Defeat By Small Victories

We all dwell on missed opportunities from time to time. Maybe there was a job you almost took, or a trip you almost went on. Maybe you regret going somewhere or doing something when you just wanted to have a little time to yourself. Maybe there was a company you should have invested in, or an investment you shouldn’t have made. For me, the one that nags me the most isn’t one from my own life, but the time that’s been wasted on climate change. What would the world be like if governments had acted when scientists and corporations all knew what was going on, back in the late 1970s, early 1980s? I think it’s entirely possible that we couldn’t have “solved” the problem, but there’s no question that we had a chance for a drastically different future. If we’d been making the kind of steady, deliberate change that was being called for, the planet would be a cooler and less chaotic place, today.

We had a chance, and it was squandered before I was born. Worse than that, the same choice has been made every damned day since then, and so now big changes are all that’s left. Either we change our entire society in a major way, or it will be “changed” for us by the rapidly warming climate. The oceans are doing scary shit right now, and it seems like the powers that be are moving ahead with their plans to use violent repression to deal with the crisis they’ve created.

But hey – fossil fuel lobbyists will have to identify themselves at the next conference that’s supposedly about responding to climate change:

The move by the UN to require anyone registering for the summit to declare their affiliation was heralded as a victory for transparency by campaigners who have been increasingly concerned at the growing presence of oil and gas lobbyists at climate talks.

Scott Kirby, a campaigner from Youngo, which represents youth campaigners at the UN climate talks, said: “When young people see the number of fossil fuel lobbyists present at UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences, it makes us question the ability this process has to solve the biggest challenge threatening our futures. This is why we welcome the step to increase transparency of observer interests in the talks.”

Many campaigners said the change to make potential conflicts of interest more apparent should be only a first step towards excluding fossil fuel companies from the talks, or from key parts of them.

Hwei Mian Lim, of the Women and Gender Constituency, said: “We can only meaningfully tackle the climate crisis when we kick big polluters out. Fortunately, we have the real solutions, including gender-just climate solutions, and have the power in collective feminist movements to prevent untold suffering, in particular among women and girls in the global south.

“This is strengthened with weeding out the undue influence of big polluters that seek to undermine climate action. Cop28 is our best chance to start implementing them and we must do so in the most gender responsive, and effective and impactful way.”

Hey, we did it guys! We won!

In all seriousness, this is a good thing. It’s good that they will have to identify themselves, and it’s even possible that most of them will do it. My problem, in case it wasn’t clear, is that this is the kind of change that should have been made, once again, before I was born. We’ve gotten to the point where global warming is already displacing millions of people every year, and it’s worth a headline that fossil fuel lobbyists have to identify themselves as such at a conference that should be about eliminating their entire industry? At this rate, we’ll be celebrating their ban from the conference some time after the flooded ruins of Miami are finally abandoned.

I want to be clear – I have no problem with the people who fought for this rule change, and it’s clear from the article that they also view this as a very small victory, compared to the scale of what needs doing. If nothing else, their efforts are needed to show why it’s so important for people to organize and take direct action, rather than relying on a political and economic system that might as well be designed to drive us to extinction.

And hey, at least the conference will be limiting the influence of oil interests, right? That’s progress!

The change came as nations wrapped up nearly two weeks of talks in Bonn, where officials tried to lay the groundwork for Cop28, which starts on 30 November.

The event will be held in the United Arab Emirates, a major oil and gas producer, and chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, who is head of the UAE national oil company, Adnoc. The company is planning a large expansion of its production capacity, and last year it sent scores of executives to the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt.

Al Jaber attended the Bonn talks for two days last week and spoke only briefly in public. He said: “The phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable. The speed at which this happens depends on how quickly we can phase up zero-carbon alternatives, while ensuring energy security, accessibility and affordability.”

He failed to give an assurance that a phase-out of fossil fuels would be on the official agenda at Cop28, despite a concerted push by many developed and developing countries for its inclusion. The UAE Cop28 presidency has insisted it is up to all the countries represented at the talks to make decisions on the agenda.

Anyway, remember what I said about organizing? I feel like it would be good if we didn’t have to rely corrupt governments to solve our problems. Having an organized and empowered working class won’t fix everything, but it seems pretty clear that it can’t be worse than giving power to people based on how good they are at exploiting others.

I feel as though I’ve spent my entire life hearing about small victories in one area or another, and each one will help us a whole lot, at some point in the future. They never seem to deliver on that promise. Some of those victories did pay off, by reducing emissions, but they’re hard to notice because they weren’t enough to stop overall emissions from continuing to rise. The majority seem to just be empty promises, or doomed half-measures like trying to offset CO2 emissions with forests, which definitely never catch fire or anything.

It’s frustrating, and discouraging. It reminds me of the many years now that I’ve seen articles and research reports promising revolutionary new batteries, or new ways to harvest power, or new, safer nuclear designs. Just a few more adjustments, and then everything will be fine! It reminds me of the fallacious incrementalism promised by centrist politicians over the years.

We have an abundance of small victories, and they will never be enough if we don’t demand big ones, and fight for them whether or not the people in power want us to. It says everything bad about our political leaders that fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists aren’t treated as pariahs for their decades of destruction, corruption, and misinformation. Until we have the power to actually bring things to a halt, and force change, these small “victories” are likely to be the best we get, as the world continues to burn. I used to like reading about things like this but these days, it just feels like a reminder of how little progress we’ve made.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!


  1. John Morales says

    One particular idea there may be appealing to the general populace:
    “Designing portable batteries in appliances in such a way that consumers can themselves easily remove and replace them;”

  2. Jazzlet says

    John Morales @#2

    My new phone is designed so that I can replace the screen or the battery as needed, and even comes with tools to help me to do so, it’s a Nokia, and I suspect that having been overtaken by others in the smart phone market it is their attempt at getting some of that market back Still it’s a good idea, even if had I been choosing the phone I would have gone for something smaller (it’s about 75 mm by 165 mm), but it was a suprise purchase for me as Mr J was fed up of my old phone’s poor performance (not unreasonably either).

  3. Ichthyic says

    I hope someday, Abe, you decide to cobble all of your essays into book form. i would buy the hell out of that.

  4. says

    @Icthyic – that’s very nice of you to say, and the first time I’ve gotten that recommendation from someone other than a parent, so thank you!

    I’ll definitely think about it!

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