It’s time to talk about batshit jobs.
Obviously most of us need to earn a living. Some of us end up doing the batshit work of destroying the planet.
A few years back, David Graeber coined the term ”bullshit jobs” to speak of pointless, meaningless and socially harmful jobs. These jobs are often boring and unrewarding, and generally could be abolished without a profound social transformation.
While stupid, bullshit jobs they are certainly not insane. Batshit jobs are. Sometimes they are rewarding, financially and professionally, often times people take them out of desperate necessity. What makes them batshit is that they contribute to environmental and climate breakdown.
Batshit jobs don’t have to be directly destructive. The first literal “batshit workers” were the 19th Century diggers, haulers and transporters of the excrement of bats and seabirds off the coast of South America. Guano was needed to fertilize the European and North American fields that had been overexploited by capitalist agriculture. In short, the global transport of batshit — later replaced by oil-based fertilizers — helped maintain an unsustainable, but profitable model of agriculture, which in turn fed the workers in the fossil driven industries of the North.
Today, batshit jobs are more widespread than ever. You’re likely doing a batship job if you’re working in advertising trying to maintain mass consumption, in air traffic, industrial farming and forestry, in mining, in the car industry, and first of all if you’re working in oil drilling, fracking, coal mining.
To become dilligent batshit workers we have to be trained, and we have to be able to block out the harm that our work participates in. But this will become ever harder with time. The beauty of the school strikes is that they start with this realization, and so educate themselves to recognize and refuse batshit work.
The point of speaking about batshit jobs is not to blame all workers in batshit jobs (only some of them reap handsome rewards). The reason this work exists at all is the endless growth imperative of our capitalist economy. This is what drives fossil- and pesticide based agriculture and the burning of massive amounts of fossil fuel in industrial production and transportation.
What batshit jobs help us see, is how endless accumulation requires workers to do the actual work of extraction, production, and transportation.
To see this allows us to see a distributed power of refusal and sabotage, and to recognize the painful contradiction of destroying the planet in the name of the next paycheck.
People should be encouraged to drop their batshit jobs, and given alternatives. No one has the right to do work destroying the planet, and no one should have to do it. We should offer alternatives to anyone in a batshit job, like reskilling, further education or other work. But we can’t wait for everyone engaged in climate destructive work to voluntarily change careers, as Tadzio Mueller has argued. Some workplaces, like the lignite coal mining Ende Gelände organizes against, will have to be shut regardless — and fast.
Just as we can’t wait for policy makers to create alternative carrer paths for workers in batshit industries, we can’t wait for them to abolish this work. Time dictates that workers within these industries make the destruction the planet less profitable. They can do so by making their labour power more recalcitrant and expensive, less productive. They are inside the machine and know exactly what processes need to be blocked to do this. The rest of us should support anyone working a batshit job to organise to transform their workplace, and if that’s not feasible to slow it down, sabotage it or get the f… out.
Climate and environmental breakdown requires a massive transformation of work, most centrally the abolition of #batshitjobs.
The good news is that carbon neutral activities are some of the most enjoyable, important and/or meaningful and socially valuable activities you can imagine: Playing music, sports, games, dancing, making art, teaching and learning, care work, child care, restorative farming and sustainable construction, repair and recycling, etc..
This makes it clear that ending the capitalist world of batshit jobs, extractivism and mass consumption does not have to lead to less enjoyment and less meaningful activity. This would be a world of private suffiency, public luxury, and communal wealth.
The demand for a just transition to a low-carbon, ecologically sustainable society already exists. With the refusal of batshit work it will be impossible to ignore.
What happens is up to the vast majority that has no place on the Arks and Spaceships of billionaires. Without this majority, the wheels of destruction would stop.
Here is a much extended version of this essay: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/batshit-jobs-no-one-should-have-to-destroy-the-planet-to-make-a-living/