The protest against the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport on 31st May sent a powerful message to Gordon Brown’s government: we will not sit idly by and watch while the future of our planet is put at risk. Current plans to expand our airports are cynically irresponsible and fly in the face of the government’s professed concerns about climate change.
Of course, carbon emissions do not respect national boundaries. With atmospheric CO2 concentrations already over 387ppmv, the need for serious global action to radically reduce emissions is more urgent than ever. The Campaign against Climate Change is right to campaign for an effective international treaty. However, the changes we need to make will not be achieved in UN conference rooms and treaty negotiations alone. They will only be achieved by global mass struggle, by a global mass movement. Building this movement is an urgent task for all ecosocialists, because without it we are destined for a terminal decline into barbarism.
We have already seen the birth of this movement, and its first tentative steps, in the struggles of the indigenous people of the Amazon, in the protests against the refusal of the Bush government to ratify Kyoto, in the demonstrations called around the world to coincide with the UN climate talks, and in thousands of other climate marches, protests, rallies and direct actions.
The Global Climate Campaign was launched by activists in Britain in 2001 in response to Bush’s refusal to ratify Kyoto. By 2005, demonstrations were held in 34 countries to coincide with the Montreal climate talks, including a march by 10 000 people in Montreal itself. By the time of the Bali talks in 2007 there were 84 countries taking part. 2007 also saw around 2000 climate demonstrations in all 50 US states as part of the Step it Up campaign.
The task facing ecosocialists now is three-fold – to immerse ourselves in the emerging social movement on climate in order to actively build each and every protest; to weld together the diverse and multifaceted strands of this movement into a single powerful force; and to develop, through a wide ranging process of discussion and debate, the strategies that are needed to win. And there are three social forces that will be decisive in all of these tasks: the indigenous peoples of the South; the organized working class of all countries; and the youth.
Youth and students have already shown their militancy in direct actions against airport expansions and against coal fired power stations. Not only do the young have the biggest stake in protecting the future of the planet, they are also unbowed by the defeats of the past, and are therefore capable of bringing innovative methods of struggle and new waves of radicalism into the movement.
North America’s largest manufacturing union, The United Steelworkers, have joined with the Sierra Club, the largest US environmental organization, to launch a strategic Blue-Green alliance under the banner of Good Jobs, A Clean Environment, and A Safer World. This is a clear indication of what is both possible and necessary.
The unions in Britain are also starting to pick up on this issue. In February of this year, three hundred trade unionists met in London for the first ever Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Conference. Ecosocialists now need to take the climate debate forward at every level within every union, and to win union members in their millions to taking decisive action on climate. Such action may include participation in the mass demonstrations, boycotting bio-fuels, and preparing and fighting for alternative plans of sustainable and socially useful production.
But at the forefront of this struggle are the indigenous people of the Global South, fighting as they are against incursions into the rainforests by logging companies and agri-business, and against the biofuels that put corn into car tanks instead of into the mouths of hungry people. As Bolivian President Evo Morales put it during his speech at the UN General Assembly last September: "The indigenous peoples of Latin America and the world have been called upon by history to convert ourselves into the vanguard of the struggle to defend nature and life."
The indigenous peoples are at the cutting edge of this struggle. Ecosocialists must now follow their lead.