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System Change not Climate Change (SCnCC)

We Can Beat the Climate Destroyers

By Bruce Lesnick - Socialist Action, September 7, 2018

Humanity faces a multi-faceted crisis. Endless wars of imperial aggression, both overt and covert—from Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan to Yemen, Palestine, and Central and South America. These conflagrations compel those at the bottom of the economic pyramid to fight and die to protect the wealth and privileges of those at the top. These wars destroy human beings and our natural environment, but also opportunities and resources that could be allocated to human betterment.

Nuclear arsenals remain on hair-triggeralert, with fearsome destructive potential, one accident or a single myopic policy decision away from wiping out the entire human race. Economic inequality, having already reached obscene proportions, is showing no sign of slowing down or reversing course.

Racism, xenophobia, sexism, and other forms of hate-filled discrimination are used to distract and divide those victimized by the current state of affairs and to hinder a united fight by all of the oppressed against our common oppressors.

And then there’s the matter of climate Armageddon. The world is heating up as a result of economic and energy policy choices. These choices have maximized profits for the super-rich 1% while threatening the very biosphere we all depend on for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We know that the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting additional carbon in our atmosphere are driving rapid planetary warming. We know this, not because a majority of climate scientists believe it to be true—that’s not how science works; after all, majorities of scientists have been wrong on occasion. We know this crisis is real because a substantial amount of data has been collected that corroborates the climate change hypothesis, and because key scientific predictions based on the theory of human-accelerated climate change have been born out by evidence and experience.

Climate Change Is the Inevitable Consequence of Capitalist Privatization

By Nathaniel Matthews-Trigg - Common Dreams, August 12, 2018

The notion of the commons refers to shared land, publicly available for all people to access for leisure and when times get tough, for survival. Publicly shared lands have existed since humans first walked the earth but have progressively been enclosed for individual sustenance or for profit. The most profound period of enclosures came with the introduction of European capitalism, and mass displacement of agricultural people to toil in industrial factories.

Throughout European and U.S. colonialism, the genocide, enslavement, and displacement of indigenous people from their lands was “justified” via the pseudo-science concept of Social Darwinism—the notion that humans inherently compete for resources and the most violent and coercive are rightfully in charge. Similarly, the pseudo-science tragedy of the commons was created to justify the privatization of public lands. This “tragedy” was based on the premise that shared resources will inherently be exploited and destroyed by the unruly public. That if left to their own volition people are inherently greedy, they don’t think in the long-term, they don’t communicate, and just like Social Darwinism, they must compete. Economist Elinor Ostrom debunked the tragedy of the commons and in doing so became the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for Economics. 

Our atmosphere, a publicly needed space containing many vital resources such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide—may seem to the untrained eye to be the tragedy of the commons playing out above our heads. But this is hardly the case, and one must only take their head out of the clouds and refocus on the social developments on-the-ground to see that climate change is really the tragedy of the enclosures, the inevitable consequence of capitalist privatization.

"Capitalism's grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology's imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status." —Murray Bookchin

Capitalism is an economic system based on competition, and competition is a state of constant warfare. The competing corporation must always be in the process of growing, strengthening, improving in combat, and always ready to strike—or risk losing everything to someone or something that’s biggest, stronger, or more strategic. For corporations, success is based on profit, and profits are used to continue the cycle of growth, exploitation, and political influence. 

The long-term consequences of a corporation’s actions are ignored by the corporation because short-term threats and successes are paramount. The moral implications of a corporation’s actions are ignored by the corporation because short-term threats and successes are everything. It’s a toxic environment of immediacy, anxiety, and violence—that leaves an epoch of garbage, pollutants, and suffering in its wake. 

The magnitude of the planetary crisis requires action of a similar size

By Karin Nansen - The Ecologist, July 12, 2018

We are facing deep-rooted climate, social and environmental crises. The current dominant economic system cannot provide solutions. It is time for system change.

For Friends of the Earth International this means creating societies based on peoples’ sovereignty and environmental, social, economic and gender justice. We must question and deconstruct the capitalist logic of accumulation.

The climate catastrophe is interwoven with many social and environmental crises, including oppression, corporate power, hunger, water depletion, biodiversity loss and deforestation.

Equality and reciprocity

At its heart sits an unsustainable economic system, the sole aim of which is endless growth and profit. This system concentrates wealth, power and obscene privilege with the few.

Corporations and national elites are empowered by that very system to exploit people and their livelihoods with impunity.

We must tackle climate change and the associated social and environmental crises by taking rapid and bold action to address the common root causes; privatisation, financialisation and commodification of nature and societies, and unsustainable production and consumption systems.

The magnitude of the crises we face demands system change.

That system change will result in the creation of sustainable societies and new relations between human beings, and between human beings and nature, based on equality and reciprocity.

If We All Became Vegan Tomorrow

By Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul  - New Internationalist, June 6, 2018

If everyone became vegan tomorrow, between 14.5 to 15.6 per cent of anthropogenic (human-made) global greenhouse gas emissions would be wiped out. That is huge. You would be forgiven if you thought it was higher, as a recent viral Guardian article, based on a new study out from the University of Oxford, sensationally reported that meat and dairy accounted for 60 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, without stating the proportion of global anthropogenic emissions attributable to agriculture specifically.

With a current global average surface temperature increase of approximately 1.2°C, climate change has already caused harms, and any reduction in emissions would curtail further damage. Land currently used for meat and dairy production could be reforested, grains fed to cattle could be directed, water would be saved, and environmental damage caused by animal agriculture would cease.

While noteworthy, prioritizing dietary solutions is not only insufficient, but problematic. Imposing veganism on the majority world would hurt the rural poor. A survey of 7978 households in 24 countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, found that reliance on wild meat is highest among the poorest households and fills a gap when other food sources are not available. Many traditional and indigenous cultures surviving in relative harmony with natures have hunted meat sustainably long before the capitalist industrialization of agriculture. They’ve done so often with a profound respect for the animal and their role in the co-production of natures.

We can’t rely on corporations to save us from climate change

By Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg - London School of Economics, January 30, 2018

Climate change is now the ever-present reality of human experience. Late last year we witnessed a procession of huge hurricanes batter the US and Caribbean, the largest wildfires on record burn through California, and in Australia, despite the death of up to half of the Great Barrier Reef in back-to-back coral bleaching events, political support for new mega-coal mines and coal-fired power stations. While there is now a clear scientific consensus that the world is on track for global temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius by century’s end (threatening the very viability of human civilization), our political and economic masters continue to double down on the fossil fuel bet, transforming perhaps the greatest threat to life on this planet into ‘business as usual’.

One response to the failure of government has been a belief that markets and corporate innovation will provide the solution to the climate crisis. As business tycoon Richard Branson has proclaimed ‘our only option to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.’ Thus while business corporations are major contributors to escalating GHG emissions, they are also often presented as offering innovative ways to decarbonise our economies. But how much faith can we place in corporations to save us from climate change?

In a recently published paper, we explore how major business corporations translate the grand challenge of climate change into strategies, policies and practices over an extended period of time. Our research involved a detailed cross-case analysis of five major corporations operating in Australia over ten years, from 2005 to 2015. During this period, climate change became a central issue in political and economic debate, leading to a range of regulatory, market, and physical risks and opportunities, and each of these five companies were leaders in publicly promoting their engagement with this issue.

Vivir Bien: Old Cosmovisions and New Paradigms

By Pablo Solón - Great Transition Initiative, February 2018

The concept of Vivir Bien (or Buen Vivir) gained international attention in the late twentieth century as people searched for alternatives to the rampage of neoliberalism. Imperfect translations of the Andean concepts of suma qamaña and sumaq kawsay, Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir reflect an indigenous cosmovision that emphasizes living in harmony with nature and one another. As these ideas’ popularity has grown, however, their meaning has been compromised. Governments in Bolivia and Ecuador incorporated Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir, respectively, into their constitutions and governing agendas on paper, but not in spirit. Rather than radical alternatives to the dominant paradigm of development and progress, these concepts have become new branding for (un)sustainable development. The lessons are clear: to avoid state cooptation, truly revolutionary change must be based on emancipation and self-determination from below. And to succeed in our interdependent world, proponents of Vivir Bien must link up with advocates of complementary global movements on the path of a better future for all.

Post Tax-Bill: Let’s Get Down To Business

By Anonymous Contributor - It's Going Down, December 26, 2017

A lot of debate over political and economic issues surrounding the latest GOP tax bill has flooded social media, news outlets, and propaganda outlets lately. It’s certainly troubling to think about; “cost-cutting” legislation that doesn’t pay for itself has historically had disastrous effects on the working class and on the economy as a whole. To make matters worse, the bill is a barely disguised christmas present of millions of dollars to large corporations, lobbyists, and the richest Americans who pushed this bill through the republican party. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that this bill is going to be even more disastrous than the failed tax cut bills from previous administrations. The income inequality in America has become a horrendous giant that continues to grow day by day, and Donald Trump is about to feed it steroids. While the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the structure of our capitalist system is quietly teetering on the brink of collapse. When the next economic crash arrives, several extremely dangerous deficit bubbles like student loan debt, unfunded pensions, healthcare costs, and many others are going to pop at once. However, the most damaging of these bubbles is arguably the growing income inequality gap. It’s simple math, we cannot continue with this broken system. The rich are literally running out of wealth to steal from the working class.

Even now we see minimum wage jobs not yielding enough wealth to afford even the most basic of family needs like housing, food, and education. When the poor and working class can no longer be monetarily exploited, the last block at the base of the economic jenga tower will be pulled. The economy will tank like it never has before, and the tax overhaul has just accelerated this process tenfold. This issue coupled with the fact that our planet is entering self destruct mode makes our future seem very grim indeed.

The incredibly irresponsible actions of government officials in Washington have certainly set future generations up for failure. The exploitation of the working class has been written into law yet again, but we didn’t need it to be law for us to know it is already widespread. Institutions like consumerism, the market economy, racism, wage slavery, labor laws, and lobbying have already made inequality as American as baseball. I think it will be very interesting to see how the government reacts when the wealth gap reaches its climax. Our elected officials will be forced to choose between allowing a full-blown crisis to unfold or dramatically change the structure of American society and our “free market.”

Since capitol hill has repeatedly shown its ability to be sold out and used as a tool by elites, we cannot trust them to do the right thing in such a dire situation. Who knows what kind of deal corporate elites would attempt to barter with politicians in order to save their fortune, all we know is that it will be very ugly. Even if the government decided to bail out the people, it would be furiously debated in the house and senate as to how to carry out such a task. It’s not like reshaping the United States is the most partisan issue anyway. It would likely take weeks for Washington to make a semi-competent solution and even then it might not actually be a solution. The point is, it will be out of the peoples control as to what to do next, which is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. Allowing a broken government to make decisions for all citizens in such a desperate time is irresponsible and dangerous. By the looks of how quickly the government is becoming incompetent, they may not even be capable of making any decisions.

To say a regime change is necessary would be obvious. Anarchists and other leftist activists have been saying that for years, I’m just the latest. Even though a “revolution” might prevent the impending collapse of American society, this will probably not happen. The apathy of many Americans along with our unbelievable ignorance prevents us time and time again to fix what’s broken. The possibility of regime change will arise only when our nation falls. It is imperative that the people and the working class decide what the appropriate change is. If not, exploitation is bound to continue for years to come. We would be fools not to take this opportunity, even though the opportunity comes in the form of crisis.

Climate Crisis and the State of Disarray

By William C. Anderson - ROARMag, December 2017

We are indebted to the Earth. Our gracious host has provided us with more than enough resources to live, grow and prosper over time. But throughout history, and especially in the modern capitalist era, some have let their desire for more become a perilous dedication to conquest. The urge to make other humans, wildlife and all parts of nature submit to the will of markets, nations and empires is the rule of the day. Today, anything associated with nature or a true respect for it is regarded as soft. That which is not vulturous like the destructive economics of the reigning system is steamrolled to pave the road to unhinged expansion.

This logic of expansion and conquest undoubtedly changes the relationship between humans and their environment. In this context, the “debate” over climate change actually becomes a matter of human survival. Those who entertain climate change as a question at all have already, maybe unknowingly, chosen a side. The fact is that climate change will create more refugees and forced human migrations; it will lead to the murder of environmental activists around the world and start new resource wars; it will spread disease and destabilize everything in its path — and more. Unless capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for natural resources and the fossil fuel combustion that powers it is abandoned, the Earth will be forced to do away with humans cancerously plundering the carbon energy it has stored over millions of years of natural history.

What is most unfortunate is that capitalism, which has multi-layered discriminations encoded within it — racism, sexism, classism, and so on — affects how thoroughly people are capable of bracing for the damages wrought by climate change. Though nature is indiscriminate in its wrath, the sustained ability to protect oneself from rising temperatures and natural disasters is a privilege not all can afford. Those who are already harmed under the pitiless whims of capital are doubly hurt by the lack of protection afforded to them for life in an increasingly turbulent environment. The Global South is much more likely to feel the brunt of climate change, despite contributing much less to causing it. But even in the world’s wealthiest nations, the poor and working classes are much more vulnerable to ecological devastation.

If the people who understand the gravity of the situation want this state of affairs to cease, then the system of capitalism and the egregious consumption of the so-called First World itself must cease. That which puts all of us at risk cannot be tolerated. The vast satisfactions in wealth hoarded by a few does not outweigh the needs of the many suffering the consequences every day, as the Earth deals with malignant human behavior. The systemic drive towards excess that is pushing the planet’s carrying capacity to the brink must be brought to a halt throughout the world, but especially in the empire that exemplifies excess best: the United States of America.

Organizing on a Sinking Ship: The Future of the Climate Justice Movement

By Kevin Buckland - ROARMag, December 2017

Climate change rarely comes up at the top of the list when people are asked about issues that concern them most. While this is not surprising, it is nonetheless disturbing considering the gravity of the climate crisis. Yet the key problem of our collective negligence of the climate crisis is reflected in the question itself, rather than the answer. Let us be clear: climate change is not an “issue.” Rather, it is now the entirety of the biophysical world of which we are part. It is the physical battleground in which every “issue” is played out — and it is crumbling.

The global justice movement is one of the many actors trying to maneuver on this battlefield, and the direction it is headed in is reshaping the narratives, tactics and structures that comprise it, hinting at the future of social movement organizing on a radically transformed planet. The rules of the game have changed: welcome to the Capitalocene — goodbye to “activism-as-usual.” As the climate changes, so must movements if they are to withstand, even thrive, inside the coming cataclysm of winds, waves and wars.

Movement Cultures in the Capitalocene

As our planet rockets into a new geological epoch, we find ourselves on unfamiliar terrain. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows what will happen, and no one is in control. The rest of our lives will be defined by an exponential ecological entropy that will increasingly destabilize both the economic and political foundations upon which the modern world has been built. All bets are off. The collapse will be anything but boring.

The Capitalocene is defined partly by a disappearance of spaces of refuge: there is no escaping this problem, and nowhere to hide. We’re all in the same boat. But the boat has crashed into a drifting iceberg, and is sinking fast. Our response to the climate crisis has been to rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic, but whatever we are doing, it isn’t working. It’s time to try something new. On a sinking ship, one’s logic and frames of references must change, just as the traditional frames of the left must evolve in the emerging context of crisis. The struggle is no longer to organize the deck-chairs so that we can ensure equal access for all. Rather, the most critical question now becomes: “How can we best organize ourselves to turn as many of these deck-chairs into life rafts?”

Perhaps as obvious as the climate crisis itself has been the inability of social movements to properly organize around it. For years, the climate movement has been trapped between two discordant discourses: between changing light-bulbs and global revolution. On one hand, any action can seem minuscule and ineffective compared to a crisis as big as the entire world. On the other, deep systemic change can seem far too slow for the urgency of the crisis we face. Yet one cannot “fight climate change” in the absence of such structural transformations, for the climate crisis is itself the result of an extractivist logic based upon an exploitative relationship with the world around us. Long before the industrial revolution, the emerging capitalist world-system was fueled by the exploitation of women, people of color and entire ecosystems.

The climate crisis is the ultimate symptom of this extractivist dynamic, and is an entirely new species of crisis that requires our movements to enact an entirely different logic — including entirely different values, morals, assumptions and strategies — if we are to confront it. Confronting climate change means confronting the system and the culture that has caused it, and providing a scalable alternative. More than merely constructing a new politics to confront the “issue” of climate change, the task of the left in the Capitalocene is to cultivate new processes for engagement in politics. The culture of organizing itself becomes key.

If movements in the Capitalocene are to effectively confront this crisis, it means enacting an alternative set of values and organizational principles. The legacy may have less to do with solar panels and community gardens than with incubating scalable organizing cultures that can be shared with allies, volunteers and partners in ways that improve access to justice as we move together into an exponentially tumultuous future. It may just be these cultures, being incubated now inside globally connected movements, that will write the next chapter of human history.

Cultural revolution is not only desired; it is needed. If we fail to offer scalable discursive, tactical and structural alternatives to the extractivist logic that has created the climate crisis, capitalism may itself transform the coming wave of disruptions into its own benefit, exacerbating existent inequalities for every social and ecological “issue” as it strengthens its stranglehold of the future on a rapidly destabilizing battleground. History is speeding up. It’s time to play to win.

Defying Dystopia: Shaping the Climate Future We Want

By Nick Buxton - ROARMag, December 2017

We live in an age of dystopias on demand. Whether it’s Black Mirror, The Hunger Games or The Handmaid’s Tale, there is no limit to satiating our desires for dark, apocalyptic visions of the future. Unfortunately the scariest experience does not involve the world of the imaginary; it just requires reading the latest climate science.

In one such piece in July 2017, New York Magazine managed to pull together all the possible worst-case climate scenarios in a longread called “The Uninhabitable Earth.” Through interviews with climate scientists, it painted a world of bacterial plagues escaping from melting ice, devastating droughts and floods so frequent they are just called “weather,” and biblical-like tableaus of entire nations on the move. The piece is bleaker than the darkest of sci-fi, because there is no way of dismissing it as fiction.

Facing our fears of climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face as activists. Not a week goes by without warnings of an “ice apocalypse” or a “point of no return.” We are bombarded with bleak visions of the future. And it’s a challenge that we continue to struggle with — one we have mainly filled with demands for action. For a long time, the answer was to provide easy actions that people could take so they could feel empowered. But it was soon evident that no amount of energy-saving lightbulbs was going to halt the capitalist juggernaut. Now the answer, from the left at least, is that we must confront capitalism to overcome climate change. Yet this can hardly be described as an easy win, or likely to allay our fears of a dangerous future.

In the anxious void, we have often not engaged or challenged the visions of the future described by climate scientists or environmentalists. And I don’t mean questioning the science, but assessing their expectations of humanity’s response to those climate impacts. Do they accurately describe how people behave in the face of disaster? Do they countenance the idea that people might respond in a way that doesn’t fit the model of the dystopian dog-eat-dog world? Is it possible that their expectations actually serve the purpose of those determined to repress alternative futures?

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