This letter was written in response to an e-mail arguing that we should not criticize the emergence of ‘green capitalism’ & that doing so was giving far too much weight too ‘politics and ideology’. Rather we should focus our activism on encouraging ‘swift global co-operation’ to solve the climate crisis.

It has been argued that climate change will be solved not by ‘politics’ but instead by ‘swift global co-operation’. It’s implied that this means prioritising big international climate summits like Poznan recently and Copenhagen next year and seeing them as decision-making forums of the utmost importance. Rather than struggling against them, we have to influence them.

To me this logic means ignoring huge class divisions: somehow attempting to foster ‘co-operation’ between us and the rich, privileged climate delegates who’ll be staying in Copenhagen’s exclusive hotels next December. In terms of the Australian representatives, it means trying to influence a bunch of people whose idea of ‘emergency state intervention’ is almost certainly a lot closer to the NT Intervention than to legislation that will drastically reduce emissions. It also ignores our own history of struggle: since when has the state granted us favors because we asked nicely.

Rather than relying on the state or on elite delegates it’s in co-operation between ‘us’-amongst social movements and oppressed people acting & self-organising from below- that hope lies.

When I’ve talked with some of the many wonderful environmental justice activists around the country it has previously always been very clear which side we were on. Against corporations who destroyed forests & set up poisonous mines on Aboriginal land. Creatively resisting environmental criminals at economic summits & organising strongly in solidarity against the police repression that often followed. Arguing passionately against Kevin Rudd & Labor as well, and their grand plans for non-existent ‘clean’ coal and for carbon trading mechanisms that will hurt the poor.

For a world that wasn’t only a continuation of this fucking rotten system, but one organised in a decentralised way & without hierarchies and leaders. This wasn’t just about creating new, directly democratic ways of living for a small number of activists – but was a practice essential to helping make a world that could be ecologically sustainable.

Is this all forgotten & is it just ‘politics and ideology’ now? I hope not.

When people write about green capitalism it isn’t something that’s completely abstract and removed from our lives. I saw a small example of it when I got my morning news from the Australian today: they have a shiny new ad putting forward the delights of ‘green business’:

My personal favourite is the bit from the notorious polluters at the Australian Coal Association – apparently they’re ‘working to reduce CO2 emissions’. Good on them!

Green capitalism can already be seen much more sharply in the Global South. It works, for instance, through ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ projects, imposed as a requirement of the Kyoto Protocol. These have devastated local communities and have been met with resistance. A waste landfill site in the Clare Estate township in South Africa is a classic example. Extolled by the World Bank as ‘environmentally progressive’; due to the extraction of some methane (one of the most potent greenhouse gases), the site produces toxins that have caused leukemia, tumours and cancer.

Capital is part of the earth we live in, part of the air we breathe: of course a movement for climate justice should critique it.
– Tim.