Without climate justice our sinking ship will be wrecked

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Although we are "all in the same boat", climate change requires an analysis of power.

Although I do not like dystopias, research on climate change and its remarkable consequences make it difficult to maintain hope and confidence in the ability of humans to organize and "collapse better" (Jorge Riechmann). The December 2015 Paris climate agreement is little more than a wasted piece of paper. To keep the temperature increase below 1.5C, total allowed CO2 emissions should be between 5 and 10 times current annual emissions. Achieving this target is already "unlikely" and would require rapid and fundamental changes, according to the leaked draft report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

I agree with Nick Buxton when he says that climate dystopias do little more than paralyse us and keep the capitalist and productivist system intact. However, this decade will be decisive for the future of our planet and our civilizations.

It is surprising that in the face of this enormous challenge there is practically no mobilisation whatsoever in the Spanish State. There are some initiatives such as the Seville Network for Climate, but they do little more than promote some small, shallow reforms and appeal to changes at the individual level that hide the structural roots. Nick Buxton says about this type of activity: "No matter how many low-consumption light bulbs we install, we will not be able to stop the capitalist giant".

Illustration by Natalia Menghini


Planet Earth – a sinking ship

In an article published in ROAR Magazine, activist Kevin Buckland says:

«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?'»

Using the analogy of the sinking ship, not all people suffer the same impact. It is not the same to travel clandestinely or in fourth class than to enjoy your trip in first or second class. Nor is it the same for the crew who work tirelessly.

In sum, «…the impact of climate change will ultimately not be determined by levels of CO2, but by structures of power. In other words, the exact impact of a climate disaster will depend on political decisions, economic wealth and social systems», as says Nick Buxton.

The effects of climate change are not limited to an increase in global temperatures, but we are already «walking over the abyss of the limits», as the recent report by Ecologistas en Acción and La Transicionera points out.

In this context, strategies to «guarantee equal access for all» to the deckchairs of the Titanic - be it by gender, by class, or by country of origin - are no longer sufficient; that is to say, the responses from both ecologism and feminism; from trade unionism or anarchism, must assume the context of the sinking ship, the reality of a climate change already underway and the physical limits of our planet.


Climate justice as a new framework

Taking the context seriously requires us to get organized now! Neither states, nor intergovernmental institutions, nor green capitalism or the "fourth industrial revolution" are going to save us. Both the rapid reduction of CO2 and methane emissions and fair adaptation to the consequences of climate change and resource scarcity need a strong social organisation to tackle the trends of social exclusion and fascism that already exist.

In the report Walking over the abyss of the limits is set out:

Global capitalism is unsustainable in the short term because there is no material basis for survival. We would be making a serious mistake if we crossed our arms while it crumbles, because there are many ways in which this happens and some are more desirable for social majorities and for ecosystems than others. In addition, the social orders that are born will depend on the measures that we put in place now.

We need new narratives and positive visions of a more just, sustainable and queer-feminist society with less consumption of energy and materials. Instead of seeking social justice in (privileged) developed countries based on access to more consumption, we should develop visions and narratives of degrowth that allow for social justice both within our countries and globally. From the left or from feminisms we cannot aspire to access to more privileges, but we have to develop new responses to the already existing social emergency. The environmental movement, in order to get out of its middle class ghetto, should assume the social emergency. The concept of climate justice could provide a new framework for building new movements and alliances in response to the ecological crisis.


Let's organize!

Although we have little time left to at least slow down climate change and soften its consequences, there is no other option but to work with "ardent patience" (Rimbaud). A movement for climate justice needs horizontal processes of organization, building new alliances between queer movements, feminists, trade unionists, ecologists...; between urban and rural movements in global centres and peripheries. At the same time, we need new leaderships that emerge from marginalized populations, we need visions and practices that value diversity and actively work for the inclusion of all voices.

In addition, we need a multitude of strategies, from the local to the global, from nonviolent resistance to the construction of alternatives that allow us to adapt our societies to the inevitable consequences of climate change and limited resources ("collapse better").

Within the strategies, massive civil disobedience should play an important role: on the one hand, it would allow us to stop the destructive dynamics of productivist, extractivist and consumerist capitalism (closing down coal mines, preventing the construction of new gas pipelines or other destructive megaprojects), and on the other hand, it would serve as a learning process to confront (eco)fascist and authoritarian tendencies in an uncertain future.

The ecosocial and energy transition will come inevitably, but the result of that transition must be a more just and inclusive society. The way we are going to collapse is up to us. Do we start to organize?



[i] http://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cms/publicaties/pbl-2017-limiting-global-temperature-change-to-1-5-degree-celsius_2743.pdf

[ii] http://www.comitatoscientifico.org/temi%20CG/documents/ipccspm1,50218.pdf

[iii] https://www.lamarea.com/2018/02/12/la-marea-frente-a-un-mundo-distopico-construyamos-el-futuro-climatico-que-necesitamos/

[iv] https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivismo

[v] https://roarmag.org/magazine/organizing-culture-climate-justice-movement/

[vi] https://latransicionera.net/blog/2017/la-cuarta-revolucion-industrial-no-es-nuestra-revolucion

Sin justicia climática naufragará nuestro barco hundido