Chicago climate strike confronts the specter of climate chaos

Chicago—Hundreds of people came out for the latest in a series of climate strikes, this one on Dec. 6. About half the crowd appeared to be high school students. We started at Crown Fountain, then held a die-in at the Cloud Gate (aka the Bean). We marched around the Loop and through the financial district to the Federal Plaza, with chants like, “Mayor Lightfoot, hey you! We deserve a future too!” (A variant addressed to Wall Street used rather more colorful language.)

Die-in at the Cloud Gate in Chicago, Dec. 6, 2019. Photo for News & Letters by Franklin Dmitryev. More photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/29775879@N06/albums/72157712106622281

Climate strike actions took place the same day in numerous cities in almost all countries. Protesters in Washington D.C. blockaded streets and disrupted traffic for seven hours. Half a million marched in Madrid, site of COP25, the 25th Conference of Parties of the UN climate change framework—the Parties being national governments.

The strike was timed to coincide with COP25. Leading up to it, a slew of reports were released in the vain hope of pushing COP25 to agree on real action rather than technical negotiations.

CLIMATE POLLUTERS DOUBLE DOWN

Green rhetoric cannot hide the fact that major climate polluters, both corporations and nations, are rushing to extract every last bit of fossil fuels and turn forests and peatlands into moneymaking plantations and pastures—with full knowledge that they are destroying the future of generations now living and yet to be born. Each one is on the path to spewing more and more, not less, greenhouse gas emissions, as if there is no tomorrow. And they continue to sow doubt and sabotage any restrictions.

  • The U.S. keeps pushing the fracking boom that made it the biggest producer of oil and natural gas in the administration of Barack Obama—who still brags about it. That has only accelerated under Donald Trump, who purposely confuses people by equating climate change with clean air and water, which he is also sabotaging.
  • China points to its increased production of renewable energy but is starting to build 148 gigawatts of new coal-fired plants—as much as the capacity of the entire European Union.
  • Canada keeps trying to open the floodgates for its tar sands mines and pipelines to the world market, and is considering approval of its largest ever open-pit tar sands mine, which would operate until 2067, blasting past the country’s carbon budget.
  • Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro gave the green light to genocide and burning the Amazon rainforest, resulting in a spike in both deforestation and murders of Indigenous people and environmental defenders.
  • India plans a 23% boom in coal use over the next five years, aided by imports from a gigantic coal mine set to open in Australia and subsidized by both governments.
  • Australia, reeling from monstrous fires and toxic smoke choking Sydney while summer is just beginning, is betting its future on remaining the world’s biggest coal exporter.
  • Norway, at the same time it touts plans to lower domestic carbon emissions, plans more quietly to ramp up its oil production by 40% over the next four years, aiming to join the world’s top ten or twelve producers.
  • Ten oil companies aim to invest $9 billion to pump 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas from the North Sea, far more than the UK’s carbon budget allows.

DESPERATION OF YOUTH FIGHTS INACTION OF POWERS THAT BE

The fog of promises at UN conferences can’t hide the reality of emissions that keep growing. Emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high this year. At the same time, scientific reports about our prospects keep getting more dire—and the climate strikers were well aware of these facts.

No wonder so many young people are furious, desperate, anxious, frustrated! No wonder they take to the streets and denounce the inaction and lying rhetoric of governments! No wonder they want swift, radical action now!

Although the rush to catastrophe is a worldwide phenomenon and all the capitalist parties are complicit, the fanatical scorched-earth onslaught of reactionaries like Trump and Bolsonaro has raised such alarm that the strike was full of talk of the need to vote them out. They are indeed paragons of climate chaos, but the electoral alternatives promise only a slower path to destruction. We cannot allow our thought to be confined to this system’s limits at a time when the only practical approach is a revolutionary one.

–Franklin Dmitryev

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See also “Voices from Chicago climate strike–December 2019

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