It’s time to call a spade a spade, it’s time to connect the dots. Fossil fuels are killing people, particularly those at higher risk. Many are dying right now, but in the near future people face a massacre of unprecedented proportions. It starts with Planet Earth’s mass extinction event taking place right now — but it doesn’t end there.
The story of the destruction of the Planet Earth’s living ecosphere and the history of systemic racism have much in common. Both are centered in “colonialism,” in other words, oppression. Both land and people faced and are facing oppression — and there’s no denying the effects each of these oppressions have on each other. Many cultural ideologies — first and foremost the hegemony of the profit motive — have put a higher value on monetary gain than ecological health or human life. The result of these grand historical narratives is the setting of a stage for the most terrifying and overwhelming massacre of human life that this planet has ever seen.
The ground has been dug up and laid to waste, its bowels pumped nearly dry. The contents: crude oil, natural gas and coal, rich and ready for chemical production and combustion. The chemicals are largely toxic, noxious and lethal. The results of their combustion: a global health emergency of unparalleled proportions. Human fertility is threatened, especially for those in frontline communities, black mothers in particular. Yes, the climate crisis is an issue very much intertwined, propelled and exacerbated by racism, sexism and classism. Systemic inequities mean people struggle even when they’re not battling higher temperatures and increased exposure to water and air pollution. But the climate crisis means people who already struggle will struggle even more.
The Petrolocene, the era of fossil fuels, is defined by colonialism and intersectional oppression. Those who suffer first are those who are most vulnerable. But the suffering won’t stop there. By 2050 the world will have even more “catastrophic wildfires, severe droughts, overwhelming hurricanes, tornadoes, record-breaking floods especially in coastal regions, and unprecedented global pandemics.” This translates into water and food shortages as well as widespread infrastructure breakdowns. Even the richest of the rich will soon be at risk (and I don’t think escaping to Mars will be a viable option).
By as early as 2070, humanity could face losses of human life that have heretofore remained unimaginable. It would likely strike societies as a complex, multifactorial front: through food and water insecurity, heat stress, displacement and disease.
But there are steps to take that could start saving these lives now. The Green New Deal could save countless lives by reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. With these sorts of initiatives, all of the problems listed above would be lessened in their severity. It seems such a reasonable thing to do. The time is now to prevent future harm.