Andreas Malm, (Malm 2021)


More about how one, or a society, gets to the point where they need to blow up pipelines rather than, as the title suggests, an instruction guide to direct action.



How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Andreas Malm)

  • Your Highlight on page 2 | Location 26-26 | Added on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 6:29:38 AM

No More Excuses for Passivity ======== How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Andreas Malm)

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We erect our camps of sustainable solutions. We cook our vegan food and hold our assemblies. We march, we block, we stage theatres, we hand over lists of demands to ministers, we chain ourselves, we march the next day too. We are still perfectly, immaculately peaceful. There are more of us now, by orders of magnitude. There is another pitch of desperation in our voices; we talk of extinction and no future. And still business continues very much as usual. At what point do we escalate? When do we conclude that the time has come to also try something different? When do we start physically attacking the things that consume our planet and destroy them with our own hands? Is there a good reason we have waited this long? ======== How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Andreas Malm)

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The first was written by the British novelist and essayist John Lanchester. It begins: It is strange and striking that climate change activists have not committed any acts of terrorism. After all, terrorism is for the individual by far the modern world’s most effective form of political action, and climate change is an issue about which people feel just as strongly as about, say, animal rights. This is especially noticeable when you bear in mind the ease of things like blowing up petrol stations, or vandalising SUVs. In cities, SUVs are loathed by everyone except the people who drive them; and in a city the size of London, a few dozen people could in a short space of time make the ownership of these cars effectively impossible, just by running keys down the side of them, at a cost to the owner of several thousand pounds a time. Say fifty people vandalising four cars each every night for a month: six thousand trashed SUVs in a month and the Chelsea tractors would soon be disappearing from our streets. So why don’t these things happen? Is it because the people who feel strongly about climate change are simply too nice, too educated, to do anything of the sort? (But terrorists are often highly educated.) Or is it that even the people who feel most strongly about climate change on some level can’t quite bring themselves to believe in it? ======== How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Andreas Malm)

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And still the same conditions prevail. They are puzzling. At least five factors make them so. First, the magnitude of what is at stake: close to all living beings in heaven and on earth. Second, the ubiquity of potential targets in advanced capitalist countries. A petrol station or an SUV is rarely more than a stone’s throw away – a factor absent, crucially, in countries like Dominica, where emissions sources can be few and far between. Third, the facility with which such things could be taken out of service; no very complicated instruments would have to be employed. Fourth, the awareness of the structure and dimensions of the crisis (considerably more widespread now than when Lanchester’s essay was published), weighing rather heavier on people’s minds than an issue like animal rights. To these easily ascertainable factors, Lanchester added a fifth of a speculative nature: the efficacy of a campaign to take out the most emissions-intensive devices. We do not know if the results are guaranteed, because no such campaigns have yet, as of this writing, been undertaken. On the other hand, one could adduce a sixth factor that is always fully evident: the enormity of the injustice being perpetrated. All in all, this makes it strange and striking indeed that the kind of actions described by Lanchester have not been taken. It is a paradox: call it simply ‘Lanchester’s paradox’. It registers part of the general deficit of action in response to climate breakdown. It captures a form of inaction within the world of activism itself. There is a relation between it and the blah-blah-blah of politicians. ========


Malm, Andreas. 2021. How to Blow up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire. First published by Verso 2021. London New York: Verso.