A movement for a better future

February 22, 2008

We all know the scale of the threat posed by global warming and the short time in which we have to take meaningful action to prevent potentially catastrophic consequences. This makes the issue of global warming and how to combat it arguably the most urgent question facing humanity today.

What is required — a rapid, far-reaching reorganisation of industry, energy, transport, mass consumption patterns, and the massive transfer of clean technology to the Third World — is simply not possible under our corporate-dominated, profit-driven society.

The scientific evidence that drastic action is needed to save the planet is irrefutable. Yet pro-capitalist governments and big business have shown they are unwilling and incapable of making the changes necessary. Despite the scale of the crisis, it's pretty much business as usual.

This is why we need an environment movement that can force action and bring about the social change necessary. The kind of movement we need is a genuinely mass movement that draws in all kinds of people concerned about the spectre of runaway global worming.

While building such a movement we should be clear that we're not going to succeed if we just try to appeal to "those in charge" and try to convince them of the "error of their ways". That because for those in charge, there are no errors in their ways. As long as corporate Australia continues to reap massive profits, everything is fine.

Moreover, the kind of movement we need is a political movement. We could ignore the state and federal governments and corporations and just concentrate on promoting individual lifestyle changes, but, regardless of the good intentions, individual decisions about consumption and lifestyle will never have the kind of impact on global warming that is necessary. For example, take the Afghanistan and Iraq wars: individual choices (except perhaps the decision to become an activist!) won't halt these wars, and waging war is one of the most environmentally destructive activities carried out by humanity.

The current state of affairs operates in the interests of a wealthy minority, not the majority of people in Australia. Our task is to figure out how to draw as many of the majority into political activity. To do this we should firstly make sure that we have a democratic movement. This will help build an inclusive movement that can draw in as many people as possible.

Secondly, all our tactics — mass rallies, occupations, petitions, media stunts — should be assessed according to the criterion of whether they will draw more people into the movement.

The radical nature of the problem of global warming demands radical action. But in Resistance's view, radical action is action that draws the greatest number of people into the movement, whether this is by holding a lock-on or by organising a mass demonstration. With direct actions, we need to be clear that they should only be a tactic, not a strategy, and they should be subordinated to the key goal of building a mass movement.

The looming climate crisis is the biggest challenge to face humanity. If only the few of us who are already switched on to the fact that it won't be governments or corporations that will solve the crisis take action then we will have failed to meet the challenge.

We have to be the ones that are switching people on; we need to be the ones that are providing the information, filling people in on the urgency, and providing people with the opportunities to get involved.

Ultimately, in Resistance's view, we need a new kind of society, one that functions on the basis of real democracy — where ordinary people, not corporations, democratically decide how social resources, including the environment, should be used. Such a society can only come about by the majority of people taking conscious political action.

Movements that draw people into activity can radicalise people and lay the basis for the kind of social transformation we need. However we don't advocate building a movement that only those who share this view can be involved in. We want to work with everyone who is willing to build a movement focused around demands that call on the government to seriously act against climate change.

An important step in building the environment movement this year will be April 1 — Fossil Fools' Day — a protest initiated by Resistance and the Australian Student Environment Network. There will be protests around Australia, and Resistance is aiming to try to involve as many young people as possible in thinking through, planning and taking action together.

Runaway climate change is not inevitable — but it's going to take us to create the change that is needed. So get involved with organising Fossil Fools' Day in your city!

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