The past few months have been harrowing.
I live in Canada, where an unprecedented summer saw the country blanketed in toxic smoke and an entire capital city was evacuated due to catastrophic wildfires exacerbated by climate change.
Then, helpless from the diaspora, I spent September watching over 120,000 ethnic Armenians, my people, being forcibly displaced from their ancestral homeland in Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh to Armenians.
These days, I am spending my days in community with Jewish and Palestinian friends, bearing witness to the heart-wrenching atrocities unfolding in Israel and Gaza.
I’ve dedicated the past 15 years to organizing for climate action, and as world leaders prepare to gather at the UN climate talks, it’s clearer than ever to me that a peaceful, secure future depends on our transition away from fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels create — and fund — conflict
The climate crisis knows no borders and is intensifying at an alarming rate. As long as we’re dependent on fossil fuels, we will continue to live in a volatile landscape worsened by climate change.
Not only are fossil fuels driving us toward climate catastrophe, including through the sheer emissions generated during war, but the revenue generated by fossil fuel extraction plays a disturbing role in funding the conflicts and genocides that are unfolding right now.
Last year, in an attempt to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed deals to increase gas imports from Israel and Azerbaijan. The millions of dollars both countries have received in gas revenue indirectly facilitate their ongoing military actions.
The climate crisis knows no borders and is intensifying at an alarming rate. As long as we’re dependent on fossil fuels, we will continue to live in a volatile global landscape worsened by climate change, writes @amarapossian
Some of these countries also exploit environmentalism as a cover for their actions. Israel, for instance, uproots and destroys olive trees to weaken Palestinians’ connection to the land and economic self-sufficiency, while simultaneously planting trees to greenwash land theft.
Azerbaijan deployed fake anti-mining activists to launch its illegal nine-month blockade on the only road in and out of Nagorno-Karabakh, eventually driving Armenians out of their ancestral homelands in September.
It’s all about who controls land and resources
At the same time, western nations have a long history of waging wars to secure access to fossil fuels and toppling governments that dare nationalize oil companies. For decades, the Middle East, which holds over half of the world’s oil reserves, has been a focal point of conflicts driven by imperialism and greed.
Those who strive to protect their lands from resource extraction, both at home and abroad, are often met with state violence.
In Canada, for example, when Indigenous communities resist pipeline construction, our governments deploy militarized tactical teams. We see a similar pattern in the actions of Israel’s military, which seizes solar panels sent by humanitarian aid groups for Palestinian communities. Israel clearly recognizes the independence that solar panels offer — it has passed progressive laws requiring the installation of solar panels on all new buildings, even while the Israel Defense Forces confiscates solar panels from Palestinians. When people have local control over their energy production, it becomes much harder to cut off their power.
Every group of people has a right to self-determination, and at the heart of it all lies the question of who controls land and resources — and who has the power to cut off water and electricity to entire populations.
Breaking free from fossil fuels can pave the way toward peace
Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, have the potential to disrupt this status quo by offering a decentralized alternative to the concentrated power of fossil fuels.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan initially cut off Armenians’ gas supply and then their electricity. Throughout the harsh winter, Armenians could only sporadically access hot water thanks to solar water heaters. These renewable sources threaten the power of those who profit from wars and oil, thereby weakening the economic foundations of authoritarian regimes and reducing their incentives for military aggression.
As we approach the UN climate negotiations, let’s remember the interconnectedness of our struggles and futures. As an Armenian, I have a stake in a world where everyone can live without violence and conflict.
As a climate activist, I recognize the same stake. In fact, all of us who value justice and human rights have a stake in each other's liberation.
The world remained silent as Azerbaijan blockaded Nagorno-Karabakh, then forced 120,000 Armenians from their homes. Silence in the face of such injustice has dire consequences and we must raise our voices against hate, violence and oppression wherever they occur.
Right now, this means echoing the UN secretary general’s calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, advocating for an end to the siege on Gaza to allow for humanitarian aid, and calling on our governments to end their complicity in Israel’s war crimes and occupation of Palestinian land.
We have a rapidly shrinking window to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert the most severe climate impacts. We have an even shorter window to end the siege and save thousands of innocent lives.
Let’s unite across movements and call for peace, justice and a resilient and secure future for all, free from the grip of fossil fuel expansion.
An Armenian organizer living in Toronto, Amara Possian is currently Canada's team lead at 350.org. She has led some of Canada’s most impactful people-powered campaigns, using digital tools to engage and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to win on climate issues and change governments.