The Global Climate Strike of Sept. 20-27 calls for an unflinching examination of the roots of the climate crisis. Despite climate-denier claims, massive scientific evidence shows that the release of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, has so destabilized the earth’s self-regulating system that humanity is now undergoing a cascade of unnatural catastrophes.
In the past few years, we’ve seen historic levels of destruction and death in the Western Hemisphere — recently in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the eastern coast of the U.S. Every day we hear of some new climate tragedy elsewhere on the globe — from fires devouring the rainforests in the Amazon and Central Africa, to more intense storms and flooding, to glaciers rapidly melting, to 41 percent of global insect species declining over the past decade, which threatens “catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of [humanity],” according to the journal Biological Conservation. (tinyurl.com/yxkhbbqc)
But while this is a global crisis, it does not have to become an irreversible global catastrophe. There is evidence that headway can be made against this dire situation, which is caused not by “human beings” in general, but by an unsustainable global economic system: capitalism, the private ownership and production of anything that can be sold for private profit, where the bottom line beats out all other considerations.
Cuba and China lead the way; capitalist U.S. holds back progress
In 2016, socialist Cuba, with its steadfast commitment to environmental health, including years of effort in reforesting, was recognized by the World Wildlife Federation as the only country in the world to achieve sustainable development. (tinyurl.com/yyh6nqxs)
In addition, even Forbes business magazine this year had to admit: “China is set to become the world’s renewable energy superpower.” People’s China has demonstrated commitment, affirmed in 2014, to stopping the climate crisis. One example of many is that within four years it cut coal-plant air pollution on average by 32 percent in affected cities. (Workers World, April 23)
Meanwhile, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, although this agreement is only a weak first step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And the current administration, with its unchecked ownership by big business despite Trump’s “populist” veneer, is rapidly reversing regulations on pollution. From methane gas to chemical dumping to car emissions to the Pentagon’s toxic wastes, the U.S. is by far the world’s largest polluter.
On the one hand, we have a U.S. government bought by and bound to capitalist profit – to hell with humanity and all life species. On the other hand, there are these two workers’ states, Cuba and China, that are proving that planned socialist economies are able to put people ahead of profits – and that must include the health of the planet.
The engine that drives climate crisis is capitalism – a system incapable of planning for anything that could diminish the profits of the class that owns the means of production. The markets for stocks and bonds move up and down according to profit projections. Profits for the 1% take precedence over everything else, even if that means killing the earth and its peoples.
The solution to this crisis is socialism, in which public ownership of the means of production enables society to carry out long-term planning for the good of the 99% of humanity and the survival of the planet. For youth especially, which system will control the future is a pressing question.
An immediate demand: climate reparations
Clearly, overturning capitalism is necessary to end the climate crisis. But what action is possible now, here inside the belly of the beast, while we pursue the road to socialism?
We can demand and strike now for climate reparations. The climate criminals must immediately pay billions. These are Big Business – the polluting corporations and the banks that finance environmental destruction – and Big War – the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex that wage war for oil and profit. Fighting for reparations would be a significant pushback against capitalism while we struggle for system change.
Reparations must go to Indigenous peoples globally, who have been in the lead to protect the planet while facing centuries of depredations on their lands and lives. Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people especially should be recognized for their leadership in organizing for the life of the globe – from Standing Rock in the U.S. to Brazil, India and Honduras.
Reparations must address environmental racism aimed at people of color in the Global South, as well as in the U.S. – from the Black and Brown people inundated by corporate hog farm waste during hurricanes in North Carolina, to African-American communities, like Uniontown, Ala., used as dumping grounds for the debris of coal-fired plants.
Reparations must go to whole countries devastated by U.S. war and sanctions for oil and profit – against Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Venezuela – and to compensate for the economic sabotage and efforts at regime change waged by the U.S., including Cuba and Central America. The impact of many of these wars has produced refugees, including climate refugees who can no longer sustain life in their homelands.
For years, Big Business and Big War have seen the climate crisis approaching and have been drawing up their own, private plans for how to stay in business.
The Peoples’ Power of the Climate Strike has its own plans for the future and can demand billions in reparations owed to the planet by capitalism. Those billions can be put to good use by Indigenous leaders, by organizers in local Black and Brown communities, by workers who unite their struggle against the bosses with the struggle for the environment, by activists and scientists dedicated to learning from the triumphs of Cuba and China.
We must demand climate reparations – to build a global future on the road to socialism!