Jenn Waller is a Workers World Party activist.
To save the planet, get rid of capitalism!
Teresa Gutierrez and Jen Waller spoke at a Workers World Party/Fight Imperialism, Stand Together forum on June 11 2010, in New York. Both Gutierrez and Waller attended the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held from April 20-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
According to Waller;
I feel that the most important thing about the Cochabamba conference is that it represents a growing anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist climate justice movement. The spirit of the conference looks at the environmental crisis as a result of this capitalist system of exploitation and constant growth for the sake of profit for few at the expense of many. The U.S. climate justice movement must learn from this model.
- Making the connections between environmental destruction and capitalism is not the norm here. Take the BP oil spill. If it had been going on when the conference took place, everyone would have been relating it to capitalism. But here, people talk about it as though it is a cross between an inevitable reality and a freak accident. The idea that it is an unnecessary tragedy that is typical of corporations within this system is not even considered by most in the U.S.
- One of the main messages of the conference was that the climate justice movement must include all oppression. Demanding climate justice must mean demanding an end to all injustices. This includes freedom of movement for all.
- We can’t separate the climate crisis from immigration, as the issue of climate migrants is all about racism and exclusion. One meter of water rise could wipe out 20 percent of Bangladesh. Where are those people going to go? We all have to think about how we are going to support climate migrants. Many migrants are already climate migrants. Many of the world’s conflicts in recent years are due to the environment — for example, the war in Afghanistan or the conflict in Darfur must both be thought of as wars over natural resources.
- The structural causes of climate change and climate migration are due to capitalism. It’s a globalized economy, which is based on intensive development reliant on the consumption of carbon and the exploitation of the natural resources of the entire planet. But people aren’t allowed to move like capital, because the only thing this system attempts to sustain is capital. Right now we’re controlling migration as determined by economy, but it needs to be based on human rights and needs, not on the economic needs of governments and corporations.
- Even the so-called “solutions” to climate change that the U.S. government promotes, such as reforestation and carbon trading, are causing displacement. The way the U.S. and other powerful countries are dealing with climate change is not in any way going to solve the problem. The decision has already been made that the people of the world are going to be sacrificed because the rich and powerful do not want to lose their power and privilege.
- We will all be affected by climate change, but not at all equally. Last year’s Copenhagen summit truly signed a death warrant for countries. President Obama threatened poor countries, saying they would only get aid if they signed the Copenhagen accord. Who would sign their suicide? Some did. The Ethiopian leader may have sold out his people by signing it — but was the alternative better? The leaders of other countries refused to sign the accord, such as Ecuador and Bolivia. At the Cochabamba conference, the foreign minister of Ecuador claimed that the U.S. cut off $2.5 million in aid after Copenhagen; he stated that he would send $2.5 million to Obama if he would sign the Kyoto protocol.
- In Cochabamba I was around so many people who truly understand the enormity of this crisis. Meeting people from Latin America and from all over the world who are facing the destruction of climate change was a humbling experience. We shared our thoughts and agreed on so much. They were excited and surprised to meet someone from the U.S. who agreed with and understood their views — and I was overjoyed to speak to everyday people who didn’t think my anti-capitalist views about the environment were completely crazy.
- And then I came back here to so much waste. So many wasted resources and a climate “justice” movement that is willing to discuss consumerism but refuses to mention capitalism. We have to talk to our people. This is our people, whether we like it or not, and we have to change their hearts.
- It became clear in Cochabamba that the people of the world are demanding that capitalism be discussed as the root cause of this crisis. Very few of us are facing climate change head on, so who are we to deny that? We have no right.