Sometimes, in idle moments, I get a vision of my teenage son’s son — my imaginary unborn grandson — manually pollinating soybeans for 12 hours a day in exchange for a ration of drinkable water. I prefer not to linger on this image. Once I have forced my mind away from it, though, to picture said grandson coming home and feeding me my mush, I end up wondering how I will explain to him why it was so vitally important, in the year 2021, that we preserve the normal function of the Senate and respect the personal autonomy of a man named Joe Manchin III.
To dismiss this piece as mere alarmism would be a mistake. Perhaps the dystopian future it predicts is far more grim and more bleak than what we will actually experience, but how can we know for certain? I would rather expect and prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, instead of drowning myself in delusion.
Fortunately, there are several problems with this idea, and you don’t have to dig too deeply to find them. For one thing, Manchin is not the only person holding up the works. His position on climate change would not be relevant if even one Republican in the Senate were willing to step past his Facebook-addled base and vote with Democrats to avert catastrophe. It’s kind of unfair to blame one Democrat for the sui-/homicidal intransigence of the entire Republican Party. Also, the federal government is not the only way to cause change. Environmental regulations are hard to make at home, but it is relatively easy to, for example, go out and sabotage a piece of privately owned equipment in a way that reduces total oil or gas consumption and encourages shifts to renewable energy.
This is the premise of Andreas Malm’s newish book How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which — given its dearth of blueprints and comparative surfeit of moral and political reasoning — might better be titled Why to Blow Up a Pipeline, as many critics have observed, but which nonetheless makes a compelling argument that the time for nonviolent resistance to human-caused climate change has passed, and the next move is industrial sabotage. That’s probably a better idea than murder. But try telling that to your spouse and/or minor dependents when they ask why you are leaving the house with a clinking backpack at 2:45 a.m., and you assure them that, don’t worry, you have carefully examined the news and determined that the only way forward is to personally detonate a portion of U.S. energy infrastructure.
Industrial sabotage. As governments and politicians repeatedly fail to do anything of consequence, they further impress upon the rest of us the moral imperative to take matters into our own hands. In fact, it is already happening. In British Columbia, Canada, members of the Gidimt’en Clan evicted Coastal GasLink employees from unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. The Gidimt’en Clan then destroyed the Morice Forest Service Road, thus preventing further access to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Later, in solidarity with Gidimt’en, a group of protesters blocked traffic in Montreal with flaming piles of tires and picnic tables.
If governments and corporations continue to fail — and I personally don’t understand why we should expect them to change their negligent behavior after decades of warnings and increasing environmental catastrophe — we will see more and more radical acts of industrial sabotage. And we should all consider which side we would rather join.