We can say we want justice, but we have to mean it too

Backposted from December 3rd

Today was a real wake-up call for me!  Much of my time doing climate organizing, I’ve been emphasizing the need to focus on the human impacts of climate change and the importance of having those affected and marginalized at the forefront of discussions.  But today I was reminded of this with full force.

This morning (December 3rd) I joined a rally planned by local organizers joint with organizers from Jubilee South calling for ecological debt to be replayed and dignity for communities – meaning the “World Bank out of climate finance and out of our lives”!  I was one of a few people from the global north at the rally, something that always makes me feel a feeling in gut that I probably don’t feel often enough.  It made me incredibly conscience of my place in the world and the privileges I happened to be granted by our system of domination.  Even more than that however, it made me feel again some of the things that I’ve said so many times that they have lost meaning.

The power and emotion with which one of the men who was leading the chants screamed “World Bank OUT” brought shivers to my spine.  Afterwards, I approached him and he explained to me the devastation felt by his community back home in India after World Bank structural adjustment policies brought in foreign direct investment, undermining their local economy, culture, and ecosystem.  Another rally organizer, a woman from the Tabasco region of Mexico, spoke to me about the disastrous floods, affecting 1.1 million Mexicans, which have been attributed to climate change in her region.  Eventually the rally arrived at its destination, a Walmart that had threatened the livelihood of so many, participants shouted about the “complicity of transnational corporations in the assassination of the planet”.

Those at the rally with me today are calling for true system change, not climate change.  They are calling for a system that respects the right of communities to dictate their own fate and for those who caused planetary destruction to pay reparations to those most affected.

To those inside the negotiations at the UN Summit, completely changing the system in which we live sounds “extremist”, “radical”, or “unrealistic”.  They, corporations, governments, and even NGOs who claim to be advocating for affected communities, are pushing for false solutions such as REDD+ programs that allow the rich to continue polluting at the expense of the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.  They claim that we don’t need full system change, and that capital is the only way to assess the worth of people or ecologies.  They say that inequlity is a problem, but advocate for solutions that perpetuate it.

However, the people I marched with today do have solutions.  They shared many moving stories about the resistance waged in their communities and the solutions to the system based on fossil fuelled economic causing climate change that they have been living for hundred of years.  These people are putting real solutions that challenge the fossil fuelled capitalist system at the source of this crisis, but few people hear them.  This is probably because instead we are hearing about what corporations, governments, and the NGOs “advocating for them” are putting forward.  Those of us who have capital or the “right” background or gender or colour of skin, need to make room for those with real solutions to be key players in the discussion.  We need to stop talking, and start listening, because, for many, not only is “system change, not climate change” a real proposition, it’s the only option.

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