In a unique journey from the oil fields of the Caspian Sea to the refineries and financial centres of Northern Europe, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello track the concealed routes along which flows the lifeblood of our economy. The stupendous resource of Azerbaijani crude has long inspired dreams of a world remade. From the revolutionary Futurism of the capital city, Baku, in the 1920s to the unblinking Capitalism of modern London, the drive to control the region’s oil reserves—and hence people and events—has shattered environments and shaped societies.
In The Oil Road, the human scale of village life in the Caucasus Mountains and the plains of Anatolia is suddenly, and sometimes fatally, confronted by the almost ungraspable scale of the oil corporation BP. Pipelines and tanker routes tie the fraying social democracies of Italy, Austria and Germany to the repressive regimes of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. A web of financial and political institutions in London stitches together the lives of metropolis and village.
Building on a decade of study with Platform, Marriott and Minio-Paluello guide us through a previously obscured landscape of energy production and consumption, resistance and profit that has marked Europe for over a century. They blend the empathy of committed travel writing with the precision of investigative journalism in a timely book of compelling urgency.
The human race travels the Oil Road, and this book helps us to realize where we are heading and why it is time to change direction.
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.