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A new way to look at the climate crisis

The LINGO & Life Manifesto

Dear fellow fighters for a safe planet,

we are all trying to find a way out of the climate crisis. But we seem to be trapped in a fossil world where burning fossil fuels is good and economic growth is the measure of things. I would like to propose a simple goal for our climate movement:

Let's shut down all coal mines, oil and gas wells in our lifetimes, and guarantee the right to life.

That is the one responsibility that we, as a climate movement have. You can call it "ending the fossil age", "putting fossil technologies into the museum", "the global energy transition", "zero emissions" or "leaving it in the ground". But I find it helpful to focus on shutting down the mines and wells that we have in our countries and that feed our countries.

Systemic drivers
If we look at the system of humans and the climate, the cheap supply of fossil fuels is the strongest "driver" of the system - even stronger than a global deal on climate would be! (see A Systems Analysis of the Climate Crisis)
If there is no cheap fossil energy around, we will of course start moving away from it. So let's make it expensive by resisting extraction and by shutting down mines! Shutting down a mine leads to less supply, makes coal more expensive and will lead to people choosing renewables (or nuclear, or gas, unfortunately). Of course a higher price also makes it more attractive for companies or exporters to push through new coal mining projects (or tar sands, or Arctic drilling, or exploration for some undiscovered "cheap" oil deposit somewhere). But that's why we need to get smart at resisting extraction.

Why not "reduce emissions"?
Reducing emissions is the name of the climate game so far. At the UN, at home, in national policy. But it leads us nowhere.
Do "reduced emissions" mean we burn less fossil fuels? In theory. Which theory? Well, wishful thinking. Let me tell you something: Economic growth will eat up every last crumb of oil, coal and gas left by "reduced emissions". And if people burn no oil to heat their houses any more, they will simply fill it into their cars and go on vacation. The only thing that counts for the atmosphere is extraction. (thanks for the comrades at Oilwatch for insisting on this point)
If you think of "reduced emissions" as a way towards making shutdown of mines and wells easier/possible, then you are on the right track. But don't lose sight of the goal.

Mobilization is easier
Reducing emissions is about numbers. Fighting extraction is about places, people, stories. It is a much stronger case than what we have so far, as climate activists. What mobilizes people? Historical responsibility or a village getting bulldozed? 30% or keeping the air that we breathe and the water that we drink from being poisoned? Some of us are already working on this task, but many are not. Notably the UNFCCC negotiations are doing basically nothing to achieve our task. Standing with the people who are fighting the fossil monster economy where it wants to eat their land, their health and their history will help you keep your feet on the ground when fighting for decarbonization elsewhere (say the transport or housing sector, or even at your home).

Zero carbon transition plans as enabling LINGO
Transition Plans and zero carbon scenarios and strategies are a very helpful ingredient of our struggle. They give us the inspiration that getting off our fossil addiction is possible. They are the first step. (See a list of 100 cities, regions and countries that have walked at least this first step.)
The second step is getting off fossil fuels, as quickly as we can. Transitioning at home. The Future Box is a tool that can help you to achieve that very quickly.
The third step is to help others transition, too.
The fourth step is to make a zero carbon lifestyle the norm.
At some point during this walk we will gather the courage and the momentum to put a complete phase-out of fossil energy on the agenda.

The "right to development"
There is no such thing. And much less a "right to fossil fuel powered development". We don't have that right in Europe or North America, and we don't have that right in Asia or Africa. We simply don't have a right to destroy other beings for a "better" life and we have no right to destroy the basis of our children's survival.
I live a very comfortable life myself. I call it a "lifestyle of kings", because today's consumer class, to which I belong, has a better quality of life than kings used to have. But we have no "right" to live like that. Our grandparents didn't live like this. They probably worked harder. Do you want to insist that as grandchildren we have a right to burn oil, gas or coal to heat our house, instead of the strenuous work of making firewood? Try to think from the perspective of a Maldivian, a Kenyan or a Bangladeshi. Destroy their homes and lives for a little more comfort of some spoiled brats? Maybe we would have to get up a little earlier every morning to make it. Or rent a smaller apartment. Do we have a right to go on vacation overseas? Do we have a right to eat bananas? Do we have a right to use a computer, brought to us by slave workers and stained with the blood of Congolese victims of civil war? Of course we don't! We have no such right. We do it, because it is comfortable. But it is not right. And much less A right!
Those of us who live like kings, should clean up our mess! We should heat our homes with renewable energy, eat food that doesn't poison the land, and if we feel we need to buy "things", then we should make sure that they don't pollute the environment and allow those who make them to live decent lives.

Talking about a supposed right to development means legitimizing a predatory lifestyle that has no future. But before you start launching a counter-attack on my argument, please allow me to put forward an alternative:

The "right to life"
There is a right to life. Nobody must lose his life because of somebody else. And I believe that this right does not only apply to humans, but also to other beings. If we kill an animal or a plant for food or housing (or whatever other reason), we should be conscious of the fact that they are like a brother, giving their life so that we may live. We should be humble about that and ask them for forgiveness. There is no right to kill either.

The right to life as a logistical challenge for humanity
In order to realize the right to life, we must look after each other. Every single child born on this planet has a right to lead a healthy life. And if we think about what a healthy human life takes, it isn't actually that much. Water, food, housing, clothing, health care and being with the family. Let us frame this as a logistical challenge for our generation, too. How many bags of rice do we need to feed humanity? How many square meters of healthy soil for growing vegetables? How many solar pumps and filters for everyone to have clean water? How many millions need to find a new home, because their own is threatened by the desert, by flooding, by landslide? These are the logistical challenges that our human family faces in the times of crisis. We have been dealing with them before, we just didn't seem to apply too much effort, because we were so busy getting our own piece of the fossil energy cake. (see e.g. progress on the Millennium Development Goals)

The lessons from the climate crisis are simple: everyone has a right to live, and we must leave it in the ground.

And I am quite sure: We'll make it happen!