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THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have just 11 more years to avert the worst excesses of the climate crisis.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is setting the Amazon ablaze.
The Amazon fires are no tragedy. They are no natural disaster. They are the logical conclusion of a disaster capitalist economic model, where people and planet are treated as resources to be exploited.
Big-money loggers and corporate industrialised agriculture have been let loose by a far-right president whose policies encapsulate the unholiest of unions between fascism and neoliberalism.
The state-sanctioned arson of the world’s largest rainforest might be the most striking example of the ascent of a toxic hard-right ideology in Brazil.
But it’s sadly far from the only one. Across the globe, the right is in the ascendancy.
And as Bolsonaro sets fire to the Amazon, Boris Johnson is busy setting fire to Britain’s democracy. Regardless of your position on Brexit, last week’s developments are deeply worrying.
An unelected racist who came to power through a coup within the Conservative Party, and is now attempting a coup to sideline Parliament, scrutiny and a general election.
All the while, we stand at the cusp of an environmental catastrophe that is already devastating the lives of people throughout the global South.
This context means there’s no more room for half-measures. Those of us on the left must build an unprecedented resistance to the Johnsons, Bolsonaros and Trumps. And the seeds of this resistance are already being sown.
Over the last year we’ve seen a resurgence of the climate movement, with teenagers taking the struggle for climate justice to the streets in all corners of the world — from Australia to Sweden, Britain to China.
Alongside them, the waves of civil disobedience led by Extinction Rebellion have put climate change at the top of the political agenda.
They’ve built on the tireless work of the fossil fuel divestment campaigners, the communities resisting fracking, and the indigenous peoples fighting the expansions of tar sands oil extraction.
With these movements driving the conversation on climate change, it’s time we started to articulate a way out of the crisis.
What’s needed is a path which not only averts an ecological disaster, but which takes seriously the economic, social and political crises too.
That means a rapid transition away from a fossil-fuelled economy. But it also means a transition that transforms people’s lives for the better and radically redistributes wealth and power.
For Britain to begin to play its role in tackling the climate crisis, we’ll need to invest proper state resources into new infrastructure and industry — generating a revolution in renewable energy, and providing well-paid, empowering and socially useful jobs for those who produce them.
We’ll need a public transport system that is fit for the 21st century, providing local carbon connectivity across the country, through a publicly owned model which puts people at its heart and ends the scandal of rip-off fares and money being siphoned off by the train barons and the bus cartels.
And we’ll need an overhaul of our political system to localise and democratise decision-making, enabling towns and cities to regain power at a community level, rather than resembling identikit carbon copies with their multinational dominated centres and privatised public spaces.
This kind of change isn’t a luxury. It’s an ecological and social necessity. Whether you call it a green new deal, a just transition, or socialism — it’s the only way we’ll get out of the crisis. And we need to build the political infrastructure to deliver it now.
That’s what I hope to build through the Young Greens — the Green Party’s youth and student branch. We’re gearing up to fight for this vision at the ballot box and on the streets.
In practice this means building a base of Young Greens across the country who are fighting tooth and nail to reverse the trend of hollowing-out of local government — through outsourcing and through Westminster power grabs.
That’s councillors who deliver pioneering programmes of municipal socialism funding energy and housing co-operatives, reclaiming public land and municipalising utilities. Or else activists who can mobilise their community to force their Tory councils to take these policies seriously, or hold their Labour councils to account if they don’t.
And nationally we have a crucial role to play too. Most of our members first became politicised during the neoliberal era of Blair’s Labour Party, or in the bland capitulation of Ed Miliband.
We understand and recognise that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn have moved significantly to the left, and the country will be all the better for it.
But we also recognise that it was Greens that helped to create the political space for this shift, and that Labour still so often don’t get things right — whether it be on the failure to secure a unified position against the expansion of Heathrow or in their silence on the role North Sea oil and gas should play in our energy future.
We’ll continue to add pressure, in public debate and in elections, to anchor them to the left. And where Labour fails to deliver, we’ll more than happily take their place.
As critical allies, now more than ever, we have a vital role to play in building the resistance to the hard right, and in pushing for a truly green and radical transformation of our society.
Rosie Rawle is co-chair of the Young Greens.
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