The climate emergency demands an ecosocialist solution

Do you remember where you were on September 20, 2019? This is one of those memorable dates. The global climate strike, launched that day, was the largest climate mobilization in world history. During this week, more than 7 million people took action on all seven continents – from Antarctica to the Americas, from Africa to Asia and Oceania. From tweens to baby boomers and older, we were on the streets.

In Australia – where 130 bushfires had burned in New South Wales and Queensland, signaling more hell – 300,000 marched through 100 cities. In Melbourne, the only way to get around was in step with the 150,000 to 200,000 that brought the city to a standstill.

The international youth-led strike was not a one-time event. It’s been accumulating for four years and it’s not going to stop.

Record droughts, heat waves and fires are scorching hot spots on the planet. Severe hurricanes, typhoons and blizzards ravage communities and countries. Rising seas threaten lowland regions and island nations. Species not yet extinct, ecosystems not yet ruined, livelihoods not yet destroyed, populations not yet displaced are under imminent threat.

The United Nations Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in October 2018 that we have 12 years – now less than 11 – to bring global warming under control or face catastrophic consequences. The average temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution explains today’s unprecedented phenomena. If no action is taken, we face a 4 degree rise by the end of this century, which scientists say cannot sustain human life. A 2 degree rise would mean another 10 million After displaced from their homes, complete loss of coral reefs and damage to fisheries – affecting 300 million people – by 2030. The IPCC states that to avoid this, carbon emissions must be reduced by 45%, keeping the temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees, by 2030.

Young leaders are mobilizing. The historic global strike in September this year spanned generations, but was extremely young, from the start of primary school. The previous international organization dates back to November 2015, when students walked out of schools in 100 countries on the first day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. They demanded 100% clean energy, fossil fuels to be kept in the ground, and help for climate refugees.

Almost three years later, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, then in her ninth grade, began her solo protest outside the Riksdag (parliament). Angered by the heatwave and wildfires that swept across Sweden and inspired by students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, who staged the

Calls for system change were prominent among young leaders and trade unionists taking part in the Melbourne climate strike. Photos by Debbie Brennan.

March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence, Thunberg held his protest every day during school hours. His protest and his message on his placard, “School strike for the climate”, stimulated the movement.

School strikes erupted around the world from November 2018. And they were provocative. In Australia, for example, thousands of students ignored Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who insisted on “more learning in schools and less activism”, and organized weekly actions on Fridays. The international protest continued through 2019. Earth Strike – which describes itself as an international grassroots movement – ​​called Global Futures Week September 20-27 and organized a series of pre-events for the educate and build it.

Reject capitalism. “System change, not climate change”, “Planet before profit”, “We can’t eat money and drink crude oil” are some slogans that adorn the millions of colorful and creative placards, showing that young people know where to blame – not on people who drive cars, buy products wrapped in plastic or fail to transport household waste to recycling centers, but on polluting companies. Their warning: “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

This leadership goes beyond climate strikes. The courageous stands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Djab Warrung people protecting their ancient birth trees from road construction in central Victoria show the magnitude of this struggle to save the planet from sinking. companies.

Young women, especially Indigenous and women of color, are the face of global resistance. They are closest to the crisis: their lands are being invaded by predatory corporations or poisoned by toxic waste; their communities, overlooked by the government, most susceptible to climate destruction; their homelands invaded by rising seas or turned into deserts; and their displaced families.

Among the growing army of environmental advocates and leaders are Autumn Peltier, 15, water protector from Wikwemikong First Nation in Ontario, Isra Hirsi, 16, co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and the organizers of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network. , Amelia Telford, from the Bundjalung country in New South Wales and Nicole Hutton, a descendant of the Garawa people of the Northern Territory. There are so many more. The scale of the resistance shows the power of Autumn Peltier’s exhortation to the world to “warrior”.

Warrior the labor movement. In Australia, trade unionists were visible on September 20. In Melbourne, for example, members of the National Tertiary Education Union organized a contingent. You couldn’t miss the big green banner of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. The flags of the National Union of Workers, the Australian Education Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and others were held high. Brightly colored union T-shirts dotted the march. But the workers participated in their spare time: the unions did not mobilize a strike. The immediate response from officials is that strikes are illegal (except during bargaining times). This begs the question: what will it take for unions to show union power?

Montreal’s climate march of 500,000 people was the largest in the world. Despite laws banning political strikes, 11 locals representing 7,500 workers pulled out, shutting down most of the province. Basic teachers involved in the grassroots environmental movement began organizing for this in January. They wanted a real climate strike. They worked outside of formal union structures to get motions passed at local membership meetings. This led to members coordinating without official interference. They united and made the state authorities back down from their threats of heavy fines. School and university students then voted to strike. For this reason, 150 businesses also closed for the day, allowing workers to join the march.

From resistance to workers’ control. In Ecosocialism: The Solution to Survival on Planet EarthSteve Hoffman says: Energy companies “have the political power to make sure that capitalist governments don’t force them to switch to renewables until the last oil well is dry and the last piece of shale is fractured”.

Many Melburnians witnessed this during the climate protest outside the International Conference on Mines and Resources in late October. Police, armed to the teeth with batons, pepper spray, guns and horses, brutalized protesters. This did not shake the protest, but many were injured and arrested. Victorian Premier Andrews praised Victoria Police and Premier Morrison pointed to legislation banning all forms of protest, including consumer boycotts, which potentially or actually harm businesses – laws similar to those already used against unions. Morrison’s threat signals a crackdown on the right to protest, driven by the need to protect profits from coal and natural gas, Australia’s two main exports.

Governments serving businesses around the world understand the potential power of environmentalists, unions and First Nations coming together. The prospect, which should trigger flashbacks to the youth movements of the 1960s, terrifies them.

We must also remember the 1960s – what made the anti-war, women’s, civil rights, American Indian and gay liberation movements so powerful and inspiring, but also how the state was able to subdue them . The fatal flaw was their inability to move beyond insurgency militancy. Many leaders who were not killed by the government were bought off with careers and funds. We are still suffering the consequences.

The demands of Extinction Rebellion, for example – net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a government declaration on the existence of a climate and ecological emergency and the creation of a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice – may sound good, but they are not systematic. -changers.

However, this demand is: To nationalize energy under the control of workers, indigenous peoples and communities. This goes to the source of the problem, the profit system. And it’s about uprooting the system by taking energy production and distribution out of private hands and putting it under the control of workers and First Nations people. It is a transitional demand – a path to revolution to replace capitalism with workers’ control.

Also, civil disobedience alone, as advocated by Extinction Rebellion, is not a strategy to build a movement capable of overturning the system.

Our strongest weapon right now is a united front led by the working class and based on organizations working democratically together around agreed principles and unity of action. This strong unity for environmental justice must be international. Since capitalism operates globally, it must be destroyed globally. An international united front could become vanguard leadership for ecosocialist revolution, the ultimate solution—to create a new society where decisions about energy production and transportation are based on science; a planned international economy puts workers in today’s coal mines, oil refineries and forestry industries to work developing alternative energy systems; and democratic decision-making places the responsibility for solving major social and environmental challenges in the global majority. The trade unionists, First Nations peoples and environmentalists demonstrating today in the global resistance are showing that such a united front is possible.

Capitalism is killing the planet. Young people who are fighting for their future know this. “There is no planet B”, say the signs. But the is a brilliant and creative solution, and from these environmental warriors will emerge an ecosocialist revolutionary vanguard.

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