The Paris attacks make climate protests more important than ever
Date: 18 November 2015
It will be deeply ironic if climate activists from around the world are among the first to fall foul of France’s emergency powers. Of course, those campaigners have nothing to do with the brutal attacks on Paris last Friday night. On the contrary, they will challenge the unequal, unsustainable and militaristic policies on which terrorism has thrived.
We’ve been here before. In the years before the 9/11 attacks on the United States, a powerful movement had grown to confront the institutions that run the world. Little-known organisations and networks like the WTO, IMF, World Bank and G8 were thrust into the limelight, their summits besieged by protestors for the poverty, inequality, conflict and climate destruction that they fuelled.
The movement was perhaps the most global in history – connecting up fights against water privatisation in Bolivia, landlessness in Brazil, sweatshops in Bangladesh, and occupation in Palestine. Beyond the knowledge and skills it gave to those involved, it met with not inconsiderable success, halting the trade offensive in the World Trade Organisation, breaking the pharmaceutical industry’s deadly blockade on HIV medicines and reducing the International Monetary Fund to near irrelevance.
The movement faded in the wake of 9/11. Energy was channelled into stopping war, civil liberties were cracked down on, and protestors were portrayed as terrorists. In some parts of the world, most notably Latin America, the challenge to free market fundamentalism continued, but the global momentum was largely lost.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, protests were cancelled to give respect and space for reflection. The neo-conservatives felt no such compunction, seeing in Al-Qaeda a perfect ‘enemy of civilisation’ which could be used to mobilise or distract populations. Oil wars, energy grabs and a corporate assault of democracy passed above and below the radar. In the burning remains of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the foundations for today’s seemingly never ending war was laid.
The climate movement has matured, moving from a focus on behavioural changes (recycle your paper and change your lightbulbs) to confronting the free market fundamentalism that shapes our society. Free trade agreements like TTIP, EU-wide austerity policies and the financial deregulation once again being pushed by the City of London are completely at odds with halting climate change. They are also at odds with building a fairer, freer, more equal, and peaceful world which can undercut terrorism.
A broad cross-section of French campaigners have been clear “Our struggle for climate justice will not stop. We have a duty to stand up and continue to fight for a just and livable planet for all. We will continue to mobilize to build a world free of wars, and atrocities, and the ravages of the climate crisis”.
We must all stand with them, including through attending demonstrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and London on 28 and 29 November and travelling to Paris for 12 and 13 December. Western leaders have not made our societies safer or fairer, in fact, the Paris atrocities are another symptom of a world in deep trouble. It doesn’t have to be this way. But we do no service to the victims of terrorism by drawing back from our campaigns or allowing anti-terror laws to silence our protests. We need to stand up for another world now more than ever.
Join Global Justice Now, Reclaim the Power and other organisation on the ‘System change, not climate change’ bloc on the London climate march on the 29th of November and on Scotland’s Climate March in Edinburgh on the 28th of November.