05 June 2008

Act locally, act globally: making the oil companies think twice

Yesterday, Total, the French oil group raised the possibility of pulling out of the Niger Delta. This follows the continued "force majeure" status on Royal Dutch/Shell delivery of sweet crude in effect since the end of April. Clearly, the consequences of attacks and kidnappings by militants are being felt by oil majors and consumers at the pump.

The actions in the Niger Delta represents, among other things, represent an important strategy in the global effort to stop climate change? Although, locally militant actions are more focused on putting pressure on the government to allocate more resources to the empoverished area, they should also galvanize some international support from those thinking realistically about global warming and how to stop it.

For those of us who feel our survival is intimately related to what happens to the global environment, how do we imagine that the carbon economy is going to come to end? Reason and scientific proof are not enough to dissuade politicians and their business cronies to simply abandon oil. Furthermore, the common wisdom of how to regulate the current system is to slowly wean the world off petroleum through a series of free-market measures. Perhaps those will have some affect, but the great weakness here is that they uphold the consumer-capitalist hierarchy and essentially reinforce the doctrine of "consumption at all costs".

While it might seem that the crisis in the Delta is helping to enrich oil companies and corrupt politicians, this is only a short-term compromise. If those of us with a more radical streak unite behind local struggles that are having a true impact on weakening a system that profits from the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants, then we may have a chance at redemption after all.

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