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.
Demolition of "The Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, October 2016.
In late October 2016, I packed my bags for a short trip abroad, leaving a region raw with struggle over the racial and colonial violence of infrastructure. In places like Standing Rock, Flint, Muskrat Falls, Toronto, and Baltimore, conflicts raged over the targeted violence of energy, water, border, and policing systems. Movements for Black lives, for migrants’ rights, for indigenous sovereignty, and for economic and environmental justice were increasingly mapping violent infrastructure systems with their direct actions and analyses. The water protectors’ camps at Standing Rock were large and growing, animated by spirit, ceremony, and unprecedented gathering as they halted the Dakota Access Pipeline. The largest prison strike in history, 45 years after the Attica uprising, was calling out the inhumanity of American carceral infrastructure. Black organizers were denouncing infrastructure crises like the one poisoning Flint, Michigan, suggesting these would be the defining struggles for Black communities to come. More than 50 Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island had just signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, with the goal of protecting Indigenous lands and waters from all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects. In my hometown of Toronto, Black Lives Matter members were making claims for the protection of “Black Infrastructure.” Blockades of damns, ports, highways, and rail infrastructure had become frequent news virtually everywhere, except for in the reporting of the mainstream media.
In The Reproach of Hunger, David Rieff discusses the beginnings of the global food crisis, dispelling the myth that it's cause can be attributed to population increase. Instead failure to address climate change, a rise in oil prices and poor governance has led to a crisis of hunger where poorest nations are inevitably hit the hardest.
In the below extract Rieff traces the start of the crisis in 2007 and asks if eight years later we can 'reform the global food system and make sustained global agricultural development an enduring reality?'
(Photo:New York Times)