Studying U.S. history, I found it impossible to understand how the exuberant, creative young nation of the 1820s-50s, a country so proud of its own novelty and freedom, could have been so shackled to the slave system on its Southern plantations. Then I got it: slaves -- African-origin human beings -- were the wealth equivalent for their owners of the value of the contemporary U.S. stock market. Abolitionists (and the slaves) wanted to strip the rich of their patrimony, all of it. No wonder it was a decades long process before the crisis that enabled the other states to destroy the "peculiar institution."
We're living another such crisis. Serious efforts to reduce carbon emissions mean not developing and not burning the oil, gas and coal deposits that energy companies already count as their wealth. Here's Bill McKibben:
Trying to stop the Keystone pipeline is one element in a fight that means changing the nature of wealth in our society. We're trying to strip some of the richest people around of the only thing they seem to value.
No wonder the Koch brothers and their slightly less visible friends will fight us to planetary death to hang on to their assets.