Climate breakdown is a crisis, let's act like it is

Many of the common responses to climate change focus on consumer choices; driving less, buying an electric car, meat-free Mondays, ‘eco’ light-bulbs, reusable coffee cups, in other words: faux solutions to retrofit ourselves into ‘green’ capitalism. But the climate emergency is not a malfunction of an otherwise stable societal system, rather it is an insufferable symptom of an overarching capitalist fever and treating its symptoms is not the cure. If we need to make unprecedented changes to all aspects of society over the next 12 years, then the question: How can I consume better? is non-sequitur. This crisis we are faced with requires us to reclaim our role as active citizens, not mere consumers. So what is being done, and how can we really join in and make this revolution happen?

1. Divest to invest in our future

If we recognise that funding the system that’s contributing towards the climate chaos is wrong, then we must alter the institutional structures investing in fossil fuels. Join or initiate a Fossil Free divestment campaign- whether that is from within a university, your local council or liberating pensions from the fracking industry.

2. Decarbonise and democratise energy

Our relationship to energy needs to change. The current monopolised system serves capitalism, and leaves little room for alternatives. We must secure an energy future that is decarbonised, democratic, and localised; where energy poverty ceases to exist, and where people are producers, distributors, sharers, and collective users of energy. The Greater Manchester Community Renewables are one such example of a volunteer led energy project doing great things. Fracking is being forced onto people’s doorsteps, yet onshore wind- which is cheap, clean and popular- has been blocked by the Conservative government.

3. Practice the ‘Just Transition’

Capitalism depends on exploiting humans for their labour and the rest of nature for profit. Decarbonising our energy system is critical, but so is supporting and integrating workers’ rights in climate activism- there are no jobs on a dead planet, after all. Workers’ jobs and a fossil-free future must not be pitted against each other, as detailed in an article by Novara media explaining the relationship between unions and climate justice. The movement for a universal basic income is also integral in the transition towards decarbonising the economy. There are several campaigns you can get involved with in the UK including One Million Climate Jobs.

4. Organise and disrupt

Despite international climate policy commitments, we could see a three degree increase in temperature by 2100; equating to a largely unliveable planetary state. This will inflict unimaginable suffering on parts of the world already marginalised from legacies of colonialism and oppression.  We are in an emergency and we must act like such. Expanding or creating new fossil energy infrastructure projects is an extreme rejection of climate reality. We must denounce this and take action. One way is to disrupt energy frontiers is to get involved with Reclaim the Power network who work in solidarity with frontline communities to confront fossil energy infrastructure to build a renewable energy economy. The growing Extinction Rebellion movement collectively demand political action and have been mobilising this month, whilst the Campaign against Climate Change will organise a march in December. You can also join the many communities defending themselves from fracking.

5. Join Global Justice Now’s climate justice network

This is a nascent network of Global Justice activists working together on climate justice issues. We’re pushing for divestment for fossil fuels and supporting energy democracy.  We also have a conference planned in the new year which will focus on the issue of de-growth. We’re a national network which meets every few months and we’re keen for more people to get involved. To join us contact activism@globaljustice.org.uk.

6. Use law as an ally

The use of legal means to seek climate justice is escalating worldwide. The majority of the British public are in favour of urgent action and litigation on climate change. But litigation is expensive for community groups and individuals who do it themselves on shoestring budgets. This is why, if you are able, providing monetary support for climate justice lawyers is hugely important. In the UK you can support the lawsuits led by Plan B, involving 11 UK citizens (aged 9 to 79), who are responding to the UK Government’s failure to set a safe climate target, and against the Transport Minister’s climate-incompatible plans to expand Heathrow airport.

7. Break the climate silence

For many people, thinking about the severity of planetary harm can produce grief-like symptoms. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Talking about what we value and care about is also really important. In the US, only four hours of airtime was given to climate change in the entire year of 2017. It is our responsibility as concerned citizens to break the climate silence. In the words of George Monbiot, “Two-thirds of people cannot recall ever having a conversation about climate change. If you have a conversation with somebody that could very well be the first conversation they’ve ever had about climate change in their entire lives.” Sharing petitions with friends, family and people you don’t know is also important, as is lobbying your MP.

8. Reclaim the imaginary

We know what we are against, but what are we for? Liberating ourselves from the grapples of fossil capitalism is also a process of liberating our minds from the mental conditioning of living under it. The neoliberal project has manipulated our public spaces to promote self-interest and hyper-individualism. Some people are harnessing radical creativity by reclaiming places that are otherwise polluted with propaganda for pedal-to-the-metal capitalism. Check out the amazing work of Brandalism in this video of their work around the climate talks in Paris in 2015. They’ve also produced an inspiring guide on how to subvertise so you can do it yourself.

There are of course many other actions you can take not listed here. There are also other international climate justice related movements, networks, organisations and campaigns that you can donate to. Every increment of temperature rise is an injustice, but our fate is not inevitable. Immense suffering has already been unleashed from the neoliberal fossil fuel economy, but we can still work to prevent the wounds from deepening. We can refuse to repeat the mantra that it is the nature of humans to destroy the biosphere on which we depend. Vaclav Havel famously stated: Hope is not the same as things are going well but, rather, “…an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” Responding to climate change demands that we recognise that the societal system we live in is in crisis. This presents a need for action and a necessity to reclaim our power to reshape the future of our world; it is worth fighting for.

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