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Maybe We Can Do It

I can’t overstate how exciting, energizing and encouraging it was last weekend to join over 400,000 people in New York City marching to confront global warming. It was also a lot of fun to march with three generations of my family.

I was particularly pleased to see so many anti-capitalist signs, even though I’m sure a significant number of marchers believe in “green business” solutions. Although a bit hyperbolic, the march’s slogan “to change everything it takes everybody” embodies this contradiction. It will take a massive coalition to force those in power to make the necessary changes, but as with all coalitions, the movement to reverse global warming will be prone to political splits and co-optation.

We must not get sidetracked by initiatives that don’t address the root causes of the problem: economic growth and the resulting huge increases in consumption and population. Capitalism, which requires constant expansion and increased consumption, is the engine that drives this growth.

In my last blog I offered two basic principles for the movement:
1. The needs of the environment trump the needs of the economy; in other words capitalism has got to go.
2. The needs of the biosphere trump the needs of humanity.

Today I have two more to add:
3. Working and/or voting for elected officials who support the military industrial complex is more likely to impede, rather than aid, efforts to reverse global warming. We cannot maintain a “green” empire. This is because the military industrial complex and the empire it serves are, in combination, among the worst environmental offenders on the planet, and the never-ending wars our empire requires are massive environmental disasters. For instance, today we should be asking: “What is the carbon footprint of the war against ISIS?”

4. Radical economic transformations trump individual lifestyle changes. Curbing individual consumption in the developed world is essential to solving the problem, but it is secondary to making basic structural changes and dismantling our empire. “Green” initiatives that focus on individual behavioral changes to the exclusion of structural ones will act as a bait and switch and siphon critical energy from essential work.

This may seem like pie in the sky. How can we dismantle our empire when we have so little time? But we face an unprecedented situation and this movement could surprise us all with its explosive growth and passionate ferocity. If someone told me a year ago that over 400,000 would march in New York City to fight global warming, I would have said that was impossible too.
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