Climate Struggles and Ecosocialism

The Bullet

The hard right U.S. administration of Donald Trump has widened the terrain of struggle over climate change and, indeed, the entire array of environmental issues facing the ecology of North America and the working class movement. Climate change deniers, big oil executives, and finance capitalists now occupy pivotal positions in an array of state agencies and apparatuses directly impacting these portfolios. Some of the first decisions of the new administration have been to expand pipeline development (of both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL), further open spaces for fossil fuel extraction, and gut the Environmental Protection Agency. Alongside the continued expansion of the tar sands in Canada, the North American energy superpowers are being pushed further down the path of ‘extreme energy’ extraction in the pursuit of fossil fuels (something already encouraged by the preceding Obama and Harper governments).

It will be impossible to meet present climate change targets to contain the global warming (and crucial tipping points for the earth's biosphere) in this context. Indeed, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA announced in February that average global temperature was 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th century average, and the second warmest winter on record (after last year's). NOAA also announced that global carbon emissions reached an all-time high, and measures of CO2 at the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii is now pushing toward 410 ppm. The damage to the Great Lakes cleanup, wilderness protection and endangered species, control of pollutant discharges, and much else from the EPA cuts is not yet clear but potentially of enormous consequence.

In Canada, the Trudeau government immediately shifted the discourse on climate change as an issue that needed to be directly confronted from the ‘acknowledge but ignore’ policy of the Harper regime. But the policy practice with respect to climate change is more notable for its continuities with the Harper period than its break. The administrative processes with the National Energy Board, First Nations consultations on pipelines, and environmental assessments largely carry on as they were. They remain vehicles for negotiating and smoothing-out pipeline expansions and further tar sands development. The last year of struggles – over Site C, Lines 3 and 9, Kinder Morgan, and Petronas LNG – are evidence enough of this. As with so much else (Canada's foreign policy on Syria and the Ukraine, Bill C-51, industrial subsidies, trade agreements), the Trudeau government proceeds from the same neoliberal guidebook as Harper.

The war on the planet is a direct consequence of the Trump and Trudeau government's efforts to restore capitalist accumulation in the face of continued stagnation. As the 100th day of the Trump Administration is reached, a continent-wide set of demonstrations in the hundreds, under the banner of the People's Climate Movement, is being held on April 29 (People’s Climate March in Toronto). This mobilization builds upon the Women's March, the fight against Islamophobia, the protests against anti-black policing, and the continent-wide Fight for $15 campaign. The platform of demands for social and economic justice, indigenous sovereignty, green jobs, renewable energy support and immigrant rights, reflect the resistance that has been growing against the array of neoliberal governments. It is of vital importance that ecological activists, unionists, community groups, and socialists, come out, to build and widen the resistance to the authoritarian neoliberalism that continues to gain ground, and now threatens to undermine even the tepid steps taken so far to address climate change.

What still needs to be registered is the fundamental antagonism between containing climate change (and restoring the earth's ecology), and capitalism. It is remarkable, given the urgency of the ecological crisis and after so much scientific evidence and debate, that a critique of capitalism – and for the most part, even the word – does not figure in the main build-up to the demonstrations. The main North American environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOS) made their peace with capitalism and markets in the 1990s, and they are yet to reverse course, whatever the ecological chaos that surrounds us. But there is no market-centred ecology, or green work, or localist green capitalism, or environmental justice, able to overcome the class relations and forms of production of capitalism. Endless accumulation, the commodification of everything, permanent war, continual ecological damage: this is the inner core of capitalism and the agenda now, each in their own way, of the Trump and Trudeau governments. To this end, we recall here several of the key manifestoes of the ecosocialist movement of the last period as this movement finds a central place in the remaking of the global working class and socialist movements.

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