Will Greta Thunberg's campaign destroy jobs?
as Italian PM Meloni suggests...
Ms Meloni and her fellow authoritarians promise to protect jobs and companies from climate campaigners.
What do climate campaigners offer the public? What is our vision for the economically insecure?
In its latest manifestation capitalism thrives on impunity, economic insecurity, climate denial - alongside climate breakdown. It has led to what some have described as “fossil fascism”.
As such it is a system incapable of producing a world leader like Nelson Mandela or FDR: courageous, credible and wise. Instead the system has spawned authoritarian climate-deniers like Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi, Orban, Putin, Xi and lately, Ms Georgia Meloni who told a crowd at a June forum of right-wing parties in Spain that
"Greta Thunberg's ideology will lead us to lose thousands of companies and millions of jobs in Europe"
This post was going to be all about COP27…But then I learned that the radical Mike Davis - a Los Angeles truck driver turned scholar, Marxist ecologist, urban historian and political activist - had died.
His death got me thinking. not just about how his life, his writing and his scholarship enhanced and inspired the lives of others; but also about his advice to young activists. That they “should put their Bakunin, Lenin, or Slavoj Zizek temporarily aside and dust off a copy of FDR’s 1944 campaign platform: an Economic Bill of Rights.”
In an age of profound economic insecurity and uncertainty, reading Roosevelt’s ‘Second Bill of Rights’ yesterday reminded me that not long ago social democratic politicians cared about society’s need to engage in meaningful, remunerative work, as well as humanity’s entitlement to the basic universal services that grant physical security.
Roosevelt had argued that the "political rights" guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness". His remedy was to declare an "economic bill of rights" to guarantee these specific rights:
An adequate income for food, shelter, and recreation
Farmers' rights to a fair income
Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
COP27 and Economic Insecurity
The question of economic insecurity was at the top of my mind as I began to worry about why it is almost inevitable that COP27 - like all previous COPs - will fail to address the climate emergency with any urgency.
Has it something to do with global economic insecurity, I wondered?
Given the current balance of power in the world, COP27 cannot possibly rise to the scale of threat humanity faces. Political leaders - many in hock to private finance - are focused on stoking trade wars, real wars and global divisions. No world leader has the vision or political will to unite the world behind urgent, concerted and comprehensive action by ‘big green states’ to shut fossil fuel extraction down NOW.
And yet, the physics demands that we must.
As the above chart shows, since the first United Nation Convention of the Parties (COP1) took place in 1992, there has been absolutely no progress in cutting total emissions - thanks to ‘greenwashing’ by states and corporations.
Yet total emissions - not national or regional emissions - are all that matter to the planet, as Prof. Kevin Anderson has argued,.
Far from cutting emissions, investors and corporations are profiting handsomely from financialised, speculative markets in fossil fuels: from deregulation, public tax subsidies and tax evasion; and from CO2 dumping. It was reported last week that Shell paid no tax on their UK profits this past year.
That is why COP27 will fail. Because financialised capitalism, embraced by US Democrats, European Social Democrats, Chinese Communists and Russian plutocrats, has generated economic and ecological inequality and imbalances, recurring financial crises, and political extremism.
To top it all it has accelerated the burning of fossil fuels.
The evolution of industrial capitalism into a global, financialised bubble economy has overwhelmed the ecosystem - and also society.
Economic insecurity and climate activism
Insecurity obliges millions of ordinary voters to turn to the ‘strong men and women’ that promise protection from ‘free’ markets in work, food, energy and money - but also from climate activists and supposed job-killers like Greta Thunberg. They do so, because, as Roosevelt wrote in 1944:
"Necessitous men are not free men”
People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
These are the economic conditions in which the population is silenced and made passive - even as ecological breakdown threatens their lives and livelihoods.
What do climate campaigners offer society?
What is our vision for the economically insecure? Beyond the dystopian horrors and inevitable collapse of our near future? Are there only hair-shirt solutions?
I may be generalising by arguing that ‘green’ campaigners are wary of advocating economic rights. But that is my experience. There is a fear that full employment will lead to “growth” and more “production” of unnecessary goods leading to increased exploitation of the planet’s finite resources. So hairshirt policies are all that’s on the menu: a fossil-free utopia of localisation, encounters with nature, increased well-being. No certainty that this offer will put food on the table and provide the dignity of work. Instead there is a three-day week as alternative to mass unemployment. Universal Basic Income (UBI) as opposed to regular, decent employment income. Sadly, there is no big popular campaign for universal basic services (UBS) - for everyone.
To shape a vision, we who are rooted in the labour movement must surely join with climate campaigners to take on a global financialized system that both fuels and profits from fossil fuels and from the economic and job insecurity of the 99%?
At the very least we must challenge the Meloni case, and offer to protect society’s right to paid, meaningful and dignified work.
The logic is clear: there is a whole lot of work to be done to fix the damage done to the ecosystem by financialised capitalism.
There is even more work to be done to build a new, safer world of social and political stability. Far more work than we can dream of. Cultural work. Educational work. Work that cannot be undertaken by deploying fossil fuels.
There’s the immense work of building and repairing our ecosystem. The hard work of repairing and re-making our broken social networks so that ‘safety nets’ become stronger and more resilient. Work that will not generate greenhouse gas emissions. Work only undertaken by people granted the right to economic and physical security. The security of income, health, nutritious food and water, protective housing, education and civic and political rights.
A climate change campaign that promises first to satisfy human needs and security, - not insatiable ‘wants’ - would be in a position to more forcefully attack right-wing complacency on the threat posed by climate breakdown and ecological collapse.
It would be a climate campaign that offers both hope and work.
A Bill of Economic Rights that assures people of equality in the pursuit of happiness AND the security and safety provided by a stable climate and ecosystem.
No authoritarian leader makes that offer.