Today, I heard the wonderful news that Shell has ditched their attempts to drill in the Arctic, deeming it economically unviable after exploratory drilling.
The entire saga of Shell's arctic adventure has reminded me of the importance of an economic strategy in the struggle against resource extraction. These projects rely on elaborate and very expensive logistical supply chains and distribution infrastructure (pipelines, ports, etc.). Principled interventions in the form of disruptions and blockades, like those of our brave friends in Portland Rising Tide, have the ability to make the costs of extraction prohibitively high.
This type of strategy, one that works to raise the costs extraction by causing logistical disruptions was exactly what we at the Shaleshock Direct Action Working Group pursued a few years ago with our blockade of Schlumberger's facilities in upstate NY. What was so fascinating about that experience was that while the NY anti-fracking movement had been incredibly strong for several years by that point, for many of the hundreds of people who showed up to the blockade, it was the first time they had been to an industry site - despite the large number of oil-field service stations, frack sand transfer points, compressor stations and the like that are located throughout the region.
The experience of participating in the blockade (and succeeding in closing the 24/7 facility for the day) was a powerful one. Beyond the notion that "direct action gets the goods", I think it was powerful because it was one of the early moments in which the New York Fractivists came together not to rally against some future threat but to recognize the ways in which the logistical operations of fracking already directly effected our lives in upstate New York. I believe that if we truly believe in a future without industrial civilization and its dependence on resources, this is how we are going to have do accomplish it: coming together with those whom with live with to disrupt and render inoperable the logistical functioning of this system, starting with the infrastructure that is at hand.
In the recently published book, To Our Friends, The Invisible Committee expounds upon this point. Power is, they say, logistical. To resist it what we need is not the creation of some revolutionary party or some other entity, but to "make a pact to face the world together", building a sense of shared power with those you live with out through the establishment of "a qualitative bond, and a way of being in the world." Part of this new "way of being in the world" is a different relationship to space: no longer the smooth, cartesian space envisioned by capital, but a relation to the land mediated through stories, history and techniques. Out of this sense of place comes a sense of something held in common, something worth defending. This new of shared way of life and way of inhabiting of territory (the commune, as they would call it) becomes something worth defending and in this moment, the logistical operations (be they of extractive industry or otherwise) which require a smooth and regular territory become disrupted.
However densely loaded with sexy jargon, what the Invisible Committee is calling for is quite simple, so intuitive in fact that examples of these sorts of struggles abound. We see them throughout the world in countless territorial struggles against resource extraction: communities coming together, recognizing that something they hold in common is under threat and disrupting the infrastructure at hand thereby interfering with the smooth logistical operation of the larger system.
Of course, this sort of "local" territorial opposition is only one part of the project. We also need to, in building a shared life, a new way of being in the world, establish a relationship that reduces our dependency on (and submission to) a world-straddling extraction-based economic system. What I'm talking about is my mom's backyard goats, chickens and bees, the olive trees in Palestine and the milpas of the Zapatistas. Whatever you think about Ghandi, Swaraj was one hell of a revolutionary program.
But yeah, big ups to all my friends who couldn't bear the sight of large pieces of shell's infrastructure moving down the Columbia and, in their blockade, did their bit to add to the costs that Shell considered when they scrapped this project.