We are running out of time to use failed strategies against the climate crisis

2022 1124 climate shirt

Scientists, politicians and oil companies have been aware of the link between fossil fuel production, ecocide and the climate crisis for more than 70 years. However, in 2021, the world broke the record for carbon dioxide emissions.

If the systems created by the rich could have meaningfully resolved the crisis, they would have by now. Many of us feel stagnant, increasingly aware of this grim reality, but unsure where else to direct our energies. In his new book, The Solutions Are Already Here: Strategies for an Environmental Revolution from Below, Peter Gelderloos offers a robust critique of government and market solutions that claim to combat ecocide, and contrasts them with examples of bottom-up solutions that manage to slow down the necropolitical mechanisms that make life on this planet unlivable. It encourages people who care about the environment to imagine and create their own dynamic, contextualized ecosystems of insurgency, located outside of electoral channels and on their own grounds.

Gelderloos is also honest about the obstacles horizontal, insurgent movements often face: from political repression to power grabs to interpersonal strife. He writes: “This is still a David vs. Goliath battle, and if we treat this environmental crisis like a casino bet, as economists do, we’d have more money. cleverly positioned to support the forces of the apocalypse. But, he adds, “this diverse network of disabled people is our best hope.” In this interview, Gelderloos discusses critiques of the Green New Deal, the relationship between colonialism and ecocide, and the importance of concepts like autonomy and solidarity to inform our struggles for a better world.

Ella Fassler: In your book, you argue with colonialism and the main causes of the climate crisis are not “human activities”, but states. Can you break this down for us? What is the relationship between hierarchy and the climate crisis?

Peter Gelderloos: Humans have existed for 300,000 years. As human groups moved around the world, they learned to adapt to new habitats, but if environmental destruction was an innate consequence of human society, we would never have survived as a species. Given the great variety of ways that human societies have found to feed themselves and exist as responsible parts of their local ecosystems, it is also simplistic to place the blame on agriculture.

However, there is one configuration of human society that, in every case we know of, has led to the destruction of their native ecosystems, usually in the form of deforestation and soil depletion. These configurations are states or hierarchies that are far along the continuum toward statehood. By their very nature, states are exploitative, warlike institutions that treat their subjects—both human and nonhuman—as resources to be exploited.

The states that some popular authors cite as examples of ecological states actually tend to practice something like feudalism, a dual system of (and) autonomous peoples. no government departments) are responsible for most interactions with the rest of the ecosystem.

As for ecological collapse on a planetary scale, this could only have been imagined when the state institutions developed in Europe were forcibly imposed on the rest of the world through colonialism. This was not a voluntary process. And it should be seen as a continuous process, because we all, everywhere in the world, are still forced to live our lives within the boundaries set by the capitalist institutions and state structures developed by those colonial powers and their successors like the United States.

You explain that policy solutions like the Green New Deal require increasing deficit spending, which does not cause economic collapse as long as governments service their interest payments. But governments can only service these payments if their economies and GDPs continue to grow, which is impossible for a planet with limited resources, and an argument I have never openly considered. Why are top-down solutions like the Green New Deal, even solutions based on racial and economic justice, completely inadequate and, as you say, unrealistic to solve the climate crisis?

The Green New Deal is great for capitalism. This is a proposal designed to save capitalism from its excesses, from the crisis created by capitalism. In this respect, it is very similar to FDR’s New Deal, which was implemented not to save the working class from capitalism, but to save capitalism from the revolutionary movements of a disgruntled working class.

The Green New Deal provides new growth for capitalism at a time when capitalism has struggled for decades to generate real growth. It promotes highly destructive mining projects and massive energy infrastructure so the rich can get richer off electric cars and other bogus solutions, while indigenous land is stolen in one of the biggest land grabs since Columbus for industrial wind farms, lithium mines, copper mines and other extraction. projects.

The Green New Deal is the best hope not for the survival of the planet, but for the survival of capitalism.

If the Green New Deal is not our magic bullet, what are some common solutions and one or two specific actions that give you hope and inspire you?

There is such a concern for the entire planet/society/economy to create a holistic plan to solve this whole problem. But it’s this mindset that gets us into this mess, and anyone with experience in bureaucracy knows that the people at the top with the plans are the ones who have the least idea of ​​what’s actually going on on the ground.

In fact, real intelligence is decentralized, localized, contextual. Liberated communities, liberated ecosystems, will know better than anyone what is needed to adapt and heal. A network of liberated communities can share knowledge and resources on a planetary scale. This is already happening, but NGOs and pundits ignore it while governments label it “terrorism” and try to eradicate it.

to ZAD to save the Atlanta Forest from Standing Rock (Defense zone, or Zone to Defend) in France, fighting against wind farms in Oaxaca and the oil industry in the Niger Delta, these movements are already strong, they are already global, they are already learning from each other. They just need more support and people need to stop lending their attention, credibility, resources and patience to entities responsible for ecocide or selling bogus solutions to it.

There is a bit of a contradiction between being opposed to “converting” people to a certain way of thinking, while at the same time admitting that many of our revolutionary horizons have not been realized because repressive mechanisms can convert the public and perhaps some for good. – organizers intent on the most “radical” elements of the movement. How do you deal with this conflict?

Autonomy and solidarity are useful concepts because it means that each person determines his own needs, each person determines his own struggle for freedom and a dignified life, as long as it does not make freedom or survival impossible for someone else. If you come from a different struggle tradition, or if you care more about freedom of language, or certain organizational methods, or the food culture that your people have practiced in that area for thousands of years, that’s okay. But if your version of freedom calls for suffocating Venezuela and Nigeria with their oil economy, I’m sorry, you’re not part of our family.

These are very sensible ideas that clearly explain the best possible way forward for a whole world of very different communities. People can usually understand this concept and support it very quickly as a shared framework. Until they understand, states are incompatible with this best possible world. Until they figure it out, that means their political party can’t come up with a plan for all species and the rest of the natural world.

Historically, when push comes to shove, the left has always chosen plans over solidarity. They say it’s pragmatic. Well, in the last 50 years, protected areas managed by pragmatic NGOs and pragmatic government programs have increased by 500 percent, but at the same time, animal populations have decreased by 70 percent.

As I point out in my book, police agencies and corporate security consultants are charged with tracking and thwarting actions to save the planet, identifying especially pragmatic activists and organizations as the most gullible, easiest to manipulate, and therefore prime for pressure. divide the action. Maybe it’s time to stop listening to the pragmatists?

Some readers may not be ideologically or ethically opposed to legal action or direct action in the face of the climate crisis, but feel they are not in a position to face jail time or criminal charges. What advice would you give them?

It is so important to break free from this frontline mentality that only certain ways of participating in the struggle are valuable or worthy of celebration. As much as we need people who confront the cops or subvert the megaprojects and economic systems that kill us, we need people who bring real experiences of transformative justice to our communities and movements. We need movement historians to help us remember where we came from so we don’t have to start from scratch every 10 years. We need people who support those in prison, those with depression, those with health problems. We need gardeners. We need healers. We need people who can fix and repair the machines that we really need to live in dignity.