Teen girls took over the climate movement. What happens next?

Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate strike in Montreal. September 27, 2019. Photography by The Canadian Press / Paul Chiasson

If you try to picture a climate activist over the past very long year, you will likely summon the image of a young girl. It’s not necessarily the stern Swedish one with pigtails. It could be the bespectacled daughter of one embattled Somali-American representative, the tall Latina from Seattle drenched and yelling at the first Youth Climate March, or a less nationally-known girl you happened to catch at the head of your local climate strike.

Whether you like it or not, the teenage girl has become the symbol of the climate movement. They have demanded to be seen, heard, and heeded, and they’ve at least gotten their way with the first two. There is a reason that Greta Thunberg, founder of the school climate strikes and not yet 17 years old, is Time’s Person of The Year and that Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old founder of Earth Uprising, spoke at COP25 in Madrid. Quannah Chasing Horse and Nanieezh Peter, 17 and 15, also traveled to Madrid to advocate for climate justice in their homeland of Alaska.

But it’s that third item on their wish list, that pesky “heeded” part, that remains elusive. Thunberg has insisted over and over again that she doesn’t want attention, she wants action. Villaseñor was horrified by the rather spectacular collapse of the international climate summit she crossed an ocean to attend. None of these girls is content with the mere spotlight, and rightfully so — they want leaders to make swift, meaningful overhauls to national economies and infrastructure, and that hasn’t happened.

A high school girl has a uniquely precarious place in American society. She doesn’t have a voice in the political system, but she’s depended upon heavily as a consumer. She gets the message that she should be empowered and confident and generally sans fucks, but the grown women she sees on Instagram are digitally and surgically altering everything from their rib cages to their cheekbones to look like composite Kardashians. She knows how to use social media to be heard, but she can also be tortured by it. And maybe most overwhelmingly of all, she knows that the world she’s going to grow up in is going to be much more chaotic than the one her parents expected, and she had no role in making it that way.

Hava Gordon, a sociologist at Denver University who studies gender and social movements, described a dynamic where teenage girls today are looking at the world they’ve been left and realizing they’re completely ostracized from the power structures that could change it. So they’re using what they can to get noticed, and it’s working pretty well.

“Most teenage activists don’t have the right to vote or run for office just yet,” she said. “So they’re harnessing media and social media in really interesting ways; they’re also finding their institutional leverage with schools and school strikes as well.”

Teenage girls have long been defined by their obsession of the hour — and long been the object of a good deal of American cultural obsession themselves. The current iteration is the VSCO girl, the Instagram-centric trend characterized by ‘90s-revival style and a surprising environmental ethic. Kate Aronoff reported on the VSCO girl’s climate enthusiasm for The Intercept in September and noted:

It’s not as if all VSCO Girls are sleeper climate champions. But as climate organizing has come to involve more and more people, it’s sucking the trends of the day up with it, as those trends in turn reflect the concerns and anxieties of the generation from which they’ve sprouted.

You see all kinds of variation in the way young women use the tools they have to be heard. Alexis Ren, the 23-year-old American Instagram model, has made a recent attempt to awaken the millions of followers devoted to her bikini shots to the destruction of coral reefs in the North Pacific. Meanwhile, Thunberg, who seems much more comfortable in a zip-up hoodie than a high-rise French cut, has certainly become the best-known girl climate activist in the country due in part to her savvy use of Twitter.

Thunberg’s prominence has only been boosted by one Twitter-obsessed president’s snide comments about her, where he characterizes her as a weird, petulant, tantrum-throwing child. (Even the least astute psychologist might be able to identify this as “projection,” but that’s neither here nor there.) And the young girl’s ascent has been accompanied by her very own religious iconography; in October, her face was painted across a building in San Francisco like a cathedral mural. She’s even released a short book of her speeches, a kind of pocket scripture for the modern-day climate disciple.

Thunberg has said she doesn’t want to be the center of attention; she just feels obligated to use her platform to advocate for change. It calls to mind an earlier pioneering environmental activist: Rachel Carson, who was 55 when she published Silent Spring in 1962. In What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring, Priscilla Coit Murphy describes the writer and scientist’s desire to remove herself as a character from the conversation about her landmark journalistic work revealing the impacts of DDT. But despite the enigma Carson fought to maintain, she remained a focus of the press: “Carson herself was a classically appealing protagonist, despite her best efforts to remain private,” writes Murphy. “Much of the news coverage began with a description of her appearance and various qualities: ‘shy,’ ‘petite,’ ‘soft-spoken,’ or less felicitously, ‘spinster,’ or ‘bachelor biologist.’”

Movements of outspoken women have been fascinating to the public at the very least since suffragettes, and that fascination runs the gamut from religious adoration to cruel denigration. And yet many social justice efforts throughout history have been predominantly women-led; the most recent examples are the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements. Why women? Gordon describes a theory that we’re socialized to mind the home — keep things orderly, functional, and pretty — and that that cultivated instinct carries over to, well, the entire world.

But the suffragettes were doing their thing over a hundred years ago; this is not new! I asked Gordon why the surge of teen girl climate activists seems so novel. She mentioned two things: They’re younger than most women leaders before them, and we continue to be surprised by women who lead social movements because we don’t see that dynamic represented in the halls of power. Just under a quarter of Congressional representatives are women, and just under 30 percent of state-level elected officials are women.

“You can look at a teenage boy activist and think, ‘He’s gonna be president or a senator, this is good practice for him!’” said Gordon. “But the public doesn’t look at young women and girls that way.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a notable exception to the accepted model of legislator: young, female, Latina, internet–fluent, and, of course, unapologetically outspoken. She’s also been a vocal advocate for both young teen climate activists and comprehensive and transformative climate legislation.

But despite the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is now a household name whose likeness can be found riding a unicorn on a coffee mug, she’s still up against a largely old, white, male Congress that’s resistant to the kind of systemic transformation she and millions of young climate activists would love to see.

Girl activists rose to prominence in 2019 and captured the world’s attention. As they grow into women activists — and maybe politicians — over this year and the coming ones, I would love nothing more than to see them capture some of its power.  SOURCE

 

Naomi Klein On Looming Eco-Fascism: ‘We Are Literally And Politically Flammable’

The intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement laid out what, exactly, such a plan must entail to be successful.

Image result for naomi klein green new deal

Naomi Klein appears on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. (YouTube s

California burned. The Amazon burned. Greenland burned. Siberia burned. Indonesia burned. Australia’s ongoing fires look hellish.

Now, last year’s global inferno looks to Naomi Klein, the author and intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement, like a lit fuse to a fascist future.

“We’re in a moment where we are literally flammable,” Klein, whose latest book “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal” was published in September, said on a recent afternoon. “But we are also politically flammable.”

In 2019, some factions of the global far-right that gained power in the past decade started to abandon their traditional climate denialism and adopt new rhetoric that looks increasingly eco-fascist, an ideology that defends its violent authoritarianism as necessary to protect the environment.

In France, the leader of the far right, Marine Le Pen, refurbished Nazi-era blood-and-soil rhetoric in a pledge to make Europe the “world’s first ecological civilization,” drawing a distinction between the “ecologist” social groups who are “rooted in their home” and the “nomadic” people who “have no homeland” and “do not care about the environment.” In Germany, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party’s Berlin youth wing urged its leaders to abandon climate denialism. The manifestos posted online by the alleged gunmen in massacres from Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, explicitly cited climate change as a motivation for murdering immigrants and minorities.

“This is what it means to have people so close to the edge,” Klein said. “There is a rage out there that is going to go somewhere, and we have demagogues who are expert at directing that rage at the most vulnerable among us while protecting the most powerful and most culpable.”

The solution, she said, is to enact the kind of Green New Deal that progressives in the United States and elsewhere started fleshing out over the past year. The proposal ― more of a framework than a policy ― calls for the most generous expansion of the social safety net in decades. It promises good-paying, federally backed jobs for workers displaced by the transition away from fossil fuels, and those struggling to get by with stagnant wages and insecure gig-economy and retail jobs.

Klein, a journalist and author whose work over the past decade thrust pointed critiques of capitalism into the mainstream debate over climate change, has campaigned in recent months for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he runs for the 2020 Democratic nomination on a platform that includes a sweeping, $16.3 trillion Green New Deal.

HuffPost sat down with Klein to discuss her latest book and what comes next in the climate fight.

In Spain, there are competing versions of a Green New Deal. In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called his clean energy proposal a “green new deal.” The European Commission is pushing a “green deal.” Are you worried about Green New Deal branding being coopted by advocates of austerity and centrism? How do you fight back against that? 

Any phrase can be coopted and watered down. The main reason why I wanted to write the book is to help define what a transformational Green New Deal has to mean, to put more details out there. Any vague proposal is vulnerable to what you’re describing. The reason why I’m using the phrase now is because it is being used in a climate-justice context and the parameters that have been put around it by the resolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — and further supported by the Sanders campaign and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) campaigns — have made it more detailed.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein speaks to the media before speaking at the Willy Brandt Foundation in December. CARSTEN KOALL VIA GETTY IMAGES

But I still think there are parts of the discussion that we need to talk about — like the danger of a Green New Deal inadvertently failing to lower emissions in line with what scientists are telling us we need to do, and what sort of mechanisms need to be in place to prevent a carbon bubble that could be generated by rolling out a bunch of new infrastructure and creating a whole bunch of jobs.

How has the emergence of the Green New Deal changed the way we talk about neoliberalism? The movement seems to take the governing ideology of the past five decades as a given, yet we still have certain pundits questioning whether “neoliberalism” even exists. 

It’s so interesting, this. I’ve been trying to understand what the insistence on refusing to understand neoliberalism is all about. In most parts of the world there was a discussion about the phenomenon of neoliberalism and there was a name for it, while in the United States, people were always asking what neoliberalism was. It was always about what hegemony means and that it was an ideology that didn’t want to recognize itself as an ideology. Rather, it sees itself as seriousness and commonsense. The very fact of being named as an ideology, as a contested ideology that had opponents at every stage, was antithetical to the project. How it’s possible to still deny that there is a thing called neoliberalism ― understanding that the term gets thrown around, and every term gets used and abused ― but the insistence that it doesn’t exist is about a desire to not debate it on its merits, to not reckon with the history of how it was imposed through tremendous violence in many parts of the world.

A true Green New Deal platform makes visible that the failure to act in the face of the climate crisis is not the result of something innate in humans. It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash ― while bringing the population along with you, which is what you have to do in a democracy ― require breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook.

Can you briefly define it?

Neoliberalism is a clear set of policy frameworks which used to be called the “Washington consensus.” It’s privatization of the public sphere. It’s deregulation of the corporate sphere. It’s low taxes for corporations and all of this offset with austerity and public cutbacks of the social sphere. That in turn creates more of an argument for privatization, because you starve the public sphere. And all of it is locked in with technocratic-seeming arrangements like free trade deals.

And a progressive Green New Deal would be a reversal of these trends? 

That is what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us we need to do. We need unprecedented transformation in every aspect of society: Energy, transportation, agriculture, built environment. That requires huge investments in the public sphere. It requires regulating corporations. It requires getting some money from somewhere, and usually involves raising taxes on the wealthy. And if you want to do it democratically, you need to do it in a way that is fair. That means creating a lot of well-paying jobs and improving services, so you’re not just adding burdens onto people’s daily lives.

Besides the obvious, what are some obstacles to this project?

It so happens that we have a lot of trade agreements that our governments have signed that make a lot of the things we need to do illegal under international law. So, a lot of those trade agreements are going to have to go.

The reason why we haven’t done these things is we’ve been trying to do them in the constraints and confines of the neoliberal imaginary. That’s the only reason we’re actually now finally talking about solutions: We’re in the midst of a democratic socialist revival, which is breathing oxygen into the political imagination and made us think that maybe we can do things again. The Green New Deal has made visible the constraints, the actual barriers to what it would take to deal with this crisis.

Why can’t a market-based solution deliver on those goals? 

The Green New Deal is certainly making visible the tremendous costs of the neoliberal project. There have been so many attacks on public goods, on public services like transportation, on trade unions, on worker rights of every kind, on living standards. Climate policies that adhere to a neoliberal framework ― like introducing a marginal carbon tax or a buying a fleet of electric buses (but you want to do it in a “fiscally responsible” way, so then you increase bus fares) …  We are seeing these huge, popular resistances.

It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash … requires breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook. Naomi Klein

We saw it in France when President Emmanuel Macron introduced a tax on gasoline. We saw it in Chile with President Sebastián Piñera, ahead of the U.N. climate summit, when they bought a whole bunch of electric buses in order to make their public transit appear green. But, of course, because Chile has been the laboratory for neoliberalism since 1973, they have rules in place that say all of your expenditures have to be offset, so they increased transit fares. That was the spark that set off the Chilean uprising.

A thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, which you write about in the book, is the looming threat of eco-fascism. It’s been hard not to think about that over the past few months, as you’ve had these different shooters in El Paso and Christchurch citing environmental concerns in their manifestos and you have somebody like Marine Le Pen talking about borders as a climate policy and “nomadic” people having no appreciation for the need to make France an ecological society. How quickly do you think this kind of right-wing, climate fascism is going to spread? What besides adopting equitable policies can you do to fight back against that? 

These types of policies that make life more secure for people, that could tamp down the political flammability of the moment we’re in, are absolutely necessary. I don’t think they’re sufficient. I don’t think there’s any way that we move forward without a frontal confrontation with white supremacy. Which isn’t to say “Oh, just fund schools and hospitals and create lots of jobs and it’ll take care of itself.” We need both: We have to address the underlying supremacist logics in our societies and we also need to do what is necessary to be less flammable.

I want to be clear: I don’t think there are any shortcuts where we don’t actually have to battle supremacist logics. And it’s different in different parts of the world. In the United States, it’s white supremacy, it’s Christian supremacy, it’s male supremacy. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India right now, it’s Hindu supremacy; under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s Jewish supremacy. It’s all very, very similar. As I argue in the book, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that supremacists have come to power at the very moment when the climate crisis becomes pretty much impossible to deny.

Do you think that’s a blindspot for the climate movement at large? It seems like there has been this consensus for a long time that, if only we could exorcise denialism from the polity, then people would embrace social democratic policies to deal with emissions. Is there any evidence for that? 

It’s a massive blindspot. The assumption that the biggest problem we’ve had is just convincing the right to believe in the scientific reality of climate change was a failure to understand that the right denied climate change not because they didn’t understand the science, but because they objected to the political implications of the science. They understood it better than many liberals understood it.

This is the argument I made after spending some time at the Heartland Institute conference and interviewing [co-founder] Joseph Bast, who was very honest about his motivation. He understood that if the science was true, then the whole reason for the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that exists to advance the neoliberal project, would crumble. He said to me that if it was true, then any kind of regulation would be possible, because in the name of safeguarding the habitability of the planet, you’d need to regulate.

It was never about the science or needing someone to patiently explain the science to you. It was always about the political implications of the science.

That said, I think there are lots of people who are not hardcore climate deniers but who are just exposed to a certain kind of right-wing media and haven’t heard the counter arguments, and could absolutely be persuaded. But if you’re talking about the hardcore denier, it’s an epic waste of time, because you’re dealing with somebody who has an intensely hierarchical worldview, which is what all the studies show. That’s just a nice way of saying somebody is racist: It means you’re OK with massive levels of inequality, you think the people who are doing well in the world are doing well because they’re somehow better and the people who are poor and suffering are experiencing this through some cultural or biological failure of their own making.

White nationalists march on the grounds of the University of Virginia ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Many of the white supremacists in attendance chanted “blood and soil.” STEPHANIE KEITH / REUTERS

So what happens when those people stop denying climate change? 

If you convince those people climate change really is real, or if it just becomes so obvious that they can no longer deny it, they don’t suddenly want to sign onto the Paris Agreement. What actually happens is they apply that intensely hierarchical supremacist worldview to the reality that what climate change means is that the space for people to live well on this planet is contracting. More and more of us are going to have to live on less and less land, even if we do everything right. It’s already happening. So if you have that worldview, then you will apply it to people who are migrating to your country and to those who want to migrate to your country. We will harden the narratives that say those people deserve what they get because they’re inferior and we deserve what we have because we’re superior. In other words, the racism will get worse.

One last question. Former Secretary of State John Kerry just announced a new project, this star-studded effort called World War Zero, saying we’ve got to have war footing on climate change but we’re not married to any specific policy. John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, was quoted in The New York Times saying he was on board because it’s policy agnostic and if there were a “no frackers” provision, he wouldn’t join. Is there a danger to these elite, “let’s just do something about climate change” efforts?

There would be a huge danger if there wasn’t a powerful movement today pushing for a Green New Deal at the same time. The idea that what we need to just scare people in this moment, or just get people to understand that we’re in an emergency and once we’re on emergency footing, this will somehow solve itself, that’s a very dangerous theory of change.

I began writing about climate change while I was writing about something I called the “shock doctrine,” which says that for the past four decades, states of emergency have been systematically harnessed by the most powerful and wealthy forces in our society to impose policies that are so harmful and unpopular that they are unable to impose them under normal circumstances.

I get my back up when people just say all we need to do is get people to understand we’re in a crisis. There are many ways of responding to a climate emergency, and a lot of them are very harmful. You could decide to dim the sun with solar radiation management. You could decide that you need a massive expansion of nuclear power and ignore the impact on the people whose lands are being poisoned. You could decide to fortress your borders. There are any number of emergency responses to climate change that could make our world much more unjust than it currently is.

That said, I’m not too bothered by the idea that there’s going to be a lot of people out there just screaming “fire!” For the first time since I’ve been involved in the climate movement, there’s now a critical mass of people out there who have a plan for putting out the fire that is robust, justice-based, science-based and has a movement behind it. That’s the movement for a Green New Deal. There are enough of us out there who can harness that energy and direct it in the right way. But we certainly have our work cut out for us.  SOURCE

Vulnerable Nations Call for Ecocide to Be Recognized As an International Crime

The nations of Vanuatu and Maldives are spearheading an effort for the International Criminal Court to consider wide-scale environmental damage a global crime. Photo credit: Stop Ecocide

The Pacific island of Vanuatu has called for ecocide— wide-scale, long-term environmental damage—to be considered an international crime equivalent to genocide.

At a meeting of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday, ambassador John Licht of Vanuatu said the court should consider an amendment to the Rome Statute, which sets the court’s legal framework, that would “criminalize acts that amount to ecocide. We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion.”

The International Criminal Court is currently responsible for prosecuting four internationally recognized crimes against peace: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. A fifth could be included through an amendment to the Rome Statute.

The court’s authority extends only to the 122 nations that have ratified the Rome Statute, a list that does not include the United States, China, India and Israel.

Vanuatu, which is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has been an advocate of climate justice at international forums for many years, but has been more vocal since 2015, when Cyclone Pam devastated the island, an example of a major storm whose impact was made significantly worse by climate change.

Vanuatu’s statement is a major victory for the Stop Ecocide campaign, which was launched by British lawyer Polly Higgins two years ago. The organization wants any agreed-upon criminal definition of ecocide to include the impacts of climate change as well as other forms of environmental harm.

Until now, Vanuatu was the only state to have formally announced it was working with the campaign, which provides diplomatic and practical help for countries to get to the negotiation table. The Republic of Maldives announced on Thursday that it was adding its support as well.

Ahmed Saleem, member of the Maldives parliament and chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environment, said in a statement the “time is ripe” to consider an ecocide amendment, emphasizing how serious a threat climate change posed to his nation.

“We see little or no concrete action at multilateral level to bring about transformative changes necessary to prevent the repercussions of climate change,” Saleem said. “It is time justice for climate change victims be recognised as part and parcel of the international criminal justice system.”

To change the Rome Statute, the head of a state that is party to the International Criminal Court must submit a formal amendment. If a two-thirds majority approve the change, it can be adopted into the Rome Statute and countries can formally ratify it.

The idea of ecocide has been around for nearly 50 years and had been under serious consideration in early drafts of the Rome Statute. But it was dropped due to resistance from a few countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to the Stop Ecocide campaign, it is the first time since 1972 that a state representative has formally called for ecocide to be recognized at this kind of international forum.

Jojo Mehta, spokesperson for Stop Ecocide and co-ordinator of its international diplomatic and campaign teams, said she is optimistic that a formal amendment could be submitted as early as next year, although others believe it is unlikely to happen until at least 2021.

“This is an idea whose time has not only come, it’s long overdue,” said Mehta. “It’s committed and courageous of Vanuatu to take the step of openly calling for consideration of a crime of ecocide, and it was clear from the response today that they will not be alone. The political climate is changing, in recognition of the changing climate.  This initiative is only going to grow – all we are doing is helping to accelerate a much-needed legal inevitability.”

Pope Francis has lent his support to the idea of making ecocide a crime, proposing in November that ‘sins against ecology’ be added to the teachings of the Catholic Church. SOURCE

Question at COP25: What Role Should Carbon Markets Play in Meeting Paris Goals?

Environmental justice advocates and indigenous groups argue that emissions trading leaves the poor bearing the brunt of pollution.

Homes in El Segundo, California, sit blocks from the Chevron refinery. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
“You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities,” said Tere Almaguer, an environmental justice organizer whose group works with communities near California refineries that feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Climate justice advocates at the UN climate summit this week are focusing their frustration over global climate inaction into one highly technical debate: What role should carbon markets play in meeting the promise of the Paris climate accord?

Carbon markets started as a way to offer polluters more flexibility as they try to meet their countries’ emissions reduction targets and, in theory, lower the cost. But past international emissions trading systems have failed to reduce emissions significantly, and representatives of vulnerable and indigenous groups argue that their communities end up bearing the brunt of pollution under such systems, as industries seek to make emissions reductions where it is easiest and cheapest.

Writing the rules for future carbon market mechanisms to fulfill the Paris commitments is at the top of the agenda for the delegates of nearly 200 nations gathered in Spain through Dec. 13 at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25). But the task has proven so difficult that it remains the last unresolved portion of the Paris treaty rulebook.

The controversy around this part of the Paris climate agreement, known as Article 6, is even more striking given the long history of international discussions over carbon markets, which nations have looked to as part of the climate solution ever since adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. But to opponents in the environmental justice and indigenous people’s communities, that long experience has engendered mistrust.

“Over and over again, carbon markets have proven that they are not effective in reducing emissions,” said Tere Almaguer, environmental justice organizer for PODER in San Francisco. Her group focuses on organizing Latino communities—including those who live near California refineries and feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions.

She says the state’s carbon cap-and-trade system allows the oil companies to invest in far-flung carbon mitigation projects rather than cutting emissions at home, leaving the communities to continue suffering the consequences. Referring to industry investments in forest preservation projects in the developing world to earn credit for cutting emissions, Almaguer said: “You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities.” MORE

James Hansen: Carbon Reality!

Our children must live in the real world. We cannot pretend we have fossil fuel replacements and “all that is needed is political will.” Eventually we will have energy cheaper than coal, but not today. Fossil fuels are a convenient energy source and can raise standards of living. If we are to phase down fossil fuel emissions rapidly, we must make fossil fuels pay their costs to society.

A viable strategy to rapidly phase down fossil emissions is an across-the-board (oil, gas, coal) rising carbon fee. These funds, collected from the fossil fuel companies, must be distributed, 100 per cent, to the public. Otherwise, the public will rebel, as ‘yellow vests’ demonstrated in France.

Merits of the carbon fee & dividend: it is progressive, as most low-income people get more in the dividend than they pay in increased prices. And, economists agree, it is, by far, the fastest way to phase down emissions. It stimulates the economy, creates jobs, and modernizes infrastructure.

The United States, China and the European Union are the big players on the global stage today. If, preferably, at least two of these three adopt a rising carbon fee, it can be made near-global via border duties on products from countries without such fee, and rebates to manufacturers on products shipped to countries without a fee. This would encourage most countries to have their own carbon fee, so they could collect the money themselves.

Will one of these three major players lead the way by initiating fee & dividend?

European Union: Citizens Climate Lobby, the Danish chapter, is spurring an initiative to collect one million signatures, which would force the European Parliament to vote on fee & dividend. They have a good start, 21,790 signatures, but they must get 1,000,000 by 6 May 2020.

Please visit https://citizensclimateinitiative.eu/ (add /dk for Danish version, /es for Spanish, /bg for Bulgarian, etc.) where it is possible to sign electronically – you must be European to sign.

It is hard to inform people about this one-by-one, but if enough organizations understand the carbon reality, they can get their memberships behind the ballot initiative.

Fig. 2. Cumulative per capita emissions in tons of carbon and cost of extraction in thousands of dollars per person from the air, assuming extraction cost of $123 per ton of CO2.

United States: Dan Miller and I submitted a response to a ‘Request for Information’ from the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Citizens Climate Lobby in the United States now has more than 500 Chapters with more than 170,000 members. I believe that they can eventually get Congress to adopt a rising Carbon Fee & Dividend. Please consider joining CCL and adding your support to their efforts.

China: The merits of a carbon fee in China will include a huge reduction of air pollution, as well as reduction of carbon emissions. If the dividend is distributed uniformly, as in other countries, it will increase social justice. Wealthy people will lose some money, but they can afford it. The population as a whole will be glad to see the government taking action to deal with pollution and rewarding financially those citizens who make an effort to limit their carbon footprint.

The West must understand that China does not owe us any special effort. China now has the largest annual emissions, but climate change is proportional to cumulative emissions. China’s cumulative per capita emissions are far less than those of the U.S., U.K. and Germany (Fig. 2).

China’s greatest emissions are from coal burning, as they have massive energy needs for power plants and industrial heat. Their best hope to phase down those emissions is modern, safe nuclear power plants that shut down in an accident, such as an earthquake or tsunami, and require no external power to cool the nuclear fuel. Data show that nuclear power has been our safest power source, with smallest carbon footprint, but major improvements are possible. For mutual benefit, the United States and China should cooperate to develop modular reactors that would drive the price of nuclear power below that of coal (see Cao et al., Science 353, 547, 2016).


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Review – This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism


Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus. By Mark Ramsay, under a CC BY 2.0 license

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is many things at once: a hopeful mass movement; a commuter’s nightmare; a source of inspiration; an apocalyptic kick up the arse. Within the UK climate movement, it has become a Rorschach test. For some, its shock doctrine ethos flirts with eco-fascism. For others, the actions have become their life’s calling. This Is Not A Drill has been written to clarify, inform, inspire and equip the people who are undecided yet interested in moving deeper into the climate action zeitgeist XR has ingeniously catalysed.

The book is loud and proud. Its hot pink cover is impossible to ignore, and pages of the text are dedicated to vivid woodcut imagery and all-caps messages. The book contains a wealth of essays, anecdotes, and advice. All are short and generally unfussy: no footnotes here. They are written by people from a variety of backgrounds, united through their concern over climate breakdown. An Indian farmer and a Californian firefighter offer their perspectives; individuals working in academia, climate science, politics and other fields weigh in too. These include Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives; psychotherapist Susie Orbach; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an indigenous rights campaigner from the Mbororo community in Chad; and visionary economist Kate Raworth, among many others.

Notably, XR is working to develop a deeper understanding of climate justice and the causes of climate breakdown. The Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva writes a powerful foreword stating explicitly that ‘ecocide and genocide are one indivisible process’, pointing to colonialism’s ravaging motive by quoting US President Andrew Jackson’s 1833 call for ‘a superior race’ to triumph over native people in America. She and other contributors make it clear that colonialism and capitalism comprise a pincer movement that is destroying life as we know it. This lays important foundations for conversations about what an ecologically healthy and socially just future needs to consign to history.

Salutary reads

These big global overviews of climate breakdown and its impact on different communities are salutary reads for any reader. The more practical pieces that explore the logistics of effective direct action are excellent too. One, ‘Cultural Roadblocks’, shares the story behind how XR sourced a boat for activism purposes, and it conveys the mix of determination, absurdity, effort and camaraderie that collective action can involve. From branding textiles, to befriending journalists, to cooking on-site meals that won’t give everyone food poisoning, the best of these chapters share the qualities of being informal, smart, and motivating.

There is unexplored tension in the text. Horizontal self-organising is recommended throughout, yet the encouraged action, reiterated through a number of chapters, remains bafflingly prescriptive: disrupt transport in capital cities. Blocking bridges is a tactic, but is it the only option? According to This Is Not A Drill, it would seem so. The roots to this strategy can be found in the chapter written by XR co-founder Roger Hallam, where he states that disrupting cities is the only option: ‘That’s just the way it is.’ Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, effective civil rights leaders whose work Hallam cites elsewhere, might have disagreed with this dogma; the Salt Marches in India and the Selma to Montgomery marches in the US, for example, were pivotal to their respective causes.

It’s worth noting that Hallam has form in presenting opinion as fact. When interviewed on the Politics Theory Other podcast, he was challenged on the claim that ‘most prison officers are black’, which appeared in the (now-deleted) XR prison handbook. Hallam doubled down on the claim, saying, ‘That’s just an empirical fact. I mean, I’ve been to prison several times and that’s the fact of the matter.’ Given that, in reality, over 94 per cent of all UK prison officers are white, it seems wise to take Hallam’s other ‘empirical facts’ with a pinch of salt, city roadblocks as a means to liberation for all being one of the them. MORE

A burning case for a radical future: Naomi Klein says UBC needs to get with the program


Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26 Chan Centre

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26, presenting at UBC’s Chan Centre for a sold out venue as part of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Klein opened the event with a discussion on her new book and was joined by Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous land defender from the Secwepemc territories as well as event moderator, UBC School of Journalism Professor Kathryn Gretsinger.

Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, focuses on the interconnectedness of what she refers to as simultaneous planetary and political “fires.” These fires are both literal in reference to rising temperatures and climate crisis, as well as in a metaphorical sense; With references to global political crises and the rise of fascism under figures like Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and Kashmir, and Duterte in the Philippines, to name a few she touched on.

“A clear formula is emerging between many of these fascist figures who are trading tactics,” she said.

In her opening address Klein emphasized themes from her book, particularly that climate destruction systematically intensifies pre-existing societal inequalities and vulnerabilities. She cited the historic 2017 wildfires in BC as an example, sharing that while smoke hung over the entire Lower Mainland for weeks on end, it was Indigenous communities whose wellbeing was disproportionately affected, along with undocumented migrant workers working in BC’s interior.

Klein brought hope to the on-stage conversation by addressing that while political and planetary fires are raging, metaphorical ‘personal’ fires are also on the rise, and continue to spark global social movements, from Haiti to Chile to Lebanon and beyond.

From racism to colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, extractivism, eco-fascism, climate destruction, poverty and despair, in Klein’s words, these struggles can be tackled all at the same time rather than as single-voter issues.

“The fight for Indigenous rights and title is absolutely inseparable from the fight for a habitable planet. They are one and the same,” Klein stated emphatically in the two hour event.

Klein’s book is dedicated to the late Secwepemc leader and activist Arthur Manuel. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel — founder of the Tiny House Warriors movement in BC — joined her on stage for the event. Manuel reiterated the interconnectedness of Indigenous land rights as central to movements for climate justice, particularly as the Canadian government has repeatedly stated it’s intent to go on with Trans Mountain Pipeline construction despite a lack of Indigenous peoples’ consent.

Image result for kanahus manuelBearing a broken wrist and a defiantly raised fist, in a voice that was calm and contained, Manuel recounted a chilling incident of police violence from the week before.

“As I stand here today, I have this cast as proof of what Canada does to Indigenous people when they stand up for Indigenous land rights. There are mothers and children on the front lines.

“I don’t want anyone here to ever have to feel how this feels — for the RCMP to come and break your wrist at your home and take you away for three days without medical attention.”

Manuel was referring to her arrest the week before, when she and other Secwepemc land defenders had been resisting as federal pipeline developers encroached onto unceded Secwepemc territories.

“We expected them to deal with the matter in a diplomatic way; this is supposed to be a first world country,” said Manuel.

As Manuel handed the microphone back to Klein, she received a standing ovation from the packed Chan Centre audience, members of the audience joining her in standing with fists raised in unison with her own stance. MORE