This is a short note on climate justice, and is linked to the questions in this article, but you could as well move on without reading that one. I write this note for climate justice activists. So I assume we agree that climate change exists, that it’s human-made, that it’s an urgent problem, and that there is an issue of justice in its core.
Kept short, I start with the following statement: The climate crisis is a matter of life or death.
I want to point out to three aspects of it.
The first one is that capitalism is flexible. Many monarchs survived bourgeois revolutions, archaic privileges of the Catholic church survived republican revolutions, high-ranking party bureaucrats survived the fall of the Soviet union; and companies survived the long-thought-to-be-impossible minimum wage laws and working-hour laws. It is theoretically possible that at some point of history, corporations give enough compromise that we would decide to focus on other priorities. In a way, green capitalism fans are right to a certain extent; and we have to acknowledge how, after decades of counter-revolutionary strategy building, capitalists learned to give up large chunks of their power in order not to jeopardize the socio-economic system as a whole.
Not so flexible
However, the second trick is that “enough compromise” in the context of climate crisis means disruption. Physics and chemistry do not negotiate: There are tipping points in the Earth systems that, once passed, would accelerate warming irreversibly. Simply put, if we pass a threshold that probably lives somewhere between 1,5°C and 2°C (relative to pre-industrial levels), we will guarantee a 4-6°C warming due to positive feedback mechanisms. Now, we already reached a 0,85°C warming. This means we have very little time left to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And by “very little”, I mean, for instance, that we must stop building energy-related infrastructures that emit greenhouse gases, by next year, worldwide. Capitalism is reformable all-right, but the nature, amount and speed of reforms necessary are too radical to be implemented smoothly. We need to disrupt the system, declare state of climate emergency, and reclaim the power and Power.
The third trick is that capitalism can adapt to climate change. Latin American history is an encyclopedic compendium of social disintegration going hand in hand with capitalist integration. Middle East is a living example of collapsed societies and imperialist juggling. And then there is sub-Saharan Africa. The engines of capitalism run quite well in these barbaric cases; as a matter of fact, none of the imperialist powers found inconvenient to extend this to North Africa and Ukraine. I mean, climate crisis in itself is not a survival crisis for capitalism, unless we make it one. Entering Decade Zero, the decade in which we will decide whether to rise up or fall down, there is little to no empirical or analytical evidence to hope for a capitalist transition.
So ehm, I said above that this was a matter of life or death. Maybe now I can articulate better: This is a matter of either life for us and death to capitalism, or life for capitalism and death for us. (Just so you get a glimpse of what I’m talking about: In business-as-usual scenarios, some 200 million climate refugees are expected by 2050 – compare to 4 million Syrian refugees and the political and social consequences of it in Europe.) As profit-obsession poses a threat to the world-as-we-know-it, so should we pose a direct threat to corporations.
This is a huge challenge we are facing. In other words, we live in really exciting times. The old world is being shut down in Ende Gelände, in Plane Stupid, in Cerattepe, in Keystone XL. The new world begins here and now, with Climate Jobs campaigns, with energy democracy, with numerous fights on public transport, food sovereignty and self-management.
We live in really exciting times, and this is just the beginning. It is now time to escalate the movements for social and climate justice. Because we don’t have any more time left.