The September 20 global school strike for climate has been described as the biggest environment protest ever. More than 4 million students, parents and workers took part worldwide. There were 2500 events in 150 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica!
In Australia more than 330,000 people demonstrated, demanding immediate action on climate change. Many were calling for system change. The strike in Melbourne was at least 150,000 strong and brought the central business district to a standstill for hours.
In Australia, the protests were the biggest since those organised against the Iraq war in 2003. This is a sign of the immense anger and frustration felt by ordinary people as pro-capitalist governments the world over continue to sit on their hands.
While this movement has huge potential, we need to note that protests alone – even ones attended by millions – won’t be enough to force governments to act. For example, millions of people marched against the Iraq war, yet it still went ahead.
We need to expand the protests with the aim of hitting the big polluters and their representatives where it hurts, in the profits.
It is workers and the poor who are hit the hardest by climate change. But it is also the working class who have the power to change society. While many people arranged to take time off work to attend the protests, it would have had a much bigger impact if it was thoroughly organised through the trade unions.
A national stop-work of both students and workers, combined with big protests would bring the entire economy to halt. This is what we need to build towards. Forming democratic committees in schools, Tafes, universities and workplaces to organise and coordinate such action is the way to do it.
The United Nations Climate Action Summit may pay lip service to our movement but any agreements they reach will be toothless, just the same as those made in 2015 in Paris. The proposed target of zero emissions by 2050 will be too little too late.
Just like with the Paris accord, the strategies proposed to reach these targets will be based on the logic of the same profit-driven system that has caused the ecological disaster we now face.
The only way for us to avert further disaster, and to start to repair the damage already done, is if ordinary people take power into our own hands. We can not rely on big business profiteers, or the parties that represent them, to act in our interests.
In addition to drawing in the trade unions, actions such as blockades of companies with a stake in the fossil fuel industry are a crucial next step. The entire movement should now support the blockade planned for the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) from October 29-31 in Melbourne.
This conference will bring together “global mining leaders, policy makers, investors and commodity buyers” from around the world. They will use the event to discuss how to maximise profits.
Disrupting the conference will send a message that we are not prepared to accept business as usual from the climate destroying fossil fuel industry.
Rather than relying on the capitalist “free-market”, we need a sustainable plan of production that can democratically use the world’s resources to meet the needs of the majority.
With such a plan we could remove the profit motive and direct resources into investment in renewable energy, high-quality, free public transport, and eco-friendly, affordable housing for all.
By cancelling the billions in subsidies paid to fossil fuel companies we could instead develop environmentally-friendly technologies and materials. We could ensure that everyone had the right to a good job on union wages, and a life free of poverty.
There is more than enough wealth currently produced for this to happen, but at the moment it is controlled by a greedy rich elite – the world’s capitalist class.
We need to fight for a system that takes the power and wealth away from these climate destroyers. We need to organise the economy so that the big mining and energy companies and the banks are publicly owned and democratically controlled.
In other words, we need a democratic socialist society that puts people and the environment first!
By Meredith Jacka