We are guided by an ideology so familiar and pervasive that we do not even recognise it as an ideology. It is called consumerism. It has been crafted with the help of skilful advertisers and marketers, by corporate celebrity culture, and by a media that casts us as the recipients of goods and services rather than the creators of political reality. It is locked in by transport, town planning and energy systems that make good choices all but impossible. It spreads like a stain through political systems, which have been systematically captured by lobbying and campaign finance, until political leaders cease to represent us, and work instead for the pollutocrats who fund them.
The oil companies have successfully transferred blame for their actions to us. It is time to fight back.
Let’s stop calling this the Sixth Great Extinction. Let’s start calling it what it is: the First Great Extermination. Arecent essayby the environmental historian Justin McBrien argues that describing the current eradication of living systems (including human societies) as an extinction event makes this catastrophe sound like a passive accident.
While we are all participants in the First Great Extermination, our responsibility is not evenly shared. The impacts of most of the world’s peopleare minimal. Even middle-class people in the rich world, whose effects are significant, are guided by a system of thought and action shaped in large part by corporations.
The Guardian’s newPolluters seriesreveals that just 20 fossil fuel companies, some owned by states, some by shareholders, have produced 35% of the carbon dioxide and…
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