This is a copy of a piece from the Greem Dreamer pod by Kamea.
This is how she describes herself:
I was raised as a part of my home island of Taiwan, where I practiced the veneration of place, the land, and my ancestors as my Hakka-Taiwanese cultural upbringing. Today, I’m a guest of the Kumeyaay territory and the caretaker of a small veggie garden here and two super-mutt pups—who in turn nourish and care for me.
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When I said, “No to Big Oil, and no to industrial-scale mining,” someone asked, “Then how do you propose achieving decarbonization?” Questions like this misinterpret my point as being no to fossil fuels and no to any other technology-enabled ways to harvest energy.
But the keywords I would really highlight with bright green markers are “Big” and “industrial-scale”—the who, the how, and the scale, and not the what.
In most of the calculations for various scenarios of “decarbonization”, the focus has been on substituting the form of energy while powering the same, ever-expansive grid.
The predatory trade deals, incentivizing the senseless shipping back and forth of the same foods and products in order to exploit undervalued labor and resources elsewhere, go unquestioned. The historic, corporate-led process of disempowering community-scale systems to make more and more people reliant on the energy-intensive, centralized systems that they own and control, go unquestioned. The continued exchange of the diverse currencies of life for the representational currencies of money, disproportionately hoarded by the top 1%, go unquestioned.
Yet it is precisely the unraveling of place-based relationships and the monopolization of power that have led to the essentialness of the resource-intensive, disassociated system that many are dependent on to even live today.
Without healing communities rooted in specific bioregions, and shifting power structures in that process, “renewable” energy is just a false technofix that circumvents the heart of the crisis. After all, as I noted in Protect Thacker Pass, it is literally not possible to power an industrial-scale civilization as it is today with “100% renewable energy”. Physically, chemically, mathematically not possible—especially if the goal were to enhance life and restore Earth to vitality.
Bright Green Lies’ Lierre Keith laid it out explicitly in our interview:
“To put it simply, the only way to have an industrial society is to consume industrial levels of energy. The only fuel that’s dense enough to provide that energy is fossil fuels that have had millions of years to condense under the surface of the Earth.”
The “transition” has just been an expansion.
While the intention has been for “renewable” energy to replace fossil fuels, that simply has not been the case. In practice, solar and wind power has only enlarged the already giant energy grid, not making a dent in our collective reliance on fossil fuels—and instead, leading the “transition” to be an expansion of the pillaging of Earth. As Keith notes:
I still have many questions. And maybe I’m holding onto false hope, but I am still open to the possibility of solar, wind power, etc. playing a role while deeper systemic changes are being materialized—but only if they are created at a community scale, led by those who know the land there best. But to contrast my already critical view with an even more critical one from someone who has done way more research in this area than I have, Keith, a deep green activist, was adamant: “The entire thing is a lie from beginning to end. It’s not a stepping stone. It’s the same industrial platform, the same problem of destroying the climate, and the same consumption of what’s left of the living world.”
Energy journalist Michael Shellenberger echoed the sentiment that “100% renewable energy” is simply not feasible while looking at Germany’s progress. As he noted in his article, “The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To”:
To this last point, one could say that country peoples must be “less educated” and therefore more resistant to this form of change for “advancement”. Or… one could confront the elitism embedded in that view and recognize that the mining, the infrastructure, the labor, the sites for the actualization of these technologies affect rural and Indigenous communities the most—making them the most in touch with the realities of what this “transition” (expansion) really entails. (I’ll share more on the land and labor aspects of the “transition” in another article.)
To say that evidence-based critiques of “clean” energy help the fossil fuel industry is reductionism, showing how stunted our imaginations are.
It is a denial of how deep the crisis is. It is a denial that the “transition” has factually only been an expansion and a denial that the central focuses, therefore, need to be decentralization and “degrowth”*.
(*Note: I put “degrowth” in quotes as explained in a past piece on “reorienting growth”. We really are, in fact, talking about regrowing place-based community, the intimacy of our relationships, diversity and resilience, collective wellbeing, and richness of life.)
This is not a rejection of technology and the “use” of any and all “natural resources”. It is an acknowledgment that any interaction with Earth, especially involving taking and harvesting from the land, is going to better embody reciprocity, respect, and care when those leading the decisions and actions have the deepest relationships with the bioregion and the local community.
Saying no to Big Oil and no to industrial-scale mining is a call to move away from focusing on the source of energy powering the same insatiability of endless “growth”—and towards alleviating the source of the strain itself. It is a recognition that without addressing the underlying crises, we end up merely going from being reliant on one extractive, resource-intensive, centralized system driving global injustice to another.
To give one recent example: It was heartening to hear about Shell pulling out from their plans to develop oil in Cambo—one of the UK’s “largest undeveloped offshore oilfields”. This was in part attributed to the strategic work of those behind the Stop Cambo campaign. Yet, around the same time, Shell received a green light to explore off-shore drilling in South Africa. Meanwhile, Cambo’s oil fields may still be developed if and when other investors step in.
Many climate activists celebrated while acknowledging this, saying, “the fight continues”. But if the energy requirements of our overall, disassociated systems do not decrease, or even continue to increase, then the success of one resistance campaign will necessarily mean the actual devastation of another community’s lands—disproportionately those in the Global South.
This is not to blame, at all, those critical, strategic direct actions and the courageous people leading them. But it is to emphasize that “climate justice activism”, particularly for those who are socio-economically privileged, must go beyond amplifying campaigns to the foundational, complementary work of unwiring the globalized, extractive economy—systemically lessening its overall resource-intensiveness.
Otherwise, the perceived successes may not lead to “harm reduction” but end up as “harm redirection”.
If the goal were to revitalize our collective wellbeing and richness in the full sense of the word—rather than preserving the opulence of modernity at all costs—then orienting towards decentralizing power and healing place-based relationships is what helps us to get to the very heart of it all.
Decarbonization, weaning off our reliance on Big Energy, and lowering the “stress hormones” of Earth, would be a byproduct of that deep healing.
In my next post, I am sharing about my new live, interactive podcast—an extension of this newsletter. Stay tuned! 🙂
Also in the works are my upcoming pieces on the toxic nature of binary reductionism, the land and labor aspects of the “transition”, and more on how decentralizing power and rebuilding community actually lead to decarbonization.
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