House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent rejection of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal comes at a moment when our species is on the brink of an incomprehensible worldwide catastrophe. It’s unclear what exactly the planet will look like one or two hundred years from now, but many climate change-created disasters are already assured: with the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, a sea level rise of 10 feet or more is guaranteed; we know that even if carbon emissions are greatly reduced, much of Africa and the Middle East will become uninhabitable in the next decades; over 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming over the pre-industrial average is at this point inevitable, along with the monumental death and destruction that even this relatively small warming projection entails for our world.
Pelosi and the circle of Washington elites she’s entrenched with don’t see the crisis as important enough for them to take action on it. Pelosi’s blockage of the Green New Deal was motivated by momentary political convenience, as are all the other failures from our leaders to enact the reforms that would save our planet. Whatever rationalizations these politicians use for their complicity in the destruction of our planet’s future, they’re only working to serve a cabal of corporate oligarchs. And the statements they make to justify their complicity either consist of excuses for not taking action, or outright denials of the crisis.
But ultimately, they know what they’re doing to the planet by continuing the paradigm of corporate capitalism. Donald Trump is lying when he says that he doesn’t believe in climate change. Trump’s golf resort in Doonberg, Ireland has walls built around it, having submitted an Environmental Impact Statement to justify the project which reads: “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland.”
There are hints that Trump’s cabinet officials have a similar mindset. His former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a former Exxon leader who’s helped with the Trump administration’s war against the environment, has publicly acknowledged climate change and rationalized it as a fairly minor issue that humans can “adapt” to. He’s right in the sense that his own class of predatory capitalists will be able to adapt to the crisis. As this catastrophe unfolds, fascists and their corporate partners will exploit it towards making society more unequal and unjust. The government will use future natural disasters to sell public utilities off to corporations, like when Hurricane Katrina was used to privatize much of New Orleans’ education system.
The destabilization of society will be exploited and used to institute increased militarization and repression, as was hinted at during the heavily militarized response to 2017’s American hurricanes. While refugees and wars proliferate from the crisis, brutality and tribalism will become more normalized, as is already happening with the rise of private migrant detention facilities and the incidental violence from militarized border patrols. The refugees are only some of the first victims of the state violence that climate change will enable.
Yet as I list the material, psychological, and spiritual harms that the climate crisis is creating, I see just as much strength in the forces that can protect and heal. The movements that seek to abolish capitalism and replace it with a non-exploitative system have grown powerful in recent years. Throughout the globe, there’s been an increasing interest in socialism among workers and among people, as shown in opinion polls and in the growth of anti-capitalist organizations. These strains pose a legitimate threat to global capitalism, and the exceptionally numerous labor strikes and protests from the last year show that the world’s working class is becoming ready to mobilize around their goals.
This series of radical organizations, along with the countless environmental and social justice groups that are growing right now, make up the institutional power that we need in order to overcome the corporate state. But now that such enormous damage has been done to the climate, these movements can’t halt the warming process or repair the vast ecocide that’s already been carried out. We’re bargaining for better versions of a catastrophe that can’t be avoided.
To cope with the reality of destroyed landscapes and habitats, a kind of loss which psychologists have called ecological grief, our goals must transcend the political to include the emotional and spiritual dimensions of our lives. Click To Tweet As the author James Howard Kunstler has written about the mindset that people will need to take on throughout the collapses of this century: “We will not believe that this is happening to us, that 200 years of modernity can be brought to its knees…The survivors will have to cultivate a religion of hope-that is, a deep and comprehensive belief that humanity is worth carrying on.”
The transformation of the earth will not mean the end of the world. Community, art, and the small joys of everyday life will continue to exist. But our current model of society destroys these things. Capitalism means the domination of one class over another. It commodifies human creativity. It leads to the exploitation of women. It creates a division between ethnic groups to the advantage of the rich. Its demands for profit are used to rationalize war and conquest.
The inequality of power that capitalism creates inevitably leads to violence and militarism. It consumes the natural world. The mentalities of conquest and personal superiority, which are used to rationalize it, are also being used to propagate the world’s growing amounts of racism and xenophobia.
Capitalism isn’t just currently in crisis. Capitalism is the crisis. And it’s what allows for opportunists to exploit climate change towards building more walls, creating more war, allowing for less freedom, persecuting more… Click To Tweet
We need to overthrow capitalism and create a new society where every person has access to food, shelter, and healthcare, where war is abolished, and where institutional racism and systemic class inequality are eliminated. Minimizing human suffering in the face of the climate crisis is the goal of the “religion of hope” that Kunstler proposes. And building this world would reduce the suffering as much as possible.
I refuse to let the greed and fecklessness of our leaders define what happens to our world. In both political and spiritual terms, I plan to work towards a better future for humanity.