Why we need an ecosocialist revolution

June 29, 2012
Socialists can draw the links between environment campaigns and the systemic problems in the world.

The world today is plagued by many crises. Economies are in recession. The world is wracked by war. And poverty is still rampant for the world's majority. Alongside all of this, our environment, and our climate, is increasingly under pressure, threatening all life on the planet.

The climate crisis strikes at the very heart of our societies. We need to question the way we operate, the way we allocate and use our resources, and the way we develop infrastructure, so that we can create a more sustainable world.

In Australia, the fight against climate change is a big political issue. Australia has one of the highest per person rates of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Yet it is one of the lowest investors in renewable technologies in the Western world. And the economy is centred around the export of fossil fuels.

We see this today with mining companies trying to expand fossil fuel outputs by going into the potentially lucrative coal seam gas (CSG) industry. CSG is undergoing big expansion in Australia, with billions of dollars of potential investment.

Supporters of CSG mining say gas will be a “transition” fuel to a cleaner economy. But all it really does is lock Australia into decades of more fossil fuel pollution, which climate scientists say we need to desperately avoid.

And this is more than just a climate issue. Farmers and communities are up in arms at the potential damage that could be done to agricultural land, water catchments, aquifers and other local industries.

The diverse strings of resistance have come together in the Stop CSG movement, which through rallies, petitions and blockades, has raised significant barriers to the further expansion of this polluting industry.

We also see the potential of the environmental movement and ecosocialism in South Australia. Port Augusta is a town north of Adelaide, and is the home of several coal-fired power stations. The plants are due to be replaced, andit was planned to replace them with gas, which would continue to open the way for the expansion of fossil fuel industries.

Environmental activists saw this as an opportunity. They began a campaign for the power plants to be replaced by concentrated solar thermal power, which can provide energy 24 hours a day.

Port Augusta, on the edge of the desert, is a perfect candidate for this sort of technology, which is commercially available now. All that stands in the way is a lack of government will and mining companies desperate to protect “their” markets.

The campaign is ongoing, but has already attracted significant support, with plans for a community referendum in Port Augusta and rallies across the state.

These are crucial movements in Australia. They are political, affect economic power and are highly strategic. One struggles to keep fossil fuels in the ground, the other struggles to build the economic and infrastructure alternative that we need to deal with climate change. And it is being driven by communities across the country.

These struggles are not “ecosocialist” themselves. But socialists can play an important role by drawing the links between environment campaigns and the systemic problems in the world.

People tend to see agricultural workers, farmers, rural communities and environmentalists as strange bedfellows, with conflicting interests, united only by opposition to specific projects.

But a capitalist economic and political system puts profit first, and all other interests that get in the way are trodden on.

The only logical response is to develop systems that put people, and the environment, before the profits of big corporations.

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