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Another Silent Spring: Strategies for the Climate Struggle

By Paul Fleckenstein - Tempest, March 15, 2022

After the worst year yet of climate disruption, 2021 closed with another failure of international negotiations at COP26 and the slow death of President Biden’s meager legislative climate agenda.

North America faced heightened levels of drought, heat, fire, flooding, wind, climate-enhanced migration, and crop failures. Yet the climate movement’s support and campaigning for Biden and Democratic Party achieved little. Expectations are even lower for the next three years.

To respond to this impasse the climate movement, particularly the predominant organizations in the U.S., needs to reorient away from the over-emphasis on electoral politics, and toward protest and struggle as the priority strategy.

Fortunately, there are some glimpses at how to expand this potential, but the central question remains, what socialists and the Left, in general, can do now to best catalyze more disruptive, sustained, and mass-based climate action.

Understanding Sunrise, Part 1: Strategy

By William Lawrence - Convergence, March 14, 2022

Sunrise Movement made climate change a key political issue, but new conditions require new theory and strategy.

The state of Sunrise Movement, one of the more successful and visible U.S. Left organizations to emerge in the last five years, reflects trends in the broader Left. We hit a high-water mark with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ February 2020 victory in the Nevada caucus. Shortly after, the revenge of the Democratic establishment and the COVID pandemic halted all momentum and put Sunrise into a rear-guard attempt to salvage what could be won in a Biden administration. The underwhelming first year of that administration has left us floundering.

Today, a private and public reckoning is well underway. A new generation of leaders is taking account of Sunrise’s successes and failures, and working to design the next life of the movement. Early Sunrise leaders—of which I am one—are in the process of moving on, and handing over leadership of this youth organization to a more youthful cohort.

As a leader in Sunrise’s development from its founding in 2017 through early 2021, I feel obliged to offer an evaluation of our strategy and methods. My aim is to offer a detailed account of Sunrise’s aims and influences, in order that the next generation of strategist-organizers both inside and outside Sunrise may learn from what we did well, while overcoming our limitations.

You can consider just about every word of this essay as a self-critique and a practice of learning in public. As ever, I write with deep appreciation for all the climate justice fighters who find a place to place their hope amidst the looming dread of this crisis.

Part 1 of this essay, which you are reading now, focuses on Sunrise’s strategy, including our demands, rhetoric, and relation to the US party system. Part 2 will look at Sunrise’s methods of organizing.

I hope these essays not only illuminate our specific choices and why we made them, but demonstrate how the theoretical concepts on which we build our organizations actually shape their development. Sunrise’s successes owe much to the theories underpinning our strategy and methods, and our failures reveal much about where these theories fall short. I hope my reflections on these recent experiences may aid in developing better theory to face the challenges of the 21st century.

It's not over for COP26 as the Coalition builds for the future

By Skye Pepier - London Left Green Blog, March 12, 2022

The COP26 Coalition has continued to meet since the Glasgow Summit in November last year, and on 19th February there was a whole day of discussion about the future of the movement. The framing for the discussion was that Glasgow last year was just the start of the network’s activity, and that the work needed to build an effective climate movement on these islands should be continued and enhanced. 

There was a tremendous enthusiasm about the action and work that is being undertaken by the Coalition, despite the recognition that the COP26 summit was a failure and did not bring the action on climate change needed from our so-called world leaders. People from all corners of Britain, and the world, including the Caribbean and Africa participated in the COP26 Coalition meetings. 

Despite similar attempts of network building by Green Left, however, including its involvement of the Ecosocialist Alliance, there was a noticeable absence in the COP26 Coalition meetings, of anyone involved in Green parties, of either Scotland, or England and Wales. This doesn't necessarily mean that there weren't Green Party members present - but it was difficult to discover the presence of fellow Green Party members. 

After a brief introduction to the COP26 Coalition, there were discussions around the difference between organising and mobilising a diversity of tactics, as well as regional exercises to build up COP26 local hubs and the wider climate justice movement. 

The day then closed with an online rally for the year ahead, titled 'Movement Building & Collective Strategies', with speakers from Fridays for Future Scotland, Campaign Against Climate Change, Landworkers Alliance, as well as youth activist Aoife Mercedes Rodriguez-Uruchurtu from YouthStrike4Climate Manchester and Breathe.

Each speaker was able to say something quite different to the others, but without disagreement of any kind, which was a sign of the diversity of the COP26 Coalition movement, and arguably, also its strength. 

So, what is next for the COP26 Coalition? As the UK holds the presidency of COP26 until the start of COP27, it is still important to keep climate change on the agenda, just as it always has, but especially if we want to see continued action while the UK is in its current global position on it. There is also the matter of building towards COP27, despite it being in Egypt, where post-Arab Spring oppression has been brutal. 

The Global Tapestry of Alternatives: Stories of Resilience, Existence, and Re-Existence

By Shrishtee Bajpai - London Left Green Blog, February 14, 2022

Our food systems are not just the work of humans. They are the work of the mountains, of Pachamama [Mother Earth], of the sacred, the whole community which is centered on reciprocity, solidarity, and respect for elements of life. This is buen vivir (‘living well’) for us.

That’s according to Quechua residents of Potato Park in the Peruvian Andes, where the community has for the last three decades been involved in an inspiring process of conserving and sustaining their own livelihoods over the vast landscape where the potato originated. They were speaking to us through the dialogue series initiated by the Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA) to highlight stories of community resilience and wellbeing in the face of Covid.

The pandemic has shown the deep fractures and baseless promises of wellbeing that the capitalist model made to the whole world. Of course, several other crises pre-exist Covid, from the climate, biodiversity loss, and pollution, to inequality, conflicts, authoritarianism, and right-wing fascism across the globe.

Occurring alongside all this is a long process of colonization or post-colonial hegemony, and the domination of certain cultures and knowledge systems. Combinations of these interconnected challenges have significantly impacted our individual lives, whether it’s alienation from nature and from each other, or a heightened sense of meaninglessness or hopelessness.

It’s in the context of these multiple crises that GTA attempts to foster a dialogical space to show that there are alternative ways of being, knowing, working, dreaming, and of doing things — that the modern capitalist or nation-state dominated system is not the only system around.

Along with processes of resistance, across the world there are tens of thousands of attempts to construct alternative realities, either through sustaining things from the past which are still relevant, equitable, and just, or creating new ones — especially from within industrial systems or the so-called ‘developed’ systems of the world.

The Global Tapestry of Alternatives is a network that was seeded through experiences of networks of alternatives in India, Mexico, and Colombia. After several conversations and endorsements of movements across the world, GTA was officially launched in 2019 as a horizontal process of weaving with non-hierarchical ways of functioning.

With a strong commitment to highlighting the emergence and visibility of an immense variety of radical alternatives to this dominant regime rooted in capitalist, patriarchal, racist, statist, and anthropocentric forces, GTA seeks to create solidarity networks and strategic alliances amongst all networks of alternatives on local, regional, and global levels.

Over the last two years, GTA has organized over 22 sessions ranging from the responses to Covid by indigenous communities in Peru, Mexico, India, and Bolivia, to the responses of women in Rojava to Black Lives Matter and eco-socialist organizing for radical transformations.

How do we get there? Some thoughts on ecosocialist tactics & strategy

By Diana O’Dwyer - Rupture, February 2, 2022

Whatever your views on blowing up pipelines, Andreas Malm[1] has sparked a vital debate on the left of the environmental movement about tactics and strategy. The strategic problem he addresses is how should we organise to avert catastrophic climate change and which tactics will be most effective in achieving that? 

According to Malm, overthrowing capitalism in time to halt climate change is impossible[2] and he therefore advocates building an environmental movement capable of putting so much pressure on capitalist states that they are forced to act, even against their own class interests. It’s not spelled out fully in his work but he seems to think socialism can develop later out of this process.[3]

The immediate concern right now, however, is to deal with climate change before it destroys any basis for a decent quality of life, under socialism or any other system. 

This type of argument, that there isn’t enough time to build socialism and so we must focus on more pressing issues first, has dogged left politics for centuries. Ireland’s version - that ‘labour must wait’ - prioritised national independence over socialist change. Given the endless variety of ills thrown up by capitalism, many immediately deserving causes will inevitably challenge for precedence. If national independence isn’t pressing enough then surely the survival of our species is?

The problem with this argument is two-fold. 

Deep Adaptation...or Climate Justice?

By Chris Saltmarsh - The Ecologist, February 1, 2022

A review of Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos, edited by Jem Bendell and Rupert Read, published by Polity Press.

Activists in Extinction Rebellion are currently discussing the movement's new published strategy. The debates within XR often centre on a difference of approach between long standing members who were influenced by Dr Jem Bendell's paper calling for "deep adaptation" and those who want to focus on climate justice and a rapid dismantling of "fossil fuel capitalism" to avoid the need for such adaption.

This is the context in which many people are now reading Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos, a collection of essays brought together by Bendell and Dr Rupert Read, his long time collaborator and one of the many XR co-founders.

Read: The new XR UK strategy

Read: XR 2.0: We appreciate power

The book starts from the premise that societal collapse induced by climate change is inevitable or highly likely, arguing that humans should adapt to this new reality by moving away from industrial consumer society. This retains and amplifies the main arguments first proposed by Bendell in his online paper, which went viral and became influential within Extinction Rebellion, including among its co-founders.

Why We Need to Be Able to Say No at Work

By Kristof Calvo and Marguerite van den Berg - Green European Journal, January 26, 2022

For most of us, life revolves around our jobs. As a result, efforts to improve people’s lives have focused on improving working conditions rather than challenging the centrality of work in our lives. Sociologist Marguerite van den Berg sets out to do just this in her recent book Werk is geen oplossing [Work is Not a Solution]. In this conversation with Belgian green politician Kristof Calvo, she explains how workers can recognise and assert their power.

Kristof Calvo: You write that everyone is tired and that no one has time, yourself included. Where did you find the time to write this book?

Marguerite van den Berg: I had a six-month fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and that gave me time to work on the book. But the pandemic shook things up. Suddenly everything that makes life worth living stopped – except for the work. I had to deal with that craziness. Suddenly I felt even greater urgency to write the book.

Every author has their own method. How did you work? With fixed days for writing or by finishing a short piece each day?

I already had some parts on paper, but I wrote as much as I could in the mornings. Our kids were still at home when my fellowship started in February 2021, but things improved from May onwards.

In your book, you argue for a different view: a shift from “I am tired” to “We are exhausted”. Is this the essence of your story?

Yes. I wanted to show that everyone is struggling on a personal level. Few dare to mention to anyone other than those close to them that they are worried about how they will get through the next week. I felt compelled to acknowledge this collective feeling of exhaustion as well as its political dimension. I specifically did not want to reduce it to the vulnerability and precariousness of certain groups. Exhaustion does not only occur on the “margins”; it is happening across the full breadth of society.

Your message is clear. You don’t spare anyone in your analysis.

I address everyone directly by using “we”. Where I make a distinction, as when I speak of a “boss”, it’s a deliberate choice; I’m not referring to the person but rather the hierarchies at work that demand more and more from us.

Beyond the Green New Deal: A Discussion with Monica Atkins of the Climate Justice Alliance

After Glasgow COP26: Build the Global Movement

By Alan Thornett - London Green Left Blog, January 5, 2022

What happened in Glasgow – and where do we go from here? 

Many on the radical left have concluded that Glasgow was an unmitigated disaster. That COP is dead. That the 1.5°C maximum temperature target is dead. That any gains made in Glasgow are greenwash. That it is time to stop focussing on the COP process and chart our own independent course. It is even argued that putting demands on the COP process (or indeed other capitalist institutions) is wrong in principle because it makes us complicit with their crimes and failures. 

I don’t agree with any of this. It’s certainly true that Glasgow failed to stop catastrophic climate change – and by a huge margin. It is also true the pace of the crisis is still increasing with fires, floods, droughts and hurricanes becoming ever more destructive, and that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NCDs), pledged in Glasgow, would produce a temperature rise of not 1.5°C but of 2.4°C – which would trigger feedback processes that would take the climate crisis out of control. 

To withdraw from the COP process, however, would be a big mistake. Although we all have a responsibility for our own ecological impact, only governments have the ability to make the major structural changes necessary to get rid of fossil energy in the timescale available. Nor can we build the mass movement necessary to force them to do so if we ignore the main global forum in which they can be engaged – and which is the main driver of global public consciousness on the issue. 

A Green New Deal for all: The centrality of a worker and community-led just transition in the US

By J. Mijin Cha, Dimitris Stevis, Todd E. Vachon, Vivian Price, and Maria Brescia-Weiler - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 2022

This paper argues that labour and community-led advocacy efforts towards a just transition are fundamental to delivering the promises of a Green New Deal (GND) and a just post-carbon world. To this end, an ambitious, far-reaching project was launched by the Labor Network for Sustainability, a non-governmental organization dedicated to bridging the labor and climate movements, in Spring 2020 called the “Just Transition Listening Project’’ (JTLP).

Over the course of several months, the JTLP interviewed over 100 individuals, including rank-and-file union members, union officials, environmental and climate justice advocates, and Indigenous and community advocates to understand what makes transition “just,” what opportunities exist for a broad coalition to advance a GND-style proposal, and to document the struggles facing working people and communities across the U.S. In doing so, we utilize the tools of political geography to examine the politics of spatiality, networks, and scale as well as the geographical and spatial dimensions of policy and political-economic institutions. We are particularly mindful of two spatial dynamics.

First, that transition policies, particularly in a hegemonic country like the USA, have global implications. The industrial transition that took place from the 1970s to the 1990s, for example, bred nativism because it cast other countries as the cause of the problem.

Second, critical geographers have pointed out that environmental justice (EJ) has been neoliberalized in the U.S. as a result of its operationalization, spatialization, and administration, starting with the Clinton Administration. Because JT is rising on the national and global agendas, we pay close attention to whether these dynamics that affected EJ are also operating with respect to JT, as well as how they can be contained.

This research is particularly timely given the ongoing federal governmental efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and provide basic economic and social supports. The process of the JTLP parallels the goals of the GND–intersectional efforts rooted in community knowledge for the development of a people-led GND. This paper details the process of the JTLP and the prospects for intersectional, broad-based movements that are the only way a GND can be realized.

Read the text (Link).

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