As part of our series looking critically at climate change and the ongoing COP21 talks in Paris we have an exclusive extract from Andreas Malm's Fossil Capital. In it, Malm outlines his distinctive approach to the contemporary fossil economy by looking back to its contingent origins during the Industrial Revolution. It is only through this, Malm argues, that we can truly understand the crisis we are in today.
In this article (originally published in Issue 1 of Salvage Quarterly - available here), Daniel Hartley argues that the concept of the Anthropocene, which has become so common in contemporary discussions of climate change, elides the fissures within society. It is not human (Anthropos) but Capital which is at the root of our current crisis.
In this article, originally published on the Jacobin website, Andreas Malm (author of Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming) argues that ahead of COP21, and with Hollande's clampdown on protests around Paris in the weeks of the conference, that confronting climate change through militant resistence in the streets is more important than ever.
The climate negotiations entered their final day, and we geared up for our most audacious action. Several buses brought four hundred activists to different locations near the conference hall. Adrenaline running, we walked fast toward the gates and the guards. After a week of discussing sea level rise, eating vegan food, blocking car traffic, and marching in the streets dressed as polar bears and turtles, we were out to make a real difference.
This week's COP21 conference on climate change in Paris is being heralded by world leaders as a potential turning point in the Earth's ecological history. At the root of the consensus on the causes of climate change is a conception of man-made change that places humans, as an undifferentiated whole, as the cause of our current ecological plight. The solution which flows from this places the onus on small, ameliorative reforms (carbon trading, small decreases in omissions. etc). Yet, as Jason W. Moore argues in this extract from Capitalism in the Web of Life, to view climate change in this way naturalises inequalities, alienation and violence and lets the ultimate cause of the contemporary crisis, Capitalism, off the hook.
Also see our COP21: climate crisis reading list.