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Stories about Labor and Economics.
Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?
I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.
Fortunately, history is rife with examples of this kind of green-red synthesis — labor environmentalism is as old as the trade union movement.
Scientists have for decades recognized climate change as an existential crisis facing mankind, but the US media, hamstrung by a self-inflicted obsession with presenting “both sides” of every story even when there is only one, have only begun recognizing its gravity. And a huge barrier still prevents climate change from being honestly reported.
That barrier is a mainstream journalistic inability to address the central role global capitalism plays in propelling climate change, and to expose the determined, collaborative and usually carefully hidden, role it plays in stymying the profound government actions needed to prevent or at least fend off catastrophe.
A review of Paul Hampton, Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity: Tackling Climate Change in a Neoliberal World (Routledge Studies in Climate, Work and Society, 2015), £90
The complete and utter failure of the world’s governments to take meaningful action on climate change was once again apparent at the COP21 talks in Paris in December 2015. In Britain, the Conservative government was barely into its new term before it announced policies that undermined even the minimal commitments its predecessors had made. Their policies favoured fracking and other fossil fuels over renewable energy, airport and road expansion over public transport, and introduced reductions in funding that should have helped insulate homes.
The undermining of the African economy and society by minerals tycoons never ceases. When times were good and the commodity super-cycle raised prices to all-time highs from 2002-11, the natural resources boom could have been channelled into benefits for the citizenry, perhaps through a sovereign wealth fund or nationalised mines.
But pro-corporate policy prevailed and instead of circulating the wealth, most major mining houses are headquartered overseas and export their profits. The continent suffered a net negative outflow of wealth (‘adjusted net saving’), according to even the pro-extraction-and-export World Bank. Depletion of so-called ‘natural capital’ (i.e. ripping minerals from the soil) left the continent’s producers poorer, especially during the 2000s boom that was misnamed ‘Africa Rising’.
It is slowly becoming evident that today’s extractivism [economy based upon the extraction and export of natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals] is advancing in a context of increasing violence. This is not an exaggeration: distinct forms of violence are being employed to impose and protect extractivism, a situation in which popular mobilization also and ever more frequently finds itself entrapped.
This outcome should not be surprising. We know that the advance of extractivism through industries such as open air mining megaprojects, oil exploration in the Amazon, or single crop cultivation, has had enormous social, economic, territorial and environmental impacts.