Youth Vs Apocalypse

September 29, 2021

From the Youth vs Apocalypse action in San Francisco, Aug. 27. Photo by Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

San Francisco—As part of the ongoing Climate Strike, Fridays for Future, on Aug. 27 several hundred, mostly youth, gathered in front of a federal building to call attention to a number of issues. The top one was a proposed new pipeline, Line 3, that would carry 915,000 barrels of tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fuels on earth, from Canada through wetlands and treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples, through Minnesota, the Mississippi River and the shores of Lake Superior to Wisconsin. Enbridge company, who wants to build this pipeline, is already responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the U.S. In addition to the damage caused to the environment by inevitable oil spills, the pipeline would carry enough oil to produce 50 coal-power-plants-worth of carbon dioxide, or 38 million vehicles, per year.

From the Youth vs Apocalypse action in San Francisco, Aug. 27. Photo by Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

Youth vs Apocalypse also wanted to draw attention to the fact that CalSTRS—California public teachers’ pension fund, the largest teachers’ pension fund in the country—invests $6 billion in fossil fuels, including millions in Enbridge. Students are educating their educators, whose job is to prepare the students for the future, that their participation in capitalist investments destroys future for all. (To take action go to

The environmental racism happens right in SF, too. Youth call for holding Lennar/FivePoint company responsible for building homes in a heavily contaminated area of SF, Bayview Hunters Point, a low-income community of color, whose residents suffer from high rates of asthma and cancer. Despite alleged fraud on the completely inadequate cleanup, the company wants to build thousands more homes there.

From the Youth vs Apocalypse action in San Francisco, Aug. 27. Photo by Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

This is a public health emergency! Youth vs Apocalypse call for a moratorium on development and unsafe soil excavation, and for full safe cleanup and removal of all radioactive and toxic waste from Bayview and Treasure Island.

At the same time, and the same place, caregivers are calling on Nancy Pelosi to ensure Biden’s infrastructure bill will contain the $400 billion for home care jobs and home care access. Caregivers have formed a grassroots coalition with older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers to advocate for dignity for all people who need or provide care. They proudly held signs that proclaimed: “We, home and care workers, are essential!”

From the Youth vs Apocalypse action in San Francisco, Aug. 27. Photo by Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

“Listen to the science” is emphatically NOT “leave it to the scientists” or “science is the answer.” The youth’s presentation of scientific facts is a challenge to the older generations: you know the facts and yet you continue a way of life that threatens all life! They are articulating in a new way what Karl Marx said in 1844: “to have one basis for life and another for science is a priori a lie”!

Youth’s movement is a universal human movement. The Aug. 19, 2021, New York Times carried an essay by youth climate activists from Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya, in addition to Greta Thunberg, reporting on the effects of climate chaos on children also in the Philippines and Zimbabwe. Their conclusion is, “We will not allow the world to look away.” In Sep. 2019, at a climate rally in SF, youth carried the banner, “We are the earth protecting itself!” That, too, is an expression of human life as part of the natural world, a call to re-examine the lens through which we view reality.

The natural world and humans as natural beings are perceived by capitalist ideology as embodying abstract, alienated labor, an illusory “congealed labor time in things” that has no regard for actual material nature or human nature. (The destruction of nature goes with the destruction, both physical and mental, of workers as at Amazon, hospitals, and classrooms.) The challenge not only to more action, but to that very perception of what is real, makes the youth movement so powerful.

The youth personify a reconnection with humans as nature. Our challenge is not only to single out the Idea in their actions, but to reveal the Idea as the concrete universal, including new beginnings in how human life is organized. The nature of “what happens after?” is what the Left has no connection to.

Marx called his philosophy a “thoroughgoing naturalism or humanism,” a humanism which is our ability to freely determine our life-activity. That idea of freedom, of human development, shaped Marx’s whole body of thought and his engagement with multidimensional forms of the Idea’s manifestation in human struggles to be free. That was true, as Raya Dunayevskaya put it in “A Post-World War II View of Marx’s Humanism, 1843-1883; Marxist Humanism, 1950s-1980s” (Sept.-Oct. 2021 N&L): “… be it capitalism, pre-capitalism or post-capitalism….

The youth and the whole movement for humanity to take responsibility for life of the planet are a new manifestation of that Idea that needs to hear itself speak, needs to be articulated and realized as concrete.

–Urszula Wislanka

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