For those who believe in Capitalism, “the poor will always be with us”. For socialists, collective society organised for need not profit can eradicate poverty within a single generation. Globally. Even the World Bank makes clear, the wealth is there: if global annual Net Domestic Product was shared equally, every child, woman, and man would have an income of over £35,000 a year.
I was reminded of this during the obnoxiously self-aggrandising speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequor, Richi Sunak. He offered nothing for those across the UK out-of-work whilst cutting the tax on “fizzy wine” – Champagne. He increased taxes on the poor whilst cutting those for the rich – who already employ accountants to ensure they pay little or nothing.
More crucially, Sunak announced tax cuts on internal short-haul flights, encouraging more aircraft emissions ahead of the COP26 Conference next week. This, alongside continued plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria and oil field in the North Sea, proves the real approach of this Tory Government towards the Climate Emergency.
Their cynicism shouldn’t surprise us. The System they manage and benefit from relies upon exploitation of people and planet. The entire and all-encompassing approach of the global capitalist class towards climate change is one of strategising how to accumulate more personal wealth. What can be done, they ask, to utilise the chaos in order to increase profits?
I have been leafleting every day in our City Centre, organising for the local climate protest on 6th November, co-ordinated alongside 50 others in Britain and thousands across the World to call-out the ill-fated and counter-productive COP26 Conference next week.
Despite the crescendo of “Climate” announcements and programmes across all media, overwhelming in their Greenwash of “don’t worry, we, the great and the good, have the solutions and will sort-it-all on your behalf”, there is little evidence heightened consciousness and public concern.
This is “half-term” week when harassed parents are inclined to bring their children into the shopping precinct to buy the essentials, manage the budget by finding early Xmas present bargains, or maybe just get out of the house. The general mood emits collective fatigue.
There are few signs of joy. Groups look harassed and full shopping bags are few and far between. Despite the Chancellor’s exclamations on how well the economy has bounced-back from the COVID pandemic, the whiff of austerity and poverty is everywhere, not least in the eyes of the passers-by.
So asking people to not only care about the Climate and Ecology but act now to protect the planet does not meet with much enthusiasm. This response can be easily misunderstood. Many polls and research papers identify that the great majority of people, home and abroad, are concerned about climate chaos. The extreme weather events, not least the sudden flash-floods killing people across Europe and the United States, offer material evidence of climate change. The climate deniers are now a tiny minority.
Climate politics is nevertheless polarised and entrenched. The nationalists, of which there are many, argue against our leaflets, saying that China and Russia don’t give a damn and, until they do, there’s no point in the UK sacrificing anything towards emissions reductions. Let me be clear, they have a clear ideological argument with an internal logic that offers ardent and dogmatic assertion.
Our leaflet, formally constructed by the international COP26 Coalition, calls for Global Justice. The racists, of which there are few, immediately and ferociously vocalise the ancient Malthusian tract that there are too many humans and its time for a cull. Rule Britannia and protect our own shores, with all the genocidal white-supremacy at their disposal.
I would calculate that one-in-ten take the leaflet. Such a straw poll offers a “straw man” to be shied at. At this point I have no indication of how large or small the November protest will be. But the experience of leafleting does offer some observations.
Firstly, there’s no real hostility – the conspiracy theorists from QAnon to David Ike and Piers Corbyn do not own the Zeitgeist. But they’re there. Were the internationalist humanists and environmentalists not organising and seeking to mobilise, the nihilist ideas of conspiracy and Armageddon could take hold.
Then there’s the Establishment, calculating that they should steer clear of feeding the rabble and showing no support for protest or rallying for climate action. The well-heeled amongst the shoppers (yes, you can see by dress, completion and deportment just what level of income they enjoy) frown and offer their well-rehearsed micro-body language of disapproval. Their benefits and status from the current status quo react against any suggestion that societal change is essential for survival. We should keep calm and carry on.
And, as a third observation, wholly unscientific in it’s presumptions, suggests it’s largely younger people who take the leaflets. Not a majority, although most glance sideways in response to the word “climate”, indicative of recognition and worry. Young people on half-term holiday are in the city centre to enjoy the sheer experience of being young, giggling together and laughing, sharing, playing.
It feels almost abusive to offer them a leaflet suggesting societal breakdown and climate catastrophe, the extinction of most life on earth, including humans. Many, from the most caring (although probably paternalistic) approach to child care, would say we are scaremongering and should shut-up.
I’m reminded of the many, ghastly, movies and documentaries I’ve watched where children are playing together and families laughing moments before the atomic bomb explodes above them and all turns to light and ash. Of course, climate chaos is not the same apart from heading towards the deadly outcome in comparative slow motion. Indeed, thousands are dying daily right now from the impact of global heating.
My mantra these days is as simple as this: I’m acting on scientific fact. The emotions of the deepening catastrophe, now apparent and fast moving, feel to be dissolving the importance of personal preferences and sensibilities. The facts are even demoting beliefs, although having a preferred goal does make “the doing” easier. We may come to act to stop climate chaos from a huge range of motivations but the point is to act.
The scientists can prove by simple observation the slowing of the Atlantic meridional Overturning Circulation is already affecting seasons and weather North and South. The Arctic melt has altered the northern Jet Stream to bizarre and unpredictable “behaviours” that is causing the flash floods, amongst many other extreme events. The IPCC 6th Report omits reference to the historically unique levels of methane release from permafrost and, more recently, oceans.
It doesn’t matter what we all choose to believe, the fact is the climate is passing the Tipping Points that will see current conditions pass.
How we respond to this is, however, down to personal choice. I’m afraid that the self-reassurance if not satisfaction that comes from recycling, turning the thermostat down, seeking the car and walking more will have no discernible impact given the scale of the challenge.
And the facts offered through the contra-activity of the Capitalists and their Chancellors in government gives evidence that the current powers controlling human society and behaviours cannot and will not protect humanity or Nature.
We can only protest to survive, force fundamental change to human systems or face early and soon-to-come extinction.