Part 2: Why the climate strike is a social justice issue (and why it should strike at the core of growing fascism)

Last of a two-part series

Here is the social
science

The climate change we are experiencing is not natural. It is
overwhelmingly anthropogenic – according to the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), it is extremely likely (with more than 95% probability)
to be the result of human activity.

Climate change today is not the result of current-day emissions of
greenhouse gases (GHG) but of cumulative emissions that have been built up
historically since the rise of modern capitalism. At the heart of the
climate crisis is the capitalist crisis, which is inherent, recurrent, and
worsening. The Earth’s natural processes can no longer cope with capitalism.

And, to be precise, it is the profit-driven activities of
transnational corporations (TNCs) that are causing the largest emissions of
GHG. These are mainly from: the production and use of fossil fuels consisting
mostly of coal and petroleum products; agribusiness monoculture and the use of
synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; and deforestation.

By country, the US is the number one polluter, directly accounting
for one-fourth of the GHG emissions. High carbon concentrations in the
atmosphere are also recorded in countries where TNCs of the US, Japan and Europe operate. These include
underdeveloped countries whose economies have been transformed by TNCs to feed the energy demand and consumption
needs of the industrialized countries. Transition economies and revisionist
states such as China and Russia have also ridden the tide of global capitalism
and have contributed to the carbon build-up.

TNCs are at the core of the climate issue. They account for
half of all oil, gas and coal extraction and refining, with only about 10 TNCs
controlling the bulk of oil and gas production. TNCs control 80% of land
worldwide, which is cultivated for cash crops. Only about seven TNCs control
global corporate agriculture; only 20 TNCs account for 90% of the sales of
hazardous agrochemicals. TNCs also monopolize extractive industries such as
mining, energy extraction and dams building, which have irreversible effects on
the environment and have rendered people more vulnerable to climate hazards.
Not surprisingly, TNCs are the number one lobbyists against reductions in
carbon emissions.

Here is the injustice

The injustice is undeniable. The advanced capitalist
countries and their TNCs are historically responsible for the qualitative leap
in the climate crisis. Yet, it
is the poor underdeveloped countries such as the Philippines that bear about
80% of the cost of damages caused by climate change. Through colonization and neocolonial
intervention, the advanced
capitalist countries have plundered the ecosystems of the underdeveloped
countries and impoverished the majority of their populations. Now, such underdevelopment limits
poor countries to adapt to climate change and its hazards. Yet, rich countries
continue to deny climate reparations.

The
imposition of neoliberal policies on countries such as the Philippines in the
last four decades has aggravated the socioeconomic and ecological
crises. Yet, foreign governments and neoliberal institutions continue to
propose even harsher neoliberal policies purportedly to allow the poor
countries to manage and reduce disaster risks. They encourage the poor
countries to be ‘resilient’ – a much-abused term especially for countries such
as the Philippines, which is chronically in crisis. It becomes really confusing
what shape the neoliberalists want the poor countries to spring back into. Yet,
our governments embrace neoliberalism as the solution just the same.

Take the case of Typhoon Yolanda. Four decades of
privatizing public utilities, including transport, and social services hampered
the government’s response. It should not have been difficult for the Philippine
government to transport the victims from Eastern Visayas to safer places. But
the government had to rely on private airlines, private shipping lines, foreign
militaries and foreign donors to evacuate the people. The government even had
to rely on the private sector for the simple provision of drinking water to the
devastated communities.

When the Philippine government came up with a so-called
rehabilitation plan (quite quickly, as it has always been lying there as the
country’s ‘development plan’), it carried the same neoliberal policies. It is a
private-sector-led, infrastructure-centered rehabilitation plan, even placing
the important aspects of disaster response under private provisioning. The plan
has been easily transformed as the grand infrastructure program, Build, Build, Build, by the Duterte
administration.

We are running out of time. Yet, global climate negotiations
are far from reaching real solutions. The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 only
introduced market-based mechanisms to reduce global GHG emissions to a level
that scientists and activists deemed as “too meager, too late”. The Kyoto
Protocol even made commitments that could be traded like commodities in the
global market.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 indeed committed to keep global
warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to
limit the temperature rise even further to 1.5°C. But it made the responsibilities of advanced capitalist
countries and the underdeveloped countries one and the same, contrary to the
principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The agreement
basically throws away any historical responsibility of the capitalist system.
Moreover, countries were allowed to choose their ‘intended nationally
determined contributions’ (INDC), which are not legally binding. When the INDC
submissions were analyzed, assuming that these were fully implemented, the
minimum temperature increase would still be 2.4°C.

Why we
should fight back

Despite the 2015 Paris Agreement being watered-down and
perpetuating the injustice, which is what the US wants, the US still withdrew from
it. The US has conveniently avoided reducing its carbon emissions altogether
and contributing to the climate fund presumably meant for the victims.

This is not the first time that the US walked out of a global
climate agreement. It refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol 22 years ago, and now
it appears to be not agreeing to any global policy that would slow down its
economy. Not now, not ever. The Trump administration is seeking a renegotiation
of the climate deal that would incorporate its America First policy.

Across the globe, to manage the capitalist crisis, governments have seemingly
embarked not only on the intensification of human rights violations by
neoliberalism but on a political response that is a categorical rejection of
so-called democracy. Images in the recent months of forest fires in the Amazon
in Brazil and in Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia have brought to the world’s
attention the fascistic policies of governments to prioritize agribusiness,
mining, and corporate plantations that encourage deforestation and displacement
of indigenous communities. These policies are blatant – as Brazil’s president
Jair Bolsonaro has made clear that protecting the environment is not a priority
of his government.

Across the world, climate activists have been vilified,
harassed, red-tagged and killed like never before for taking a stand and
defending the Earth. The international watchdog, Global Witness, reports for
2018 that the Philippines by far is the most dangerous place for land and
environmental activists including climate disaster responders. The watchdog
adds that countless others were silenced through violence, intimidation and
“the use and misuse of anti-protest laws” across the world. Here in the
Philippines, trumped-up non-bailable charges are being slapped on land and
environmental activists, while the Duterte administration continues the
neoliberal policies that erode the country’s chances for sustainable
development.

The climate strike is a fight-back strike, it can’t be any
other. It is also a “demand ecological payback” strike. It should reject
market-based, profit-driven, false solutions, as well as governments’
authoritarian posturing that puts at stake the planet and the people. It should
work for the reversal from neoliberal policies and the installation of
strong-willed governments that shall prioritize the transformation of economies
away from fossil fuels dependence. It is a social justice issue as it is based
on people’s assertion of their right to determine our common future.

(Read the first part of this series)

Photo from Bulatlat

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