As climate journalist Dahr Jamail (The End of Ice, see his talk on Democracy Now) laid out, science shows that we are locked into catastrophic climate change. Our present carbon level in the atmosphere of 412 ppm translates into a 7 degree C temperature rise. The IPCC is so conservative that one of the authors of its recent report said to get an accurate assessment, take our worst case scenarios and double it.
The Guardian, May 2019
In the face of such a rapidly encroaching threat, political niceties and traditional incrementalism and compromise cannot come close to the level of change and upheaval required to solve, or even mitigate, the problem of global climate change.
Climate scientists continue to stress the importance of lowering carbon emissions significantly, yet GHG emissions are currently increasing at an accelerating rate. A 2018 UN study found that unless promised emission reductions under the Paris agreement were tripled, they would cause the global temperature increase to reach 3C by 2100 and continue to rise after that. Even the relatively tame 2018 IPCC report states that we must cut our emissions in half within the next decade. People are feeling that their elected leaders, and mainstream political avenues as a whole, cannot measure up to this task.
The current ineptitude and impotency of the ruling class is unacceptable when the consequences of inaction are so far-reaching. More than ever, it is time for workers – those who will be hardest hit by soaring food and healthcare costs, and by property destruction caused by natural disasters and the rising sea – to exert their power and force the hand of major players (governments and corporations) to avert what is almost certain to be the next global mass extinction.
As such, climate activism of all types is blossoming. Greta Thunberg’s school strikes led to one of the largest global climate demonstrations in history. Extinction Rebellion has shut down major intersections in London and held events around the world. The Sunrise Movement caught the attention of the US when children in San Francisco confronted the Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein over her climate policy. Indigenous groups across the globe have been fighting tooth and nail against resource development on their ancestral lands. And Earth Strike is preparing for a global general strike on 27 September 2019.
Through all of this, as Greta Thunberg has said, one thing must be made clear. There is no greater way to capture the attention of the public, and the powers that be, than a general labour strike. An old and effective strategy, it is the holy grail of activism. And in such dire times, there is no question that a general strike is sorely needed once more. Earth Strike is seeking to revive the general strike in service of a global, apocalyptic problem – one that encompasses the lives of every creature on the face of this planet.
The reason Earth Strike exists is that shutting off the global labor supply will force governments and industry giants to listen. There’s no way to avoid the conversation when profits are in danger of eroding, and production has stalled to a halt. Every day we go into work and spend our time and labor building a system that is burning us alive. The top polluters in the world are directly dependent on this effort. It is time to withhold it.
Some will inevitably argue that labour action is too disruptive, and too messy, but that’s the very point. The system causing this crisis needs to be disrupted. A general strike is an exceptionally powerful tool with a long history of gaining concession. In Iceland in 1975, a women’s general strike was instrumental in guaranteeing equal pay; and in India earlier this year, a general strike by between 150m and 200m workers illuminated the injustices inflicted on them by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. We simply don’t have the time to forge a new tool from scratch.
In fact, the opposite reaction is more likely. 27 September is only the first strike, and sympathisers all over the globe are bound to take notice. To those who do not feel like they have the power alone, organise. Unions and workers must work together in solidarity. The growing number of participants in this general strike, numbering in the tens of thousands, are already talking about what will come next. For whatever comes, we will fight, and strike, together.
McEver Dugan is the writing coordinator for Earth Strike. Evan Cholerton is the international organiser for Youth for Earth Strike. This article was co-authored with Cosmo Patell, Jonathan Altman, Paxton Batchelder, Isaac Horvath, Alex Rawson, John Ryan and Olivia Sauve, all members of Earth Strike International
EXTINCTION REBELLION, GRIEF AND CLIMATE CATASTROPHE
New York – I was attracted to the Extinction Rebellion by its call for net zero carbon emissions by 2025 – more in line what is needed to save life on the planet than what many other groups have been calling for. And the fact that it employs acts of civil disobedience as a main organizing tool and directly challenges the present actions by elected official everywhere as untruthful and grossly inadequate to the task. I attended the action at Rockefeller Center in January. Yesterday more than 60 were arrested in NYC near City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge while the London CD protests enter their fourth day.
But as I have read more about XR and attended a recent organizing meeting in Troy (a significant percentage of those arrested yesterday were from the Troy meeting), I have heard more about the concept of grief as a guiding principle. And that XR will not be spending time trying to lobby legislators owned by the 1% to take action but rather to reach out to the average citizen to understand what we are losing and to demand that our society act to try to avoid extinction. To rebel against our present response to climate change.
To be honest, I didn’t really begin to internalize the role of grief and climate until I attended a talk this week at the Sanctuary for Independent Media by climate journalist Dahr Jamail (The End of Ice, see his talk on Democracy Now.) (Dahr will speak at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Earth Day April 22)
I admit to being on an increasing roller coast of emotions. As Dahr laid out, science shows that we are locked into catastrophic climate change. That our present carbon level in the atmosphere of 412 ppm translates into a 7 degree C temperature rise. The IPCC is so conservative that one of the authors of its recent report said to get an accurate assessment, take our worst case scenarios and double it. The fact that we are already in the midst of the sixth great extinction of species, that insects are rapidly disappearing, that scientists are beginning to provide estimates of the chances that human species extinction will occur, that carbon emissions continue to rise even as renewables expand, that the efforts so far by elected officials in the US to move off of fossil fuels and to renewable energy are pathetic.
Then comes hope after the sudden explosion of support for the Green New Deal and its 2030 goal for 100% clean energy after I first started working on this eight years ago. The student strikes. Followed by despair when people still insist that the CCPA and its goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 is the strongest climate legislation ever and refuse to change it even as Cuomo accelerates his timelines. Despair even from the victory celebration of the energy retrofit mandate in NYC for large buildings which only seeks to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 (and I say this as someone who participated in numerous street corner protests for this campaign, participated in several steering committee meetings and testified at city council hearings.) It is inadequate IMO to the task we are confronted with.
Dahr ended his talked by focusing on grief. (see a Truthout excerpt here.) Grief is a complicated thing and I am still trying to work my way through it. He made the point that even if life as we know it is doomed, the important thing is how do we respond. Do we give up in despair or do we honor what we are losing by standing up and acting in a way that reflects on our own values, that we seek to create a world which reflects those values, and is fair and giving to all, including our fellow species? Listen to our interview with Dahr Jamail, “Finding Hope in the Midst of Climate Disruption,” on Clearing the FOG.
It reminds me of my high school religion class at Chaminade on existentialism and Jean Paul Sartre. Life is ultimately absurd but we can give meaning to our lives by helping others.
The five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what we have lost.
Dahr told a story from one of his Native American friends about our obligation as humans to work to keep balance on our planet. To find that place where we as individuals connect to the sacredness of the planet (for me to Gaia). That we need to make time at this moment to visit that place to strengthen our connection, to balance ourselves so we can help balance the world (for Dahr, the mountains, Denali in Alaska, the glaciers that are disappearing, hence The Loss of Ice).
A couple of quotes:
“given that Earth may well be dying, we may be ready to stand up to protect what we love. An extraordinary alchemy can take place when people follow their inner directives to stand up and face squarely the dire odds of biosphere survival. These actions involve extraordinary outer and inner courage, which can nurture a profound activism. “
“No one knows if the biosphere will completely collapse. Our future is uncertain. Given the fact that a rapid increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coincided with previous mass extinctions and that we could well be facing our own extinction, we should be asking ourselves, “How shall I use this precious time?” Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of the value just in being present with what is happening to the planet: “When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief.”
Mark Dunlea is chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund.
NURSES ARE LEADING STRIKE EFFORTS — WHERE ARE THE PHYSICIANS?