Struggles Across Borders: Resisting Climate Breakdown and State Violence

Struggles Across Borders: Resisting Climate Breakdown and State Violence


Hi everyone. Thanks so much. This is like, a full room. So thanks so much for
coming to my talk. I’m really, really glad to
be here for Unity Through Diversity Week. And you know the
other thing, as John was mentioning in
the introduction, actually, my mom taught
here at Highline College almost 30 years ago. She taught Spanish here. So I feel really honored
to be here again, you know. I guess, so it’s a
nice coincidence. OK, so the topic of
my discussion today is, as you can see here,
“Struggles Across Borders– Resisting Climate Breakdown
and State Violence.” And so you might notice that
I’m using the word “climate breakdown,” as opposed
to “climate change.” And the reason
for this is that I think that this describes
our situation more accurately than simply, “climate change.” Climate change kind of implies
like, a passive process, like it’s kind of
happening, it’s kind of like a natural process. But what’s actually happening
is that the climate is at risk of breaking down entirely. So I’m going to split up
my comments in three parts. I’m going to give a
theoretical introduction about this problem. I’m going to give some examples
of cross-border resistance, both against
environmental destruction, and against state violence. And try to answer this very
important question, which is, how is it that we
can resist these trends toward environmental
destruction, reassert our power collectively,
and remake our world so as to actually stave off
this horrible threat that we are facing. So I want to begin by discussing
borders and sovereignty. And I’m going to
give some examples through my life and
my work, and I just want to mention them here. So No Más Muertes,
or No More Deaths, is a group on the border
with Arizona and Mexico. SIPAZ is the
International Service for Peace, where I worked in
Mexico, almost 10 years ago, for a year. And then Palestine, I
was there for six months in the West Bank. Syria, I’ve never
been to Syria, but I have been involved with
solidarity movements with the people of Syria
in the last few years. So I want to just
give, as I said, a theoretical introduction
to this problem. So in order to
understand what’s going on with the environment
and the climate, I think we really need to look
at the institutions that are governing our society, right? So I want to just begin by
discussing, what is the state? The state, it’s another
word for government, and it’s really actually
a very recent invention. It goes back to the Treaty of
Westphalia in Europe, 1648. So states can be said to
basically be institutions that govern a given territory– as the sociologist
Max Weber said– states have a monopoly over
the effective use of force, or the legitimate use of force
within a given territory. So if you think about the
police, or the military, this is what Weber
is getting at. And in general, the state is a
pyramidal social institution. That is to say, it is not an
egalitarian or collective one. Rather, there is a concentration
at the top of power, and a small group of people
basically decide politics for the rest of the
country and of the world. So I just want to pose
the question, like, do you see any borders here? No, right? I mean, borders are
entirely arbitrary. We can say that if you look
at the US-Mexico border with Texas, there is the
Rio Grande, for example. There’s many different
rivers, and mountain ranges, and things that
throughout history have served as like, an effective
boundary, or border. But when we talk
about borders, we’re talking about specific
social institution, and we’re talking
about the state. So I mean borders are
arbitrary, as you can see here, it’s just another representation
of the same thing. OK and then the second main– the second main
social institution I want to talk about here
today is capitalism, right? And capitalism
describes our economy, how it is that we organize
production, consumption, distribution, and so on. So of course, capitalism
doesn’t mean “the economy.” Rather, if we look
at human history, from Mesopotamia
to the present– and even before all of that
happened, before the state even arose with agriculture in the
Middle East several thousand years ago– so we see that capitalism is
a specific form of economy, right? And it’s organized around
the principle of profit. That is to say, making more
money than you spend in a given business operation, right? And so there is some
debate about when it is that this
economic system began. Some historians say
that it began with 1492, when Columbus quote unquote
“discovered” the New World. Or you can also say
that the early 1600s. And I just want to
give to two definitions for trying to understand
what capitalism is. The first comes
from Karl Polanyi, in The Great
Transformation, this book, he basically discusses
how capitalism is unique as a market economy
in history, in human history. Because in capitalism,
the market– and if you think
about the Middle East, or indigenous societies here,
or Europe in the Middle Ages– all of these societies
before capitalism. Of course, in many
cases they had markets, that’s to say you
go to the market to get food, or artisan whatever,
whatever good you want. That doesn’t mean by itself
that you have capitalism. So what Polanyi’s point was
is that capitalism basically enshrines the economy throughout
the entire world, right? And so Habermas, who was a
German critical theorist, talks about this as the
colonization of the life world. Basically that the economy
takes over all of society, rather than just
being restricted to one aspect of life,
as in previous times. And then of course Karl Marx, in
his very famous Capital Volume One defines capitalism
as an economy that is based on
the exploitation and the commodification
of labor. That is to say, that
capitalism requires the worker to be subordinate to the boss. That is the basic
relationship of capitalism. And capitalism can
only come about once the commons
have been destroyed. Let me explain that. So in England in the 16th
century, and even before then, there was– and throughout the world
in fact, in Mexico, in many places– there is such a
concept of the commons, or common property,
collective property. So if you think about like,
grazing with cattle, and so on. In England, many of
the poor peasants had a large area of land where
they could take their cattle to just graze commonly. And there wasn’t
any– no one was owning that land or anything. However capitalism,
once it came about, basically required
the destruction of all those common lands. And that’s how you did in
fact have capitalism emerging in England in the
1600s and 1700s. That is to say, the
ruling class of England imposed these laws where
the common property was all privatized by the rich. So that the peasantry,
and the poor people could not rely on those
resources anymore. Instead, they had to be
subjected to the worker, if you see what– excuse me, to the
capitalists, to the boss. So they had to become workers. So that is the whole
point of capitalism. And so what’s the relationship
between these two things I’ve been discussing? What’s the relationship between
capitalism and the state? Arguably, the two do
reinforce each other. We have some examples we can
think of, like the arms trade, for example, which is one
of those profitable trades in the entire world. That’s a good example. Also wars. If you think of all the
wars that the states of the world, all the
governments of the world do, that actually serves the
arms manufacturers, people who make money off of wars. So the state and capitalism do
serve each other in that way. They’re both pyramidal
social institutions, right? So capitalism is
a class society, where there’s the rich. In theory there’s
a middle class, although in fact, as we probably
have noticed over the last 30 years, that middle class
is really shrinking. And then of course, there’s the
vast majority of the population being workers, right? And you know, we have the
phenomenon of capitalist media, right? Like the television,
all of these things, how the way that education works. A lot of different cultural
aspects of capitalist society actually arguably
are programmed so as to continue to serve
that same system. So you have the
capitalist media, like the mass media
promoting nationalism, you know, sexism, racism,
ignorance, all these things right? And arguably, that’s part
of this whole thing, that’s part of the whole strategy. So OK, so we have these
two institutions which are ruling our world,
and as I will describe, are perpetuating this problem
of environmental crisis. So what are some alternatives? And that’s the main
point of my talk today. So I want to I want
to stress that some of the alternatives to
these two institutions are egalitarian, international
social movements. And I will go through
a lot of examples. But I just want to frame
it, basically here, with regards to principles. So I just want to
briefly introduce the idea of liberative
social ethics. This is a framework
where basically, the idea is that we have to struggle
for continuous social transformation or social change. But this approach believes,
number one, in human equality, that we’re all equal and
we all have equal rights. And number two, that
we are all free. That we should be free, or we
should be allowed to be free. OK, so that’s one approach. However, we have a
different approach, which is arguably, I would
say, the approach that those in power are perpetuating now. Which is to say, authoritarian
ethics, which presupposes the denial of human freedom,
the imposition of a relationship where there’s like,
a boss and a worker, or someone on top and
someone on bottom. Something like that. And also, you can’t see it here,
but truth under this paradigm is basically
determined by power. Who is it that has power? That’s the way that you
see truth coming out. And if you look at the
Soviet Union in history, there were a lot of lies– of course, that
were happening also, of course, here in
the United States, with Donald Trump,
and all these things. So there are many, many examples
of this dynamic playing out. OK so here are some photos. Does anyone recognize this flag
here, the green with the red? Syria, right, uh-huh. Anything– but is that the
government flag of Syria? No, right, exactly. That’s the Free Syria flag. And the picture that you
see in the lower left corner is in Gaza, in occupied
Palestine, in the Gaza Strip. Where for the last
year, every Friday they’ve been going
out to protest against the Israeli
occupation, against their basic their situation,
their condition. And so several hundred of
Palestinians have died, have been shot by
the Israeli military, protesting for their
rights on the border. But here you see these
women actually also carrying a Free Syria flag. So while they are fighting
for their own rights to free Palestine, they
are also supporting the brothers and sisters
across the border in Syria. And then the other
picture that we see here is actually a protest,
very recently, from Sudan. I don’t know which
city it’s from, but you can see, similarly,
that the Free Syria flag is very inspirational
for these people coming out to the
streets, who did realize their dream of
getting rid of Omar al-Bashir. And the example of
the Syrian revolution is really very inspirational
around the region, and hopefully maybe even here. And here’s another example,
a picture from New York. Free Palestinian,
Palestine solidarity. There’s a lot there’s a lot
going on with that as well. OK, here’s a picture of some
people who were involved with No Más Muertes as I discussed
as I mentioned earlier. So No Más Muertes this is a
group that I also worked with for a little bit in 2012, and
what they do is that they are on the border of
Arizona with Mexico, and they basically
provide humanitarian aid, with regards to food. No Más Muertes does border
water drops throughout different trails where migrants
typically go, and so on. So it’s definitely
a great example of what I’m trying to propose
here, in terms of like, grass roots people power
approaches to this problem. However, you do see that
recently No Más Muertes has been cracked down on by
the Trump administration. They’re now facing
multiple felony counts for simply engaging
in solidarity work, humanitarian support
for these oppressed migrants. So there’s also
that problem, right, which is that when we have
movements and groups that are supporting vulnerable people
or groups like migrants, whose existence threatens the whole
existence of the state, then we see that the state
cracks down on this. And I have many other
examples that I’ll get to. So solidarity, this
is a principle, right? This is a principle of
international social movements. So solidarity,
basically, I would say is another way of
expressing human compassion, human compassion, and
also human egalitarianism. That is to say, we’re
all in this together, and we should support
each other, right? And so solidarity
does not distinguish between anyone who is in
this country as opposed to any other country,
because we’re all the same, in the sense
that we’re all humans. So that’s what
internationalism means. That we don’t discriminate
against people simply because they’re
from a different country. Rather, we should
incorporate their interests into our own struggles. And solidarity shows how
arbitrary borders are, and how arbitrary states are. So that was my
theoretical introduction. So now let’s talk about
the environmental crisis. So what about nature? Here you see from a famous
photo of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. And so this is a photo from the
Cancun Conference of Parties. The Conference of Parties
is a yearly conference where all the major– well, in theory, all of
the countries of the world come together to try to
hash out a treaty in order to deal with climate change. And so they’ve been doing
this for many, many years. I would say over 20
years at this point. And so there has been
a lot of discourse, a lot of talk about
how nature has rights, how the environment, we should
support the environment, we should protect it, and so on. But this cartoon is kind of
criticizing that concept. Like, what rights
does nature have when it’s being subjected to
all of these destructive things, like pollution, just
wild urbanization, and all of these things. I think you can also see the
fish nets below the pig too. So then the question comes,
the question is raised, does nature have rights, right? Because you know, humans
have rights, in theory. Humans, that’s the
idea of human rights, that’s the idea of egalitarian
solidarity across borders. So human rights very much
underpins that approach. So similarly, in parallel, can
we say that nature has rights? And it’s interesting because
the Ecuadorian and Bolivian governments in South America,
in the last decade or so have actually
formally recognized that nature has rights. So in the Bolivian constitution,
it’s been integrated, and also the
Ecuadorian government has passed laws
recognizing the same. But is this, is this real,
or is this just kind of fake? Is this like, a PR campaign? If you look at
Ecuador, in fact, there was a very interesting proposal
that the previous government led by President
Correa had proposed. That is to say, that there was
a very large oil deposit found in the Yasuni biosphere
reserve, which is in the Amazon within Ecuador. So Correa basically
proposed to the world, look, we estimate the
value of this oil to be x number of
billion dollars– I don’t remember what it was. And so what he was
saying is, look, we want to protect
the environment, we don’t want to destroy it. So pay us, and we won’t, OK? So that was his proposal, which
completely failed, of course. No one wanted to
finance that program. But it is one approach. OK, that’s one approach in terms
of international cooperation, for trying to deal
with this problem. Of course, given
that no one paid out, it’s currently being
completely exploited. And there’s been a lot of
indigenous peoples resistance and protests against this. But nonetheless, my
point here is simply to say that Ecuador formally
recognizing that nature has rights, and
then goes on to do this you know pretty
ecocidal, environmentally destructive action. Of course, that’s not
to say that we should focus on Ecuador and Bolivia. No, I’m coming to that. Because of course, if
we look at historically, since the beginning of
the Industrial Revolution, the beginning of capitalism,
we see very clearly that the United States is
by far the most responsible for carbon emissions. For greenhouse gas
emissions, which are the emissions that
are causing our climate and our atmosphere to warm. So right now, although, and
I want to show you the– here we go. So this is a nice chart. This just shows the
historical responsibility of all carbon emissions. So you can see that the
United States is way higher than anyone else, at 28%. The next highest is China, at 9%
of total historical emissions. So even though China right now
is actually beating the United States, in the sense it’s
the number one emitter, clearly the case is that the
United States has the most responsibility overall. The other thing that
we have to think about is that in China, there
is a great, a huge amount of pollution,
specifically because China is where so much
of the production of the global capitalist
economy happens. All of the electronics,
so many goods and services that are produced there. And the problem
is that basically while we, or the rest of the
world enjoys those goods, the problem is that the
environmental consequences of those stay in China. So definitely the United
States is a huge problem in this sense, in terms
of the government. From George H.W. Bush to the
current president, Donald Trump, all governments
have refused to recognize that this is
a serious problem, much less do anything about it. And so a couple
of years ago now, Trump withdrew the United
States from the Paris Accord, or the Paris Agreement. And that was an agreement
that was hashed out a few years back at the
Paris Conference of Parties. And there was a lot of
fanfare in the global media, everyone was very like,
optimistic and hopeful that we were actually going
to deal with this problem. Because it seemed that the
governments of the world were coming together to do it. Then, of course Donald
Trump simply smashed it by basically just
withdrawing unilaterally. And here’s just a
picture of his speech. Yeah, it’s very, very sad. OK, I just want to– I know we’re dealing with a
lot of difficult subjects here, so I just want to just
pan out for a moment, just consider what
we’re dealing with here. So just want to share a
few pictures of places that I’ve visited
in my life, some of the more beautiful places. So this is a beach in
Oaxaca, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. This is near Cozumel,
in Playa del Carmen. This is in Chiapas, some nice
lakes, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. And this is also very nice,
in Chiapas, in the jungle, I went to this Laguna Miramar. Very beautiful. So I want to show
you this clip– I don’t know if I have
time though, so maybe not. Yeah. OK so now, let’s
look specifically at the problem of climate
vulnerability, OK? So this is a map that
basically was created by a risk assessment group. And so what they’re
doing here is they’re looking at the
projections of climate change over the next century,
of climate breakdown, and its impacts on different
societies in the world. And so basically it’s
color-coded, as you can see, the worst effects
are in the deep red. And the regions that’ll
be least affected, or that would be
OK, more or less, are those that are green, right? So you see very,
very clearly, right, a very, very clear colonial
and geographical aspect to this right? Whereby you see that
the United States in particular, northern
Europe, they seem to be OK. Whereas you know Central
Africa is completely baked. Same thing for South Asia,
Southeast Asia, and much of Central America
and South America. So the problem that we have
here in terms of global warming climate breakdown is really,
like, another expression of colonialism, of imperialism. Where the societies of
the North, European, or European-American societies,
have historically exploited the environment and
the biosphere so much, and have gained so much
from that very exploitation, yet they are the
ones who will be– or we, they– will be
the ones who least have the effects from this problem. So basically, it’s a grave
historical injustice. And yes, these are just a few
photos illustrating the same. This photo over
here on the right is of Sukkur, Pakistan in 2010. There was extremely
unprecedented flooding in Pakistan
during that year. Several millions of
people were displaced. And arguably, this was
supercharged– this storm that created these floods– was
supercharged by climate change, just based off of the
physics of the equation. That is to say, when you have
an environment or an atmosphere that has more water
vapor, then you have more frequent and
more intense storms like you had here. And then of course, the
photo on the upper left is in Mozambique. Very recently they
had the cyclone Idai, which of course, was
very devastating, if you saw the photos
or the news about that. And similarly, you have a
family in Northern India, I believe, on the
last photo there, just escaping some flooding
from a few years back. OK, so this is actually an
illustration from my book. Of course, I didn’t
illustrate it. It was [? Santi ?]
[? Mazatil, ?] who is a Mexican activist and radical. So I found this image in The
Independent, the newspaper from England. And this was in 2011, when there
was a very, very serious famine going on in the Horn of Africa,
and Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea. And so I asked him to
illustrate this for me for one of the chapters,
because of what I was trying to get
at, right, which is what I’ve been discussing
the last few minutes. That is to say, that climate
change is fundamentally historically unjust. This is a good schematic of a
recent scientific paper that came out last fall, and I
would very highly recommend, if you’re interested,
to check it out. And basically, what
it’s talking about here, let me try to explain. So it looks a little
bit busy, right? So here we have– so the glacial-interglacial
system, right? So in the last– since
we’ve had human agriculture in the last 12,000
years, we’ve been going through the
interglacial cycle, right? So that means that we are within
like a stable climate that will allow the glaciers
to come back in the future if that’s the case. And having the glaciers
is very, very important for human agriculture. So what does dynamic,
what this chart is showing is that we have basically
two options, OK? So we have the
option of what they call engaging in earth
system stewardship, right, and basically piloting the
earth to a safe future, called stabilized earth. Or we have the
much worse outcome of human emissions
going up and up, the biosphere being degraded,
planetary threshold being surpassed, and then the feedback
loops of climate change leading inevitably to hothouse earth. And let me explain. So the climate change is a very
serious problem in the sense that it creates its own
feedback loops, right? It’s kind of like the Sorcerer’s
Apprentice from Disney. In the sense that if you think
about the Amazon rainforest, for example. If it’s too hot,
or if it’s too dry, then the Amazon rainforest
dries out and burns, right? And for that reason,
all the massive carbon that is stored within those
trees in that environment would be released
into the atmosphere. So that by itself would
worsen global warming. You can think similarly
of, in the Arctic region, with the methane deposits
that are below the permafrost. They’ve been stored
there for many, many– I don’t even know
how many millennia. But the idea, similarly,
is if it gets too warm, then the methane
might be released up into the atmosphere. And methane is much worse
than carbon dioxide, if you compare it one-to-one,
in terms of its warming effect. So what then is the
connection between capitalism, the state, and eco-crisis? And here I want to
just show a short clip by George Monbiot, who is
a British environmental journalist. And let me just pull that up. You say people
should do, George, if they could do one thing. What we have to do is the big
structural, political economic stuff. What we’re being told to do
is change your cotton buds, and all these pathetic,
micro consumerist bollocks. Which just isn’t going
to get us anywhere. You know, there
are two things you can do as a consumer
which do make change. Switch to a plant-based diet. That’s one. Big, big change,
because animal farming has this massive
environmental impact. Another one, stop flying. But beyond that, actually
everything we have to do is change the system. We have to overthrow
this system which is eating the planet
with perpetual growth. I mean, since when was
GDP a sensible measure of human welfare? And yet everything that
governments want to do is to try to boost GDP. Now people like the
OECD or the World Bank, say, “Oh, we’re not asking
for a lot of growth. Just 3% a year.” That means doubling in 24 years. Yeah, we’re bursting through all
the environmental boundaries, and screwing the planet already. You want to double it? Double all that? Double it again,
keep doubling it? It’s madness. We’ve got to find a better
way of measuring human welfare than perpetual growth. We’ve got to start ramping down
all fossil fuel production, and leave fossil
fuels in the ground. And at the same time– and
this is the nice bit of it– It turns out that through
massive rewilding, ecological restoration,
you can draw down a load of the carbon dioxide
we’ve already produced, huge amounts. Allowing the forest to come
back, the marshes to come back, the sea floor to recover
from trawling and stuff. They draw down carbon
dioxide, and can take us a long way towards
stopping climate breakdown, at the same time as stopping
ecological breakdown. There’s time, but we can’t
do it by just pissing around at the margins of the problem. We’ve got to go straight
to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it. [APPLAUSE] That’s George Monbiot,
that’s George Monbiot, who has been a principled climate
environmental campaigner for many years, decades. Sorry. OK. So then the demand
that we have, really, is what is called contraction
and convergence, which is depicted here in the chart. And what that means
is that, basically, the emissions of
the, quote unquote, “overdeveloped” world– that is to say the United
States, Europe and so on. Basically, we have to massively
contract our emissions if we’re going to
protect the environment, if we’re to be able to
prevent this climate breakdown from coming about. And so the trajectories
here that you see, this orange one
and the blue ones are the ones that have
to happen if we’re going to keep global warming
to a safe or relatively safe limit. The green is
basically the pathway that we’re on right now, which
will inevitably, definitely mean destruction. So then let’s move to
the main point here. So how is it that we can
resist all these trends? OK, first example I want
to give is MOVE from 1978. This was an environmental,
black power organization based, community based,
in Philadelphia. And they organized– they had
a very interesting approach, in the sense that they
were about animal welfare, they were vegan, they
protested animal testing. They protested the
Vietnam War, they protested police
brutality, white supremacy, everything that was going on. But in the sense– the interesting thing
is the integration of the ecological critique
and ecological perspective. Here you see the police
attacking John Africa, who was imprisoned for decades– very recently got out. And this was just
at the oppression of one of their actions. And this, in fact, was a
very infamous event in 1995, where the police
basically– well, they did. They bombed, they literally
bombed the house of MOVE. And this caused a huge
fire in Philadelphia, destroying some 80 homes. And this was in 1985. So that’s what the
government did to move. And so I want to talk about my
time in Mexico a little bit, and I just want to
provide this map so that you have an idea of
what we’re talking about. I’m mostly going to be talking
about in Oaxaca and Chiapas, which is down here
in the southeast, OK, which is where I
was working in 2010. And this is just a
photo from a mission that we did to basically
look at, or investigate the impacts of mining– in particular
transnational mining, in particular
Canadian-owned mines– in the region of Oaxaca
in southern Mexico. And these are a couple of
Zapoteco indigenous peoples, basically showing
us what’s going on. They were guiding
us, and showing us how it is that their
communities are resisting the extractive mining economy. That again, is very
much a foreign thing. Like, I think 80% to 90% of
the mines in Latin America are owned by Canadian
corporations. And then in Chiapas, is
a march by a group called Las Abejas, who are indigenous. In Chiapas and Oaxaca,
it’s all, pretty much all indigenous people. Well, not entirely, but
very much the majority. And so Las Abejas were a
group that, in the 1990s, sided with the EZLN– and I’ll get to
them in a moment. The EZLN was the Zapatista
Army of National Liberation. And so what the Las
Abejas, basically, they have a pacifist approach. They are against war,
they’re against violence, they’re against gender
violence, they’re against the state,
all of these things. And so here they have a they
have a monthly commemoration of a massacre that
took place in 1995, called Acteal, in
the Acteal community. Basically, this was part of
the counterinsurgent logic of the state, of
the Mexican state, to repress anyone who was trying
to support the Zapatistas. And I’ll get back into the
Zapatistas in a moment. And from the same
march, so they– you know, militarization
in Mexico, in particular in
the Chiapas region, where you still have the
Zapatista rebellion still going on, there’s a very large
presence of the military there. And so here they are, basically
blockading the army base. That’s not to say
that they shut it down, but it a symbolic move. And then this is the site
of the massacre in 1995. This was at a church. Essentially what happens is that
the state was up on the highway protecting the
paramilitaries down below, who were killing all
these people, simply for resisting the
plans and the projects that the Mexican
government– and the US government behind it, together
with all the corporations– were promoting. So here’s the EZLN, the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation and this is
a nice mural from one of their communities,
which depicts their uprising at the beginning
of 1994, on the 1st of January. And so the EZLN is a
community-based indigenous organization that tries to
have an alternative model of development,
which is communal, which is participatory, which
involves a lot of women. And basically, it’s
an alternative way of organizing society. Here we have a nice mural
where they’re basically saying that we’re not all
here, because our prisoners– you know, we still have
our prisoners in prison. So very much, this movement
is about solidarity, communal solidarity,
human solidarity. And they go back to
a very interesting revolutionary legacy in Mexico. So the picture on the
right is Diego Rivera showing Emiliano Zapata,
and his beautiful horse. And Zapata, of course, was
the revolutionary general from the Mexican Revolution
and a century ago, who led probably the
most radical movement of the Mexican Revolution. His group being mostly
campesino, that is, peasant and indigenous
people, landless, very poor. But rising up to
assert their dignity, and to take back the land,
and to create social justice. That was their point. And the one next to him
is Ricardo Flores Magón, who was an Mexican anarchist,
who also was influential for Zapata himself. But his group, Magón’s group
actually worked very hard to bring about the
Mexican Revolution, which overthrew the
dictator Porfirio Díaz. So continuing with
this theme of how it is that the state responds
to revolutionary movements, or insurgent movements,
or dissident movements. So this is a photo
from Mexico City in the District of Tlatelolco. It’s the Plaza of
the Three Cultures. And this is the site of a very
infamous massacre of students in 1968, on October 2nd. So what happened is that this
was 10 days before the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. There was a very large
demonstration of students, many of them being left
wing, who were supporters of the Cuban
revolution, who were against the military
dictatorship going on at that time,
led by the PRI Party. And so what happened
on the 2nd of October is that they were
having this meeting in the Plaza of Tlatelolco
And the military came, and they simply opened
fire indiscriminately. And approximately 300 students
were murdered that night. And so this, similarly to the
Acteal massacre– although, of course, many more people died
in this one than in Acteal– every year in Mexico,
it’s very, very famous for the youth, the
revolutionary students, to come out onto the
streets everywhere throughout the country and
to commemorate this massacre. And to call for
justice and and so on. So this is just a few photos
I want to share with you from the marches in San
Cristóbal de las Casas, when I was working there–
that’s one of the main cities in Chiapas. And you can see here,
the students, they’re leaving the university. That’s the UNACH, the Chiapas
University, social sciences. They basically just
went out to the streets, took it over,
expressing their rage. And even though this
was 50 years ago, it’s very much present within
the Mexican consciousness, the cultural consciousness,
the political consciousness. Simply more pictures
of the same. And this is probably the largest
and the best picture of that. So continuing with that,
connecting it specifically to the environmental movement,
I want to show you a brief– sorry– a brief interview with someone
from a group called [email protected] And he will explain
it better than I. My name is Christian
Guerrero, I’m with– Sorry, let me just
contextualize this. OK, so this was in Cancún at
the 2010 Conference of Parties, that is where the United Nations
come together to try to hash out a treaty to deal with
the problem of environmental climate change. And so I was involved
with this too, it was a protest movement
against the Cancun COP, of a bunch of autonomous
social movements, youth, feminist organizations. And this is specifically one of
spokespeople for [email protected] which was like a play on words
of cop, right, like COP, conference of parties, police,
and also capitalism, right? So against all
those things, right? OK, here we go. Mexico. I’m Ecuadorian-American. We’re here in Cancún
for the COP 16. And we’re here in the
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] camp, part of the international
Anti-COP space. And we’re preparing for a
march against green capitalism, megaprojects, and
false solutions. We’re marching to the
Profepa, which is the EPA, let’s say of Mexico. [CHANTING IN SPANISH] We’re calling for the World Bank
to be out of the climate change process. We’re asking for the
Mexican government to review large
megaprojects that are happening in the country. And generally, asking
civil society to get engaged in this issue, and
revealing false solutions to climate change, techno
fixes, or different mechanisms that are used
within the COP that are basically the wrong
direction in solving the climate process. So that was the COP, [email protected] And so, similarly, in 2014,
this initiative continued with Caravana Climática. So the bus that you can
see here was the same bus. It was kind of like the
flagship of this group. And so what they did
is, in 2014, they started a continent-wide tour. So it started in northern
Mexico, in Sonora, and they went down
through 16 countries, and they ended up
in Peru, at Lima, at the COP that happened there
a few years back in 2014, at the end of 2014. And so what they did is
they were going through all these communities, all these
countries, seeing what impacts, environmentally-speaking,
were happening. And how it is that the
people, the indigenous people, the campesino peasant
people, the workers, how they were dealing with
this, and what kind of solutions or what kind of
proposals they had for dealing with any of this. So if you’re interested in
learning more about that, I would definitely encourage
you to look them up, because they have a very good
and systematic, very full report of their findings. Now, in New York
City in 2014, there was the first ever
People’s Climate March, which I also
participated in. This was a huge march that
took over most of the city. It was really exciting in the
sense that a lot of people came out, expressing their
support for these changes and things like that. But there was a kind
of a distinction between that and
Flood Wall Street, which happened
the very next day. The People’s Climate
March was over a weekend, and then this was happening on
Monday, the next Monday, Flood Wall Street. So this idea of flood Wall
Street was kind of you know following from
Occupy Wall Street. But specifically,
rather than just, like, you know, marching around
the city with the People’s Climate March, Flood Wall Street
was more about specifically occupying Wall
Street, and trying to prevent their
operations from happening. And so that’s what
we tried to do. We were not successful. We blockaded Wall Street,
like the building, but we never got inside
to disrupt the trade. So in that sense, it
was not super effective. But the example or the
model is still there. And then of course, you have
the No DAPL movement, or the No Dakota Access Pipeline
movement, right? And this was a very big thing,
recently with Standing Rock, with the indigenous resistance
against this pipeline. And the repression
that was meted out against these indigenous
peoples and their supporters. Which, you know, arguably–
and I would say is very much a continuation of the
genocide that has established this country, right? The settler colonial genocide
of the indigenous peoples continues very much to this day. And we see this in the
outcome of Standing Rock. And if you’ve been following
the news on this, in fact, there have been some oil spills
from this very same pipeline in the Sioux lands,
in the Lakota, Dakota lands in question. OK, David Buckel is kind
of an interesting guy. He was a lawyer in Brooklyn. He was very involved with the
LGBTQIA movement, and he was– Boys Don’t Cry was based
on the case that he took. But actually, a year ago– actually, just over a year
ago– he committed suicide ritualistically. He immolated himself in
Prospect Park in Brooklyn, as a protest of climate change. Kind of channeling what
many of the Buddhist monks did in Tibet, and
also in Vietnam to protest those
wars and occupations. And the ironic thing
is that, actually, it’s unclear to this point, what
is the legacy of his action. Like will it have
affected anything? Because of course, as
John was discussing, the Arab Spring,
so-called, was begun by Mohamed Bouazizi setting
himself on fire in Tunisia. That’s how all of it began. So David Buckel maybe
had a similar idea. Did he provoke a
similar movement? Well, actually, maybe he did. Because a year ago, a
year after his death– in fact just a few days
ago, a few weeks ago– was the beginning of what is
called Extinction Rebellion, which has been going out
throughout much of the world, especially in London, but
also in the United States. And so this movement is very
much a youth-led movement. As you see here,
these are some youth at Heathrow Airport in
London with the banner, “Are we the last generation?” And the idea is that we
have to take direct action, we have to blockade– this is
Waterloo Bridge in London– the idea is that we have to
blockade the system, interrupt the way that it’s working
so as to be able to protect our own lives, and that of the
future of humanity, and nature, right? And this is in some
museum, where they’re kind of staging a mass die-in. And then this is,
you know, similarly , when you go out to a protest,
and you have fear of arrest, you’ll definitely want to have
all these numbers on your arms. But you know,
similarly, this image shows the this social solidarity
and the collective support that we need for this. OK, so I’m coming close
to the conclusion now. And I just want to share
with you this critique that was made recently of
Extinction Rebellion, which was made by this group
calling itself the Green Anti-Capitalist Front. And they have like,
six or seven principles about analyzing climate
change, climate breakdown. And these are the
principles, right? Number one, that
climate breakdown is an existential threat, right? It threatens our very existence. Number two, the crisis
is due to capitalism. That is to say,
the growth economy based on profit,
based on exploitation, based on class hierarchy. We need international
class solidarity in order to build a movement to
deal with this problem, right? As I was saying before, in
terms of not discriminating, not distinguishing among
people who are living within different countries,
because we’re all in this together, of course,
we’re all humans. Building collective
power, that is to say, through movements,
through institutions, through unions,
things like that. And having a diversity
of tactics, right? So that is to say,
some people might want to know write
letters to Congress, others might want
to know block up, go to direct action protests. Others might want to do
like, educational talks. There are a lot of different
ways that we can do this. It doesn’t have to be just one. And then horizontal,
bottom-up structures. That’s kind of similar to the
point about collective power. And the most important
thing, I think, is we need a new system, right? We need a new system,
a new economy, a new way of relating
with each other, and a new way of doing politics. And so this is just
a nice graphic kind of summarizing
their point, right, which is that we can achieve
environmental sustainability by having economic democracy. Of course, economic
democracy is not something that we have right
now, but it’s something we have to strive
for, and something we have to struggle for. So almost very much
at the end here. So I just want to
share some interesting, or some perspectives
that I think are key to this problem,
to analyzing this problem. And I think I’m
repeating myself here. But the problem really is that
we have a class society, right? So we have all these
people within our society that have to be working
all of their lives, right? From 9:00 to 5:00, 8:00 to 6:00,
whatever, for 30 or 40 years. That’s what they have
to do with their lives. That’s what we have
to do with our lives. But this is not the point
of life, of course, right? So we have to be able to
create alternatives, and try to overcome this class division,
overcome these oppressions and hierarchies, so that
we can all go together, so that we can collectively
deal with this problem. And specifically, I
want to say that there is a proposal for
green unionism, which is kind of what I was
just talking about, with economic democracy, and
ecological sustainability. And this is very much related
to the point of just transition, which is extremely important. So one of the major reasons
that a lot of people are kind of hesitant about
dealing with climate change, or even recognizing
that it’s going on, is that it threatens the
economy as it exists, right? And specifically, we’re not
talking about the bosses, or the rich right now. We’re talking about the workers. Like coal workers, or workers
who are in the oil industry, or workers who are in the
extractive industry in general, or trucking, or many
of these things– the point is not to demonize
those workers, of course not. Because they don’t have
any choice in the matter. Because we have a
hierarchical class society. If you want to survive, if you
want your family to survive, oftentimes you
don’t have choices. You have to just
do what you have, take the options that
are given to you. But the point of
the just transition is to prioritize the
interests and the concerns of those workers who
would be affected if we were to create a renewable
economy, a post-carbon economy. So the idea would be to
have programs in place so that those workers would
not be negatively affected. So that we can get them
on our side, in fact, and try to overcome the
opposition that they would be presenting to this
problem of climate change, of dealing with it. And beyond that, I want
to specifically suggest that I think even though
these don’t specifically have to do with
environment, they are very important for
the overall struggle. And that is tenants unions,
and student unions, right? Because we all, throughout
the entire world, we need to be creating these
alternative institutions where we can build our own
power, and assert our own power against
what is already existing. And I that tenants unions
and students unions are a good way of doing that. And the overall
idea is dual power– dual power referring to a
second power against like, the government and capitalism. Against the rich, and
against the state. So the dual power would be the
community, the people resisting against these institutions that
are destroying our environment and our society. OK so second to last,
how to save the planet? OK, in conclusion, OK. So four things. Number one, ecological
restoration. That is to say, many of the
lands of the United States, for example, have
been deforested. A lot of the old growth
forests have been destroyed. And we need to replant them,
we need to bring them back, because they need to
be present in order to help us to draw down the
carbon, the excess carbon that’s in the atmosphere. And this is similar to the
idea of natural geoengineering, which is– if you’ve looked at some of the
proposed solutions to climate change, some of what
they say is like, we need to put like,
particles, sulfate particles in the upper atmosphere, or
mirrors in the upper atmosphere to bounce the solar
radiation back to the sun, or something like that. But natural geoengineering
is nothing about that. Not using like, weird
technologies, or anything. But rather focusing
on the fact that we need to sequester the carbon,
and that the good way of doing that would be to recreate,
rewild the world, through having a lot
more greenery and so on. And beyond that, of course, we
have the self-managed decline of the fossil fuel economy. So we need to get rid of
the fossil fuel economy if we’re going to stave
off this serious problem. And in order to do that,
I think the best way of doing it would be through
popular organization, and self-organization, through
workers, through communities, and so on. So that’s why I propose green
or community syndicalism. And syndicalism here just
means unionism, right? Just the idea that we need to
have popular organs of power to express our
desires and our goals. We can’t just be depending
on the politicians, because very often they’re
not interested in what we’re interested in, and
we’re not working together in that sense. So just the last thing here. So there are different
levels at which we can deal with this problem, right? There’s the micro, or the
individual level, the meso, which is like in the middle– we can say is like the community
or the local, regional. And then the macro, which
is like the country, the continent, and the world. OK, so that’s all
I have for you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *