We’re all fucked

25th April 2019 "Wijstoppensteenkool" climate activists block the coal-fired power station in Rotterdam Harbour.
25th April 2019 “Wijstoppensteenkool” climate activists block the coal-fired power station in Rotterdam Harbour.

I grew up with a mum fiercely passionate about the state of the planet, and with what seemed like the weight of the world on her shoulders she would yell “We’re all fucked”. I was always a wide-eyed listener and found myself overwhelmed and deeply afraid. But I wasn’t angry – from where I was looking there seemed to be nothing or no-one to get angry at. Instead, I stayed for a while in state of cosmic confusion. How could it possibly be, that I was alive at such a particularly inexplicable point in the history of planet earth? (..let alone just to be alive at all). It seemed to be a paradoxical point: the world at once immeasurable and expansive, and at the same time, all at arm’s length… The internet projecting images that make distant places feel familiar, food once rooted in soil that lays on an entirely separate geological plate, and on the bus and in the street the faces and foreign languages bring to touch the tangible distances of the earth.

And, growing up in a city perpetually in construction and forever expanding in populace, this oscillation between proximity and distance was felt viscerally. Engulfed by brick, glass and concrete, and washed away by the human biowaves. I had the very distinct feeling that in relation to all that was out there, I was so small I might as well be invisible.

Then again… I wasn’t invisible to myself. And at a certain point I knew that the food on my plate, which had had contact with another geographical plate, also carried a carbon weight; I knew that each London banana was stickered with oil. At that point I became acutely aware that I did in fact have someone to be angry at –  myself. At that point in my life I realised that to live like the people around me, made me into an involuntary bystander in the war I could only imagine. A war on the air, a war on the sea, a war on the human and non-human creatures, a war on the earth. But anger directed at the self becomes guilt. And guilt is not empowering, it is dilapidating. What if I left no carbon footstep? Would I then escape the war?

What I later came to realise is that, in directing my anger inward in the form of guilt, I had subconsciously reduced myself to the singular status of “consumer”: a mere tool of the global capitalist system. I also realised that not only did the self-policing leave me dilapidated, more importantly, it left the system to carry on “business as usual” (only this time with an almost invisible alteration). It wasn’t until I joined my first civil-disobedience action that I began to believe in my small body not as a carbon sink but as a site of significant resistance. I saw the possibilities contained in my living flesh and bones, to block and disrupt that same system in power, which reduced all life to the status of tool. I began learning about climate justice; From the Chipko Movement in India, to the Standing Rock protests in North America, I read of indigenous peoples who have seen and felt the war in ways I can only imagine. Those who for generations have been fighting fire with water, defending life from the oppressive powers of the colonial system. This time my anger was redirected outwards. Who holds the power? Who maintains the systems? And how can I stop them?

So, I guess my point is that: yes… we will all be fucked, if the system that is systematically colonising and exterminating is left to run. But, when you use your body as a site of resistance you are no longer a bystander in an imaginary war, you are no longer a tool to the fucked-up system, but stand in alliance with those of whom the war is in very clear sight.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “We’re all fucked

  1. Heyy facticiousness, thank you for your beautifully written insight into the motivations for becoming an activist that uses civil disobedience, in alliance in the war against what you so accurately describe as the “system that is systematically colonising and exterminating is left to run”. I think your blogpost is is really inspirational and such personal stories around activism are really really important. I think you describe that you quite literally found your “place” in the climate movement in which your courage and physical presence matters a lot. Reading this, I was wondering if you could elaborate on how people who feel unsafe about really throwing their “living flesh and bones” in the battle can contribute to the ‘alliance’ and stand in solidarity as well. For example, these are people who have experienced trauma or people who project their insecurities on their body and are more uncomfortable with their own physicality and physical contact, like some in the LGBTQIA+ community. Likewise, maybe people that have historically been more unsafe because of their skin-color and fear harsher treatment from authorities are a bit more apprehensive to really put their physical beings in the front-line like that. I admire that you stand in alliance with those of whom the war is in very clear sight. These people are angry and scared and suffer in the global capitalist system, but how can they also ‘transcend’ and stand in alliance like you do?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As the Granny of the writer, my first reaction is PRIDE – pride that the little one I have cherished has evolved into this beautiful, articulate, motivated creature. My second is SUPPORT – without you and yours and others there is no HOPE. My third is TAKE CARE, because your chosen course involves all kinds of dangers, but they need not deter you, remember there are open arms ready to comfort when needed. My fourth is to wish you and your fellow activists strength and GOOD SPEED. May the Force be with you! x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Activism is an abdication of responsibility with the mask of social virtue”
    – Jordan Peterson

    Fighting environmental problems obviously requires change, but I don’t agree that this is best achieved by becoming an environmental activist. If, as an activist, the goal is to promote change to those who are part of the problem, I don’t think you’re going to convince them by causing millions of dollars in damage (Dakota Access Pipeline) and delaying production. This is also why activism of any sort seems to often get a bad rep in the media, which is rather counter-productive. And looking at the activist examples you used, they don’t seem to have been very effective; the coal-fired powerplant in Rotterdam is still running and the Dakota Access Pipeline was still built.

    Sustainability is inevitable at some point in the future, and the goal is to reach this point as fast as possible to reduce suffering. In my opinion, this is achieved much better when those that want to see change ACTIVELY make a change. People like Boyan Slat and Elon Musk should be seen as role models of our time, who looked at pressing environmental problems and worked towards fixing them (and this also shows that positive change can come from a capitalist system). Their actions lead to tangible improvements, whereas I think activism simply leaves people with a false sense of achievement; a sort of social theatre leaving them feeling virtuous at the end of the day, despite not having achieved very much.

    Would like to hear your thoughts on this!

    Like

  4. PJOTRRR : Thank you for your (eloquently written) comment! I’m so happy that you took me up on my words and I think you are so right to point out what seemed to be a hastily universalized promotion of civil-disobedience.

    It was not my intention to present my own experience as if everyone in the world is the same and as if power was equally distributed. In fact, it wasn’t my intention to promote civil-disobedience. But, it was my intention to celebrate living bodies who resist. To “use your body as a site of resistance”, does not necessarily mean literally blocking something with your body, it could also be to disrupt hegemonic ideas with your words, organization skills or artwork.

    My point is that no living body is invisible and in every flesh and bones, no matter what your position in society is, you don’t have to feel guilty for your existence and you do not need to be reduced to a tool of the system.

    Like

  5. Hi facticiousness,

    First of all, thank you for the very well written and interesting post, shining light of a very important possible method to achieving a fairer and greener society. I was wondering, also referring to people who feel that they cannot participate in any sort of open activism or do not feel like that activism is the best way for them, what your thoughts are on other ways of progressing towards this greener and fairer society.
    An often heard critique of activism is that it mainly shows what is wrong instead of offering solutions and I was also interested to hear your thoughts on this aspect

    Like

  6. CLIMATEBO$$ & DA0RKBLUM
    Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate your critical thoughts!

    I get the sense that you both have a similar frustration with the approach to tackling issues that breaks things rather than offers solutions. And, although I definitely appreciate your sentiment, I would argue that smart solutions alone are unfortunately not enough.

    Two examples of extremely powerful unsustainable systems (which won’t disappear without a push):
    -Capitalism
    -The Fossil Fuel industry

    The current capitalist system is based on maximising profits and unlimited growth for the benefit of the few, by reducing all life to expendable capital. This powerful system is, in its very foundations, unsustainable and I see no future in it. If we are ever reach the 1.5 target in 12 years as the IPCC recommends, we need to urgently change the ‘business as usual’ trajectory. Big fossil fuel companies like Shell and ExxonMobile, who have known about climate change for over 40 years and since then invested more in lobbying, spreading dis-information and cover-up schemes than in changing their energy production, are also unsustainable in their foundations.

    We don’t have enough time to waste on outdated systems.. they need to go!

    In our last Environmental Science class, we were learning about transition studies and system thinking. We looked at the energy transition in the Netherlands and analysed whether or not it was going through a transition phase. We learnt that, in order to transform a system, you need to innovate and re-imagine new systems but you also need to destabilize and break-down the old one.

    A great example of this is in action is Marjan Minnesma from Urgenda (an organisation that is currently suing the Dutch Government), who also gave a lecture at AUC. She not only challenges the governments inaction, but also offers concrete alternatives and solutions like a circular economy and decentralised renewable energy systems.

    So, to refer to my previous comment:
    “use your body as a site of resistance”, does not necessarily mean literally blocking something with your body, it could also be to disrupt hegemonic ideas with your words, organization skills or artwork.

    Like

  7. @facticiousness Thank you, that is a really edifying comment. I think I immediately thought of the ‘bodily’ aspect of activism because the discussion is so current and there are a lot pictures of activists using their body as a site of resistance in my media consumption (with Ende Gelande and XR!). I think I was kind of ‘primed’ to think your blogpost was about that, but after reading your comment I better appreciate the broader meaning of ‘the body’ in your blogpost. Thank you again!

    Like

  8. Hi facticiousness, thank you for your beautifully written blog post! I agree with your point that everyone can make a difference and that actions or words of resistance matter, regardless of how large or small they are. While reading your post I immediately thought of the school strikes for the climate that started this spring. At the beginning of this month, the 6th of May, an article was published in Nature Climate Change that looked at the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviours from children to their parents. Results indicated that parents of children with high concern for the climate expressed higher levels of climate change concern than parents in the control group. I feel this is a really interesting publication that supports some of the arguments you make. After all, it indicates that climate protests, even by the smallest amongst us, are significant and are important for raising the issue onto the agenda. In that sense, every single individual can be seen as a potential agent of change, indicating that each has the ability to contribute to the much-needed transition towards a more sustainable society.

    Like

  9. Hi facticiousness, I enjoyed reading your blog post. It’s very well written. Civil-disobedience action is something that has been present in my family since the time of my great-grandparents, from them onwards everyone has stories of protests or demonstrations they’ve been to or even organized. I’m one of the few who do not, I’ve never even been to a demonstration even though I feel very strongly about many things. I have many conflicting feelings about civil-disobedience. I can see and understand the argumentation in favor of it but I find it hard to believe it is truly the best way forward. I also fear that many civilly disobedient actions are lost on most people as an act of extremism or something of the sort. What would you say about this? Do you ever fear that your efforts are falling on (mostly) deaf ears who label this sort of extremism as inappropriate and not the way forward?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s