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The power of the demand
I’m in Fiji at the Civicus World Assembly. Civil society organisations and activists from around the world are gathered to renew energy and redefine strategies for transforming injustice as experienced across the planet.
Feminists from 350.org, Greenpeace Canada and the Pacific region are in conversation about the necessity of an energy transition to renewables, which must happen sooner rather than later, or a majority of species and people will suffer and die.
Hope may spring eternal, but data regarding climate change are grim. Within 30 years, all of us will know someone displaced by drought, hurricanes, rising sea levels, floods or conflicts.
I’m thinking of Dominica and Barbuda, and other Caribbean islands which, as close as next year, might produce climate refugees. And, I’m thinking of tiny, fossil dependent T&T, not likely to change our oversized footprint whether for reasons of economic or ecological justice.
I’m wondering about the relevance of this discussion to us, not as potential small island state victims, but as small island state contributors to an oncoming crisis.
“We must rise before the tides,” cautioned Brianna Fruean, Pacific Climate Warrior, but this seems impossible to achieve back at home where Shell and BP stalk gas fields like kings, and our PM prioritizes agreements in Houston over Paris in order to pay for our next dose of salts.
“Articulate the demand, even if it’s far away from being achieved,” responds May Boeve of 350.org, “Make policy makers do their job in solving these problems, but set the bar. Keep fighting.”
There are two fronts here. The first is the creation of alternatives—to plastic, to capitalism, to borders, to jails, to violence and to carbon dioxide production. We can also adopt green, de-growth, solidarity, commons and other sustainable approaches to wealth, work and wellbeing.
The second front is the challenge to the political and economic power reproducing a broken, unjust and immoral global economy. There are strategies such as compelling divestment of stocks and bonds from companies in the fossil fuel business, defense of public regulations, and taking environmental battles to the courts.
In a later panel, ex-Civicus Secretary Generals Miklos Marschall’s and Kumi Naidoo’s messages go further. We need radical hope, love, fury, imagination and solutions because when humanity faces big injustices, decent people have to stand up, say no more and be prepared for civil disobedience against decisions that breed abandonment and anger by the billions.
Anyone who tells you that growth can get us out of the current ecological and, therefore, economic crisis, hasn’t factored in the ecological or economic costs of extraction, consumption, pollution and species extinction, or is pretending.
The model is a necropolitics. It is killing us and our struggle must be to protect our children’s lives and future.
“With our quivering voices we sing our children to sleep, unsure of what they will wake up to,” sings a young performer. What will we do when, increasingly, this becomes true?
Solutions and accountability trackers exist everywhere. They need commitment and collective civic pressure. For this reason, Civicus ends with a Declaration on Climate Induced Displacement in order to build a broad-based call for commitment to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius and acknowledge climate change’s unprecedented impact on migration, human rights, equality and self-determination.
In a fierce whisper, St Lucian Kendel Hippolyte’s poetry reading from the previous day’s Commonwealth Writers’ Conversation comes to me:
“i woke one morning and the Caribbean was gone.
She’d definitely been there the night before, i’d heard her
singing in crickets and grasshoppers to the tambourine of
the oncoming rain.
i thought: she can’t be gone. If she is gone,
what is this place? With her gone, who am i?”
I’m listening, breathing in quietly. There’s still time. Back home in the Caribbean, I can still know who I am. I am the power of the demand.
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