Behind the missiles, bombs and bullets raining down on Ukraine lie fossil fuels. The rich world’s addiction to perpetual energy is financing a dictator’s war. The Ukrainians fleeing home and those who’ve stayed to fight are at the mercy of a twisted economic system. As the oil pumps, the blood spills.
Oil and gas pipelines snake their way across the Russian landscape. From the West Siberian Plateau, through the Ural mountains and across the Belarussian and Ukrainian plains, these arteries of poison reach Milan, Berlin and Prague. The poison powers our cars, heats our homes and flies our planes while weakening the life support systems nature provides. As the poison spews it warms our planet, melting Arctic ice, causing drought and killing species. Russian hydrocarbons funding war and ecosystem collapse.
The money we pay for this poison flows to the billionaires: the president of a Russian oil company; the CEO of a Siberian gas business; the majority owner of a Russian energy firm. These dark exchanges fund Putin’s death machine. Tanks, planes and weapons paid for with pollution. The oligarchs’ destruction of the natural environment creates more opportunities for spreading poison as melting Arctic ice facilitates oil exploration. While the profits flow to billionaires, Putin’s capacity for war grows. Life-sucking fossil fuels are enabling one man’s power trip. A Kharkiv refugee’s trauma and a Kyiv civilian caught in a missile barrage are another consequence of unconstrained wealth ripping lives apart.
In the toxic symbiosis between Russian hydrocarbons and Europe’s energy desires, the billionaires gorge on their own poison. The continent becomes a playground for their ill-gotten gains as they consume ever more fossil fuels to fund their lavish lifestyles. Yachts moored in Barcelona, jets flown from Monaco and expensive London mansions. All this fuels even more demand for the poison that’s pumped around Europe, brimming Putin’s war chest with black money. Carbon emissions are paying for the artillery shells hurtling down on Mariupol and the tanks bulldozing their way to Kyiv.
The poison doesn’t only end up in our vehicles and heating. It spreads throughout our lives. Plastics require oil. China buys Russian oil to create cheap goods as the world’s workshop. Our electronics, clothes, furniture, games and sports equipment are all manufactured with poison. Entire homes are cast with oil while the blood drips in Ukraine. The intensity of this consumption of poison skyrockets as we scale the income brackets. Owners of SUVs, air conditioning units and sports cars spew ever more of it.
Only now is the rich world waking up to its complicity in funding death. What will it take for us to question the Formula 1 races in oil-rich Saudi Arabia whilst they drop bombs in Yemen? The World Cup in a Qatar flush with fossil fuels whilst people die building football stadiums? English football allowing billionaires to buy clubs with dirty money gained through violence and crushing of dissent? Roman Abramovich sits in peace talks when his sportswashing enabled the immiseration of Ukraine.
The flow of oil needs to stop. The flow of gas needs to stop. We cannot continue funding fossil fuel economies that power death. The news the world needed to hear was the recent IPCC report on climate change, described by the UN Secretary-General as an “atlas of human suffering”. Instead, we see the oil-powered Russian military bludgeoning its way through Ukraine.
None of this is new. Bodies are strewn over the decades from Suez to Tehran to Baghdad thanks to the oil the rich world believes it cannot live without. Petrostates have spread misery in Yemen, Venezuela and South Sudan. Ukrainians are yet another people caught in the never-ending cycle of fossil fuels and destruction.
Where the oil pumps, the blood spills.
Act Now: Please get involved with the Rebellion this spring: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/next-uk-rebellion/. XR will be taking action against fossil fuels in the UK.
Stephen Young is a software engineer living in London. He is part of a campaign to encourage local councils to start serving plant based meals at council events and in schools. He will write about climate change here: https://stephenyoung.substack.com/