Today, members of Unity and Struggle, along with comrades from Sloths Against Nuclear State and Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice * will be engaging in the People’s Climate March in New York City. We wrote a short pamphlet to share with people who are engaging in these struggles, and who are working through questions of reform and revolution in regards to climate change and environmental destruction.
“Climate Change is Not an Environmental Issue”
It’s easy to forget the roots of climate change. For many people, climate change and environmental destruction are synonymous with human society, or population growth. Non-profits, academics, and even some radicals blame environmental destruction on the “anthropocene” and “human intervention.” But we want to call the origin of the crisis what it is. We are not only dealing with an environmental crisis. The same root cause that creates climate change is behind inequality, poverty, many contemporary illnesses, homelessness, and everyday alienation. This root cause is not humans, or “human society” writ large. It is instead a particular form of human social relations: capitalism.
Capitalism is the organization of society around production purely for exchange and profit, as opposed to use. Capitalism requires overproduction, debt, endless growth, and most important of all, inequality. Capitalist social relations are inherently anti-democratic. Whether you work for an NGO or for an energy company, you are working for something that exists outside of your direct control. Without inequality, there would be no workers to exploit, no land to grab, and no rents to raise. Without hierarchy, capitalist production would become obsolete–as the people formerly on the bottom would take democratic control over the means of production, and end exploitation. Inequality, hierarchy, exchange, misery, and alienation are all sources of life for capitalism, and sources of death for working and poor people. The state (congress, the police, local civic bodies, courts) exist to maintain inequality and hierarchy, and work out conflicts within the ruling class.
We will continue to face crises as long as we live in a society based on producing things for exchange, whether gas or compostable forks; where people are forced to work for a wage, whether at Monsanto or 350.org; where deadly institutions of “law and order” are required to keep the whole system running. The organization of society based on exploitation is the cause of environmental destruction–not “climate criminals” or corrupt politicians.
Under capitalism, environmental crisis affects everyone, but it affects us unequally. For example, when people protest to shut down nuclear power plants, the electric companies and the state blame anti-nuclear activists for higher electric bills. When NGOs support indigenous peoples’ struggles against land-grabbing through the monetary funding, communities are made to compete with each other. While radioactive isotopes from Fukushima equally contaminate all buildings-from luxury condos and city housing complexes-only those with financial means can prevent exposure to radiation. We will never live in harmony with nature or with ourselves as long as the world and everything in it, including us, can be parceled up to be bought and sold. And no organization that accepts this state of affairs will be capable of solving the problem. Continue reading