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Celebrate Earth Day 2023: Blow Up A Pipeline

Our planet is on fire, and we can’t feed this fire any longer.


In the spirit of Earth Day,” announced Senate Environment Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.), “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and keep marching forward in my efforts to do the right thing by the planet and the people that call it home.”

His bold action: reintroducing legislation co-sponsored by climate deniers Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) for a recycling pilot program and a report on composting.

In 2021, Andreas Malm penned an argument for somewhat more vigorous defense of our only home, with How to Blow Up a Pipeline. The title is mildly misleading, as Malm’s book is more of an extended essay in support of why climate activists around the globe might turn to fossil-fuel infrastructure damage as a form of civil disobedience. But Malm certainly wants activists to seriously consider the possibility, given the fiddling Carpers of our burning world.

And now a film inspired by Malm’s work, and developed in conversation with him, is in theaters everywhere:

The artists behind the film, including lead actor Ariela Barer and director Daniel Goldhaber, who co-wrote it with Jordan Sjol, wanted to make a movie about climate activism for popular audiences that respects the need for more radical action than simply making films.

Barer felt this challenge deeply. “I did many times tell myself I could forgive myself for making a less than great movie,” Barer told Bustle, “but I could not forgive myself for hurting a movement.”

“We’ve been engaged in activism that is socially acceptable for about a generation on the issue of climate change, and fossil fuel usage is still going up,” Goldhaber told Big Issue’s Rory Doherty. “I struggle to understand when that is suddenly going to start working.”

So they crafted a movie with the structure of a classic heist film—a team of outsiders come together to pull off an illegal mission. As a work of filmmaking, HTBUAP is an unapologetic thriller, earning it raves from top film critics. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “a fiercely watchable thriller which had me biting my nails down to the wrists.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, who loved the film’s soundtrack evocative of Tangerine Dream, similarly found it deeply gripping;

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is one of the most original American thrillers in years, and one that draws from a deep well of movie history as it develops its characters and sets up its plot twists.”

Meanwhile, Jacobin’s Paul Gordon appreciates the film’s thoughtful politics:

“The film How to Blow Up a Pipeline does not arrive at any easy answers. But it does ask if we, people living in a burning world, are using a wide enough range of strategies to limit the worst effects of climate change. In moments of tense dialogue between group members, it also hints at the importance of working-class power, and the necessity of climate activists tapping into it.”

“I hope more movies about radical action start happening,” Barer told Vanity Fair’s Esther Zuckerman. “I think that would be really fun to see.” 

The Kansas City Regional Fusion Center has offered a competing review of the film, calling it a “developing threat” to “Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR), especially oil and natural gas pipelines,” in a Situational Awareness Bulletin. The film, they warn, might “further encourage environmental activists to engage in increasingly violent action.”

To my knowledge, KCRFC has not issued any similar warnings about the Fast and the Furious or Ocean’s 11 franchises. Who will think to protect the bank vaults and casinos from filmgoers inspired by Vin Diesel and George Clooney?

Hill Heat is offering our own Situational Awareness Bulletin about Grounded, an opera premiering at the Kennedy Center this fall. The tale of a drone operator “torn between her job killing targets and mom duties at home” is sponsored by General Dynamics. If we aren’t vigilant, her arias might further encourage the U.S. military to engage in increasingly violent action.

Tomorrow, climate activists are gathering in Washington, D.C. to mark Earth Day with a rally and protest calling to end the era of fossil fuels: “Our planet is on fire, and we can’t feed this fire any longer.”

“From plastics and biodiversity, to housing, anti-war, immigrant rights and gender and racial equality—our crises are interconnected, and our movement is stronger together,” the organizers argue.

And gosh, does the news sure bear that out. The official autopsy of Tortuguita (born Manuel Paez Terán), the Cop City protester killed by Atlanta police in January, was finally released:

Police shot Paez Terán at least 57 times, according to the newly publicized results of the autopsy conducted by the Dekalb County Medical Examiner on January 19. They were shot in the head, torso, hands, legs, right foot, side, back, and genitals at indeterminate range. . . The county autopsy report of Tortuguita’s body notes that “gunpowder residue is not seen on the hands.”

Like many other environmental activists around the world, Tortuguita was killed for standing against the fossil-fueled machine of destructive violence on behalf of our beautiful world.

“What I’m saying is, if they do a huge crackdown and completely try to crush the movement, they’ll succeed at hurting some people, they’ll succeed at destroying some infrastructure, but they’re not going to succeed at stopping the movement. That’s just going to strengthen the movement. It will draw a lot of attention to the movement. If enough people decide to do this with nonviolent action, you can overwhelm the infrastructure. That’s something they fear more than violence in the streets. Because violence in the streets, they’ll win. They have the guns for it. We don’t.”

Climate Action Ahead:

Saturday, April 22

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