to the false morality of non-violent protest.

We are in a situation which is all too familiar in the long annals of humanity, perhaps especially the civilised phase.

Is might right - is there such a thing as might for right ?

Maybe there is only 'the fight' - and choose sides.

Survival of the fittest - in a time when who is the fittest is still unclear - the billionaire - or the precariat.


Manysummits: A question arises as to which side has the greater firepower. If hundreds of thousands of disposable little people don't take to the streets...


I just read Chris Hedges article this morning on Common Dreams.

I tend to write here without thinking - from the heart - as I have found this to be a superior method of living and winning.

To me, with the top of the pyramid finally actually occupied by corporate interests, the coup of /63 is complete.

This is a fight to the death.

But I am very fond of "Life Among the Apaches" - for their practical and down to Earth way of fighting and dealing with life.

I don't consider any of us disposable - and I think even contemplating that is a form of losing.

Come up directly against the the now totally rogue nation that is the USA today - and you will be crushed.

We must find another way.

Empowering an evolving United Nations might be that way, along with personally changing one's life.

Not everyone on Earth is crazy - but inside the box that is the USA the room to maneuver is severely restricted.

Doubtless many Americans are loathe to give up on their country.

I can understand this - doubtless they will try and effect change in the usual ways - I can only admire such courage.

My opinion is that another front, or fronts, must be opened, in case the usual means of change do not work, which I suspect is the case.


Thanks for your considered reply. I also read the current Hedges piece.
I used "disposable" purely in the satiric sense.
If we dare to oppose The Machine (that has already made its hostile presence known, most dramatically at Standing Rock), we may not be outnumbered, but certainly defense-challenged. One of our possible appeals is to those who receive a salary to protect corporate hegemony, e.g., peer pressure. On a less fraught level, I've been trying to suggest that we revisit the corporation itself, a definite challenge inasmuch as it exists the world over and is at least 200 years old. But the fact remains: The corporation is an artificial entity, constructed out of thin air. It continues to exist mainly through consensus, i.e., active promotion by those who benefit from its untrammeled privileges, and indifference from the rest.
In effect, we are helpless before those certain corporations which we know are damaging our lives, but they are not meteors...humans created them out of nothing.


What are we going to do when Trump shows up with National Guard troops with live ammunition? I wouldn't put that past him.


It's hard to argue with an Apache Attach Helicopter. The U.S. government has lots of those and has been giving them to local law enforcement.


How do you view nonviolent protest a "false morality"?


In this sense:

It is almost always stated, implicitly, that non-violent protest is the higher ground morally.

Thus Greenpeace's tactics are less acceptable in polite company than use of the courts, say, or letters to one's political representative.

Non-violent protest is preferable to violent protest.

But non-violent protest is a form of violence. When you chain your arm to a piece of heavy equipment, of stand in front of an advancing group of contractors - you dare them to run you over - an abject form of violence.

Usually this is successful, because there is an implicit sense of decency and perspective in the contractors.

Fair enough.

But it is disingenuous to pretend that non-violent protest is other than violence on a continuum.

Perhaps it is wrong to characterize it a a "false morality".

But it is still a fight - and all fights are inherently violent.


Thank you. Now I understand. I save my denseness to use on special occasions.


However, I cannot get past this point. Non-violence may prompt violence, even though stopping the use of machinery was the primary goal.

And when we talk about using violence to persuade, we are now talking about terrorism, as you essentially point out, using fear for political control.

But let's make one distinction:

Sabotage is the use of violence against inanimate objects.

Terrorism is the use of violence against humans and other living beings.

Back in the day, the word "Eco-terrorism" was used by the right to describe what were actually "Eco-saboteurs". Burning an empty building on a ski resort, or disabling a ski lift, or pouring sand into an earth movers radiator, oil pan etc, all acts of sabotage.

There are those that argue as well, that violent saboteurs actually help environmentalism as a whole, because when one sees such physical destruction of eco-saboteurs, it makes the Sierra Club look completely moderate, if not conservative along a continuum (which they have always been in reality), and more likely to gain favor among the right, or anti-environmentalists when they compare to the "extremism" of the eco-sabatuers.

Or the way in which MLK could appear much more moderate to the right, not at all radical, when one compares to Malcolm X.

But who knows.