Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Climate Change and Youth Struggle

People's Voice Editorial

Recent headlines reporting that Inuit communities are describing warming and "weirder" weather to scientists should add urgency to Earth Day events.

In expressing our support to the actions on April 22, People's Voice again calls for emergency climate change legislation. Environmental problems are not simply a question of individual consumption habits. They are deeply rooted in social‑economic realities. The Copenhagen Summit's failure to reach an agreement shows that imperialism aims to transfer the cost of climate change directly onto the backs of the world's peoples. For centuries, imperialist countries have pillaged the global south. Some, like Bolivian President Evo Morales, have recently called for climate reparations allowing third‑world countries to economically develop using sustainable technology.

Yet from international to domestic policy, Canada's Harper Conservatives have consistently allowed the big corporate polluters to set the guidelines, ignoring scientific facts while crafting destructive positions. We need to boot Harper out, and radically re‑write Canada's position to one of climate justice.

Our friends in the Young Communist League are currently debating putting climate change onto their priority areas of struggle (see below) in the lead‑up to their May 23‑25 Central Convention. We wish them well in this discussion. Climate justice is an important demand, not just of the youth but also the working class. Serious progress in this direction appears clearly incompatible with a social and economic system based on private ownership of wealth and resources. Protection of the environment requires a deep‑rooted social transformation, breaking away from capitalism, and instead putting nature before profits as a critical step towards socialism.


The 25th Central Convention of the Young Communist League‑Ligue de la jeunesse comuniste (YCL-LJC) will be held May 21-23 in Toronto. We reprint here some excerpts from Part 5 of the Call to the 25th Convention, the section on struggles by young people around the issue of climate change.

The issue of climate change has engaged many young people today - first, because the nature of the impacts which will primarily involve the young generation, secondly because most of us were born at a moment when climate debate became very public.

The Copenhagen conference teaches us many things. First, it illustrates how global warming is mobilizing the masses and especially the youth in all countries. The Asia‑Pacific started the flow of events around the world with some 50,000 people in the streets in Australia, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. In Manila, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and as in most major Canadian cities, rallies of several hundred protesters were also held. In Copenhagen itself, hundreds of thousands of people began marching in the cold to protest.

One thing is interesting to note in this mobilization: some have noticed, like the French deputy José Bové, a farmer and altermondialisme personality, that here is an opportunity to link "climate justice and social justice... Today, there is no break between the fight against global warming and the fight for another world."

With the abysmal failure of this United Nations conference which was suppose to conduct an agreement between states to reduce GHG following the Kyoto agreement, it becomes obvious to the people that the imperialist countries have no desire to act. The strings of this conference were pulled by the United States and its allies including Canada. The so‑called agreement that came out was not obtained in a democratic way and is a farce. In summary, the countries simply have the obligation by the end of the year to provide targets for 2020.

At this summit, leaders of imperialist countries have been singled out and accused of being in the pay of industry. For the general public, the belief is that industry and individual consumption are causing climate change. But as Marxists, we know that this is not so much the industry as the way it is implemented; in other words, how capitalism works. For itself, industry is not necessarily something negative. In fact, because of industry for the first time in history, the development of productive forces has the potential to produce enough to meet the needs of all.

About individual consumption, this is a way for capitalists to individualize the problem and put us all in the same boat. Under this idea, people are all equally responsible for the disaster. But the working men and women of the world do not consume as the bourgeois class does. Half the planet lives on less than $2 per day and is not liable as the capitalists who exploit them.

It is not without reason that the media propagate massively the idea of the individual solution. Only the rich can afford an electric car, organic vegetables or any other new product supposedly green. The conditions of the working class already determine its consumption. This idea of individual responsibility is dangerous and leads to even viewing with a negative eye the aspiration of some developing countries to achieve a standard of living equivalent to the occident.

Instead, we need to consider the demands of Evo Morales, President of the Republic of Bolivia and others who call for climate reparations, and funding sustainable technologies in the developing world. The obstacle to this is imperialism, which prefers to make trillions off these countries rather than address the gravity of climate change.

Climate change is not caused by all classes. Furthermore, it will not consistently impact humanity. Those who are most affected by environmental crisis will be the poorest in the world. Climate change will bring the disruption of ecosystems, and therefore lifestyles that are more dependent on the immediate environment. It will affect the health of populations, such as the development of certain infectious and respiratory diseases. Which brings us back to fight for a public health system accessible to all.

In 2007, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that in many developing countries, youth, and in particularly girls and young women, are often responsible for agricultural work, collecting water and firewood, tasks which "will become more difficult and take longer at the expense of education and productive activities as climate change affects access to water, agricultural productivity and the survival of ecosystems."

Imperialism is considering other approaches to solving global warming as well - so-called "Plan B." This is because the effects of global warming have already begun and are expected to get much worse. Therefore immediate problems of mitigation come into play. Plan B or geo‑engineering is the intentional large‑scale manipulation of the global environment, generally to reduce undesired climatic change (i.e., initiating a giant plankton bloom in the ocean, or the injection of large amounts of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere simulating a volcanic eruption). NASA, the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the British Royal Society, and the UK parliament are all doing studies on geo‑engineering. But these nightmarish solutions could cause unknown damage.

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