Saturday, October 24, 2009

Strategies for social and political change: addressing climate change

"The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the natural environment, as exploitable commodities. It is because consumption is the engine of corporate profits."
Chris Hedges
Today is the International Day of Action for Climate Change 350. People in 181 countries have come together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet's history to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis.

In the lead-up to the day there has been considerable debate about the type of strategies needed to address climate change.

In the UK George Monbiot argues that strategies to address climate change must be directed at the rich who are the greatest contributors to the problem. Monbiot writes:
"So where are the movements protesting about the stinking rich destroying our living systems? Where is the direct action against super-yachts and private jets"
There is an important debate here involving Bill McKibben one of the leaders of the International Day of Action and Chris Hedges that points to different views on the type of strateies needed to address climate change.

McKibben argues that the situation is so serious we face total environmental catastrophe. The earth's atmosphere has exceeded the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide above which the atmosphere begins to heat too an extent that we are all threatened. McKibben sees great potential in individual action and citizen- led grassroots movements to force governments to act.

Hedges applauds citizen led grassroots movements and small scale local action, but is skeptical about their capacity to force change. He argues that we can't address the release of carbon dioxide without addressing corporate power. Hedges writes:
" We have allowed the corporate state to sell the environmental crises as a matter of personal choice, when actually there is a need for profound social and economic reform"
Here in Australia the climate denialists continue to be accorded privileged status by their propaganda sheet- The Australian. But the fundamental failure of the Australian political system to find solutions to climate change (by pursuing a flawed ETS scheme) was the core message of Tony Kevin's recent piece (here).

Kevin's piece confirms that political processes and public policy making are unlikely to deliver the sort of radical solutions to climate change that are needed. His piece offers another salutatory lesson as well. That is, that many civil society groups and non-government organisations who make much of their advocacy on climate change are willing to compromise their climate agenda agenda for a seat at the table in the misguided belief that "staying in the tent to do some marginal good" is better than being outside the tent.

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