Last month hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of major cities, most especially New York, for the People’s Climate March ahead of the neutered Climate Summit at the United Nations. It was a remarkable moment for the environmental movement which, in the United States at least, has become largely mainstreamed into corporate doublespeak, wedded to the establishment and co-opted for political gain by the Democratic Party. The enthusiasm and desire for a better future in the vast majority of these protestors should not be questioned or criticized; but the effectiveness of this march, if we truly wish to see any success from it, should.
Within the last decade there have been monumental shifts in climate models leaving even the conservative IPCC shocked and frightened. The overriding consensus within the climate science community is that things are far more dire than anyone had previously anticipated. Now we are beginning to see the first stirrings of climate chaos; and it is set against the ominous backdrop of corporate capitalism’s incessant, insatiable and rapacious plunder of an already ravaged planet. Catastrophic flooding, record breaking temperature extremes and intractable drought have become the defining norm of the 21st century.
(A public bus traverses flood waters in Calgary, Alberta. Photo: Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)
By many estimations the proverbial 11th hour for the climate. and thus for humanity itself, has been drastically reduced to one minute before midnight. Yet in this unprecedented moment in human history ineptitude, lack of will and doltish denial continue to reign within the avenues of power. The machinery of entrenched political power and wealth is a formidable adversary and any change in direction is generally derailed if the masters of the machine cannot profit from it. Appealing to this depraved and ultimately suicidal sensibility has proven to be ruinous for any meaningful progress to stem the advance of climate change.
The People’s Climate March was arguably a noble venture to raise awareness and prick the ears of the powers that be. It could be dismissed as naive or even a foolish waste of time by some; after all promoting or peddling false hope or optimism only serves the status quo of doing nothing. But the misanthropy of weary activists itself will damn the efficacy of the movement just as much as rampant denialism, intransigence or profiteering at the expense of the climate.
Worldwide weather patterns are rapidly becoming chaotic and severe. Reality asserts that we may have already passed the tipping point and climate catastrophe is only a matter of time. Therefore the need for a realistic approach has never been more paramount than it is today, if for no other reason than to attempt to alleviate the suffering we see today and that will inevitably follow.
We must face the fact that climate change is here to stay and it is growing angrier by the minute. We must accept our culpability in the ecocide that is vanishing countless species from the earth at breakneck speed. We must also realize that the powerful are, despite their strident assertions, not in control and have instead chosen the easy path of playing on people’s prejudices, ignorance and fears in order to exact the largest profit they can as the lights go out. They have used our precious resources to build walls to protect them, free speech zones to insulate them from voices of dissent, and institutions to defend their crimes. They stoke the fires of bigotry and Bronze Age mythology in order to distract us from their theft and murder. They create new enemies to be fought so that the public does not see how utterly inept they are at dealing with the real and urgent threats to collective humanity.
(Well heeled 1% look on in bewildered amusement at Occupy Wall Street protestors. Photo: Associated Press)
If this movement is to have any success it must move quickly to disrupt and dismantle the mechanisms of industrialization via fossil fuels that are driving us rapidly towards calamity. It must divorce itself from Wall Street and corporate wealth. It must tear down the old vestiges of prejudice, racism and bigotry that merely serve to embolden state violence and reinforce repression. It must shake off the privilege of Western neoliberal economics that have served to exploit impoverished nations through the lie of “free trade” and devastate ecosystems. In so doing, it must derive its strength from the bottom up, dismissing any enticements from parasitic political entities that only seek to render it anemic through guile and deceitful placation. And it must identify and align itself with the poor and disenfranchised of the planet.
(Indigenous Brazilians protest the construction of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu river. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
If it cannot do this then it was nothing more than a vain political spectacle that should be fast replaced. Otherwise it will only serve as humanity’s epitaph.
Kenn Orphan 2014
Photo: Protesters in New York City – Mel Evans/AP
So it is 3 months since the climate march that was going to change the world. I’m still waiting for someone to show me the impact that march had on policy.
On the COP20:
“Negotiators acknowledged they had put off the most difficult decisions for later.
Campaigners said the plan was far too weak to limit warming to the internationally agreed limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels, or to protect poor countries from climate change.
“It’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
They also warned negotiators had left too many contentious issues unresolved before the deadline for reaching a deal in Paris. “The countdown clock to Paris is now ticking. Countries had the chance to give themselves a head start on the road to Paris but instead have missed the gun and now need to play catch up,” said Mohammed Adow, Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor.”
“But the misanthropy of weary activists itself will damn the efficacy of the movement…” strikes me as both something to be alert to-but also as a judgmental broad broom that is, itself, sweeping too many un-named and committed people under some sort of bus. Two of our group (350centralcolorado) went to New York. They are caring, loving people, far from “hating mankind”, the definition of misanthropy. The quoted passage seems defeatist and negative-enabling the opposite of what I discern as your passion for meaningful change–that I share.
However- overall, a very good and searching article, and I’m glad to discover your blog. (I, too am a writer and artist and activist.)
Thank you Mel. I appreciate your feedback. Please understand that it was never my intent to be defeatist or negative-enabling. I appreciate all of the work done by activists of all stripes. I only wanted to underscore that this movement must not be allowed to be co-opted or to be marginalized into meaningless soundbites. Again, thanks for your feedback and please continue to comment.