September 6, 2019

Strike for Climate!

By James Chumsa and Lia Sommer

This article is an updated version of the article published in the latest printed version of Rebel Youth

On Friday March 15, over one million young students from around the world walked out of class to demand that their governments take serious action against climate change. The global student strike for climate was held in 2000 cities across 125 countries. In Canada over 56 cities had youth climate protests, with many YCL clubs in attendance such as in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. In Nanaimo, members of the YCL were also organizers of the local climate protest.

Since then, other student lead protests have taken place. According to the official Fridays For Future Canada website, 98 cities participated in the nation wide climate strike on Friday May 3 and 104 Canadian cities participated in the Friday May 24 global strike. There are also plans for a global Earth Strike during the week of September 20-27.

The world wide student strikes for climate action are inspired by 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, who began by protesting outside the Swedish parliament buildings last year in August 2018. Terrified for her future, she decided to skip school on Fridays to protest her government's inaction on the climate crisis, hence the name Fridays For Future. Greta has since gained global attention and travelled to North America by boat to attend a UN climate summit on September 23. She will be attending the September 27th rally in Montréal.

“Starting on Friday 20 September we will kickstart a week of climate action with a worldwide strike for the climate” Greta said in a statement. Many organisations have been promoting the September general strike while local groups have been preparing actions for that week.

It is important to understand what a general strike is and to realized that it involves more than just mass demonstrations. In the past, general strikes have been called on by unions and involved the workers of an entire city or region walking off the job with the purpose of driving industry to a halt. These would involve thousands of participants, including workers from several different industries and their supporters, who protested on the streets and were often met with police. Examples of these include the 1917 International Women's Day textile worker's strike in Petrograd that initiated the Russian Revolution, and the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike 100 years ago which resulted in a streetcar tipped over and several strikers shot and arrested by North West Mounted Police on Bloody Saturday of June 21. General strikes have help the working class gain many of the rights we enjoy today, and may be an effective way to fight the fossil fuel industry and address climate change if properly organized.

Socialism or Extinction

Under our current system of capitalism, everything is exploited for the purpose of economic growth and accumulation of wealth. This ever increasing growth will never be compatible with a sustainable society because you cannot have continuous growth on a finite planet. Think of our resources in terms of a bank account. We have our main spending account that we use, but when that's used up, when those resources are used up, we take from our savings account to cover us for the rest of the year. Our current trends of over consumption forces us year by year to dip into this savings account of resources which is getting smaller and smaller, meaning less and less resources.

Our Earth Overshoot day, which is the day that humans have used up the amount of resources that the planet is able to regenerate per year is landing earlier every year. Last year in 2018 it was on August 1, this year it was on July 29. That means that for 4 months of this year we are going to be taking resources that the planet will not be able to produce for us in the future. The first overshoot day in 1970, the first time we exceeded our sustainability, was December 29. We are currently consuming 1.7 earth's worth of resources every year.

Since capitalism is the cause of the current sixth mass extinction, a socialist economy can be looked to as a solution. The choice now is either socialism or extinction as there are several examples of socialist nations that have found solutions to the ecological crisis.

According to the World Wildlife Fund in 2016, Cuba is the only sustainable country in the world as it manages a to retain a low ecological footprint while keeping a relatively high standard of living for its citizens. Cuba adopted to a low carbon society in the 1990s when the Soviet Union was overthrown and a major importer of fossil fuels was lost. Cuba had to make a dramatic transition during this Special Period, and under socialism they did.

China has last year already reached its Paris Agreement goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that were set for 2020. The Chinese government took action and managed to dramatically reduce the pollution from it's largest companies with a carbon credit system, meaning that corporations that choose to pollute are forced to pay for it.

China has also taken on planting millions of trees, so much that NASA has spotted large regions of green in the eastern half of the country that were not there 20 years ago. China's efforts to plant trees is noticeable from space, and 60,000 soldiers in the People's Liberation Army are currently being mobilized to plant 32,400 acres more.

Canada, a capitalist country, is not doing so well. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did declare a nationwide climate emergency on June 17, he also approved the Trans Mountain fossil fuel pipeline the next day. Trudeau has broken many of his promises to Indigenous communities, who have already been fighting the hardest to defend their natural ecosystems. Canada is far behind on reducing carbon emissions and reaching the Paris Agreement target for 2020. At the current rate it would take centuries to reach that goal, and by that time it would be far too late.

Which is why it us up to the youth, the students and the next generation of leaders to clean up the mess and the mistakes that previous generations have made. We must work to dismantle capitalism so the Earth is no longer seen as a commodity and to end the this trend of mindless over consumption.

We must act now.

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