Carbon Colonies & A Green New Deal Can the climate emergency show us how to see through the political stasis of our current regimes?

In early September, I signed up for updates from the Climate Strike website. After my email address was registered a second page loaded, with a single question:

Do you want to organise an action in your workplace or community?

I ticked No.

Some weeks later: two Twitter timelines were open in parallel on my computer.

On the left was Egypt. It was Friday, September 27. The country was on lockdown: 42 road closures around central Cairo, riot police stationed in huge numbers in every major square in the country. 

On the right, Greta Thunberg’s Climate Strike. Huge marches in Torino, Helsinki, Rome.

In Egypt, one week earlier, there had been a burst of small, uncoordinated protests sparked by details of state corruption revealed by profiteer-turned-whistleblower, Mohamed Ali. For one week, we talked about how protest strategies had changed: Gaza’s Great March of Return, the gilets jaunes, Hong Kong — protests were now small, repetitive, adaptable. Combating centralized states requires decentralized actions.  

Then Mohamed Ali — from his safehouse in Spain — called for a milioneyya (march of millions). On Friday. After prayers. A painfully familiar format that sparked no enthusiasm among the veterans of 2011-2014; failed to connect with the new generation who had taken to the streets #afterthematch the week before; was operationally routine for the security state.

I watched the timelines at home, with my partner and with my cousin, Alaa. There were attempts at marches in Warraq and Helwan and maybe in Sohag. But the police were out in such force that no momentum could be gathered.

At 5 pm Alaa’s mother came to pick him up: he had to report to the police station for his nightly detention. After serving five years in prison for organizing a protest (which he didn’t organize), he was now ordered to spend five years sleeping in his local police station. Today, his mother did not want him to move alone though the locked-down city. 

As the sun set I scrolled and scrolled, hoping for more news from Warraq or Alexandria. On the right of my screen, meanwhile, came march after Climate Strike march: Budapest, Naples, Barcelona.

I stayed online for hours and watched as the sun rose over new cities and new marches: Montreal, Vancouver, Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso. 

But in Egypt: nothing. National security had triumphed.

Seven million people marched for the Climate Strike. In Egypt, there would be 4,000 arrests.

How could these two events exist in untouching parallel?  

Egypt — home to half a million refugees as well as its own hundred million plus — is on the front lines of climate chaos: temperatures are rising; yields are shrinking, farmlands are sinking and the freshwater aquifer is being infiltrated by salt; harder, longer, rains routinely cripple cities while summer droughts run longer; talk of a water war with Ethiopia hums constantly.

But we cannot have Climate Strike marches in Egypt. You cannot even stage a personal hunger strike without the police taking you from your home, as they did lawyer Amr Imam.

 Two days later, national security agents came for Alaa, disappearing him at dawn from his cell in the police station. 

He is in prison still. 

 

I. SLOW TIME

Time itself is changing. Capitalism is both accelerating the speed of existence and ripping up the road ahead of it. 

In 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that we have until 2030 to keep global heating under 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels — the threshold beyond which any number of environmental feedback mechanisms could kick in, with unforeseeable consequences. 

We now have 10 years to significantly alter course.

For those of us living in Egypt, we struggle within a chronometric paradox. On the internet, around which our public lives are now centered, we are electrified by constant information, communication and distraction. But, offline, time feels almost unending: Sisi has been in power for six years, judges hand down life sentences without blinking, prosecutors produce case files from distant pasts.

The state’s great advantage has always been a command over a longer form of time: a salaried time, time that can hibernate through a revolution, or — when awakened — harvest billions of minutes per day in prisons, bureaucracy, corruption and cruelty. The state behaves as if it will last beyond the planet’s expiration. 

How, as a civilian trapped between the checkpoints and the television hosts and the pollution and the harassment, can you resist? How can we not relent, and slip under their carbon monoxide anaesthesia? 

We can find answers in prison: Mahienour El-Masry and Alaa Abd El Fattah and Mohamed al-Baqer and Ziad al-Eleimy and Shady al-Ghazaly Harb and Haitham Mohammadein and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh — our prisons are filled with people who combat the state with energy, with ideas, with possibility. 

So they are removed from the body politic. 

The state needs us to internalize its long, slow, painful time. But what we need is to be living in the planet’s time — with urgency. 

Naomi Klein, in her new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, writes: 

“I have always had a tremendous sense of urgency about the need to shift to a dramatically more human economic model. But there is a different quality to that urgency now because it just so happens that we are all alive at the last possible moment when changing course can mean saving lives on a truly unimaginable scale.”

It just so happens that we are the ones alive now. 

We are the last ones that can do anything about it. 

So, what is it that we can do? 

 

II. THE CARBON CHAIN

The negative consequences of climate change are not in a theoretical future, they are not even 10 years down the road. For those living in resource colonies, they are here and now: carbon emissions are a guarantee of both atmospheric and administrative misery. Both our air and our civic life are polluted. 

A resource colony such as Egypt is bound to multiple interests within the global carbon economy — some co-operate, some compete. All, I would argue, offer us potential routes towards action. 

Let me give three examples: 

 

CARBON CHAIN 1: ZOHR

In August 2015, the Italian energy giant ENI announced the discovery of Zohr — the largest natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. The media declared that Egypt, under the leadership of Sisi, would finally become energy self-sufficient. 

After notably rapid development, the first gas was delivered in December 2017. 

But over 2018-2019 the cost of electricity — which is principally generated through natural gas — rose by an average of 22.5 percent for domestic users. For the lowest-income households the price jumped by 51 percent. The security state that Sisi inherited from Mubarak has been refined by the IMF to an austere blade: in the same period that subsidies to piped and cooking gas, fuel and water were removed, the currency was floated — bringing its value down 50 percent. 

It is clear, therefore, that though Zohr is pumping out 2.7 billion cubic feet of gas per day (i.e. CO2 emissions equivalent to the entire daily output of Morocco or Austria) its economic benefits are not reaching the populace. Instead, its profits are being used to pay off foreign debt. Since the regime came to power foreign debt has tripled from $38 billion to $110 billion. Huge military-industrial contracts have been signed, protected from public scrutiny and underwritten by German banks at undisclosed interest rates. The Sisi regime has been borrowing at a rate unmatched since the late Khedeival period, while the country’s chief corruption investigator was removed from office and has been in prison since February 2018.

Zohr has now come online and the regime’s debt will be shouldered by the people. This is austerity capitalism. The debts of the ruling class are shifted onto the daily living costs of the people — banks are bailed out, presidential palaces are constructed and all future politics are bound by unpayable debts to international banks. If the Sisi regime were to fall, any new government would be faced with an immediate liquidity crisis if they challenged these debts.

For now, though, with every cubic foot of gas burned in the regime’s cycle of corruption, the Earth’s carbon budget is spent, the seas rise and the Delta’s soil salinates.

 

CARBON CHAIN 2: LEVIATHAN 

Leviathan is the second-largest gas field in the Mediterranean. And while Zohr was brought to production in just over two years, Leviathan has had a much more complicated route. 

Since Israel’s self-realization on the coastal plain of Palestine it has driven itself forward with relentless historical momentum, its narrative of prophetic return being refined and re-broadcast at every opportunity: the start-up nation with imperial backers settling the badlands of the Fertile Crescent. But one thing Israel was not blessed with was energy. Though surrounded by petro-states, Israel had no oil and no gas and had to rely on imports. 

Enter Hussein Salem, a key Mubarak acolyte, with a proposal to build a pipeline to Israel. Gas started flowing north in 2008, and the enraged Egyptian public were powerless to stop it. Not only was Mubarak selling gas to the nation’s enemy: he was selling it at less than market value. At the time Turkey, Greece and Italy were paying between $7 and $10 per million BTUs,  Israel — with no other pipeline import option — was paying $4.  

Later, at Mubarak’s 2011 trial, the prosecutor would allege that the short-selling cost the public $714m — though energy specialists have said the number could be as high as $11bn.

The gas pipeline came to be one of the more powerful symbols of the craven Mubarak regime. Amid the freedoms of 2011-2013 it was blown up twelve times. On the thirteenth, they stopped repairing it. Under Mohamed Morsi, the deal was cancelled.

But by then divine fate had revealed itself. ‘Leviathan’ had recently been discovered off the coast of Haifa. Israel’s Achilles heel was no more. There was, however, a complication. Pumping Leviathan for domestic use alone would not be sufficiently profitable. Amid the rising tide of environmental commitments and looming legislation, fields still need to be pumped and gas needs to be burned quickly.

For years Leviathan sat, unexploited — until Jordan, in a deeply unpopular deal, stepped in with a $10bn offer to pipe in gas for domestic consumption. Two years later, in 2018, an Egyptian company signed a $15bn deal to reverse the flow down Hussein Salem’s old pipeline to the LNG plants on the North Coast to combine with Zohr and turn Egypt into an ‘energy hub’.

The deal was signed by a company called Dolphinus Holdings — an attempt to sidestep public censure in Egypt while satisfying international creditors’ appetite for market liberalization. But Hossam Bahgat, on this website, revealed that it is, in fact, the General Intelligence Service — obscured by a network of shell companies — that will be reaping the profits.

The burning of the second-largest gas field in our seas has been facilitated by the interlocking of variously colonial regimes: an underwater well holding 16 trillion cubic feet of gas — the equivalent of all of Germany’s CO2 emissions in a year — will burn, the colonization of Palestine will be extended and deepened, the region will remain fractured and incoherent.

 

CARBON CHAIN 3: ARAMCO

Saudi Arabia is the colonial petro-state to end all others, re-investing its vast oil profits in Western military hardware with which it can neither defend itself nor defeat asymmetrically underequipped neighbors. The Kingdom’s handlers in Washington are content to allow it to maintain a regional network of reactionary proxy governments, ideologues and theocratic media outlets. It is a key axis in keeping the world economy of oil not only humming, but humming to an Anglo-American tune. Though the USA has fracked its way to energy self-sufficiency, the vast reserves of Arabia — and the West’s control over them — lie at the heart of future energy competition with China, India and Japan. 

Since the eruption of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been increasingly active underwriters of local reactionaries: From offering sanctuary to Tunisia’s Ben Ali, to a $3bn aid package for Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, to its disastrous and cowardly war against Yemen, its policing of Bahrain, its clumsy proxy interventions in Libya and Syria, and its risible attempt to involve itself in the Deal of the Century (aka putting Palestine up for sale).

Riyadh is the principal underwriter of the Sisi regime, propping up the military government with loans, gifts, joint ventures and island purchases worth tens of billions of dollars. Without Saudi Arabian oil money, politics in Egypt would be much more fluid.

Egypt holds a range of positions within the carbon chain — client state, colonial power, resource colony. The petroleum economy is a vast industrial web that spans the globe — one of enduring power, but also weakness. 

 

III. THE INDUSTRIAL WEB

The industrial web has been 250 years in the making, spinning out on sailboats from Southampton, Antwerp, L’Orient and Kiel landing in Manila, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Port au Prince, Calcutta, Hong Kong: a relentless roll-out of slave ships, iron rails, asphalt roads, shipping canals, telegraph wires, radio waves, oil pipelines, satellite stations, container units, and fiber-optic cables that have bound the world into an ever-tighter union of space and time, collapsing differences between continents, creating a unified global hierarchy of class and caste.

The winners, at times, have fought wars with each other. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union we have been watching the clear emergence of a supra-national united class actor with a shared language and uniform ideology of: 

Progress (aka the removal of regulatory conditions that seek to contain international capital’s profit motive) 

Security (aka the development and implementation of techniques of population control)

Economic Stability (aka unchanging national governments which maintain the conditions for international capital’s profit motive)

From Davos to Wall Street to São Paulo to Beijing a global 1 percent has emerged who have accumulated a level of wealth previously only disruptable by a major war. 

The scariest prospect for our future is not war, however, but that this will be our enduring peace. The wars of today are wars of the rich against the poor, counter-insurgency wars, wars on Terror, on drugs, on crime. They are police wars. Elites worldwide are entrenching themselves behind uniform security systems: mass surveillance, militarized law enforcement, and hard borders, while mobile capital is kept safe in offshore banks. Whatever buffering role a middle class once played between the elite and labor is being replaced by the elite’s expanding security apparatus. 

In Egypt’s case we enjoy the twin blessings of the colossal bureaucracy of a socialist state established to intervene in nearly all aspects of life, now operating on a dogma of hard austerity — a fusion of Stalin and Reagan that reduces state functions to little more than the violent protection of resource wealth for its accomplices, both domestic and alien. The Egyptian state has become a vanguard of today’s elite fusion: an experiment in just how far you can push a program of violent austerity embezzlement before something snaps. 

 

IV. TWICE ATOMIZED

In order to maintain its own existence the state expends vast energies to keep its citizens atomized and unable to organize: it arrests fledgling political parties; it floods the streets with informants, uses soldiers as strikebreakers and prisons as deterrents; it prohibits gathering and destroys public space; it breaks up street cafes, has football matches played in empty stadia, fragments our cities with relentless railings, walls and highways; dismembers and strangles independent cultural output while ‘harmonizing’ mass media.

Together, the various apparatuses of state have engineered a public life defined entirely by corruption, guaranteeing opportunities for division and conflict across all daily interactions.

To ensure our energies are contained. To ensure their energy contracts are signed.

It is hard, when faced with the bovine, unblinking brutality of the regime not to despair. 

Can the climate emergency give us a way to see beyond — to see through — the ugly corporeality of our current regime? A way to escape its attempted halting of time? A way of attacking the industrial web? A way of thinking politically, of believing ourselves to be political — a politics that they simply cannot stop people from enacting?

 

V. CLEAN ENERGY

If we consider the three nodes of Egypt’s carbon colonization I believe we can see in each one opportunities for political action and thought that cannot be contained by state actors or their extractive backers.

 

CARBON CHAIN 1: ZOHR (& INTER-NATIONAL SOLIDARITY)

Zohr is owned by Italian energy giant ENI, with minority stakes held by Russia’s Rosneft (30 percent) and Britain’s BP (10 percent). Currently, there is no way for those of us physically in Egypt to stop ENI from pumping. But the simple fact is this: gas burned in Egypt pours into our shared skies. ENI is an Italian company, so let us consider how to confront them in Italy.

In countries with democratic infrastructures complicit corporations can be targeted with direct actions and lawsuits, elected officials’ backers can be scrutinized, legislation can be designed and fought for, elections can be contested. 

We are currently witnessing an international wave of potentially significant lawsuits. There are 15 major climate liability cases currently in US courts: the city of Baltimore is suing for the cost of flood defences, San Francisco for the price of its sea wall, the state of Rhode Island for the devaluation of coastal property. The landmark Juliana vs the United States case — brought by 21 youth plaintiffs — now in its fifth year, is one of dozens of cases worldwide in which children are suing for violations of their future rights.

There have already been notable victories, the most significant of which, Urgenda vs the Netherlands, has ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels this year. Urgenda is the precedent for some 1,442 cases filed around the world claiming — in various ways — that governments are violating their citizens’ human rights by not acting to maintain a clean, livable environment. 

In other countries, notably Holland and France, significant cases are ongoing against Shell and Total

What other cases can be brought — how can people living under dictatorship guide inter-national legal efforts? It is quite conceivable that a company such as ENI could be vulnerable in its home jurisdiction on a number of fronts: from Italians’ own right to a healthy environment and shared Mediterranean Sea, to charges of working against Italy’s own stated foreign policy (as laid out in the recent Universal Peer Review), to investigations into financial and bookkeeping matters, or as accessory, accomplice or material supporter of a military regime that wears its human rights abuses as a badge of honor, and has murdered at least one Italian citizen: Giulio Regeni. 

It has, so far, proven difficult to prosecute international corporations on criminal charges, but there are signs of progress in both international and domestic courts that can be built on. 

But it is not only ENI propping up the Sisi regime from Rome. On the front lines of state violence we see an Italian logo bearing down on us in a riot van’s headlights: Iveco. The morning after, we pick up bullet casings and read the word Fiocchi. When we place tape over our computer cameras and leave our phones in microwaves it is Milan’s Hacking Team and Area S.p.A. we are trying to hide from. 

And it is not just gas that is liquified and pumped, but capital too. Italian capital, fleeing Northern regulation, finds a happy home in this Southern dictatorship, where unions are long hollowed out and industrial actions can be met with military-grade strikebreakers. Italy’s labor crisis (33 percent of youth currently unemployed) is intimately connected with Egyptian despotism and the high rate of returns our combined elites enjoy by keeping their capital supra-national. 

The Egyptian state, with Italian hardware, maintains a “stable business environment”. And it is not just in Italy’s courts that they can be confronted, but on the streets, in the market, in the spheres of reputations and ideas. The business environment must be destabilized, and inter-national efforts present countless opportunities.

Parallel arguments — with a different collection of corporate crimes — can be applied to the USA, Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia, France, Norway and, to a lesser extent, Greece, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland.

These are countries where there are avenues for direct and democratic actions, and points around which we — the broad and expanding ‘we’ of the ecologically accelerated — can find ways to build and  think and fight together. 

We must act, north and south, simultaneously.

 

CARBON CHAIN 2: LEVIATHAN (& SUPRA-NATIONAL SOLIDARITY)

We are enmeshed within capitalism’s networks of communications. We are — literally — dissected by global trade flowing through the Suez Canal. Yet one of the lasting victories of colonialism is that all of the region’s trade routes run through European nodes — our limited exports land there to be consumed, mixed, distilled, assembled, packaged and re-sold from there. Egyptian imports from Jordan, for example, sit at an absurdly low 0.22 percent share of trade. Many nations in the Global South find themselves to be little more than geographic units of control. Our neighbors in Gaza are besieged by us, slandered relentlessly on air, the tunnels flooded, Rafah destroyed. Only gas can cross Sinai effortlessly, pumped from Leviathan to Edku and on to Europe.  

But we, too, could have a planet-spanning web of information and action if we use our strengths: millions of people in every bit of the earth; the dual opportunities of one language that cuts through colonial borders and another that allows instant communication across the world. 

Within today’s wave of climate litigation are cases designed to overcome national boundaries. Saúl Lliuya, a Peruvian farmer, is currently suing Germany’s largest electricity producer, RWE, in a German court. He argues that RWE should pay for 0.47 percent of his town’s flood protections: 0.47 percent is estimated to be the company’s annual share of global greenhouse gas emissions. Though initially dismissed, the case is now moving forward in the Essen regional appeals court. 

In the Philippines, the country’s Commission on Human Rights has set a global precedent with its inquiry into how the 50 publicly-traded “carbon majors” have impacted the human rights of Filipinos. The Commission states that it “seeks to determine liability issue against companies that are not domiciled in the Philippines on the basis of trans-boundary effects of their business operations.”

Corporations profiting in Egypt have headquarters around the world. What new cases can be brought against them? What legal precedents can be set, what profits obstructed in court? There are opportunities in supra-national action to find pressure points to create a ‘hostile business atmosphere’ while legislatures catch up.

The Filipino Commission on Human Rights estimates that ENI is responsible for 0.41 percent of the total CO2 emissions since 1751. What is 0.41 percent of the cost of the coastal defences required to protect Alexandria? What is 0.41 percent of the cost of the agricultural land we are losing to a salinification that cannot be held back with a wall? What is 0.41 percent of the cost of the bleaching of the natural wonder of Sinai’s coral reefs?

The cost of carbon is supra-national, so where can we find new possibilities? What lessons can we learn and develop from the activists of Wadi al-Qamar, who took on France’s Titan Cement and won, and Idku, who took on British Petroleum but ultimately lost.

Examples of recent supra-national organising include: the lines of indigenous coordination emerging across the Western hemisphere, their global discourse and solidarities; the dockworkers in Alexandria and Oakland who refused to unload Israeli weapons and their counterparts in Genoa who would not load weapons bound for Saudi Arabia; the dozens of unofficial support networks for refugees that have spread across Europe. 

There was an explosion of such work and thinking between 2011 and 2013, and it can be re-ignited. 

In a notebook I found a question I had written to myself some months after Sisi’s coup d’etat: Why would a primary school teacher in Spain go on strike for Egypt? How do we all stop the same machine?

The answer is in the question. Only now I understand it better: we know now that the machine will, perhaps literally, kill us all. We are all within the same environment. Our actions are individual, but our responsibilities are global. The industrial media would have us believe that that is a weakness, that such a scale is paralyzing — but it is the opposite. It imbues our every moment with meaning, it makes every conceivable act of solidarity not only possible — but reasonable.

 

CARBON CHAIN 3: SAUDI ARABIA (& THE END OF OIL)

The end of carbon capitalism will collapse the Saudi regime and evaporate their vast regional network of reactionary proxies propped up by their heretofore limitless petro-dollars. 

Saudi Aramco — the world’s most ‘valuable’ company, the central asset of the Saudi regime and the singular source of the most pollution in history — has gone up for sale. Why? Why sell the backbone of your country to investors guided only by profit extraction? Because time is running out. 

The price of renewables drops year on year. We are now within touching distance of it being cheaper to build new wind and solar than it is to maintain existing thermal plants. Seventy-nine percent of European coal generators — undercut by renewable competitors — are already running at a loss. Renewables, even by conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, will match coal outputs within five years. India’s emissions still grew 2 percent last year, but it was the lowest increase for 20 years as wind and solar have surged. Portugal just set a record low-cost bid for photovoltaic power at its first solar auction. A landmark new report (again, from the conservative IEA), declared that offshore wind has the capacity to meet the entire world’s energy demands 11 times over.

Beyond the collapse of Saudi Arabia’s network of colonial subcontractors, the arrival of renewable energy supplies will radically alter the status quo across the region, where control of hydrocarbon resources is a defining feature of the Algerian military regime; the Libyan fragmentation; the intra-Sudanese hostility; Turkish war-footing in the Eastern Mediterranean; Kurdistani territorial suppression; the Saudi-Iranian cold war;  Trump’s ‘take the oil’ Syria policy; Emirati and Qatari proto-imperialism; the destruction of Iraq; and the Azeri, Kazakh, Turkmen and Uzbek dictatorships. 

There is a political and technological momentum building across the world. Those of us struggling under our domestic dictators must become part of the liberatory potential of radical environmentalism. As we saw with Standing Rock — which was a key catalyst for the Green New Deal’s current hold on the American imagination — working contemporary anti-colonialism into climate activism is a potent accelerant for both.

By struggling against ecocide, against environmental degradation, against atomization and distraction, against complacency and against despair, we are enacting political struggle. By working to end the Petroleum Age, we are also working to end the governing politics of the age — the politics within which we are trapped. 

 

VI. THE WRONG NEW DEAL

The Green New Deal is not a fixed plan — it is a changing collection of ideas, opportunities and battles. It is a political process. Which is why we must become urgently engaged with it – because there are several iterations of the Green New Deal that don’t look great for the Global South. 

There’s the Green New Deal in which Northern and Chinese consumers all have electric cars and wind turbines, and Southern dictators are accommodated as long as they ensure the supply of cobalt, tantalum and copper that will be required to maintain luxury consumer lifestyles at “net zero”. 

There’s the Green New Deal where Northern eco-warriors, having achieved domestic zeros, dismiss the nations that will, inevitably, be lagging behind, re-cast the Savage-Terrorist-Fundamentalist as Polluter, re-enforce borders and ignore the massive carbon and colonial debts owed so as to maintain a broad status quo. 

There’s the Green New Deal of the uncontrollable capitalist mineral rush that will overcome even the Southern states with semi-functioning apparatuses and collapse them into Tantalum republics.

Egypt sits on the fourth-largest reserves of Tantalum, a resource whose value will skyrocket in the Green Rush. Congo will be the model for the whole continent — an Africa riddled with ‘artisanal’ quarries ruled over by minor warlords. 

It is easy to imagine a future in which Africa and Central Asia are sacrificed to save the planet. It is a future not far removed from the present.

Yet there are positive possibilities in thinking through how to avoid such scenarios. 

Perhaps a pan-African trading bloc with its own publicly held reserves weighted against a successor of gold: the Cobalt Standard. The bloc would implement a continent-wide policy on extraction, standards and export. To obtain purchase licenses foreign buyers would have to clear ex-dictators’ odious national debts, pay reparations for colonial damages and pay into a climate defense fund proportional to the global carbon budget already spent by the client nation. Although we are currently ruled by a continental mosaic of kleptocrats, perhaps even they could be made to see that this is their best chance out of seemingly inescapable cycles of colonial subjugation.

It would require a redistributive system that rewards countries with high fossil fuel reserves (such as Mozambique) but perhaps low mineral reserves, for not exploiting them. Oversight and command over enforcement agencies could be entrusted to Mauritius — a country that could soon cease to exist — and so simply has no time for corruption. 

This, of course, is an intra-capitalist proposal – but one that could be used to bridge towards a different future.

 

GREENWASHING, A SIDE POINT

Speaking of intra-capitalist transitional steps: we may mostly lack functioning legislatures but we do have a vast private sector that is susceptible to bad publicity. Ikea likes to boast that it has installed one million solar panels on its stores. Yet not one of those can be seen on the rooftops of the Ikeas in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Greece, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain or Singapore. Malls, banks, international hotel chains, property developers, fast food restaurants, corporate multinationals — these are the publicly accessible beneficiaries of carbon capitalism and they are highly susceptible to bad PR. This should be an active, intermediary effort to be pushed at while our streets remain under police control.

 

VII. REGENERATION

We are conditioned to measure our lives in units: in the accumulation of coin and the combinations of atoms; in the saving and expenditure of time, money, breath; in likes, friends, points, weight, calories and years.

But the final, indivisible unit of our existence is energy. 

The Industrial Revolution was the moment in which Britain cracked energy from coal — when we broke away from the natural world’s daily supply of power and tapped into the ancient, accumulated energy of fossils. 

Environmental deliverance requires us to live in the present again, to draw our energy from the sun and the wind, to build a world that does not hinge on storing private energy in lithium batteries of private cars, but on public tramlines running live off continental grids. It requires us to live in the planet’s time — with urgency, but focus.

The emergency is here. 

And with it the opportunity to re-imagine our daily lives not as people living under the whims of dictators, but as part of a growing global consciousness preparing to shatter their power. In our daily interactions, in movement and consumption, in language, in patterns of thought there are hundreds of opportunities every day to be political beings, to be attuned to the emergency, to act in solidarity with people around the world, to behave in ways that cannot be controlled. 

“It just so happens that we are all alive at the last possible moment when changing course can mean saving lives on a truly unimaginable scale.”

Are we going to tell the coming generations that we lost ten, fifteen, twenty crucial years to these sallow regimes? Or are we going to transcend them?

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Omar Robert Hamilton 
 
 

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