“We Will Behave Calmly and Carefully”; On the Perils of Strategic Pacifism at the End of the World

Book review of How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm

How to Blow Up a Pipeline. It’s a bold title. A title that sells books, certainly. And while (spoiler alert) we are not taught how to blow up a pipeline in this 160-page book, Andreas Malm does have some things to say that many climate activists might find explosive. A Swedish eco-socialist, activist, and historian of our collective trajectory toward ecological collapse, Malm is perhaps best known for writing two weighty historical books called Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, and The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World. In an interview for the LA Review of Books, Malm describes how, after the summer of 2018, when Europe was swept with wave after wave of unprecedented extreme weather, he told his publisher: “I can’t really do this historical stuff any longer.”1 He felt he needed to write something about right now, something that addressed the extreme emergency of the present moment. Enter: How to Blow up a Pipeline, a compact treatise on the climate movement’s fetishization of pacifism in the face of looming existential threat, and a plea to explore more of our options.

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