“Nothing ever burns down by itself, every fire needs a little bit of help” chumbawamba
After a damning report published in the journal Science, titled Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change, are the mainstream channels finally catching up, albeit to a small degree, with what anarchists have been saying for hundreds of years? Not quite, as the title gives the game away, the journal crucially labels companies to blame for most of climate change and unsurprisingly does not call for open revolution.
However, the report is still revealing as it has produced evidence showing that a mere 90 companies are responsible for around two thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution. The alarming research reveals that just within the last 25 years half of the estimated emissions were made, well within the time frame of knowledge about the dangers of manmade climate change and more importantly shows that the situation is getting worse as the speed of pollution is rapidly accelerating. Nation states have also played its major part in earth destruction as 40 companies on the list were either state owned or government run. Additionally nation states have always happily allowed polluting companies to carry out their work and have always been there to assist them through legislative means. In a nutshell, the report shows that the small ruling class is responsible for the ecological crisis, past and present.
This comes at a time when the Inter Governmental Panel for Climate Change vaguely estimate that the tipping point of runaway climate change, that would devastate so much of the world, could be 30 years away. The arrogance of this Eurocentric, Western world perspective is painfully clear as Fiji and countries in the southern hemisphere are flooded entirely and evacuated forever due to rising sea levels. If that scale of flooding was in Europe or America of course the tipping point would have already been breached.
That said the climate polluters are killing the northern hemispheres working class too. Poor areas in cities, such as Tower Hamlets in London, have toxic air created by the 90 polluters who have overseen the exploitation of the earth and forced workers to carry out their bidding. The toxic air in London leads to over 9000 premature deaths every year. Additionally Environment Agency’s research shows that poor areas in England are closer to factory emissions, set up by the 90 polluters such as BP’s chemical factories.
Defenders of the 90 companies have already tried to squirm their way out by trying to place responsibility onto the population as a whole as “everyone benefits from their services”. This all too conveniently ignores the true scale of exploitation that’s needed to extract resources from the natural world. This ignores the deaths in the oil and gas industries. We are not the ones exploring for oil and gas in the Amazon resulting in deforestation, extinction of plants and animals and the death to indigenous people. We were not responsible for the deep water horizon oil spill. The ruling class, past and present are quite literally making a killing. Our responsibility lies with us being implicit when the system carries out these massive acts of terror.
The climate polluters are interchangeable with the ruling class, and indeed belong to it. What they are doing to the air and entire planet is barely being reported, even newspapers that are supposedly sympathetic to environmental issues, such as the Guardian, are dominated by liberal capitalists who can never have a healthy ecological view, let alone anarchist. They depend on the exploitation of their workers and need to prioritize profit above all, including the environment. Anti authoritarians know that action is another needed instead of just reading articles. What’s needed is another attempt of connecting green radicalism with anarchism. Just as feminism, rightfully, has made progress in integrating with anarchism, this too needs to happen with radically green politics. The ecological crisis threatens all of us; therefore it’s within our interests to make it a central component to anarchism.
It’s not enough to advocate workers owning the means of production of mines, factories or nuclear plants or any industry that’s based on burning fossil fuels. Where ever possible, fossil fuel and carbon emitting industries need to be decommissioned and if possible reversed through large scale re wilding which is only possible after a successful uprising and abolishing industrial capitalism. It’s worth noting that vast proportions of workers are literally forced into these earth destructive roles. Child laborers are common practice in the fossil fuel industry and are relied on for getting resources required for the manufacturing of cars, smart phones and other objects that are sold to people in the industrialized nations.
Meanwhile anarchists could advocate and start collective permaculture projects. Large enough permaculture projects would not only improve bio-diversity but it would also be a small step in tackling the global ecological crisis through local means. Educating each other about the local air pollution too would help make the issue more tangible. Guerrilla gardening and road sabotage too would certainly help clean the air. These permaculture collectives and communities could play a part in transitioning away from cities which (through no fault apart from the ruling classes) may not be able to rely on the fossil fuel burning industry of importation after a successful revolution. Grow Heathrow, the land squat that is in opposition to the third runway at Heathrow airport, is a good example model of what things could look like.
Finally, support and involvement with the existing green anarchist movement is sought-after. From the more social wing such as Earth First! and Food not bombs to the more insurrectionist wing such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Informal Anarchist Federation. The latter two groups already have a list of comrades who are imprisoned for taking action in defense of the earth. They need support and mustn’t feel like the state and capitalism has won. Writing to these comrades and educating the public about why their actions are in fact needed is also important.