Re: [OPE] Leave the oil in the soil?

From: Patrick Bond (
Date: Fri Feb 15 2008 - 13:02:04 EST

Hi folks,

Your pro-nuclear position is untenable from our vantagepoint in SA, 
Paul, given that in 2006 we had our main power outage (affecting all of 
Cape Town for a few days) due to a loose bolt that shut down the giant 
Koeberg nuclear station, and that we're campaigning like mad to stop the 
next-generation 'Pebble Bed' reactor technology. A chapter in a book 
(Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society) I coedited by my 
friend Muna Lakhani is available if you aren't convinced by 
proliferation risks; he covers the full gamut of arguments.

The idea of 'trading rations' is a dangerous concession (made by 
Contraction&Convergence and EcoEquity people) to the market, which is a 
giant mess already, and cannot be cured by attempts to inject Rawlsian 
equity, especially in the climate of neolib-neocon fusion we're now 
suffering (and indeed will continue suffering thanks to the failure of 
all the major Northern electorates, perhaps Norway excepted, to generate 
even a single genuinely pro-peace government - and all because of oil). 
Moreover, you buy into way too many neoclassical assumptions about value 
measurements and efficiencies - and distract attention from the much 
more substantive - and achievable - means of reducing emissions.

The transitional demands - I love that phrase (but please let's think of 
them as non-reformist reforms, as Gorz had it, so that options like 
nuclear quickly fall away) - would surely include payment of the vast 
ecological debt y'all up North owe the South for using the rainforests 
as a free sink, right? Or do you want to continue that form of 
accumulation by dispossession unhindered? Nah.

As for Jurian, who's also a good comrade, how do you get the nerve to 
attack the practical, life-saving program of the Niger Delta activists 
or Ecuadoran indigenous people or progressives in Calgary and Oslo, and 
Alaskan environmentalists and all the others who've made this demand, 
some at the cost of their lives? Do you know how much money is drawn out 
of Southern countries by the extractive industries? If you don't believe 
me on the left, try the WB calculations from their 2006 book *Where is 
the Wealth of Nations?*, which demonstrate using just four GDP 
corrections - the main one for our purposes being depletion of 
nonrenewable resources - that there is a net negative wealth creation 
rate in most African countries, especially those suffering the Resource 

And if, armed with this stuff, you're interested in how to popularise a 
"Leave the Oil in the Soil" campaign for solidarity with oppressed 
people, and generalise it for the sake of the Planet, then it is indeed 
a worthy challenge to work out the implications of cold-turkey fossil 
fuel de-addiction project for Your People in Amsterdam, and mine in 
Durban (especially me with a much larger CO2 footprint due to flying 
around too much). That's work that should commence, not be rejected at 
the outset of the conversation, comrade.


Paul Cockshott wrote:
> We need to think through the implications certainly
> Some transitional demands:
> 1. The need for nuclear reactors and almost certainly breeder reactors
> 2. The need for transcontinental power grids to shift solar energy 
> from desert regions to the north
> 3. Need for rationing of carbon, with all states getting the same per 
> capita ration, and individuals being able to trade their rations
> Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
>> Leave the oil in the soil? Have you people ever seriously considered 
>> what that would imply in total for people's lives now?
>> I think many of Patrick's efforts are admirable, but I personally 
>> would not want to be associated with this particular metaphor. I 
>> don't think anybody denies these days that ecological problems are 
>> real. It's a commonplace. But when we ask such questions as how we 
>> are going to tackle them, and what sort of people will support that, 
>> we straightaway confront the politics of social classes - and they 
>> think or act in ways which seem reasonable from the standpoint of 
>> their own position in the world.
>> Jurriaan
>> -----------

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