We Don’t Have To Change Everything, We Just Need To Stop Fossil Fuels

Political action will beat climate change, not lifestyle changes

Indi Samarajiva
Sep 5 · 3 min read

If you dig fossil fuels out of the ground and light them on fire, the world will get hot. That’s basically it. We have to stop doing that. Personal lifestyle changes will not solve this climate crisis. This is a political problem, and people have to take political action.

Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of emissions. Here they are:

Just 100 companies in 40 countries are responsible. More here.

All of these companies are in the energy or mining industry, they dig things out of the Earth and burn them. Almost all of them are state-owned, and the rest have their tentacles deep into politics.

These companies and industries are the problem, and fighting them is the solution. Even if you eat a burger through a plastic straw while doing it, if political action can stop these companies, we can win.

The fact is that it simply doesn’t matter if you personally use solar or drive a Tesla. As long as national electricity grids are driven by fossil fuels, we will fail. As long as oil remains cheap for transport, we will fail. As long as a government can open a coal power plant without massive protests, we will fail.

These are political actions that require massive political pressure, because the real source of climate change is invisible and insiduous. It’s not something one person can change. If you turn on a light and your electrical grid is burning fossil fuels, you are part of the problem. Changing a few things on the edges of your lifestyle is not enough, we have to change the grid.

As US Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said in a climate town hall, “This is exactly what fossil fuel industries want us to talk about — they want to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, straws, cheeseburgers. But 70% of the pollution comes from three industries. We can set our targets and say no more by 2035.”

The fact is that the fossil fuel industry has to end. And that is possible. Sustained protests, punctuated by disasters, effectively stalled the nuclear power industry. Fossil fuels are a slow motion disaster ultimately worse than Chernobyl. There have to be sustained strikes and protests against fossil fuels until they become politically impossible for governments to build and maintain.

This is of course difficult because many governments own the fossil fuel companies, or their politicians are funded by them. They are a formidable opponent, and fossil fuels do provide cheap, reliable and safe energy, in the short term. But in the long term a lot of us are dead.

That’s why it is up to us to use our voices, even if we’re hypocrites. Even if you eat meat, or drive a diesel, or even take private flights, you just have to fight the fossil fuel industry with words, feet, votes, and political action. Even if you drink a burger through a plastic straw, we still need you. Personal changes are good, and they’re good for signaling, but we have to keep our eyes on the prize.

These 100 companies have to go out of business for the Earth to survive. And they won’t just go out of business because the planet doesn’t show up on anybody’s balance sheet. The only thing that can solve this modern problem of the commons is political action by common people. And we don’t have to change everything. We just have to stop fossil fuels.

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

Colombo liberal. Writer, father. Founder of YAMU and Kottu.

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