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A boy holds a poster as he participates in a protest against governmental inaction towards climate breakdown and environmental pollution, part of the Fridays for Future demonstrations in Mumbai, India on Sept. 20, 2019. (Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)

A boy holds a poster as he participates in a protest against governmental inaction towards climate breakdown and environmental pollution, part of the Fridays for Future demonstrations in Mumbai, India on Sept. 20, 2019. (Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear Fossil Fuels: It’s Over

Breaking up is never easy, but humanity is ready for this toxic relationship to end once and for all.

Randall Amster

We know that this has been a difficult period for you, and there’s never really a good time to break up. But it’ll be better for you (and us) if we just rip off the bandage quickly and get it over with. We’ve had some fun times together, and we’re grateful for what you’ve given us: food, clothing, shelter, and of course energy. But we’re done—and just to be clear: it’s you, not us. (Well, mostly you, and a bit of us.)

We recognize how much we’ve grown while being with you, and even though it’s over now we’re still going to keep some of the mementos from our time together—I mean, we’re not giving up our vinyl record collection, so don’t even think about it on your way out! And until we can get our lives completely disentangled (which isn’t easy to do after being together for all these years), we’ll still remain connected.

Very soon, though, it’ll be totally finished between us, one way or another. We’re not into name-calling and clichés, but this obviously has been a toxic relationship from the beginning. You’ve held all of the power due to your inherited wealth, doling it out in just enough doses to keep us coming back for more and becoming dependent on you. Yes, we should’ve pulled the plug long ago, but that’s not how controlling dynamics work; we’ve felt trapped by the guilt and distracted by the pleasures all at once.

Hey, this could be a good thing for you, if you think about it constructively. You’re free to hook up with any other species you’d like, and now you can finally stop complaining that we’ve just been using you and bleeding you dry without replenishing your reserves over all these years. True, you might still get the last laugh when we finally decay into your coffers—but that’s like millions of years away, so whatever dude.

Listen, not to be harsh or anything, but we want to leave you with a few things that might help you in the future. First, you’ve really got to clean up your act; stop leaving a mess everywhere and take some responsibility for your impact on others. Second, try and give people some room to breathe, okay? You’ve been slowly smothering us for decades, and that’s just no way to build a healthy relationship. Seriously.

As for us, we’ve got big plans, and the sky’s the limit. It might hurt to hear it, but we’ve been seeing the Sun on the side lately, and now we’re ready to make that old Sol our main squeeze. No, we’re not settling down or anything—I mean, Wind and Tides look pretty good too, and you know what they say: Green is the new Black. We’re gonna play the field for a while, and at least without you there’ll be fields to play in.

Okay, so we’re still kind of bitter about the whole deal, but that’s our problem to work on going forward. Maybe it’s unfair to resent you for who you are, and we know that basic character really doesn’t change. All we can say is that you’ve brought out our worst tendencies (competitiveness, manipulation, selfishness, greed, wastefulness, and even violence), and it hurts to look at ourselves so closely.

Maybe this is who we’ve always been, or at least part of who we are by nature. But during all these years with you, it sometimes felt like only those qualities were on display. Still, we’ve grown a lot in some ways too, finding new potentials and creative capacities under your spell. Yet that doesn’t change how we feel now, and all of that growth and newness might have been found in healthier ways without you.

Dear Fossil Fuels, may you find solace and comfort in the future, perhaps reveling in some alone time and a much-needed period of relaxation and recharge. Any relationship is a two-way street, and clearly you’ve felt exploited at times as well. Really, this will be better for all of us: we’ll be healthier and happier, and who knows what you might someday become. The future is wide open now, and we’re finally moving into it.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Randall Amster

Randall Amster

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is co-director and teaching professor of environmental studies at Georgetown University. His books include "Peace Ecology" (2015), "Anarchism Today" ( 2012), and "Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness" (2008).

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