A Fossil Fuel Ethic
A politics of fossil fuel exit, of deliberately accelerating a society’s withdrawal from oil, gas, and coal dependence ahead of a geologic imperative, ahead even of economic and financial imperatives, is ultimately an ethical act. It puts front and center the harm-to-others criterion and relegates to the wings the economic and political (as in electoral and legislative politics) criteria. What is more, a politics (as in the shaping of society’s core values and steering a particular path) of ending the fossil fuel era is one of temporal extension, of taking seriously humans’ past and future, including their geologically and ecologically distant past and future. Temporal extension necessitates ethical extension—from resources to ecosystems, from extraction to regeneration, from human life to nonhuman life, from us to other, from present generations to past and future generations, from material gain to societal integrity and spiritual uplift, from goods-are-good-and-more-goods-must-be-better to the “good life.” In this chapter, Thomas Princen argues for a politics of urgent transition to start stopping fossil fuels, a politics that has begun and is analyzed in the subsequent chapters.
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