Sea Ice

Until We Confront Capitalism, We Won’t solve the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol ##LabConf18 #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy. #Neoliberalism

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992.

Consumer-focused solutions to climate change such as eating less meat or reducing food mileage, though important, simply won’t be enough to address the systemic nature of the crisis.

So what needs to be done to halt global warming?

Truthout spoke to Simon Pirani about his newest book, Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, and the prospects for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel world.

Anton Woronczuk: Burning Up situates the last few decades of accelerating fossil fuel consumption alongside the social and economic history of energy production and policy.

How does this context help us understand what is driving, and what has driven, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through today?

Simon Pirani: When people think about the threat of dangerous climate change, and decide they want to do something about it, it is not easy to work out what to do. It is clear we have to move away from fossil fuels, but not clear how. Governments claim they have solutions, which people instinctively (and rightly) disbelieve, and newspapers report simple, bullet-point proposals – such as “stop eating meat” – the effect of which is unclear.

Moving away from fossil fuels is difficult because they are so deeply embedded in economic activity, in the way that we live.

In Burning Up I hoped to make clearer how that has happened through recent history. 

Take the example of cars and urban infrastructure based on them.

There are technological drivers.

Using an internal combustion engine for motor transport was a truly remarkable innovation. But it took place in an economic and social context: the rise of American capitalism. The USA had oil resources. It had aggressive entrepreneurs who not only pioneered the use of production lines to build cars – and to help discipline and control the workers who made them – but also dreamt up sales techniques to turn the car into a marketable commodity and an object of consumerism.

By the late 20th century, the motor manufacturers had become a fearsome political lobby.

They had undermined alternative forms of transport, remade American cities to serve cars, and frustrated fuel efficiency regulation.

The American example was followed by cities across the rich world during the post war boom, and beyond it from the 1980s onwards.

It was not inevitable that motor technology would come to be used so inefficiently, or that urban transport systems would become subservient to it.

That was conditioned by the way capitalism expanded.

We need to account for technological, social, economic and political elements, to understand how fossil fuel consumption has become unsustainable.

We also need to specify what we mean by “unsustainable.” The human price paid for fossil fuels has always been high – coal miners killed down pits, urban residents’ lives cut short by air pollution.

Global warming, the nature of which only became clear to scientists about thirty years ago, has made it unsustainable in a whole new way.

You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and economic systems in which they function.

What is the significance of this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?

Simon Pirani

The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war; and of government complicity.

Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late 19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture.

The technologies of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things worse.

The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective network, loaded with commercial content.

By contrast, networked technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.

Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption.

Enthusiasm for geoengineering is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies. 

Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.

Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these techniques with huge concern.

I recently went to a seminar with researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar radiation modification.”

Someone wants to make it sound less like the giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is! 

Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded.

Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking about such deep-going change.

Common solutions promoted by some environmentalists are often framed in terms of changing individual consumption or those of populations, especially of the rich world.

Some of these include eating less (or no) meat, buying more local produce, using more public transportation, etc.

What do these solutions obscure in terms of how fossil fuels are consumed in and through societies (unequally) across the world?

For a start, focusing on rich-world hamburger eaters ignores the whole supply chain that produces such fuel-intensive, unhealthy products.

Appealing to rich-world drivers to get the bus only makes sense as part of a challenge to the whole urban transport system they depend on, that favors cars.

I try to minimize my own hamburger consumption and car use, but I don’t treat consumption as a moral issue. And it is not primarily an individual phenomenon: fuels are consumed by and through technological and economic systems.

Second, working people in the rich world spend their lives fending off the effects of elites’ encroachments on their living standards.

Under the present economic and political conditions, reducing consumption would often make their lives harder.

It needn’t do, but that’s how things stand now.

The French government wrapped up its latest attempt at austerity as a climate policy, and came unstuck.

Too bad for them.

In reality, averting global warming, working out ways to live better lives, and countering social injustice are all part of the same approach to life.

We need to work out how to express that politically. 

Look at the reaction in France to the proposed fuel tax increase.

It ignited a general revolt against neoliberal encroachments on working people’s living standards.

The government has retreated, and not only abandoned the planned tax increase, but also promised to increase the minimum wage.

Right-wing commentators have falsely claimed that the protest movement was against climate policies.

I saw no evidence of that.

While the movement is politically heterogeneous, an overarching theme is that working people are sick of being asked to pay for everything.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established in 1992, was heralded by many as a major accomplishment in international efforts to address global warming; but you argue that Rio, and subsequent UN conferences, ensured that ecological imperatives were subordinate to economic interests.

Can you explain what this entailed and how it persisted through the Paris agreement?

Climate science has a history too.

The world’s ruling elites have long known that coal mines kill mineworkers, and cared little. But they did not know that fossil fuels were feeding into the global warming threat until the 1980s.

Only then did scientists clarify how warming happens, and the role played by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. But once the ruling elites had the science in front of them, they fought desperately to limit the actions taken to those that reinforced, or at least did not threaten, their economic dominance.

The political expression of this was the refusal by the US and other governments to countenance the idea of binding emissions reduction targets.

This was consistent in the international climate negotiations from 1992 onwards. Another theme was that market mechanisms should be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This was the basis of the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the disastrously unsuccessful emissions trading schemes it provided for.

A huge amount of political energy is expended to convince us that the international climate talks are dealing with the global warming problem.

They simply are not.

Since 1992 the annual level of greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel use has risen by more than half.

That is a failure.

If we don’t characterize the talks in that way, we cannot deal with the political consequences.

The 2015 Paris agreement marked the final collapse of attempts to adopt binding emissions targets.

I do not want to say the voluntary targets adopted are worthless, or that the policies adopted in some countries to achieve them are not helpful, or that serious efforts – most obviously, the substantial investment in renewable energy for electricity generation – are not being made to move away from some uses of fossil fuels. But we need to assess progress soberly and not confuse hopes with reality.

A widely celebrated proposal for a “Green New Deal” has been touted by many center-left politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, as a solution to the multiple crises we face today.

What is your evaluation of it?

The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings.

It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.

Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen.

The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering.

Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.

In Burning Up I argued that not just a social-democratic spending program, but a much deeper-going shift to post-capitalist social relations, could provide the context for the fundamental changes in social, economic and technological systems that will be necessary to break the economy’s many-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s how I see the future.

By saying that, I don’t deny the need for immediate responses. But the most noticeable immediate responses will come from governments.

If anyone tells me they are up to the job of dealing with climate change, I would point to the fact that annual global fossil fuel consumption has risen by more than 60 percent since the Rio convention was signed.

That’s the result of governments’ response.

Australian school pupils understand that simple arithmetic better than they understand politicians’ promises, which is why they went on strike in protest at inaction on climate change.

They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.

Press link for more: Truth Out

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Burning Down The House: Fighting Climate Action From The Centre Will Leave Us In Ashes #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian leftwing writer, editor and former socialist activist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the co-author of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He is also the author of Communism: A Love Story and Killing: Misadventures in Violence. Wikipedia

Demonstrators stand next to metal barriers around the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at The Arc of Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 1, 2018. (IMAGE: vfutscher, Flickr)

As the globe – and the political climate aimed at saving it – heats up, we need a different politics to tackle an entrenched problem, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Sensible centrism will doom us all.

Take Emmanuel Macron, once hailed everywhere as the savior of liberalism.

“Macron,” explained Politico in April this year, “has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame.”

Nor was this an anomalous view in the English-speaking world.

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid expressed the perspective of many American Democrats, when she quipped that Macron should be running Washington.

As Salon put it, “Macron appeared to have everything that centrist Democrats could ever want in a candidate; he was young, smart and charismatic, yet also mature and pragmatic (as all centrists are, in the neoliberal worldview).

Macron also appeared to be different and innovative, like a political version of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and claimed to be “neither left nor right,” as if to have a political ideology was to have an outdated worldview, something like using a flip phone in 2018.”

In Britain, he generated the same kind of excitement among the same kind of people, with Labourite opponents of Jeremy Corbyn enthusing over the ‘new Tony Blair’, even as a new Macron-inspired centrist party called Renew came into being.

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured in 2018. (IMAGE: Mike Bloomberg, Flickr)

One doubts that the Boy Wonder will feature much in Renew’s further history (if indeed it has one), given that recent opinion polls, conducted in the wake of the heroic Yellow Vest rebellion revealed him to be the most unpopular leader in recent times.

With riots, blockades and protests spreading across the country, the demand for Macron’s resignation provided a central slogan uniting an often fractious movement.

But his failure represents something more than the misfire of an overhyped media personality.

It illustrates the peculiar danger posed by the ongoing infatuation of supposed progressives with the so-called ‘radical centre’.

Macron’s international boosters had presented him as the figure to stem the rise of reactionary populism in Europe, someone who would combine market-based prosperity with liberal reforms.

When, in December 2017, Trump repudiated the Paris Climate Accords, Macron launched a slick social media campaign around the slogan ‘Make the planet great again’.

To that end, he proposed a so-called ‘eco tax’ on fuel, a levy intended, he explained, to discourage car use and to raise funds for climate change mitigation.

Symptomatically, though, he provided no alternative for working class drivers in the outer suburbs, small towns and rural areas without public transport.

The meteoric rise of the Yellow Vests reflected the widespread (and accurate) perception that the fuel tax constituted another attack by a government of the rich on some of the poorest people in the country.

In many ways, the tax represented the final straw for a population long sick of austerity.

The Macron bubble had, in fact, already burst well before the Yellow Vests took over the streets.

In September, Reuters reported his popularity at a then record low, with voters “ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain[ing]his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich”.

Yellow Vests protestors, pictured in Paris on December 1. (IMAGE: Prachatai, Flickr)

Nevertheless, for those of us watching from afar, it’s worth reflecting on how centrism brought the rhetoric of environmentalism directly into conflict with the aspirations of the people, in a manner that gave ammunition to the worst denialists.

Hasn’t every right-wing demagogue, from Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson, denounced climate change as a chatter class preoccupation imposed to shackle the working man?

Thus, rather than defeating the reactionary populists, Macron provided them, via his tax, with an effective talking point, a confirmation of the perspective they’ve long argued.

As he back-pedalled, the president acknowledged what he called the tension between ‘the end of the world’ and the ‘end of the month’.

The formulation was repeated by sympathetic commentators who declared that, in the future, environmental measures must be imposed gradually, so as to ease the pain of those living payday to payday. But that argument, too, accepts the underlying frame of the far right, positing workers as innately opposed to an environmentalism that, by definition, rendered them poorer and more miserable.

In reality, it’s climate change, not climate action, that necessarily threatens ordinary people, simply because the environmental crisis can no longer be disentangled from the broader crisis of a decaying capitalism.

The catastrophic weather associated with global warming will, for instance, overwhelmingly affect those already targeted by austerity – the individuals too poor to relocate or rebuild or use aircon or take other preventative measures.

The refugees from rising seas will be indistinguishable from the victims of war and poverty; the political ruptures provoked by drought, land degradation and other environmental disasters will blend into the general instability of the 21st century.

Yellow Vest protestors in Metz, Lorraine. (IMAGE: Dmitry Dzhus, Flickr)

The tension between climate activism and the working class emerges not from the nature of the problem but from the logic of centrist solutions, which always centre on neoliberal mechanisms such as carbon taxes.

But there’s no environmental reason to rely on the market to combat fossil fuels.

A government could, after all, forcibly acquire polluting industries at the stroke of the pen, much as almost every regime nationalised parts of the economy during the Second World War.


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To put it another way, the decarbonisation of the developed nations could be presented in a program designed to extend democratic control over industry, improve working conditions and materially improve the lives of the populace.

If it’s not – if climate action instead becomes a fig-leaf for austerity – that’s because of political choice rather than necessity.

Centrists pride themselves on their political acumen.

Carbon taxes and other market mechanisms might not be ideal, they say, but they reflect the horizon of the possible. 

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

Macron’s example demonstrates the bankruptcy of that argument.

To their credit, the Yellow Vests seem to be moving to the left rather than to the right.

Nevertheless, the French situation will inspire right-wing populists everywhere to bring climate denial to the front of their agenda, adding to the difficulty of achieving genuine environmental change across Europe and elsewhere.

The fight for climate change depends on ordinary working people.

We have more to learn from the Yellow Vests and their militancy than we do from ‘sensible centrists’, no matter how much they drape themselves in green.

Now, more than ever, climate action must become radical.

Press link for more: New Matilda

Is a #GreenNewDeal Possible Without a Revolution? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #TheDrum #ClimateChange The end of #Neoliberalism #COP24

By Eric Levitz

A Green New Deal is the name of our desire. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Frederick Douglass wasn’t exaggerating: Power really does concede nothing without a demand — not even a plan to make a plan to prevent the powerful’s own grandkids from perishing in the end-times.

As of few weeks ago, congressional Democrats had no clear vision for how they intended to develop a clear vision for tackling climate change.

The party’s leading 2020 contenders had put forward ambitious policies on health care, housing, criminal justice, the racial wealth gap, child care, wage stagnation, corporate governance reform, and legal ganja — but virtually nothing on the small issue of how to ensure that human civilization outlives Barron Trump.

And then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington — and brought hundreds of activists from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats along with her.

One month and two occupations of Nancy Pelosi’s office later, the “Green New Deal” has become the hottest idea in Democratic politics.

More than 20 members of Congress have called for a select committee dedicated to developing a draft bill of the Green New Deal.

Chuck Schumer has informed Donald Trump that Democrats will not support any infrastructure bill, unless it’s a green, New Deal-esque infrastructure bill. And the political press is chock-full of headlines like, “How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Might Help Save the Planet,” and “Is the Green New Deal the Only Way Forward?

All of which has led the boldly naïve to ask, “What, exactly, is a Green New Deal?”

The answer will depend on whom you ask.

To the median Democrat, a Green New Deal is just a fancy name for an infrastructure bill that includes significant investments in renewable energy, and climate resiliency.

To the progressive think tank Data for Progress, it’s a comprehensive plan for America to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, through a combination of massive public investment in renewables, smart grids, battery technology, and resiliency; turbocharged environmental regulations; and policies that promote urbanization, reforestation, wetland restoration, and soil sustainability — all designed with an eye toward achieving full employment, and advancing racial justice.

But to the American left’s most utopian reformists, the Green New Deal is shorthand for an ambition even more sweeping.

More precisely, it is a means of conveying their vision for radical change to a popular audience, by way of analogy.

Eighty years ago, the United States was faced with a malign force that threatened to eradicate the possibility of decent civilization.

We responded by entrusting our elected government to reorganize our economy, and concentrate our nation’s resources on nullifying the Axis threat.

In the process, America not only defeated fascism abroad, but consolidated a progressive transformation of its domestic political economy.

The war effort affirmed the public sector’s competence at directing economic activity, fostered unprecedented levels of social solidarity — and, in so doing, banished laissez-faire from the realm of respectable opinion.

In the course of a decade, ideas from the far-left fringe of American thought became pillars of Establishment consensus: Very serious people suddenly agreed that it was legitimate for the state to enforce collective bargaining rights, impose steeply progressive income taxes, administer redistributive social programs, subsidize home ownership, and promote full employment.

The New Deal ceased to be a single president’s ad hoc recovery program, and became a consensus economic model.

An unprecedented contraction in economic inequality ensued; the most prosperous middle-class in human history was born.

Many contemporary leftists believe this history is worth repeating: Just as the fight against fascism facilitated a democratic transition from laissez-faire to Keynesian liberalism, so the fight for climate sustainability can shepard America out of neoliberalism, and into ecofriendly, intersectional, democratic socialism.

“The last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II, and so we’ve been here before and we have a blueprint of doing this before” Ocasio-Cortez told supporters in October. “What we did was that we chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy and we put hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to work” — a mobilization that the congresswoman-elect sees as “a potential path towards a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all.”

The climate journalist Kate Aronoff offers this portrait of the future Green New Dealers want:

IT’S THE SPRING of 2043, and Gina is graduating college with the rest of her class. She had a relatively stable childhood. Her parents availed themselves of some of the year of paid family leave they were entitled to, and after that she was dropped off at a free child care program.

Pre-K and K-12 were also free, of course, but so was her time at college, which she began after a year of public service, during which she spent six months restoring wetlands and another six volunteering at a day care much like the one she had gone to.

Now that she’s graduated, it’s time to think about what to do with her life. Without student debt, the options are broad. She also won’t have to worry about health insurance costs, since everyone is now eligible for Medicare. Like most people, she isn’t extraordinarily wealthy, so she can live in public, rent-controlled housing — not in the underfunded, neglected units we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States, but in one of any number of buildings that the country’s top architects have competed for the privilege to design, featuring lush green spaces, child care centers, and even bars and restaurants.

….For work, she trained to become a high-level engineer at a solar panel manufacturer, though some of her friends are going into nursing and teaching. All are well-paid, unionized positions, and are considered an essential part of the transition away from fossil fuels, updates about which are broadcast over the nightly news.

This vision is compelling — and, on a substantive level, so is Ocasio-Cortez’s historical analogy. In the long run, climate change surely poses as great a threat to the United States (and to liberal democratic governance) as the Nazis ever did. And a rational response to the climate threat quite clearly requires a drastic expansion of state-economic planning, and thus, an overhaul of the American political economy — so, while we’re renovating things, why not install that Nordic welfare state we’ve been eyeing, take down some of the hideous structures white supremacy built, and pare back that overgrown financial industry?

But when viewed through a strictly political lens, the analogy breaks down.

The Axis powers posed an immediate threat to many American capitalists, and their overseas investments — while U.S. victory in the war promised corporate America a bonanza. This self-interest dampened corporate resistance to FDR’s mobilization of the war economy, which itself massively increased the leverage of American labor. Securing global hegemony for American capital required victory, and victory required maintaining labor peace in a context of full employment. Unions could deliver the latter, and thus, were in a position to demand concessions. With that leverage, they secured “maintenance of membership” rules that allowed them to count all new employees at unionized plants as members, and immediately charge them dues; as a result, a record-high 35.5 percent of the nonagricultural labor force was unionized by 1945.

By contrast, climate change poses less of an immediate threat to America’s contemporary economic elites than the Green New Deal does.

The Koch Network fears the euthanasia of the fossil fuel industry — and confiscatory top tax rates — a lot more than rising sea levels.

Thus, corporate resistance to World War II–esque state-led mobilization to combat climate change (let alone, an avowedly socialist one) is certain to be immense. And given the conservative movement’s tightening grip over the federal judiciary, and red America’s increasingly disproportionate influence over state governments and the Senate, Green New Dealers would need to defeat near-unanimous corporate opposition on a playing field sharply tilted to their rivals’ advantage.

Further, replicating FDR’s model will take more than just winning power. Consolidating the New Deal order required the Democratic Party to maintain continuous control of the White House for two decades.

Considering the contemporary partisan alignment — and existence of presidential term limits — it seems unlikely that a pro-Green New Deal governing coalition would retain power long enough to turn core aspects of its radical agenda into pillars of a new bipartisan consensus.

None of this is to suggest that the Green New Deal isn’t a worthwhile ideal.

In an era replete with dystopias, and starved for futures to believe in, Aronoff’s (modest) utopia is a welcome intervention. Rather, my intention is merely to spark discussion of the following question: If persuading a couple dozen Democrats to support a select committee to draft a Green New Deal (which many of them understand as a little more than a climate-centric infrastructure stimulus) took repeatedly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office, what will it take to institutionalize 100 percent renewable social democracy atop the ruins of the fossil fuel industry?

In lieu of an answer to that daunting query, let me offer a take on (what I believe to be) a related one.

Earlier this week, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress asked (in so many words) why certain progressives were cheering the yellow vests protests in France.

And on one level, Tanden’s bafflement was justified. There’s little doubt that significant portions of the French protest movement are deeply reactionary, on questions of both climate policy and immigration. And regardless of the Marcon regime’s broader failings and provocations, the fact that an ambitious effort at carbon pricing was met with an insurrection is sure to weaken the hand of anyone pushing for similar policies in other countries.

And yet, the yellow vest protests didn’t just demonstrate that carbon taxes can provoke popular backlash (at least, when paired with austerity and tax breaks for the rich) — they also served as a reminder that it is still possible for ordinary people to change political realities within their governing institutions, by practicing politics outside of them. Grassroots, social-media-powered political organizing can fuel reactionary movements and genocides; but it can also trigger teachers’ strikes.

We’re going to need carbon taxes to get where Green New Dealers wish to take us. But we’ll also need a dash of mass civil disobedience (or at least, a million millennial march or two).

Press link for more: NYMAG

‘Sprint to the election’: Anti-Adani groups target Labor #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum Demand a #GreenNewDeal #COP24 #ClimateChange

An alliance of groups opposed to the proposed Adani coal mine are stepping up their campaign, targeting Labor leader Bill Shorten ahead of his party’s national conference starting this weekend.

The Stop Adani Alliance – which claims two million supporters among its 38 member groups – will on Thursday unleash an advertising campaign and release polling showing four in five respondents want the government to intervene to stop the project.

More of this to come: Adani protesters confront Labor leader Bill Shorten and the Federal Member for Batman Ged Kearney in March this year.

Photo: AAP

The first of a three-phased strategy will involve a so-called “summer of action”, aimed at pressing federal Labor to shift its ambiguous stance on the mine, which has the potential to open up the huge new coal province in Queensland’s Galilee Basin if it proceeds.

Mobile billboards will buzz the ALP’s National Conference in Adelaide, while organisers within the event will try to raise the Adani issue during Sunday’s debate on Labor’s climate platform.

Phase two will involve a “sprint to the election”. “We will make stopping Adani the number one issue in what will be the climate election,” John Hepburn, executive director of the Sunrise Project, said.

“If there was ever a time to demonstrate Labor’s commitment to do what it takes to protect Australians from the worsening impacts of climate change, now is it.”

March for Our Future to stop Adani, held in Brisbane.

Photo: Supplied

A third phase would focus on pressing the newly elected federal government – the elections are expected in May – to move against the mine within its first 100 days of office.

Last month, Adani’s chief executive Lucas Dow, said the company would self-fund the construction of a scaled-down version of the mine after failing to secure funds from elsewhere.

“Commencement of works are imminent,” an Adani spokeswoman said, declining to specify a date.

Last month, Mr Shorten said of Adani: “We don’t know what they’ll be up to by the time we get into government. So we’ll deal with facts and the situation [related to Adani that] we’re presented with if we win the election in 24 weeks’ time…We’ll be guided by the best science and the national interest.”

Mr Shorten also last month launched Labor’s plan to revive the National Energy Guarantee as a key plank in its election platform. The Herald understands an original plan to release the rest of Labor’s emissions plans – such as how agriculture and industry’s carbon pollution would be treated – will now not be released until after January.

The Alliance’s national ReachTel poll of 2345 conducted on December 4 found 56 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Digging new coal mines in Australia is no longer in the national interest”.

Among those self-described as Labor supporters, 80.2 per cent agreed or strongly agree with the statement, compared with about 24 per cent of Liberal and 28.6 per cent of National voters.

On the question of whether the federal government should review the environmental approvals for Adani, about 92 per cent of Labor supporters agreed, as did about 52 per cent of both Liberal and National voters, the poll found.

Press link for more: SMH

#COP24 our last chance to save humanity? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #ClimateChange is already disastrous.

COP24 must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement

COP24—held in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December– must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement by finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

This will put into place the practical implementation guidelines needed to implement the historic agreement that aims to limit global warming to well under 2°C this century.

The Work Programme must provide a way to track progress and ensure that climate action is transparent.

This in turn will build trust and send a signal that governments are serious about addressing climate change.

COP24 also needs to establish a clear way forward on climate finance to ensure greater support for climate action in developing countries.

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COP24

1 What, When and Where is COP24?

Since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992, parties have met at least once a year to further the implementation of the Convention. This year, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change– COP 24–will take place in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December. Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will also meet. The Katowice Conference will mark the third anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which was agreed to in 2015.

2. Why is COP 24 so important?

COP24 must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement by finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Programme. This will put into place the practical implementation guidelines needed to track progress and ensure that climate action is transparent. This in turn will build trust and send a signal that governments are serious about addressing climate change. COP24 also needs to establish a clear way forward on climate finance to ensure greater support for climate action in developing countries.

3. What should COP 24 accomplish?

What countries say in Poland will determine climate efforts and action for years to come. With high-level events, panel discussions and roundtables, COP24 should address three main issues: the rules and procedures for how countries will meet their commitments, how climate action will be financed, and “ambition”—what countries may be willing to do to exceed their Paris emissions-cutting commitments when they’re updated in 2020. The Paris Agreement Work Programme will make the Paris Agreement fully operational by unlocking ambitious action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to empower developing countries.

4. Why is it so urgent to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In early October, the special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world is already witnessing the consequences of 1°C of global warming. There is already more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. Every bit of additional warming brings greater risks. There are clear benefits to limiting warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C: 420 million fewer people being exposed to severe heat waves, survival of some tropical coral reefs, loss of fewer plants and animal species, and the protection of forests and wetland habitats.

5. Why will there be a 2019 Climate Summit?

In September 2019, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a climate summit to mobilize political and economic efforts at the highest level possible to strengthen climate action and ambition worldwide. Even if all the commitments made by countries for the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world will still be on a course to warm by more than 3°C this century. In advance of the 2020 deadline for countries to raise their commitments in their national climate plans, the Summit will focus on practical initiatives to limit emissions and build climate resilience. The Summit will focus on driving action in six areas; namely, energy transition, climate finance and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local action, and resilience.

Press link for more: United Nations

Australia is a rogue nation on climate

We are the worst in the world!

Thousands march for climate in Paris despite ‘yellow vest’ unrest #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateStrike #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

Police estimated the number of green activists at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000 

Up to 25,000 people marched through Paris on Saturday urging greater action on climate change, despite fears that their protest would be scuppered by “yellow vest” demonstrations.

Police estimated the number of green activists heading onto the streets at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000 urging world governments to better protect the environment.

The numbers were similar to previous climate marches in Paris, despite sporadic violence in the city on Saturday among thousands of “yellow vest” demonstrators who want more help for France’s poor.

Organisers had to change the route of the climate march, marching instead from Place de la Nation to Place de la Republique, due to the yellow vest demonstrations, but refused a request by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to postpone it.

“It was unthinkable to cancel this march.

It’s important to talk about problems related to the end of the world as well as the end of the month,” Elodie Nace, a spokeswoman for green NGO Alternatiba, told the crowds.

Thousands also marched in other French cities, including an estimated 10,000 in Marseille, 3,500 in Montpellier and 3,000 in Lille.

The “yellow vest” movement has been spurred by anger in small-town and rural France at rising car fuel taxes which were aimed at helping the country transition to a greener economy, but which protesters say hurts the poor.

But green activists at the climate marches urged people to find solutions for both environmental problems and the financial struggles of France’s poorest.

“Yellow vests, green vests — same anger,” they chanted.

Some “yellow vest” activists, clad in their emblematic high-visibility road jackets, joined the Paris march after breaking off from their own demonstration.

Marches had been organised in more than 120 towns across France to mark the COP24 climate talks in Poland.

Press link for more: AFP.COM

Climate change will kill millions: Time for a general strike? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #COP24 #TakeYourSeat #TheDrum #QandA @QandA #GreenNewDeal now!

Let’s start with some hard truths.

With a few notable exceptions, the Australian movement for action on climate change has struggled to achieve big tangible wins in recent years.

We’ve had a few isolated victories, but even if Labor wins the next federal election and the Liberal Party’s position reverts closer to where it was under John Howard, the likely policy shifts aren’t going to come close to what’s needed unless there’s a strong push from civil society.

Here in Queensland, a Labor state government (where Labor’s left faction already controls more votes than the right faction) is still allowing the Adani coal mine to proceed, potentially opening the door to further new coal mines in the Galilee basin.

If these mines go ahead, the burning of the coal they produce will lead to the flooding of coastal cities around the world, the desertification of thousands of hectares of farmland and forest, and more intense bushfires and cyclones.

In defiance of public opinion and basic common sense, the Queensland Labor government is prioritising the financial interests of the mining industry ahead of the safety and security of literally billions of people around the globe. The various forms of pressure that environmentalists have been applying to Labor (both through internal and external channels) don’t appear to have had much impact.

So for those of us who don’t want our grandchildren growing up in some kind of dystopian combination of Water World and Mad Max: Fury Road, what effective courses of action are left available to us?

Here in Queensland, anti-coal campaigners have used a variety of tactics to apply pressure on the political establishment, from peaceful public rallies to locking on to mining equipment. But even a rally of several thousand people isn’t enough to counteract the undemocratic influence that mining lobbyists are exerting over senior Labor ministers. While non-disruptive rallies and marches can help energise and inspire campaigners and draw attention to an issue, they do not directly challenge the underlying logic of capitalism, and are too easy for politicians to ignore. Even the protests against the Iraq War, which saw around six hundred thousand Australians take to the streets, didn’t change John Howard’s mind (if the following Monday, all those people had refused to show up for work, it might have been another matter).

Lock-ons and other arrestable actions do directly hurt the profits of the target companies, but when only a very small proportion of the community are willing to risk arrest, such tactics can’t easily be scaled up to have a big enough impact on political decision-makers, and the costs of fines and legal fees start to take their toll on a movement over time.

The Leard State Forest Blockade against the Maules Creek mine down in NSW was one of the largest civil disobedience actions in Australian history, involving thousands of protesters and hundreds of arrests. The campaign had a range of positive outcomes and flow-on effects, but sadly, the mine eventually went ahead.

So we need to recognise that while both protest marches and lock-ons have their uses, it’s well past time we started exploring other methods of expressing dissent and pressuring the government. We need tactics that large numbers of people can realistically participate in at minimal personal cost, which also directly challenge the power of the state and the profits of the corporate sector.

Organised labour strikes have become more difficult in recent decades. Legislative changes first initiated by Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the 1980s have largely neutered traditional trade unions and made most kinds of strike action illegal. Automation and overseas outsourcing threaten many industries, while more and more of us are casual workers with little to no job security.

But that doesn’t mean striking is no longer a viable tactic. We may not all work together in large factories or worksites anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t coordinate our actions across different industries and workplaces. And the fact that large strikes are somewhat rarer than they used to be actually means that if enough of us did get our act together to organise one, the impact upon our political leaders would be more significant.

So what might a general strike against the Adani coal mine look like in practice? I don’t pretend to have detailed answers to this, but basically it would mean as many people as possible taking a day off work. Some workers would simply call in sick. Others would take a day of paid holiday leave, or perhaps just unpaid leave. Some of us might not be able to skip work for one reason or another, but could perhaps still donate a portion of our day’s wages to support the strike. Those of us who are stuck in work for the dole programs should definitely call in sick.

If you do have a job, think about your workplace, and how it can throw a spanner in the works when just one or two people call in sick unexpectedly. Now imagine if as many as 1 in 5 or even 1 in 4 staff members all stayed home at the same time… from every workplace in the city. The ripples throughout society would be significant. Some businesses would simply have to shut their doors and give everyone a day off.

I’m confident that if even half the people who care about climate change all stayed home from work on the same day, our politicians would have no choice but to sit up and take notice. The recent school student strikes got a lot of attention, so why shouldn’t the adults join in?

What I’m now starting to wonder is whether we might have an even bigger impact if we all agreed that on the day of the climate strike, we also refused to engage in any kind of for-profit commercial transaction? Don’t go to the shops. Don’t buy anything online. Don’t even fill up your petrol tank. If your rent’s due that date, pause the automatic transfer and pay it a day later (fun fact: late rent payment doesn’t even technically count as a breach of your lease conditions).

Instead, take a day off and spend it with family and friends.

Sleep in.

Go to the park.

Go for a swim.

Read a book.

Cook a proper meal.

Major party politicians have spent a long time arguing (wrongly) that supporting the coal industry is good for the economy. Maybe it’s time to force them to recognise that the opposite is true. A general strike might seem a drastic step to some, but it’s an entirely proportionate response to the danger and devastation of runaway climate change.

I know other activists around Australia are also starting to talk about climate change-related strikes in the lead-up to the next federal election. I think the sooner we pick dates and organise such actions, the better. Waiting until March or April to start putting this kind of pressure on Labor and the Liberals will probably be too late for them to change their policy positions prior to election day. But if we start a little sooner, we could help make this into the key election issue that it ought to be.

And if they don’t change their policies, we can keep striking on a monthly basis until they have no choice, or they’re voted out of office. Heck, maybe this would be a good way to finally achieve a four-day work week.

I don’t pretend to have this all worked out, or that such a tactic would definitely succeed. But it’s clear that climate activists need to start trialling and experimenting with a more diverse range of actions. Although they’re fun and energising, climate change rallies and marches are little more than empty rituals if they don’t lead to other kinds of action. And convincing people to take a day off work might actually be a lot easier than convincing people to give up their Saturday morning marching in the hot sun.

15 February anyone?

I wouldn’t mind a long weekend at the beach.

Press link for more: Jonathan Sri

Global warming will happen faster than we think! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike We urgently need a global #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum

Three trends will combine to hasten it, warn Yangyang Xu, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David G. Victor.

Devastating wildfires ravaged California last month. Credit: Gene Blevins/Reuters

Prepare for the “new abnormal”. That was what California Governor Jerry Brown told reporters last month, commenting on the deadly wildfires that have plagued the state this year.

He’s right. California’s latest crisis builds on years of record-breaking droughts and heatwaves.

The rest of the world, too, has had more than its fair share of extreme weather in 2018. The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change announced last week that 157 million more people were exposed to heatwave events in 2017, compared with 2000.

Such environmental disasters will only intensify. Governments, rightly, want to know what to do. Yet the climate-science community is struggling to offer useful answers.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report setting out why we must stop global warming at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and how to do so1. It is grim reading. If the planet warms by 2 °C — the widely touted temperature limit in the 2015 Paris climate agreement — twice as many people will face water scarcity than if warming is limited to 1.5 °C. That extra warming will also expose more than 1.5 billion people to deadly heat extremes, and hundreds of millions of individuals to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, among other harms. 

But the latest IPCC special report underplays another alarming fact: global warming is accelerating. Three trends — rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles — will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated. In our view, there’s a good chance that we could breach the 1.5 °C level by 2030, not by 2040 as projected in the special report (see ‘Accelerated warming’). The climate-modelling community has not grappled enough with the rapid changes that policymakers care most about, preferring to focus on longer-term trends and equilibria.

Sources: Ref. 1/GISTEMP/IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014)

Policymakers have less time to respond than they thought. Governments need to invest even more urgently in schemes that protect homes from floods and fires and help people to manage heat stress (especially older individuals and those living in poverty). Nations need to make their forests and farms more resilient to droughts, and prepare coasts for inundation. Rapid warming will create a greater need for emissions policies that yield the quickest changes in climate, such as controls on soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases. There might even be a case for solar geoengineering — cooling the planet by, for instance, seeding reflective particles in the stratosphere to act as a sunshade. 

Climate scientists must supply the evidence policymakers will need and provide assessments for the next 25 years. They should advise policymakers on which climate-warming pollutants to limit first to gain the most climate benefit. They should assess which policies can be enacted most swiftly and successfully in the real world, where political, administrative and economic constraints often make abstract, ‘ideal’ policies impractical.

Speeding freight train

Three lines of evidence suggest that global warming will be faster than projected in the recent IPCC special report. 

First, greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising.

In 2017, industrial carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have reached about 37 gigatonnes.

This puts them on track with the highest emissions trajectory the IPCC has modelled so far.

This dark news means that the next 25 years are poised to warm at a rate of 0.25–0.32 °C per decade. That is faster than the 0.2 °C per decade that we have experienced since the 2000s, and which the IPCC used in its special report. 

Second, governments are cleaning up air pollution faster than the IPCC and most climate modellers have assumed.

For example, China reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from its power plants by 7–14% between 2014 and 2016 (ref. ).

Mainstream climate models had expected them to rise. Lower pollution is better for crops and public health. But aerosols, including sulfates, nitrates and organic compounds, reflect sunlight. This shield of aerosols has kept the planet cooler, possibly by as much as 0.7 °C globally. 

Third, there are signs that the planet might be entering a natural warm phase that could last for a couple of decades. The Pacific Ocean seems to be warming up, in accord with a slow climate cycle known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. This cycle modulates temperatures over the equatorial Pacific and over North America. Similarly, the mixing of deep and surface waters in the Atlantic Ocean (the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) looks to have weakened since 2004, on the basis of data from drifting floats that probe the deep ocean. Without this mixing, more heat will stay in the atmosphere rather than going into the deep oceans, as it has in the past. 

These three forces reinforce each other. We estimate that rising greenhouse-gas emissions, along with declines in air pollution, bring forward the estimated date of 1.5 °C of warming to around 2030, with the 2 °C boundary reached by 2045. These could happen sooner with quicker shedding of air pollutants. Adding in natural decadal fluctuations raises the odds of blasting through 1.5 °C by 2025 to at least 10% (ref. ). By comparison, the IPCC assigned probabilities of 17% and 83% for crossing the 1.5 °C mark by 2030 and 2052, respectively.

Four fronts

Scientists and policymakers must rethink their roles, objectives and approaches on four fronts. 

Assess science in the near term. Policymakers should ask the IPCC for another special report, this time on the rates of climate change over the next 25 years. The panel should also look beyond the physical science itself and assess the speed at which political systems can respond, taking into account pressures to maintain the status quo from interest groups and bureaucrats. Researchers should improve climate models to describe the next 25 years in more detail, including the latest data on the state of the oceans and atmosphere, as well as natural cycles. They should do more to quantify the odds and impacts of extreme events. The evidence will be hard to muster, but it will be more useful in assessing real climate dangers and responses. 

Rethink policy goals. Warming limits, such as the 1.5 °C goal, should be recognized as broad planning tools. Too often they are misconstrued as physical thresholds around which to design policies. The excessive reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ (that take up CO2) in the IPCC special report shows that it becomes harder to envision realistic policies the closer the world gets to such limits. It’s easy to bend models on paper, but much harder to implement real policies that work. 

Realistic goals should be set based on political and social trade-offs, not just on geophysical parameters. They should come out of analyses of costs, benefits and feasibility. Assessments of these trade-offs must be embedded in the Paris climate process, which needs a stronger compass to guide its evaluations of how realistic policies affect emissions. Better assessment can motivate action but will also be politically controversial: it will highlight gaps between what countries say they will do to control emissions, and what needs to be achieved collectively to limit warming. Information about trade-offs must therefore come from outside the formal intergovernmental process — from national academies of sciences, subnational partnerships and non-governmental organizations. 

Design strategies for adaptation. The time for rapid adaptation has arrived. Policymakers need two types of information from scientists to guide their responses. First, they need to know what the potential local impacts will be at the scales of counties to cities. Some of this information could be gleaned by combining fine-resolution climate impact assessments with artificial intelligence for ‘big data’ analyses of weather extremes, health, property damage and other variables. Second, policymakers need to understand uncertainties in the ranges of probable climate impacts and responses. Even regions that are proactive in setting adaptation policies, such as California, lack information about the ever-changing risks of extreme warming, fires and rising seas. Research must be integrated across fields and stakeholders — urban planners, public-health management, agriculture and ecosystem services. Adaptation strategies should be adjustable if impacts unfold differently. More planning and costing is needed around the worst-case outcomes. 

Understand options for rapid response. Climate assessments must evaluate quick ways of lessening climate impacts, such as through reducing emissions of methane, soot (or black carbon) and HFCs. Per tonne, these three ‘super pollutants’ have 25 to thousands of times the impact of CO2. Their atmospheric lifetimes are short — in the range of weeks (for soot) to about a decade (for methane and HFCs). Slashing these pollutants would potentially halve the warming trend over the next 25 years.

There has been progress on this front. At the Global Climate Action summit held in September in San Francisco, California, the United States Climate Alliance — a coalition of state governors representing 40% of the US population — issued a road map to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs and soot by 40–50% by 2030. The 2016 Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which will go into force by January 2019, is set to slash HFC emissions by 80% over the next 30 years.

Various climate engineering options should be on the table as an emergency response. If global conditions really deteriorate, we might be forced to extract large volumes of excess CO2 directly from the atmosphere. An even faster emergency response could be to inject aerosols into the atmosphere to lower the amount of solar radiation heating the planet, as air pollution does. This option is hugely controversial, and might have unintended consequences, such as altering rainfall patterns that lead to drying of the tropics. So research and planning are crucial, in case this option is needed. Until there is investment in testing and technical preparedness — today, there is almost none — the chances are high that the wrong kinds of climate-engineering scheme will be deployed by irresponsible parties who are uninformed by research. 

For decades, scientists and policymakers have framed the climate-policy debate in a simple way: scientists analyse long-term goals, and policymakers pretend to honour them.

Those days are over.

Serious climate policy must focus more on the near-term and on feasibility.

It must consider the full range of options, even though some are uncomfortable and freighted with risk. 

Nature 564, 30-32 (2018)

Press link for more: Nature.com

“Operation Navy Help”Cyclone Tracy Darwin Christmas 1974.Why I became a climate activist. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani Catastrophic #ClimateChange #COP24

In 1974 as a young sailor married with two children I was in Darwin when Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin, my wife and I lay under a mattress with our boys while our house was torn apart. I was just learning the power of nature.

Watch the video Operation Navy Help

Naval Headquarters Darwin after Cyclone Tracy

After the clean up I retired from the navy and continued my career in the Australian Airforce.

I read the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth”

The message of this book still holds today: The earth’s interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – probably cannot support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year 2100, if that long, even with advanced technology.

In the summer of 1970, an international team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began a study of the implications of continued worldwide growth.

They examined the five basic factors that determine and, in their interactions, ultimately limit growth on this planet-population increase, agricultural production, nonrenewable resource depletion, industrial output, and pollution generation.

The MIT team fed data on these five factors into a global computer model and then tested the behavior of the model under several sets of assumptions to determine alternative patterns for mankind’s future.

The Limits to Growth is the nontechnical report of their findings.

The book contains a message of hope, as well: Man can create a society in which he can live indefinitely on earth if he imposes limits on himself and his production of material goods to achieve a state of global equilibrium with population and production in carefully selected balance.

Today I do what I can to help people to understand the science, understand the challenge we face.

Listen. To Sir David Attenborough Address to COP24

How to keep going. #COP24 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani Where do we find hope? #auspol #qldpol #TheDrum #QandA #ClimateChange

By Emily Johnston

Emily Johnston

Poet, scribe, climate activist, runner, builder. My book, Her Animals, is out now: http://bit.ly/2FjfLLP

At the MIT Media Lab’s Disobedience Award ceremony on Friday, someone asked me how I keep going—where I find hope.

As a climate organizer, it’s a question I get all the time, but it struck me a little differently this time. What she said was something to the effect of “On a good day, I can believe that we can win against misogyny and racism over time. But climate change, on such a short timeline? Shit. 

How do you keep going?

I was glad she asked, because we’d been asked the same on our panel, and I’d failed to say what I’d wanted to, which is that I see our job not as having hope, but of making space for hope.

If we don’t act boldly in the next couple of years, we lose most of our leverage to save huge swaths of the astonishing life on this planet, and we fail both existing and future lives almost incomprehensibly.

Globally, acting so boldly as to not fail is unlikely. But it doesn’t matter how unlikely a thing is; it only matters if it’s possible, and worth working for. Scientists are remarkably unified in believing it is possible, and nothing has ever been more worth working for.

So our job is not to feel hope—that’s optional.

Our job is to be hope, and to make space for the chance of a different future.

Climate Strike students give us hope.

The woman who asked me the question is young, articulate, savvy. She thinks about political change a lot. So perhaps that’s why something finally struck me this morning: when people ask this question, they’re not actually questioning whether there is hope, theoretically; they’re questioning their own ability to rise to this moment in time. They’re surveying the near future and finding themselves wanting—because they’re using the wrong lens.

I should have understood that before, but I’d been distracted by the way “how do you keep going?” is nearly always paired with “how do you stay hopeful?”

So let me state clearly again: only in the Rebecca Solnit sense (where it’s “an axe you break down doors with in an emergency” and located “in the spaciousness of uncertainty [where there] is room to act”) do I have hope.

Feeling hope for any particular outcome—even avoiding the extinction of human beings—is not what fuels me.

What fuels me is the knowledge that we can still make a difference, and therefore we must: we can preserve lives, and life, in the most basic and beautiful sense possible.

It’s an astonishing and surreal luxury to know that some lives, even some species, may continue because of the work that we do. But being attached to any particular hope now is a fool’s game; the one thing we know for sure is that in coming decades, nearly everything will change.

If I’m fighting only for my own family, or only for human lives, or only for orcas, or only for monarch butterflies, then when I’m forced to see that one or all of those are exceedingly unlikely to survive past a few more centuries—and they are—then all heart will go out of my efforts—and other families, or humpback whales, or parrots, or wolves, will thereby lose a little bit of their hope too. And that’s senseless, because I would dedicate my life to their survival too, if I understood it to be possible.

It’s a privilege and a profound responsibility, to be born into a moment when nurturing life on Earth into the future is possible, and into a nation that has, in truth, nowhere to go but up in living up to its responsibilities.

In other words, we cannot know who and what will survive, but it’s exceedingly likely that some will, if we fight hard enough, and those are the ones that matter. It’s that “spaciousness of uncertainty”, the space that we ourselves must make, selflessly, for other lives.

So let me ask and try to answer the question more clearly: how do we rise to this moment in time, especially if we don’t imagine ourselves powerful in the right ways?

I think we have to reconsider what we mean by power, and see that taking responsibility and taking care — for/of ourselves, the work, and others — is one of its deepest manifestations.

The Disobedience Award gathering was one of the most inspiring events I’ve been to, because of the way in which the winners and finalists held/hold power. To a person — to a woman, because all were—they held other people up, and many commented on their own privilege, in one case even while describing her abuse at the hands of state forces.

It seemed that all felt what one expressed, which is that they acted simply because they couldn’t look themselves in the mirror if they didn’t.

Several explicitly rejected the idea of themselves as heroes.

What the event was really honoring, in many ways, was resilience.

They weren’t knights in shining armor, or moved by a narrative urge to sacrifice, or touched with the light of pure faith; they were people who did the right thing under difficult circumstances, and kept doing it, and learned along the way.

In nearly all cases, they did so by joining together with others.

They didn’t have to make change by themselves; they simply helped to catalyze it, making space for others to join them, both because they needed help, and because they wanted to help.

I suspect they didn’t feel powerful, either, in other words—or at least, they often didn’t.

Very seldom did, if I’m speaking for myself. And I think it’s exceedingly likely that when Tarana Burke started #MeToo ten years ago, it wasn’t because she was feeling hopeful that she could eradicate sexual violence — no more than I feel hopeful that we can stop climate change.

No single drop of water can renew parched soil.

We will fail utterly if we do not share our strength. There is exactly no time to waste: whatever our gifts are, we must give them now—without specific hope, without pride, without waiting for the thing that feels just right, or the people who feel like exactly the ones we’d choose to do this work with.

We must fail, and then get up and try again.

We must work with what we have, every day that we can, as wisely as we can, together.

It’s that simple.

That’s how we keep going. And some days, at least, there is more joy in this work than I could possibly have imagined.

Press link for more: Medium