Things are only going to get worse.
Anthropogenic climate change is going to intensify heatwaves, droughts, flooding and famines. It’s going to submerge cities and entire countries beneath the ocean – it’s going to make earth uninhabitable.
Or it might not do those things – but only if we actually do something about it.
And I mean really do something. A lot of us say we believe in climate change. Joe “no new drilling” Biden criticized Donald Trump for being a “climate denier” in 2020 – a charlatan chastising a huckster.
But on March 13, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, ConocoPhillips’ massive oil drilling project in Alaska. The project will exacerbate the climate crisis – it will produce pollution the equivalent of adding two million gas-powered cars to the roads.
We see, then, that Biden is a climate change believer in word, a climate denier in deed. But this is to be expected. The capitalist class and its government puppets have a vested interest in the industries that have driven the climate crisis.
Swedish author and climate activist Andreas Malm takes this argument – claiming to feel strongly about climate change, and yet acting in such a way that suggests disbelief in it – and applies it beyond the ruling classes to the climate movement itself in his book, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.”
A provocative title for a provocative book. Malm posits that reasoned arguments and peaceful protests haven’t worked to sway bourgeois governments to do what’s necessary to halt climate change. He argues that an escalation is needed: strategic sabotage. Property destruction.
For the most part, climate activists have refrained from engaging in sabotage. There have been notable instances, but in general protest has been peaceful, tactics have focused on electing the “right” candidates and violence is for many to be unthinkable.
It’s supposed by those who abhor violence that protest movements must be nonviolent because nonviolence is what works. Malm takes a different view. He spends the first third of his book debunking pacifism and questioning the historical view of many that successful movements have been nonviolent movements.
He provides plenty of examples – from the suffragettes of Britain who went on an arson campaign of government buildings in the early 20th century to the violent uprisings in the Arab world a decade ago – of violence that ultimately succeeded in getting its demands met.
These historical examples involved a tremendous amount of property destruction. And as intolerable as the oppression which led to them was, climate change trumps all. It’s an existential problem. It demands extreme measures.
Malm doesn’t reject out of hand nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. He is simply suggesting that tactics to deal with climate change be diversified. The capitalist class, the rich, are driving the climate crisis. We are faced with the question: private property or the earth?
We cannot have both. The rich capitalists, with their yachts and private jets and oil pipelines, are destroying the planet for profit. This is a fact. The rich emit far more greenhouse gases than everyone else. Just 100 companies are the source of 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Capitalist private property is the problem, and sabotage is the solution, according to Malm. And he practices what he preaches, detailing in the book how he and other activists let out the air of SUV tires in a rich neighborhood in Stockholm, and how he was involved in actions that halted coal mine production.
He stresses multiple times in the book that property is the enemy, not people. Harming people is both unconscionable and potentially damaging for the movement. But this will probably not assuage the fears of any bourgeois reading this column.
The capitalists are under the delusion that private property is some natural, inviolable right of man. Look to Atlanta, where protesters have been labeled “domestic terrorists” for setting fire to construction equipment being used to build “Cop City,” a training facility for police which necessitates destroying forest land and will thus exacerbate climate change.
IU graduate Maggie Gates was charged with domestic terrorism for her involvement in the protests. An injustice! The Atlanta police killed one activist, but it’s apparently the protesters who are “terrorists.”
Such is the morality of the capitalists, which Marx pegged centuries ago. “The bourgeoisie of the whole world, which looks complacently upon the wholesale massacre after the battle, is convulsed by horror at the desecration of brick and mortar!” Marx wrote of the brutal end of the Paris Commune. The capitalists do not value human life, only their property.
I wouldn’t tell anyone reading this to act as a vigilante or risk endangering themselves. But read Malm’s, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” It’s time to question if we’re doing enough to combat climate change or if we’re in dire need of escalation.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a junior studying journalism and political science.