Our movement must be as global as the problems we seek to address. We need people organizing where these crimes are taking place. It will take an unprecedented alliance of people of all walks of life, from environmentalists to those who have never considered our natural words effects in their lives. Those in the movement for justice need to work together to force fundamental changes in the institutions that are holding us back. We must strengthen our willingness to engage in civil disobedience and push back against the forces that are making activism a crime.
Such a call demands that we again reflect on the nature of the relationship between climate change and other injustices. I have discussed such questions before in many posts on burycoal.com, originally in the article “Setting Priorities in Social Activism” (which was also published in a campus newspaper), and more recently in posts on care and imperialism (and ultimately this issue was central in my decision to leave the blog). There is no obvious end in sight, no simple solution to this problem, so I will likely continue to reflect on it. Below, somewhat edited, are my most recent and belligerent thoughts about those who would divide off environmental causes from all other causes of justice and treat them not only as important, but as a cause to dismiss other issues:
One can have an approach to global warming which ignores international justice issues. I don’t think it’s particularly respectable, but it’s something one can do. One can argue that Western states don’t owe a debt due to colonialism, due to the way they have used up the ability of the atmosphere to allow us to emit carbon. Or, one could make the arguement that these claims of “justice” are pipe dreams, and that we should be “realistic” and pursue “serious” development (neo-colonialist) policies which implement the market-style reality of the future which serves, which always serves, the interests of the powerful. In fact, it is possible to have an entire climate-politics analysis that remains totally orthogonal to issues of global justice, oppression, racism, genocide. No one needs to say this is impossible.
Just don’t expect it to make you friends in the broad activist community – or for such an analysis to serve as the basis of the larger alliances that Greenpeace is calling on us to build. Those alliances are already being built – and they are being built by groups like Climate Justice Montreal, Environmental Action Toronto, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and by events like Cochabamba, the climate camps which have happened in the UK and Canada, and even events like the G20 People’s Summit which happened the week before Harper pushed a neo-liberal agenda during now famous instances of police brutality and criminalization of dissent (which continues for some unfortunate organizers).
The alliances are not being built by liberals who are more interested in convincing (necessarily) corrupt politiciens of an argument than they are in the crimes being perpetrated by their state and their state’s strategic military and economic allies. The alliances are being built largely by those who experience no cognitive dissonance at statements like, “Our prime minister ought be hanged for war crimes and crimes against the planet”. Most importantly – the alliances are being built by those who do not dismiss other social justice campaigns in the name of the transcendental nature of climate change – they rather take climate change as the lens through which we see other struggles.
This is not a question of “standing on principles”, but of looking at the problems before us, and the people around us, and seeing what kind of orientation it makes sense to take as we move through the world. Moral principles are not so much “starting points” within us, but perspectives, bearings by which we see the world around us – and they make it show up in this or that way. The question about principles is of course about effectivity (“what works”) – but not simply about what brings about a desired end, because the end is also posited, partially, as a result of the principle. It is about, then, not only achieving ends, but aiming at ends that one can live with – that are adequate to the moral foundation we’ve undergone, such that we can work towards a world whose existence we could/can affirm.
In other news, I am currently in search of a climate-justice oriented blog to contribute to. I have several leads, but any suggestions would be welcome.