There was some debate via email lists about the protest to oppose the building of dams on the Salween river. The debate was framed in terms of “human life vs global warming” with the point being raised that if the hydro electric dams were not built then more coal would be burnt. I think this highlights well how those in power are allowed to frame the debate and choose the battle ground. Letting those in power set the debate as a choice between coal and hydro puts us in the position where we are arguing for the best way to destroy the planet. I don’t want any more power to be generated; I don’t want to spend my time arguing for the best way to kill the planet.
Environmentalists too often only argue for that which industrial civilization can easily give them – things which make industrial civilization more efficient and allow it to destroy the planet at ever increasing rate. We argue for things which are relatively public friendly such as Nandor’s call to ban plastic bags last night. We argue for things which make us feel better but which ultimately do not matter. But we never question the system which always has and always will destroy this planet. Our civilization is irredeemable and cannot voluntarily make a switch to a sustainable way of living – this is the message we must hold and this is the message that must guide our actions. We must come to choose the battlefields and the terms of the battle.
I am not going to chose between coal or dams because that’s a choice we do not have to make. The demand for power is unsustainable – it cannot be sustained. This is what we need to tell people, that you cannot drive your car, that you will not be able to buy tomatoes in the middle of winter, that you will probably become unemployed as our system collapses. We must no longer be complicit and we must let our opposition to the entire system be known.
For me I don’t want cleaner cars, I don’t want carbon sequestration, I don’t want an end to plastic shopping bags. I want for my harbour - the Manukau to become cleaner every year, I want the number of cars to decrease every year, I want the number of houses connected to the electricity grid to decrease each year. I want to live in a society that values human life, the environment and freedom above profit and greed. I want to live in a society where the food I eat is not systematically poisoned. To get to this point I will use any tools available, including reformist action but ultimately I am guided by the knowledge that this system cannot and will not change willingly or soon enough to prevent the largest extinction ever.