By Chris Clough
In February tens of thousands of young people showed the way forward in the fight against climate change by walking out of their schools and protesting. They joined a growing global movement that demands an end to inaction over climate change, rightly laying blame at the doors of big business and the politicians who are destroying their futures.
But how can we turn the school strikes into a movement capable of creating the future we want to see?
First we need to understand why climate change has not been tackled so far. Most world leaders have accepted the reality of human caused climate change since the 1990s. Yet each year we pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than the year before.
We now have increasingly stark warnings about how climate change will affect the very foundations of civilisation and the ecosystems we rely on. Despite this all we are offered by our so-called leaders is non-binding targets at giant climate conferences, which have always proven to be empty promises, or not enough to resolve the issue.
So why is this? It is not because these people have a death wish, but because they are trapped in the limitations of their own system – capitalism. This system functions on the ability of a tiny minority of humanity to make a profit at everyone else’s expense. They have proven unwilling to make the huge investments necessary to move towards a renewable economy in a short space of time, because it is not profitable when compared with fossil fuels, and so they will lose out to their competitors.
It is true there have been some large investments in green energy but these are insignificant when compared to the expanse of fossil fuel usage. We do not have time to wait for the blind promise that the markets will resolve the existential threat that climate change poses.
Crucially climate change isn’t the only crisis produced by their system. Increasing rivalry between the great powers is moving the world closer to war. Proxy wars in Ukraine, Syria and maybe now Venezuela, not to mention the regional rivalry between India and Pakistan, show the danger of a clash between the nuclear-armed powers.
Capitalism has also always been economically unstable and the last 10 years has again proven this; we are still in the throes of the Great Recession and another financial collapse is around the corner. This is causing the rise of far right authoritarians across the globe who are attacking democracy and trying to spread nationalism, racism, sexism and homophobia in order to crush opposition to the economic warfare they will unleash on ordinary people.
The greatest danger now is that the climate crisis will exacerbate all of these other crises. So the message is clear to anyone willing to see it, a message present on many of the school strikes – we need system change not climate change.
But the system that is leading us inevitably to climate catastrophe is controlled by powerful billionaires and the politicians they ultimately control. Fossil fuels are the most profitable industry on earth and they will never give up their wealth without a fight.
The only force capable of defeating these people is the millions of working people across the whole world that, through their labour, create the wealth they use to control us.
From student power to workers power
The school strikes are a great start, we need to keep up the pressure and spread the movement. There is enough wealth in society to create an environmentally sustainable world that also provides decent homes and jobs for the many.
The fight for climate justice needs to be a fight for social and economic justice as well. By doing this we can eventually bring in workplaces to join us on strike, which will deprive the rich of their profits and show where power in society really comes from.
But to do this we need to create organisational bodies capable of giving our movement a democratic, national and ultimately international voice. We need to start from the ground up forming groups in our schools and workplaces and eventually linking them through democratic structures.
With organisations like this we can create a rival power to the billionaires and their politicians, capable of leading our movement towards a revolutionary all-out strike so we can seize the power and wealth of society.
We can utilise this wealth, under the democratic control of working class people, it to end reliance on fossil fuels – and in the process build a fairer and more equal world, free from poverty, oppression and exploitation.