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How can we prevent climate catastrophe?

By Phil Gasper International Socialist Review no. 112 - Spring 2019

(3 paragraphs from a much longer essay)

ISR #112

We have to raise demands and be involved in grassroots struggles that can start shifting the economy away from fossil-fuel dependency as soon as possible. What is important to remember is that the form of the struggle matters just as much as its immediate goal. We want to mobilize the largest numbers of people possible. Radical change can only come about through the action of mass movements, and participation in mass movements changes the people who are involved in them. They begin to develop the skills and the confidence for society to be run on a truly democratic basis, which is the defining characteristic of genuine socialism.

How can we go about building that kind of movement? People are already beginning to move into action, and it is this that should give us some hope and inspiration. Immediately after last year’s mid-term elections, activists in the Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington to demand progressive climate action, supported by newly elected member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.28 The young people involved may have all kinds of mixed ideas. Some of them no doubt have illusions about what the Democratic Party is willing to do. But much more important than that is the fact that they took direct action. It is through involvement in struggle that people’s ideas begin to change as they come to see that tinkering with the system isn’t enough and that we need a much more thorough-going transformation….

There are other demands that could and should be raised, including a huge expansion of mass transit and a state-of-the art high-speed-train network across the country. Demands like these begin to challenge the logic of the capitalist market and give the opportunity to build campaigns and movements that can go on to fight for more. The role of socialists is to participate in whatever struggles like this emerge, fighting for immediate victories, while making an argument about why we need to go much further with the goal of building an ecosocialist alternative to capitalism. None of this is going to be easy. But it is possible, and it offers an inspiring vision. Most importantly, if we don’t fight for this alternative, capitalism will surely take us over the climate cliff.

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