Breaking Consensus, Transforming Metabolisms: Notes on direct-action against fossil fuels through Urban Political Ecology

Salvatore Paolo De Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses the politics of “direct- action” against fossil fuels put forward by climate justice movements, focusing in particular on the tactic of the blockade. Drawing on the conceptual toolkit of Urban Political Ecology, the argument moves from a critique of the consensual regime of climate change governance to highlight conflict and dissent as central forces for the transformation of the socio-ecological metabolisms structuring the capitalist urbanization of nature—of which fossil fuels constitute the lifeblood. This approach shifts the debate around climate change politics from an issue of technological transition to one of metabolic transformation. On this basis, the article proposes a characterization of direct-action against fossil fuels as expressions of metabolic activism: instances of grassroots eco-political engagement that aim to break consensus by disrupting capitalist-driven metabolic relations while also experimenting with alternative values, knowledges, spaces, and socio-material relations. To ground these reflections, the article offers an account of the Swedish climate justice coalition Fossilgasfällan and of its successful three-year campaign, culminated in a blockade, to halt the expansion of the gas terminal of Gothenburg port.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Text
Issue number150
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-print of the final draft - the full version is forthcoming in Social Text issue 150. This is an output of the Occupy Climate Change! project, support for work on this article was provided by FORMAS (Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development) under the National Research Programme on Climate (Contract: 2017-01962_3).

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography


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