Statement on Recent Climate Events & Capitalism
Originally posted September, 2017
This past month, Houston flooded and the Western United States burned. Earthquakes shook nations while hurricanes ravaged Texas, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane to form in the Atlantic Basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, swelled amidst four other hurricanes collectively responsible for widespread death, homelessness, and power-outages that will leave Puerto Rico dark for months. Floods in South Asia have killed over 1,300 people and affected over 41 million more. More devastation is predicted to come.
Meanwhile, our political leaders will continue business-as-usual while lamenting the fiscal cost.
Capitalism perpetuates mass violence. Climate change is but one aspect. A system of ceaseless growth, dependent on exploitation, and solely responsive to capital lacks the capacity to register climate refugees, mass starvations, unprecedented extinctions, and the human costs of climate disaster beyond dollars and cents. Capitalism is incapable of valuing people, animals or the planet beyond profitability, and systems of oppression render those hierarchal ‘values’ in terms of race, sexual orientation, gender, species and ability. Moreover, climate violence cannot be disentangled from systemic oppressions intrinsic to our capitalist order; those most vulnerable under capitalism will be the ones who suffer most due to climate change. As the prison-industrial complex continues to brutalize people of color, our economic system will not flinch when they die from heat in their cells. As neoliberalism continues to erode public expenditure for social services and people-centered planning, the disabled and critically ill will continue to be subjected to nightmare scenarios. Women, people of color, the elderly, children and the poor will be disproportionately burdened by climate changes. Capitalism will be solely focused on its own survival.
Climate change has been a slow burn we in the United States are only now beginning to experience as crisis. The perpetual violence of capitalist order has led us to societal and planetary breakdown. The floods and fires are only the beginning of the unpredictable weather extremes to come; precarity, increased militarization and the further dismantling of infrastructure will proliferate desperate conditions.
They will ask us to buy ‘green,’ take shorter showers, to pursue individualistic actions and not politicize climate-related tragedy by responding with collective action.
They will ask us to not politicize tragedy as if we do not live political lives.
However, the decision to ignore climate change is a political one as well; one that upholds a violent and oppressive order that runs counter to the wellbeing of the natural world. It is a decision both neoliberal Democrats and Republicans have made, either through the promotion of insufficient market-based solutions or the perpetuation of climate denial and abolishment of the infrastructure and social services necessary to adapt to the biophysical realities of our rapidly altering climate. By upholding capitalism, our political “leaders” choose violence; they choose to perpetuate conditions under which we are unable to survive.
As Democratic Socialists, we cannot afford to not politicize crises, especially when the cost is our planet and our lives. Importantly, our politicization must come with the demand of a politics that values people and planet, not profit. It must confer our recognition that those most vulnerable under capitalism are least responsible for the processes driving climate change, and that we have a collective responsibility to ensure they have the necessary means to adapt to our rapidly changing world. We must promote a politics of solidarity with other liberatory grassroots movements that forge a cooperative reimagining of society built for the people, within the biophysical limits of our planet. We must follow our demands with revolutionary unified action.
If the political left wants to embody the politics of The People, climate justice must be a principal demand. In the Democratic Socialists of America, the new national Climate & Environmental Justice Working Group works to this end. We believe that liberation is a collective process that works from the ground up; for this purpose, we aim to support chapters building local power for climate and environmental justice with the backing of a national ecosocialist network. We aim to establish tools and structured knowledge for organizers; coordinate campaigns; encourage coalition building; promote an understanding of climate and citizen science as well as the intersections of capitalism, imperialism, and climate crisis; publicize actions, events, campaigns, and disaster responses across the nation, with a special focus on growing, rural, and environmentally vulnerable or affected areas and DSA chapters; build an organized base of people willing to pressure neoliberal politicians and kick them out if they vote for more of the same climate crises we see this year; and provide spaces for eco-concerned comrades to collaborate and discuss.
We are not here simply for the growth of a movement, but the rebirth of our world. The earth demands it. We demand it. Ecosocialism or Barbarism; the time to act is now.