Our Poisonous Economic System Needs A Grassroots Intervention
By: Taj James
Last month, nearly two hundred nations signed on to a legally-binding global climate deal seeking to phase out the greenhouse gases known as HFCs. And this Friday, the non-binding Paris Agreement will officially enter into force for seventy-six nations, which have made voluntary pledges to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and if possible, below 1.5°C.
These agreements are important, but they are not enough to save us. That is because admitting a problem is only the first step. To move forward, we must also properly diagnose and get to the root of the problem.
Right now, the problem that the Earth and the people on it are facing is a potentially terminal case of fossil fuel poisoning. We have a very short time window to stop the injection of the poison into our collective body and repair the harm done over previous decades. If we do not seize this moment, the future for humanity will be relatively short and extremely painful.
While national governments are finally admitting there is a problem, they have failed to diagnose the disease accurately. As a result, they are proposing solutions that will be fatal for the patient.
Their approach is like going to tobacco companies and asking them to handle the problem of lung cancer by coming up with a new tobacco product to cure it.
Our governments are opting for false solutions: they are looking to oil companies and market-based approaches to fix a problem that oil companies and market-based approaches created. They seem to believe that banks and the fossil fuel industry are the only players powerful enough and smart enough to address this crisis.
Thankfully, people all over the world are rising up to release their governments from the grip of corporations and demand that politicians serve the future of the people and the planet. Most importantly, communities are not waiting for national governments to act. They know what the real solutions are, and they are coming together to implement them in their towns, cities, and states. We’ve seen grassroots movements stop the Keystone pipeline and bring international pressure to bear on the Dakota Access pipeline, end fracking in New York State, and put Hawaii and other states on the path to 100% clean energy.
The fight for democracy, peace, and climate justice is accelerating. It is time to join the chorus of voices insisting that national governments do their part.
We have the power to divest from climate chaos and reinvest in local democracy and flourishing. We can build the next regenerative economy and repair the harm of the current system by restoring wealth back to the communities and countries that produced it. Such efforts include The Reinvest Network, which is moving money into a democratically-governed cooperative that invests in projects owned and operated by frontline communities, in order to build economic democracy rooted in ecological integrity; the Black Land and Liberation Initiative, a trans-local, Black-led land reclamation and reparations leadership network; and support for internally displaced climate refugees that recognizes present and historical structures of racial injustice. Projects such as these are crucial for eliminating the inequality on which our extractive economy thrives.
This is not a climate movement—it’s a movement for the future of humanity.
It will take all of us to accelerate the solutions already in our hands.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Island Press Urban Resilience Project, with support from The Kresge Foundation and The JPB Foundation.