Whatever strategies climate activists have organised to date, the War exposes much which is often left hidden or unsaid. It is also likely, if not stopped immediately, to elongate towards a constant and expand towards a global conflagration. It should clarify our perspective.
I have had the privilege over the past couple of years of addressing meetings discussing the deepening catastrophe facing humanity and the ecology. At each and every talk I have stressed and repeatedly concluded that global warfare will, necessarily, predate any climate collapse.
War will also exacerbate and accelerate climate chaos. One feeds the other.
I’m grateful to those who agree with this very obvious and in no way clever assessment. The most casual consideration of human history cannot fail to link the impact of environmental change to human conflict and vice versa. When systems collapse, people move or die, producing either nihilistic competition for the remaining basic resources or system change to adapt and accommodate in a spirit of cooperation.
We are not living in a world of international cooperation. Indeed, the global economic and political system of capitalism requires competition. Locally, one provider competes with another to win our custom and their profits, globally rival imperialisms compete for regional resources and the cheap labour from which to produce private wealth.
Capitalist competition is killing the Planet.
The domination of one grouping or “Class” of humans over another is the real struggle constant at the base of human society. Which, in turn, means that not all humans are equally culpable for the destruction of the ecology. We know, for example, that the regions referred to as the Global South have caused little or no emissions responsible for the heating of the ecosphere.
Within human societies there is a profound inequality of responsibility for either the climate emergency or warfare. The current whipping-up of Russophobia is as misplaced and manipulated as the narratives intent upon blaming all of humanity for climate change.
I am full to overflowing (I cry) with compassion for those experiencing war right now, in Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Mozambique, Tigray, Rohingya, Myanmar, Colombia, Maghreb, Iraq, Libya…so many regions. The degradation of life and human potential is sickening. The degradation of the environment – from the 100% wasteful production of military hardware through to the explosive destruction of thermobaric bombs and nuclear missiles – is dramatically increased in periods of war compared with peacetime.
Right now I cannot side with the territorial ambitions of the Russian ruling class any more than those of the US-controlled NATO. I can only conclude that everywhere, everyone has to assert their right to life and self-determination. Only cooperation and mutuality can assure the right to life.
Survival requires the struggle for emancipation, suffrage and equality. Global Justice. Which in turn requires challenging those who, as individuals or groups, seek to restrict and repress the rights of others for their own gain. And challenge to those who seek to destroy and exploit Nature for their own gain.
I am therefore no pacifist. I oppose Imperialist wars and support collective struggles against oppression and exploitation. My comrades in Russia today are being arrested and tortured for daring to challenge Putin’s war. My comrades in Africa, the Americas, India and China are being incarcerated, tortured and killed for daring to challenge oil pipelines and Monsanto pesticides. They have the right to fight back.
The struggle to prevent climate collapse has elements of warfare as a requirement for success. If the oil companies, their billionaire executives and millionaire shareholders, won’t stop extracting this planet-killer, and continue to hire private armies to kill any who protest, then we have to use force to shut them down.
If the political elites continue to seek power over Planet, such as the Bidens, Kerrys, Putins, Bolsanaros, Xis, Morrisons and Johnsons of this world, then we have to forcefully change the system to stop the destruction they are happy to reek in their own interests.
Protest to Survive.
The IPPC published its second scientific conclusions as part of their 6th Report cycle last week. The frenzy of war ensured it received no attention. It is an amalgam of more than 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers all detailing the very immediate collapse of ecosystems and immediate threat to the very lives of 3,500,000,000 human beings. The destruction of insect life, birds and animals, fish and kelp presents a picture of horror deeper even than war.
We have passed the Tipping Point and can only mitigate to prevent complete extinction, adapting fast to live systemically differently, limiting all impacts, from now on.
Little wonder our ruling classes are choosing war, now. The System-changes required to save people and planet require the removal of those who seek to destroy people and planet. Capitalism is a failed system and those who continue to perpetrate it are choosing mutually assured destruction over life itself.
There are those in the climate movement who perversely welcome the war. They argued this weekend that shutting down the gas pipeline through Ukraine to Germany means less emissions and requires new ways of fuelling society. Europe will have to ration fossil fuels. The “collateral damage” of lives lost is nothing compared with the coming climate cataclysm so “bring it on”, the war can be an opportunity to shut down emissions now, they argue.
To me there is something deeply barbaric as well as impractical about their position. The politics of environment-over-humanity is, and always has been, embedded within environmental movements and is an ideological formation to be challenged and exposed. Indeed, many who espouse being “Beyond Politics” exert a deeply political activism that is anti-human.
I uphold the ancient political continuum that broadly equates the Left of the spectrum with humanism and mutuality, and the Right with individualism and survival of the fittest. This is not the time or place to examine the deeper philosophical tensions within it.
Fight for Humanity!
There has always been an organised and powerful section within environmental and climate activists sitting on the Right. Those proclaiming Gaia would be better of without humanity, that humans are a destructive virus contaminating an otherwise harmonious Nature, or even that the sooner humanity becomes extinct the better (Nature will return to equilibrium without us), soon disclose a vehement hatred for humanity when pressed.
Malthusians amongst them, these anti-humans effectively welcome the pain, suffering and death of billions of humans in the name of the Ecology. There is even discussion of the need to save Nature by allowing climate change to destroy all but a few hundred-million humans – “let the humans die!”. The apparent racism of where the billions condemned to death will inevitably be situated is one element of such reactionary if not fascist politics. But the very obvious hypocrisy and contorted thinking they have to go through to maintain this state is eye-watering.
“Save the Whales” in the name of the sanctity of all life, yet care less for the billions of Krill, octopus, anchovies they eat, all of which have a sentience to one degree or another. Damn humans for eating fish. Feel and express deep love for dolphins at play, but neglect the wars their pods enact one on another. Don’t mention the ferocious attacks seals and Orcas plan against the beleaguered penguins. Territorial wars between lion packs or chimpanzee clans are “natural” for survival, whilst human conflict damns us to being deserving of extinction. The contradictions are absurd.
Humans have always been and should remain part of the Ecology. We are animals, indeed mammals, with the ancestral instincts embedded in the amygdala vying alongside the emotional senses stimulated from our brains’ frontal cortex. We fight and flee, expose and conceal, procreate and share alongside the rest of Nature, and shouldn’t be damned for doing so.
There is a difference between those who look at the war and despair at the human condition, and those who actively condemn humanity for being less than perfect. And, naturally, the vast majority of climate activists care deeply for people as well as planet. Comparatively few if any billionaires give a damn for either, trapped as they are in the system of accumulation for accumulation’s sake.
It is the military industry worldwide that is the highest emitter of global heating gases. For that reason alone the environment movement must target and challenge these profiteers. The pursuance of war is financed and furthered by these industries and their lackey politicians, currently seeking the same weapons to all sides in the wars cited above. And war itself creates more emissions, not less, gas pipeline shutdowns not withstanding.
Human beings are sentient animals with extraordinarily developed mental and emotional abilities panning a wide spectrum of behaviours and abilities that offer us the opportunity to temper our survival instincts with rational thought and historic perception. I love humanity. We’re amazing. Life is amazing. The World is mesmerising.
Human beings have all the sentience and technology required to Stop the War and rebalance the Ecology in harmony with Nature. Indeed, the two issues go hand-in-hand. We have to fight for humanity to stop imperialist conflicts in order to obtain the necessary global cooperation across our species that is pre-requisite to saving the environment.
The fact that it will take a revolution to stop war offers us the synthesis of all these contradictions. Fight for People and Planet. Join the Revolution!