We Need Healing From Our Oil-Addicted Society

Redwood Forest Defense, Humboldt County, 2020.

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Economic stimulus in response to our pandemic should stop funding fossil fuel companies with bailouts. Instead, we should prioritize welfare to rebuild our society with a sustainable approach to health so that crisis “relief” doesn’t continue to fail the public or exacerbate the existential crises of climate change.

When I think of fossil fuels, I think of the smell of a gas station, getting from point A to point B, my last flight overseas. I also see Appalachian mountaintops exploded for mining, Wet’suwet’en land protectors facing police brutality for resisting pipeline construction, birds stained with toxic B.P. Oil in the Gulf, disproportionate fatalities of people of color who face more pollution due to environmental racism, and fake news promoted by undercover oil lobbyists to hide the atrocities of their “business-as-usual.”

When habitats are degraded by the fossil fuel industry, wildlife are more likely to contaminate humans with novel infectious diseases. Fossil fuel pollution, from extraction and subsequent emissions, weakens our immune systems’ ability to fight illness and increases fatality rates in affected communities. This is the harrowing reality that we all face. We are seeing, now more than ever, that fossil fuels impact every aspect of our lives. Fossil fuels and coronavirus are interrelated existential threats. Abandoning new fossil fuel development will mitigate future pandemics and fight the climate crisis.

A revolutionary Green New Deal was proposed by South Korea’s ruling party to remedy the viral economic slump. In the United States, while the public is flooded with terrifying health-related news and the confusion of unprecedented societal transformation, our House of Representatives has passed economic stimulus packages that ensure the security of fossil fuel corporations with billions of dollars in handouts. The Environmental Protection Agency has rolled back auto-industry pollution regulations that save lives, affecting everyone. Emissions don’t obey borders of any kind. Meanwhile, a few states have quietly criminalized protest tactics used against fossil fuel infrastructure. This is what our democracy looks like.

Big oil companies see billions of dollars in profit every year and are destroying our planet in the process. Phasing out fossil fuels is long overdue. Even in California, a place known for environmental leadership, we are beholden to the oil industry that poisonously endangers our communities and life as we know it. We are one of the leading oil producers in the nation. A coalition of youth climate leaders, #CAYouthVsBigOil, has launched a petition asking Governor Gavin Newsom to prioritize public health over investments in big oil. We urgently need to stop all new fossil fuel projects, to drop existing production, and to roll out setbacks to keep us safe from fossil fuels! To begin to unravel the harm of environmental racism we need to centralize the voices of communities of color in this transition.

The world will likely never be the same. With life distilled to essential services and “business-as-usual” at a halt, I dream that we could rebuild our oil-addicted society in the spirit of long-term healing. Shining out of this fissure in the global economy is an opportunity to uncover a new normal with heartfelt values for the health of our communities. Imagine investments in healthcare, education, community gardens, habitat restoration and energy efficiency.

The pandemic has refocused my attention on the beautiful, chaotic intermingling of our global community, the wild that we are. As we tend to these relationships, we must stay humble to the preciousness of life. Taking care of each other is taking care of the more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible.

Lucia Santina Ribisi is a 22-year-old activist, UCLA student, doula, and phytophile from Tongva territory in so-called Los Angeles. Pronouns are they/them. They are currently rewilding alongside radical environmentalists somewhere in the woods of Northern California with the Redwood Forest Defense, which you can support here. Email: trulylucia (at) gmail.com. You can follow them here.