I wrote this piece in early November 2019 as I was preparing a piece of work on behalf of Stop Ecocide - Change the Law. This work caused me to reflect upon how in recent years some of us eco-conscious types have demonised oil and this led me to reframe my perception of our relationship with oil.
Who are we to demonise oil?
The privileged way of life which we enjoy and which facilitates so many aspects of our development is for the most part predicated upon our hitherto addiction to oil. There is no doubt that we should stop our reliance on oil and continue to find other means - such as wind or solar power - to meet our daily need for warmth, cooking, transport, communication etc.
However in our zeal to clean up our act we have not yet paused to thank our Mother Earth for this great gift. All of our advancement as we know it is hugely indebted to oil. Even as far back as 5,500 years ago oil was deployed and played its part in creating magic. At this time civilisations in Caral (N. coastal Peru) and Sumer emerged. In both civilisations, simultaneously yet in different parts of the world, the cult of the perpetual fire was invented. Fire in the centre of a spiral. The gift of the spiral which echoes down the ages is that if you walk around the spiral you can meet your self. In these two ancient civilisations a perpetual fire was kept in the middle of the spiral. In Peru the fire needed constant feeding, in Sumer oil could keep the perpetual fire going.
The code of Ur-Nammu written in Sumerian is the oldest known law code surviving today. In some senses, then, International law which we are going to enhance through the recognition of Ecocide as a crime is a descendant of this lineage.
The science is unambiguous and it is clear beyond any shadow of doubt that we have to find alternatives to oil as a part of addressing the enormous imbalance in our relationship to Mother Earth and all of life on earth.
Clearly much is being done to address this in practical, scientific ways. From a deeply spiritual perspective one might argue that it is helpful to mediate our new relationship with the natural world with love, with reverence, with gratitude. Part of coming into right relationship with nature could be honouring and giving thanks for the tremendous gift of oil. We could, for example, create ceremony and rituals to come together to do this. In so doing we can embrace all the positive benefits of oil to the growth of our civilisation as well as acknowledging our collective misuse of this gift. In this way we can begin to hold it all in balance, find harmony, and avoid the destructive effects of 'othering'. By the same token we might acknowledge the humanity of the oil CEOs who (with good reason) are also demonised.
The oil CEOs who now in the face of all the scientific evidence perpetuate the misuse of oil and obstruct humanity's progress towards cleaner fuels are people who are able to compartmentalise themselves. What they do at work is evil, however they are also - one assumes - well-meaning parents, able to conduct themselves in the right way in church at weddings, doubtless fun to be with socially...what they do at work is perhaps not congruent with how they are the rest of the time. Because they can compartmentalise themselves they can easily dissociate from the impact their actions are having. They are not alone. The world is in an epoch when the human environment is very harsh. The counterpoint to this, as we know, is love, acceptance, gratitude... fuelled by a resolve to come together and wholeheartedly face what we are all a part of; to find eco-friendly alternatives to oil; and above all come into right relationship with all that is: no longer dominators of, but collaborators with, nature.
To quote a Q'echuan truth : Never underestimate what is possible when we collaborate with nature.