In today’s edition of Awkward Analogies, filed under “WTF Did He Just Say?”, I bring you Christopher Hayes. On Earth Day, Hayes, Editor-at-Large for The Nation, compared the threat of global warming to slavery.
Sounds awkward and far-fetched, right? Right. Because it is.
Hayes insists he’s not trying to go there – comparing humans to crude oil – but he does. And it makes me feel ”some type of way”. Not because I’m Black. But because it’s a really weak analogy. How does one marry Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and the hundreds of thousands of people enslaved against their will to crude fossil fuels? Furthermore, to make such strong analogies, one has to have the gonads to present an even stronger argument that make his belief irrefutable. And here’s where I suspend personal reaction to explore whether or not he is accurate in the least. Let’s examine.
What Hayes said, in paraphrase: Slaves and fossil fuels are metaphorically the same in that they provide energy molecules for lazy citizens. The financial wealth companies would be giving up – whether convinced or coerced – which is pretty much equal to the level of wealth lost by the end of slavery in America. And you know that happened through coercion.
What Hayes really meant to say: Just like abolitionists ultimately needed Lincoln’s presidential power to abolish slavery, the world needs global leaders to eliminate fossil fuel usage. And this is because there’s so much wealth in the oil industry, even with very weak profit margins, that damn near nothing would make any oil tycoon give up their financial stake just to save the planet. So until something or someone really powerful comes along to knock some compassion or sense into them, oil companies are going to keep digging away in spite of global concerns. And we’re all going to die.
As much as I would have absolutely loved digging into the misguided soul of a man who compares black folks to fossil fuels, the truth is, he’s got a bit of a point. Not in comparing human lives to oil – that’s just a no-no in the book of common logic – but in the comparing the economics of the industries to each other. The level of brute power needed to force the petroleum industry to concede its advance on fossil fuels is tremendous. It would take a lot to force the crude oil industry to step away from the drills and allow us to focus on maintaining what we currently have at a decent level while other energy options are explored. Essentially, as you look further, you come to understand Hayes meant no harm. He truly was focused on comparing the economics of slavery to the economics of the oil industry. The money, not the morality, not the aspect of two entirely different things even being comparable to one another.
But, as I said, he was only right in that sense