This speech was given by local ecosocialist T.J. Demos as part of the People’s Climate March, April 29, 2017, in Santa Cruz.
We all know, it’s “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”
But for many, especially for those with a radical imagination and a love for the Earth, we need to end capitalism to save the world.
For, why should we save the world when it’s one of economic austerity and misery, beyond-grotesque inequality, political tyranny, violent militarism, obscene sexism, and white supremacy?
Why would we want to save a world of settler colonialism and homophobia, of illegalized migration and expanding border walls, proliferating military-police violence and institutional racism?
Why save this world so that the eight richest billionaires, who own as much wealth as the bottom half of the human population—that’s approximately 3.6 billion people—so that those eight richest people can escape to their underground silos or private islands or military encampments, when all hell breaks loose, while the rest of us suffer a dystopian future?
Why save the the world if it means a world of the walking dead, of massive sacrifice zones and hunger games, a post-democratic world of neo-fascist governance, a dead world of mass species extinctions, a burning world incompatible with the flourishing of human and biodiverse life? Why would we want to do that?
Why save a world “ruled by imperialism and national oppression and terror, violence, and hunger and poverty.”
In a perverted kind of way, that world, already burning with record temperatures year after year, with 2016 being the hottest in our history, deserves to burn to ashes.
Of course some of us will struggle for climate action despite these awful social and political and economic conditions at present—because the world and what remains of it is nonetheless so achingly beautiful, and the only one we have. And something’s better than nothing, action’s better than surrender…despite all.
But the point is, to build an effective campaign against environmental destruction, then it can’t be according to the logic of endless economic growth and mindless consumerism. It can’t be for a world where everything’s up for sale, where the only proposals for climate action are yet more market-based schemes that guarantee the accumulation of yet more wealth, rather than the lowering of greenhouse emissions. It can’t be for a world of technofixes and geoengineering that don’t address social and economic inequalities, climate justice, and fairness for all. How can the very system that produced catastrophic climate change, and which continues to worsen it today, supply the solutions?
If we’re going to struggle for the solutions proposed by environmentalists like Bill McKibben and James Hansen—putting a price on carbon, investing in renewable energies, and leaving fossil fuels in the ground—that seek to guarantee a limit to global warming, then we also have to struggle for an equitable and just world that will join all in solidarity.
We need to think beyond the economic system in which we’re all trapped. Another world is possible. Climate justice is possible. Radical system change is possible. Eco-socialism is possible.
That world is inseparable from the grievances of Black Lives Matter, peoples’ demands for the progressive redistribution of wealth, and universal health care, sanctuary status everywhere, and the sovereignty of indigenous nations. It’s inseparable from the rejection of the military industrial prison complex, the privatization of education, and rising tuition fees.
That world, a world without borders, without racism and sexism and homophobia, a world of living wages, is inseparable from taking back the political process so that corporations have no personhood status and corrupt financial influence, so that lobbyists can no longer sway democratic assemblies toward the interests of corporate profits over people’s welfare.
Will a return to a Democratic house, senate, and presidency make that world possible? Many doubt it—let’s not forget that it was precisely the administration of Barak Obama that, through so many political disappointments, prepared the ground for the election of Trump. It’s clear: We need to reinvent governmental politics from the bottom up—from Santa Cruz to the capital and beyond—by imagining a world without reality-TV show and alt-Right presidents, without senators in the pockets of industry, without corrupt electoral politics and empty promises.
If we’re to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Keystone XL, against expanded offshore drilling and extreme extraction projects, against fracking from New York to California, all of which Trump, in collusion with the fossil fuel industry, is pursuing; and if we’re to struggle to protect the EPA and climate science, then it must also be an intersectionalist fight, not just against greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon dioxide, but for an entirely different world.
At the People’s Climate March in New York in 2014, Miya Yoshitani, director of the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said:
“The climate justice fight here in the U.S. and around the world is not just a fight against the [biggest] ecological crisis of all time. It is the fight for a new economy, a new energy system, a new democracy, a new relationship to the planet and to each other, for land, water, and food sovereignty, for Indigenous rights, for human rights and dignity for all. When climate justice wins, we win the world we want. We can’t sit this one out, not because we have too much to lose, but because we have too much to gain.”
That’s the struggle we have to fight.