Photo: Russ Vernon-Jones (Shutterstock).

Russ Vernon-Jones

In the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, a young girl sets off to take some food to her sickly grandmother.  She meets a wolf who finds out where she is going, and who encourages her to stop and pick  flowers. She wanders off the path picking flowers for her grandmother, while the big, bad wolf rushes to the grandma’s house. The wolf eats the grandmother and then gets into her bed, disguised as grandma. When Little Red Riding Hood arrives, she thinks her grandmother looks strange, but the wolf lures her close with his disguise and lies, and then eats her in one gulp.

Who’s In Disguise and Lying Now?
The big oil companies have been lying to the American public for decades.  ExxonMobil knew back in 1977 that burning fossil fuels was going to destroy the climate and have disastrous effects. Instead of seeking a transition to safe energy, they spent billions of dollars on a campaign of lies and deceptions. They insisted their products were safe for the world and intentionally fostered a belief that there was a big scientific disagreement about climate change, knowing full well that there was an overwhelming scientific consensus about the dangers and causes of climate change.  Now in addition to their lies, like the Big Bad Wolf, , they are disguising themselves with elaborate public relations campaigns that portray them as climate friendly, environmentally-conscious, green companies.

Have they changed their ways in the face of the climate crisis?  Absolutely not! They are exploring and drilling for still more oil and gas.

It is now well-known that in order to avoid the climate catastrophes that will come with letting global temperatures rise more than 1.5°C, we must leave in the ground more than half of the coal, oil and gas that is in mines and wells  already in operation.  In this situation, drilling new wells is not just madness, it is an attack on all of humanity and civilization as we know it.  It will lead to vastly greater human deaths and suffering, and the extinction of countless species of living things.

Betting Against Us
Earlier this year, a group of oil companies, including BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron committed $4.3 billion to expanding deepwater drilling operations in the Caspian Sea.  This followed on the heels about $50 billion in new fossil fuel projects approved by major energy companies in 2018.

These investments only make financial sense if the world fails to limit carbon emissions sufficiently to keep global warming to well below 2°C.  In other words, the oil companies are betting  that humanity will fail to do what we must do, and they are investing huge sums in making the situation worse – that is, more deadly.

They’ve Declared War on Us All
It is time that we face that these companies are the enemy of the people, and the enemy of every human society throughout the world.  They are consistently pursuing their own greed, knowing full well that it is causing destruction and death, and will cause even more.  In a sense, they have declared war on all of us, and must be stopped. This is also a racist and classist war because the worst harmful effects  fall primarily on people of color and poor people around the world. The greatest profits from it go primarily to wealthy white people.

Nonetheless, it is also war on all of us, and in this war, the fossil fuel corporations are being aided and abetted by our governments.  Worldwide government subsidies of the fossil fuel industry are $750 billion per year or more. This does not include the cost of the public paying for the effects of climate change, damage to people’s health, and other expenses resulting from the business of the fossil fuel companies.  When all those costs (externalities) are included, the subsidy is estimated to be over $5 trillion each year, (based on a study by the International Monetary Fund. The United States, despite a pledge to phase out subsidies, still spends $27 billion each year to subsidize dirty fuels.  (This does not include externalities.) 

How Does The Story End?
In the Grimm Brothers version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, a hunter arrives and cuts open the wolf, saving the girl and her grandmother.  Who will free us? The world-wide climate movement, which is  growing stronger every day.  Only a massive people’s movement can have the power to stop the fossil fuel industry’s madness. We must all:

  • Support the climate movement with our dollars, by going to meetings, and by taking collective action. (I recommend supporting climate organizations that have social justice at the center of their agendas.  My favorites include the Sunrise Movement,  Extinction Rebellion350.org, and the Sierra Club)
  • Refuse to vote for political candidates who accept donations from fossil fuel companies
  • Demand that governments remove all fossil fuel subsidies and put that money toward incentivizing renewable energy
  • Advocate for regulation of corporations by government.  (Contrary to the right wing vilification of this practice, government regulation has always been a way that people can act collectively to protect and promote the common welfare,and limit the harmful effects of unrestrained greed)
  • Help turn fossil fuel companies into moral pariahs, and insist that they be held accountable for their deceitful and deadly practices

Change The System
Finally, the fossil fuel industry is not a unique or atypical phenomenon.  It is the logical product of an economic system that is based on greed, exploitation, racism, and extraction, and which relies on the market to make decisions rather than prioritizing the needs of workers and families everywhere.  Fortunately, the climate movement is increasingly becoming a movement that understands that the whole system must be changed; and that climate, jobs, and social justice are all intimately connected.

What a time to be alive!

Russ Vernon Jones blogs regularly on climate justice at www.RussVernonJones.org .

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