The last couple of weeks have seen the publication of two articles in the mainstream media whose implications could not be any more explicit or terrifying. According to last week’s Guardian we face a(nother) global economic crisis as a result of the imminent bursting of the ‘carbon bubble’: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis. What this means is that the energy markets have not yet priced into their models the fact that most of the world’s fossil fuel resources will have to stay in the ground if the world is to make any serious attempt to tackle climate change. The energy industry’s concerted efforts to sponsor inaction on climate change have, therefore, been an ongoing and desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable moment when their share prices take into account either the fact that their well will very soon run dry or that the global ecosystem which sustains all human activity will soon collapse.
Another article published today on the BBC News website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22002530) goes by the title ‘How is the world going to become extinct?’, and reports that a group of Oxford scientists are addressing this question very seriously indeed, speculating about what will (not might) deal the killer blow to the human race: an unpredictable and uncontrolled acceleration in computer technology is a contender, the unforeseen ecological side-effects of new synthetic organisms another. As this is the BBC, the article makes no specific reference to climate change, but it is unlikely that the scientists themselves are quite so complacent. In the words of Dr Nick Bostrom, “There is a bottleneck in human history. The human condition is going to change. It could be that we end in a catastrophe or that we are transformed by taking much greater control over our biology…this could be humanity’s final century.”
So, to recap: either we fundamentally and immediately transform our economic way of life and our relationships with technology and our environment, or we face not just social collapse but planetary annihilation. Could the need for a workable alternative to the insanely destructive logic of neoliberal turbocapitalism be any starker?
It is therefore critical that Left Unity have at its base a radical green agenda. It is not enough to pay lip service to the need to ‘protect the environment’. Every aspect of our opposition to austerity and our revisioning of society, each one of our policies and initiatives must be conditioned by the need to dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and develop sustainable alternatives. The concept of climate justice must also be a founding tenet of our organisation, especially given that climate change is already having a devastating impact on the lives of millions of people around the world, especially the very poorest. Above all, the question of who pays for climate change is a profoundly political one; thanks to another recent Guardian report (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/21/global-elite-tax-offshore-economy) we know that no less than $21 trillion is currently hidden in offshore accounts by the world’s rich. The resources we need in order to begin to reconstruct society on a fairer and more sustainable basis are there. If we are to survive for more than a few short and painful decades we simply have no alternative but to join together and seize them.