I was sitting in a room full of people interested in the effects of climate change. We had just been watching two excellent films on the subject. And the discussion turned to “what can each of us do individually?” This is a difficult question, but out of the discussion it appeared that there were two things:
- We could unite with others with the common, non-violent purpose of changing the way the governments of the world deal with climate change; and
- We could join together in a violent movement to try to force the 1% wealthy part of the population to change the way governments deal with climate change.
The reaction of many to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement has been to unite at other levels of society to deal with the climate change problem. The latest signs of unity have been the Green New Deal and the marches by millions of children, inspired by one child’s appearance before the Swedish Parliament. One can only hope that these sorts of demonstrations have an impact on governments.
But then there is the violent sort of reaction. It is surprising that there haven’t been more of them. The prediction by some is that violence over climate change is in our future. “The signs of growing radicalism in green circles are already there, if you know where to look. While researching for [his] recent book, Radicals Chasing Utopia, [the author] spent time with Earth First!, a hard-line environmentalist group founded in the southwestern United States but with cells all over the world. It is enjoying a resurgence precisely because of its promises of “no compromise in defense of Mother Earth.” Longtime members told [him] that they’ve never seen this level of interest or frustration; it was clear from [his] time with them that, along with hardened old-timers, Earth First! has attracted loads of young people getting involved for the first time, all of whom had a sense that something needed to be done and fast.”
Personally, I’m not in favor of violence to advance a political cause. But violence is perfectly understandable in today’s world, where the moneyed 1% prevents the political system from responding to the reasonable demands of the populace. “Both the billionaire and the anarchist agree that OWS and the Black Lives Matter protests have been fueled by a continued disenfranchisement of huge swaths of America. One wants to fix the problem before it leads to violence, and one wants to help catalyze the protests to the point that the upend the current system. But the question remains, if the enormous economic collapse of the financial crisis or centuries of racial oppression aren’t creating a revolutionary situation, will anything?”
This, too, is a good question. But if our entire civilization begins heading towards collapse, certainly someone will blame the wealthy. After all, it is the wealthy – or part of them – that have promoted the fossil fuel industry in the face of the gravest warnings of scientists. The American government still spends $20 billion annually on fossil fuel subsidies, and we all know who gets the government to spend that sort of money. People are unlikely to forget who was responsible for climate change collapse. “Economists, advisers to the wealthy and the wealthy themselves describe a deep-seated anxiety that the national – and even global – mood is turning against the super-rich in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control.”
What people who are interested in action against climate change might do is vocalize the threat against the wealthy should climate change ruin our civilization. No one knows what would happen if climate change causes collapse. But the possibility that the wealthy might be charged with having caused it is certainly far from remote. And making that threat a matter of continuous chanting might inspire the wealthy to join the fight against climate change.
In other words, people inspired to do something about climate change don’t need to form vigilante groups against the wealthy. Instead, they should point out that a collapse of our civilization due to climate would almost inevitably lead to accusations of fault by the wealthy and the sort of “pitchfork” response that one saw in – among other things – the French Revolution. Any person with wealth to protect would be able to see that. And this might well drive him or her to invest in the fight against climate change. That’s the sort of threat that we need if the fight against climate change is to succeed.