Panel 2: The Global Climate Justice Movement in the Age of Crisis, Part Two
Climate justice in the era of Trumpism (and capitalist crisis)
The transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa has lessons for those concerned about Donald Trump’s climate politics and progressive responses – in part because Nelson Mandela’s call for sanctions against the Pretoria regime helped to financially destabilise and morally delegitimise the white power structure. That strategy, fuelled by local protests, ultimately split away major corporations from the racist state in 1985, leading to democracy in 1994. Aware of this legacy, Naomi Klein and Joseph Stiglitz (amongst others) have called for sanctions against the United States on grounds of climate irresponsibility. There are a great many reasons to establish a sanctions movement against not only Trump (for he may be impeached in coming years) but also the politics of proto-fascist ‘Trumpism’, for this regime is genuinely a threat to humanity:
accelerated climate change caused by relaxation of environmental regulations
Pentagon’s ‘first-strike’ nuclear capability amidst worsening North Korea and Iran conflicts
extreme military aggression in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan – including rising Islamaphobia
heightened tension with China
renewed US alliances with authoritarian regimes
trade wars, corporate investment deals, tax dodging and reactionary fiscal policy
macro-economic mismanagement in an era of stagnation yet high volatility
new restrictions to immigration, refugees and development aid
fusions of reactionary socio-cultural, political tendencies in US society with a charismatic state leader backed by most mega-corporate interests
the need for solidarity with US peoples, especially along racial, ethnic, gender and class lines.
To be sure, the July 2017 G20 Hamburg meeting essentially gave Trump a pass. And most importantly, US social movements have not yet asked for sanctions solidarity (although wide-ranging Trump-related micro-boycotts are emerging). But since his rule threatens planetary survival, we are obliged to contemplate what aspects of global capitalist crisis might make Trumpism more vulnerable to global people’s sanctions, as a precursor to the rest of the world lowering our vulnerability levels to environmental, economic and geopolitical catastrophes in the period immediately ahead.
Patrick Bond is professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and honorary professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society which he directed from 2004-16. He is the author of Politics of Climate Justice (UKZN Press, 2012) and he edited several other books on climate policy. His publications mainly document neoliberalism, sub-imperialism and political ecology in South Africa, e.g. Elite Transition (2014), South Africa – The Present as History (with John Saul, 2014), Talk Left, Walk Right (2006), Against Global Apartheid (2003), Unsustainable South Africa (2002) and Cities of Gold, Townships of Coal (2000). His PhD research was conducted at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering under David Harvey’s supervision during the early 1990s. Since then he has also taught or researched at Johns Hopkins (public health), York University (politics, environment), California-Berkeley (geography), Gyeongsang University (political economy) and Africa University (development studies).
“The Confluence of Alternatives” – An Indian Initiative
Contemporary India is going through a perplexingly critical time in its economic development. The neoliberal fundamentalist agenda being foisted on the Indian people by its power elite has inflicted the worst forms of inequality on the society. Today, the richest 1% of the country accounts for nearly half of the country’s total private wealth, about $1.75 trillion! The story of the underprivileged, however, is quite different. Thirty years ago before the country opened up its economy, India accounted for about one-fifth of the world’s poorest. Today, close to one third of that category, or about 400 million, live in India. These economic choices have also had a disastrous impact on India’s environment. Home to six of the ten most polluted cities in the world, its natural resources being plundered rapaciously and its weather patterns becoming increasingly erratic, unreliable and often lethal, the country seems to be hurtling ever forward towards ecological mayhem.
Despite this bleak and overwhelming picture, however, there are significant efforts being made by the civil society to construct alternative paradigms and pathways towards a world that is sustainable, equitable and just. Vikalp Sangam, or the Confluence of Alternatives, is one such initiative, which is trying to explore and understand alternative thinking and organizing on a large spectrum of economic, social and environmental issues in India. The chief aim of the endeavor is to create a platform where alternatives, which take the earth away from ecological self-destruction and the bitter calcification of economic inequality, reach a large audience and become viable for discussion, analysis and eventual replication in other places. This paper will discuss how the Vikalp Sangam vision is unfolding in India.
Pallav Das has pursued a unique twin track career in environmental conservation and creative communications. As a conservation professional and activist, Pallav has spent years exploring the Himalayan wilderness, researching and writing on the ecology of wetlands and alpine areas, building grass-roots networks to promote sustainable environmental policies, and analyzing and advocating public policies for biodiversity and habitat conservation. Pallav’s involvement with environmental campaigns goes back to the late seventies when he co-founded one of the first environmental action groups in India, called Kalpavriksh (www.kalpavriksh.org)
As a communications expert, Pallav has designed and launched innovative campaigns, produced incisive documentaries, developed communications strategies, and founded and led both private and non-profit organizations. Pallav has documented some of India’s most pressing development challenges through his film work, including films on violence against women and the threat of HIV/AIDS among street children. As a student of politics and social anthropology, Pallav is keen to help build a productive space at the confluence of ecology, politics and communications. He is currently in the process of launching a website (www.radicalecologicaldemocracy.org) with Ashish Kothari, his colleague from Kalpavriksh, India. The website is an attempt at providing a platform for exchanging analysis, ideas, activist initiatives and news etc. on next systems and attempts at creating alternatives world wide, which challenge the current neo-liberal orthodoxy.
Militant Particularism and Ecosocialism
For Ecosocialists, ecological alternatives are not possible within the framework of capitalism, so the climate movement must articulate socialist demands alongside transitional concrete ecological demands and reforms. The intellectual’s role within movements is both to engage with and empower local militancy, but also maintain theoretical distance in order to direct movements strategically. I discuss recent debates within the ecosocialist community featuring Richard Smith and John Bellamy Foster, using David Harvey’s concept of “militant particularlism” to elaborate the paradoxes of ecosocialist organizing (see attached).
Brad Hornick has been a climate justice activist in Vancouver, Canada and is presently organizing with systemchangenotclimatechange.org. He is a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University working on a dissertation entitled: “Climate, Capitalism, Existentialism: Observing the Movement.” His discussion piece is entitled “Harvey, Klein, Smith, Foster: Militant Particularism and Ecosocialism,” published in New Politics, Summer 2017.
Climate Justice as Climate Realism
This video (and sorry if it’s a bit long) presents a draft summary of a book in progress. In it, I attempt to lay out the basics of what I see as true climate realism. To wit, this is an argument for a justice-forward strategy aimed at stabilizing the climate system within capitalism. The argument, to be explicit, is that we haven’t the time to “get past capitalism” before we can stabilize the climate. This argument, of course, is based on the climate science.
My core claim is that at the highest level, we only need two things to save ourselves. The first is indeed a thoroughgoing green technology revolution, but the second is a high-cooperation world, and it’s long past time to focus on the second. And on the unforgiving fact that a high-cooperation world is not and will never be possible at anything like today’s obscene level of economic and social stratification.
Along the way, I try to hit a lot of bases. One key section – though it doesn’t work that well without slides – attempts to lay out a typology of the climate justice challenges that are now before us.
Tom Athanasiou is a climate-equity specialist. He founded and coordinated the international Climate Action Network’s Equity Working Group, which was active in the years before Paris. Currently, he co-directs the Climate Equity Reference Project, a long-term modeling and policy initiative designed to advance equity as a driver of extremely ambitious global climate mobilization, and is also one of the organizers of the Civil Society Equity Coalition, which remains active within the climate negotiations.
Tom’s principle interest is distributional justice, in the context of an emergency global climate mobilization, which he hopes to live to see. As a writer, he is the author of Divided Planet: the Ecology of Rich and Poor and the co-author of Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming and Greenhouse Development Rights: The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World. He is now writing a new book, tentatively titled Fair Enough? Justice and Technology in the Greenhouse Century.
How the Unist’ot’en are arresting Pipelines and asserting sovereignty
(Please view both the above introduction and documentary film.)
Since 2011, The Unist’ot’en camp in North-Western British Colombia, Canada, have been maintaining a check-point controlling access through their territory to stop government and industry plans to build several gas and oil pipelines through their territory. These pipelines form part of an energy corridor that aim to unlock the vast energy reserves of the tar sands and transport fracked gas with disastrous implications for the climate. The camp was established to oppose these projects, to defend the sacred headwaters, the salmon that spawn there and to maintain their autonomy over their unceded lands.
In this presentation I will present a video I directed and filmed at the camp in 2013. It shows how against all odds, the Unist’ot’en camp is succeeding in stopping up to 7 pipelines, holding up billions in investment and keeping millions of barrels (and cubic metres) of fossil fuels under the ground. It also shows how the camp, beyond being a simple movement of resistance, is creating a new intentional community, informed by a millennia old relationship with the territory and natural law, but through a constant process of re-imagination.
The Unist’ot’en camp interrupts the flows of capital and goods, however it is also a space for enactment of a living anti-capitalist and post-petroleum alternative, informed by an ancient system of values on how to create sustainable relationships with the material world and transformative politics of decolonisation that revalue, reconstruct, and redeploy Indigenous cultural practices through a transformative praxis. This includes the recent establishment of a healing center for indigenous youth and experimentation into low-carbon technologies and ways of being.
Welcome to the gateway of meaningful decolonization.
Corridors of Resistance is an EJOLT Video directed by Leah Temper, edited by Siobhan McKeon and Claudia Medina with camera by Fiona Becker and Leah Temper. It accompanies a report on Climate Justice: Refocusing resistance for climate justice. COPing in, COPing out and beyond Paris Including an article on the camp with the title: Decolonising and decarbonising: How the Unist’ot’en are arresting pipelines and asserting autonomy (Leah Temper and Sam Bliss).
Leah Temper is a trans-disciplinary scholar-activist specialized in Environmental Justice Politics, Ecological Economics and Political Ecology based at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She is the founder and co-director of the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (www.ejatlas.org) and is currently the principal investigator of ACKnowl-EJ (Activist-academic Co-production of Knowledge for Environmental Justice), a project looking at how transformative alternatives are born from resistance. Previously, she was the Director of USC Canada’s Seeds of Survival Program International, and the scientific coordinator of the EJOLT Project, where she co-edited several reports on Climate Justice and Leaving Oil in the Soil. She has directed and shot several short documentary films about Degrowth, recycler’s movements and climate artivism and resistance.
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