by James Fortin, published on Socialist Action, June 15, 2021
It just keeps getting worse.
Never in the memory of any living person on Earth, has it been this bad. Climate change is occurring; it is getting worse, and time is running out to save the planet from catastrophe. Scientists urgently note the globe is rapidly approaching the catastrophic threshold of a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature from pre-industrial times, a level at which irreversible global damage will occur. In the words of George Monbiot, author, journalist and environmental campaigner,“The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us.”
Major Media Colludes to Hide Climate Severity
So why is it then that much of the corporate media remains underwhelmingly avoidant of dealing with the existential crisis faced by humankind? Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope, two journalists writing at The Guardian, recently noted that despite several major news outlets having beefed up their coverage, most newsrooms – particularly those in broadcast journalism – were still more likely to cover fluffy events like dance competitions than the effects of climate change.
The two journalists cited a Yale study that shows less than 25 percent of the public hears about climate change in the media at least once a month. This, despite the deadly climate threat of epic proportions that is at our doorstep, fulfills the intent of such media to avoid what they term “controversial” matters. They want to avoid the appearance of taking sides, you see. Avoiding the discussion, however, is taking sides – the side of the fossil fuel industry that chooses to tamp down discussion or opposition to their ongoing carbonization of the planet.
This self-imposed muzzling by a significant portion of the media is not accidental. It starts at the top and works its way down through the reporting ranks. The major broadcast news organizations at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox are owned and controlled by massive conglomerates that have consolidated ownership over the decades and now dominate the news that most Americans receive. In turn they are mostly owned by the ruling 1%, the social class that dominates the economic, social, and political life of the country. The top layers of these corporations are from the ruling class, or, if not resident in the class, they are hired, paid, and obedient to it, nonetheless. It is the same class that dominates the fossil fuel energy and finance sectors of the U.S. economy. Puzzle solved.
Ruling Class Wins, Climate Loses
All of this is not to say that there may be differences of opinion within the ruling class, that the class is not homogenous in its beliefs. Just as one wing of the ruling class may favor Democrats (or some of them at least), another wing may align Republican, but the class coalesces uniformly around the right to profit and exploit human labor and the natural environment. The differences within the capitalist class are tactical, not strategic, and continually change appearances based on the ruling class’s needs – not ours — over time.
So it is not at all inconsistent that opposite political ends of capitalist political thinking strike different notes. While The New York Times may push for rapid development of solar and wind-based electrification, The Wall Street Journal is much slower to tamper with the fracking heyday of Big Oil and Gas. Both wings of the class would prefer that market-based solutions to climate disaster be found in lieu of government intervention. One organ of ruling class thought is simply more willing to engage with greater environmental destruction than the other, but both are steadfast in defense of the system that allows it.
We have known for decades that the Earth is overheating from the greenhouse gasses emitted through the burning of fossil fuels. Yet the illusion that something can be done to solve the problem within the system has repeatedly sidelined the major movements to stop this criminality. Although the U.S. government has appeared hopelessly incapable over the course of 4 decades to implement sufficient measures to save the Earth, most climate activists keep looking to elect the “right” President, Congressperson, or Senator – most often a Democrat – to finally bring us onto the path toward environmental milk and honey. Unbeknownst to them is that the U.S. government is not inept. It is performing just as it was designed – to protect the interests of its benefactors, the ruling strata.
Illusions, Not Solutions, from Biden & Democrats
Take a look at the climate program of Joe Biden for the most recent evidence. In general terms Biden plays it big as he did in the election run-up to his presidency. While his government says it is for developing clean, renewable energy sources, it has done next to nothing about the horrors of fracking. More fracked oil and natural gas is being produced today than at the start of his term, along with more negative health impacts to those living nearby fracking fields, more destruction of the adjacent lands, more ground-water pollution, more carbon dioxide, and methane spewed into the air.
Going further, Biden’s climate agenda includes the fraud of a “net-zero” by 2050, allowing the fossil-fuel criminals to keep polluting indefinitely. Of course, they offer tools to deceive the public into believing in such “solutions.” They can magically “offset” their carbon emissions with casino-like purchases of carbon credits that another polluter has acquired and is now selling. Or they can proceed with “carbon capture,” the mirage of unproven technology not likely to be developed at a scale that can cleanse the earth of carbon dioxide. And, of course, neither Biden nor the Democratic-controlled Congress will act to end the largest single U.S. contributor to greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – the U.S. military.
Democrats dither, fossil fuelers fantasize, and the capitalist ruling class celebrates with abandon, its profits protected.
Taking Control of Our Climate
The single-most hopeful sign in all of this, however, is the growing number of mostly younger climate activists who now demand “system change, not climate change.” They and others who participated by the millions in the Black Lives Matter movement want no more of phony promises the system has offered on most issues for decades. They demand action.
The question is posed: In the absence of meaningful effort to halt the capitalist climate catastrophe, what should the movements for social change be doing? The answer is increasingly obvious: Everything, by any means necessary. Life on earth as we know it is at stake.
For starters, mass, united-front demonstrations in the streets are essential to win over the majority of working people, those comprising the 99%. Augmenting this strategy is mass civil disobedience at points of fossil fuel exploitation such as the Line 3 water protectors; strategic actions against corporate and financial enablers of climate destruction such as the Stop the Money Pipeline; teach-ins on the campuses and in high schools where majorities already think beyond token and fraudulent “solutions.” These and others are the combined sorts of actions that have led to social victories in the past. The struggles for Black freedom, women’s and gay rights, defense of Indigenous lands and treaties, and an end to the Vietnam War offer exemplary winning examples for all of us.
We must continuously demand:
- Declare a climate emergency to halt and reverse global warming!
- Fire the corporate climate mis-managers! Nationalize the fossil fuel and banking industries!
- Empower a Climate Congress of scientists, working people, the oppressed and other organizations of the 99 percent to defend our interests!
- For a mass mobilization of resources to convert the economy to a clean, renewable, and just instrument serving all!
- End foreign military interventions!
- Abolish the $trillion war budget!
- Redirect military funds to climate solutions and social needs!
- Tax the rich to solve the climate problems they have created!
And one final suggestion to all. Join the revolutionary socialist movement of Socialist Action where our vision of a just, carbon-free future correlates with yours. As the young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has framed it, “I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.” Join us!
*Featured Image: Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn
James Fortin is a staff writer for Socialist Action newspaper and a member of the Socialist Action editorial board.