You addict? Me addict.


Carbon Privilege! A term I coined to describe those of us who enjoy the immeasurably vast benefits of absurdly high carbon footprints. The proper noun, then, is “Carbonist”.  It’s easy to imagine your first meeting, right? “Hi everyone, I’m David.” “Hi David.” “I’m a Carbonist” (Light applause….)  


Like “Racist” or “Sexist”, all of us exist in a world of Systemic Carbonism. Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by the structures of Systemic Carbonism, ranging from international policy legislation to neighborhood cultural values, from mass social media messaging to our basic human understanding of how to live a “good life”.  The structures of Systemic Carbonsim seems impossible to avoid, even as we acknowledge that they are leading us down the road to utter horror and devastation.  

Simply put, we  are prone to being Carbonists. We are structurally bound to it.  We walk through life every effectively NOT CONFRONTING the structures that keep Carbonism in place. Carbonism, that terrible, mythically devasting way of being, is arguably more consequential than either Racism or Sexism over the long term, because it is almost certainly more definitively lethal to all of life.  

As it turns out, the term “Carbonist” was introduced by Berkowitz in a 6-page essay titled The Carbonist Manifesto” (1992). In that work, Berkowitz hypothesized that humans are Gaia’s natural response to an over-abundance of trapped carbon. All of that carbon from plant material, dinosaurs etc. needed to be released, and humans have evolved to handle that for our Mother Gaia. And we sure have become experts.  


A Carbonist demonstrates unexamined biases, particularly those against healthy use of carbon. A Carbonist participates in destroying culture through ignorance and a deep sense of privilege.  I’ve learned to see myself in this way, much like I am learning to see myself as a Racist and a Sexist. However, rather than helping uphold a system which continues to crush African, Asian, Native American, Latin, LGBTQ and gender-fluid cultures, a Carbonist like myself willingly participates in destroying ALL OF LIFE.  


What drives me to be so self-destructive? Why would I continue to exhibit such obviously self-destructive behaviors?  Is it my cognitive fragility? Is it my spiritual fragility? Just like White Fragility, Carbon Fragility exists in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. In fact, Carbon Fragility is very closely identical to White Fragility. It exists in the shadows, in the bind-spots of a vast human population that would rather not even look for it. Carbon Fragility is a a weak and undisciplined mindset. Once we see it, we find that it is the most dangerous mindset in the history of the word. Only true addicts could accomplish such blind destructive behavior and continue to enjoy doing it. 


One definition of addiction reads like this:   “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use, despite adverse consequences.” 

Anyone here besides me feel compelled to drive a car, or use a refrigerator? I feel compelled to keep living as comfortably as I can. Certainly, as comfortably as I am currently, with the obvious goal of growing more comfortable! (let’s go skiing! I need a new coat!) Comfort is an inescapable measure of my own success and self-worth. I need Carbon. I love Carbon. Carbon isn’t bad, not really. I can handle how much Carbon I use. Well… I guess I DO kind of want to hide how much Carbon I use. Look! My REI pull-over is made of 50% recycled fibers!  

Can you still accept me….?  

(more coming in Part II of Carbon Privilege, Carbon Supremacy)