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Alexander Etkind, Nature’s Evil: A Cultural History of Natural Resources (2021):
Every primary commodity is a social institution, and each one is different. Different natural resources have different political qualities and generate different cultural forms of reflection.
Helen Thompson in ‘The New Age of Tragedy’, The New Statesman (2023):
The idea of linear progress always hid the problem of resource depletion under an a priori assumption that technology would ride to the rescue. Our tragedy in the West is that, for all the catastrophes of the 20th century, we still carry this hubristic world-view, blinding us to the complexity of our collective human predicament on a finite Earth.
Adam Hanieh, ‘Petrochemical Empire: The Geo-Politics of Fossil-Fuelled Production’, New Left Review (2021):
Having become so accustomed to thinking about it as primarily an issue of energy and fuel choice, we have lost sight of how the basic materiality of our world rests upon the products of petroleum. … Today, it is almost impossible to identify an area of life that has not been radically transformed by the presence of petrochemicals. Whether as feedstocks for manufacture and agriculture, the primary ingredients of construction materials, cleaning products and clothing or the packaging that makes transport, storage and retail possible—all aspects of our social being are bound to a seemingly unlimited supply of cheap and readily disposable petrochemicals. Synthetic materials derived from petroleum have come to define the essential condition of life itself; simultaneously, they have become normalized as natural parts of our daily existence. This paradox must be fully confronted if we are to move beyond oil.
Laleh Khalili, Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (2021):
So many of the modern ports of the Arabian Peninsula, particularly those on the shores of the Persian Gulf, have had to be built by machines and people in impossible settings. What makes the ports of the Arabian Peninsula so distinct is the preponderance of petroleum and chemical tankers, offshore loading and unloading platforms, and the importance of bunkering to the economies – at least, of the UAE. Of the 97.2 million barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products, 19 per cent passes through the Hormuz Straits, 16 per cent through the Malacca Straits, and another 5 per cent through the Bab al Mandab.
But long before ships arrive at harbour to load or unload their cargo, ports need to be built. … These massive projects of engineering and construction presume an epic and infinite ability to provide technological solutions to problems of geology, geography, and morphology. The earth and the sea are assumed to be malleable.
Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (2011):
We are entering the declining decades of the fossil-fuel era, that brief episode of human time when coal miners and oil workers moved an extraordinary quantity of energy, buried underground in coal seams and hydrocarbon traps, up to the earth’s surface, where engines, boilers, blast furnaces and turbines burned it at an ever-increasing rate, providing the mechanical force that made possible modern industrial life, the megalopolis and the suburb, industrialised agriculture, the chemically transformed world of synthetic materials, electrical power and communication, global trade, military-run empires, and the opportunity for more democratic forms of politics. Yet, even as the passing of this strange episode comes into view, we seem unable to abandon the unusual practice to which it gave rise: ways of living and thinking that treat nature as an infinite resource.
Its ready availability, in ever-increasing quantities, and mostly at relatively low and stable prices, meant that oil could be counted on not to count.
Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934):
Mankind behaved like a drunken heir on a spree. And the damage to form and civilization through the prevalence of these new habits of disorderly exploitation and wasteful expenditure remained, whether or not the source of energy itself disappeared. The psychological results of carboniferous capitalism - the lowered morale, the expectation of getting something for nothing, the disregard for a balanced mode of production and consumption, the habituation to wreckage and debris as part of the normal human environment - all these results were plainly mischievous.