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  • Bradley Urso

    While I agree with reducing carbon emissions, I have to admit I don't like comparing the anti-slavery movement with the current carbon reduction movement/movement towards creating a sustainable human existence. I feel like it's a huge stretch. I always feel uncomfortable when folks who are members of environmental activist groups draw the comparison with the civil rights movement of the 60s. Acquiring basic human rights and equal rights for human beings seems so far away from getting the energy industry to stop using fossil fuels. One is based on a prediction while the other is just an obvious application of justice. I think its good to be aware of history, there are still people discriminated against today based on ethnicity, sexual orientation? the abolitionist movement is more applicable to those struggles I think. I feel like collectively we should stive to find an original definition for the current movement towards building sustainable future not look backwards. I'm not attacking this connection, there are maybe lessons to learn, I just feel like contextually its a stretch and I've heard it a bit too often from the environmental movement. Also it tends to create an us v. them mentality (which definitely should have existed in the late 1800's/1960's but now its just played out). I always here this corporations is evil etc. Are these people really evil? I'm not sold. They are providing for their families etc. providing the functions they've learned to do within the society that exists currently design. I would rather focus energy on providing better alternative solutions or designing systems that don't require such high energy inputs. Telling exxon mobile they must submit is simply not going to work. We tell them "don't make money, you're evil" do we really think thats going to change anything. I don't think so. And the issue is not have such an easily defined right and wrong as the abolitionist movement, and if we think it does I feel we are being closed minded. I think has the right idea. That was then this is now though, now is much different, its global, based on scientific predictions, we are all in this together, the climate changes for everyone because we are all a part of the climate even exxon and shell.

    • Bill Bigelow

      Bradley, Thanks for such a thoughtful reply to my article. First, I, too, do not want to make facile comparisons between social movements. Some comparisons can feel to me like a kind of appropriation -- one movement trying to "steal" righteousness from another movement. I don't think it's useful to compare slavery to the climate crisis. My aim in the article was simply to show that the abolition movement had every reason to despair and to feel that they were confronting a "done deal." Instead, they responded with heightened activism and determination. And I think that the climate movement needs to do the same today. However, at the risk of being contrary, I think that we need more "us vs. them," not less. No where in my article did I suggest that there are evil people. As Naomi Klein says in the quote of hers I use, energy executives are simply doing what they do: exploiting fossil fuels for profit and in the process, destroying the planet. That's their business plan. On the island of Kiribati right now, they have to figure out where they are going to move and when, and under what circumstances. They are not losing only their homes but the very place where they have lived for countless generations. Meanwhile, Exxon executives are spending $100 million a day -- their figures, not mine -- attempting to discover even more fossil fuels to wreck the planet even more decisively. You're right that in some grand way, we all share the same climate -- but in terms of power and consequences we live in entirely different worlds. Again, thanks so much for your thoughtful commentary on my GOOD article.

      • Bradley Urso

        That is a good point about feeling despair and persevering on. I may have been muddling some separate comparisons I've heard about the similar era you used except for with different reasons for comparison. That is most likely where the evil comment came up from, I've heard that elsewhere, I didn't mean to imply that is what your message consisted of. I've just heard similar comparisons drawn where the evilness of slave owners was compared to oil executives, which I found a bit excessive, but yes you are totally right on that, you were not doing that, which I appreciate. I tangented a little bit. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful reply and I think you are right about the separate worlds, sometimes I just feel apprehension highlighting that fact maybe because of what your overall point was, that creates a seemingly hopeless struggle in my mind. I think this would be a good point to base a discussion off of actually, how do we learn from the past to avoid the necessity of a civil war to abolish fossil fuel consumption. I know the civil war had more complicated driving forces than just that and I don't think that scenario can be repeated. But I know a lot of young people my age are putting their futures on the line to stop the current Keystone XL Pipeline. What are alternatives? I feel more and more like they are necessity; however, I dislike the fact of the us v. them mentality. I guess the question that always comes up in my mind is, how do we get everyone on the same page, on the same team? I'm not sure.