Ecosocialism conferences kick off important discussion

October 30, 2020
Sydney climate emergency rally, December 2019. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Just before COVID-19 hit, Green Left had been preparing to hold an international Ecosocialism 2020 conference in Sydney. Then the pandemic hit and we had to indefinitely postpone this plan.

However, we adjusted and decided to try a series of smaller regional conference, the first two took place October 24–25 in Sydney and Perth. We hope that over the next few months, similar such conferences can be hosted in other states.

Because of restrictions on gathering, the Ecosocialism conferences were conducted through both limited face-to-face gatherings, as well as on Zoom. This allowed us to host activists from Brazil, Malaysia and the Philippines — enriching the discussion.

Sabrina Fernandes, a Brazilian ecosocialist, shared the experience of living under the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro. Green Left met Fernandes through participating in the recently-formed Global Ecosocialist Network. Among other things, she told of the accelerated destruction of rainforests — which Bolsonaro perversely tries to blame on Indigenous peoples.

Sharan Raj, from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), said they also confront major rainforest destruction. “The rainforests in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil are some of the best carbon traps. Cutting down one of these rainforest trees in Malaysia is the same as cutting 10 trees in Norway, in terms of its carbon effect.”

The PSM has called for a “Green New Deal” which includes: programs to build new homes (and repair older homes) for the poorest 20%; reforestation; better waste management to clean up waterways; and an increase in the generation of renewable energy.

Presenting Green Left’s draft Ecosocialist Manifesto, I spoke of the Black Summer we experienced and the terrifying prospect of more such bushfire crises. On October 20, Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) CEO Andrew Johnson confirmed to a Senates Estimates hearing that if current global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were met — a big “if” — we can anticipate a 3.4º C rise in global average surface temperature (above pre-industrial levels).

Johnson confirmed that BoM projected that this would translate into a 4.4º C rise in Australia – a prospect that Greens leader Adam Bandt has accurately described as spelling “the collapse of civilization as we know it”.

An inescapable conclusion from this is that we need to break from the chokehold that powerful capitalist interests have on society’s response to the climate emergency.

Australia can move very quickly, with current technology, to 100% renewable energy for local use, and even become a major regional exporter of renewable energy.

Its battered manufacturing sector could be converted to producing wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, electric buses and trains and the material to build thousands of quality, ecologically sustainable homes in a new public housing program.

Detailed research by the Australia Institute and the Centre for Future Work show that more jobs could be created through public works programs, such as these, than by squandering billions on subsidies and tax concessions for big business.

Western Australia Greens state MP Alison Xamon, Extinction Rebellion activist Caleb Houseman, Chilean activist Pedro Alvarez, Sudanese activist Khalid Hassan and Socialist Alliance Fremantle City Councillor Sam Wainwright joined the discussion with Green Left writers Gauri Gandbhir and Dirk Kelly on the second day of the conference.

It covered a lot of ground including where public consciousness is at on the need to move beyond capitalism to the global dimensions of war and imperialism.

Wainwright spoke about the lessons the movement for ecosocialism can learn from the pioneering experiences in feminist and ecological grassroots democracy in the Rojava revolution in northern Syria.

Participants in these first two regional Ecosocialism conferences found the discussions provoking and inspiring. But they also pose the urgent question of how to take the movement further.

Green Left believes it is urgent to build a counterpower to the fossil fuel export-based perspective — the “gas-led recovery” — supported by the Coalition and Labor parties.

Join the discussion on the draft Ecosocialist Manifesto by sending your thoughts to Help organise more local and regional Ecosocialism seminars and become a Green Left supporter. Donations can be made here, and we promise to spend it to advance the movement for system change.

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