Freidman for Freedom: But from what?

Tom Friedman’s Memorial Day 2050 column is worth a look, starting with the terrific quote from Washington Governor Jay Inslee,

We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.freedom is not free

Friedman rallies us to urgency and resolve, with the hope that we might yet earn the gratitude of future generations in Memorial Days to come.  He frames the fight for climate action as “our generation’s freedom struggle.”

What containment was for our parents’ generation — their strategy to fight for freedom against the biggest threat of their day — resiliency will be for our generation against the multiple threats of our day:  climate change, petro-dictatorship and destruction of our environment and biodiversity.

But “resiliency” against “multiple threats” is too fuzzy to spark a real fight for freedom.  We need to be more specific and focused about what we’re up against.  The biggest threat to our freedom — the biggest obstacle to climate solutions — is Big Fossil’s stranglehold on our democracy.

You can choose to see the fossil fuel industry as a conscious, ruthless tyrant.  Their unconscionable distortion of climate reality and their aggressive manipulation of our political system support that view.  Or you can see them as caught in a bad system – a business model that, it turns out, requires and has already banked on burning 3 to 5 times more carbon than the atmosphere can handle.  (Or you can try to reconcile the two.  See, uproariously, “…and the horse you rode in on”)

But the practical result is the same.  What’s holding us back, with its boot squarely on our grandkids’ necks, is the concentrated economic and political power of the fossil fuel industry. If we mean to fight for and win our freedom, it’s not enough to say, as Friedman does, that “the worst enemies of freedom on the planet” are “the world’s petrodictators.”

No.  The biggest threat to our freedom – the biggest obstacle to the clean energy solutions we know are possibleisn’t “the world’s” oil-funded tyrants.  It’s the fossil fuel industry, and its stranglehold on our democracy.

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