The Green Revolution Has to Work for Everyone

Photo by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

The response to climate change is in a stalemate. A situation caused by an obvious split between what seems most urgent for us at the moment; economic growth versus ameliorating the state of the natural world. It is a split that leaves us in an insufficient middle-space, where any action on climate change is constantly anchored down by concerns of economic growth.

Therefore, hoping that we can ameliorate the damage we are doing to nature, without addressing this root cause of this polarisation is effectively an exercise in futility. The only real way forward is to understand, not only that we are all in the same boat, but more importantly, how exactly it is possible for us to exist in such drastically different realities.

Governments and large corporations can seem like immovable giants, yet it is undeniable that both of them will ultimately bend to the will of the public. Thus, as long as we are all in disagreement and conflict, the actions mostly taken involve compromises which sound efficient enough to appease on part of the population, while in effect allowing industry to continue, for the most part, as it will.

An example hereof is the approach of so-called “nature based solutions” which essentially encompass the practice of planting new trees in “protected areas” so as to “off-set” emissions. Through this method, a polluting company in the global north would, instead of reducing it’s emissions by transforming its production, be able to simply buy areas of land, often in the global south, and plant trees there which would then allegedly “capture” their emissions.

A more thorough critique of this approach can be found in this article by Fiore Longo (Research and Advocacy Officer at Survival international, the global movement for tribal peoples as well as co-ordinator of Survival France.):

The polarisation on this topic is somewhat bizarre when first approaching it. After all, environmental protection is simply assuring that nature stays in a state of health. For while we are increasingly becoming disconnected from nature in our modern lives, we will always depend on nature, whether it be for food, water, air and our general health.

Thereby, damaging the environment is the same as damaging ourselves.

So how is it that a large amount of people find themselves being skeptical towards efforts of environmental protection?

This is a question that is all too often answered with an immediate demonisation of people generally associated with being skeptic on the topic, with assertions of them being stupid, uneducated or simply being wilfully ignorant.

Not only is this attitude a primary fuel to the flaming polarisation, but it also disables us from truly understanding the perspectives which we need to understand the most if we want to change things.

As mentioned earlier, many fear the immediate consequences for the functioning of their daily lives. For people whose lives are built on structures which demand use of fossil fuels and polluting consumption, i.e. driving cars or warming their homes, policies that increase the costs of these activities are a direct threat to their livelihood. A clear example of working class people reacting to this burden being placed on their shoulders is the yellow vest movement, that started in late 2018 in France, in large part due to taxes on fuel.

Furthermore, there is a fundamental economic observation that is integral to understanding this issue, which is that the majority of people live in financial struggle. In the US, for example, 50% of working people earn less than 30k $ a year. A similar percentage live paycheque to paycheque. With the onset of outsourcing of production, their opportunities for jobs have dwindled, leaving them in economic scarcity, fuelling an understandable rage towards a government that continues to promise improvement, yet continuously fails to do so.

The election of Trump in 2016 can be seen as a culmination of this general frustration and desperation, in that people were willing to elect someone who, at least in appearance, was different than the status quo. His election was nothing more than a symptom of a deeper problem found in the economic structures which currently exist, and during his term wealth continued to circulate into the hands of oligarchs.

The same is generally the case in Europe, where we, especially in the last decade. Several countries, Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland have enormous national debt, and Greece especially has lived on a respirator fuelled by money that de facto comes from France and Germany, through the European Union. The condition of being allowed to live on this respirator has been to implement an inhumane level of austerity upon the Greek population, placing a further burden on their already heavy shoulders.

Furthermore, even the governments of richer countries such as Germany, France and the UK have, instead of making investments which would benefit the general public, enacted harsh austerity leaving even the people living in the richest countries of the world, struggling financially.

The result of people’s frustration has been as obvious in the EU as it has been in the US, as we saw an increasing rage targeted at refugees and immigrants, leading to the increased support for political candidates mirroring Trump’s sentiments of strong borders.

What is clear is that it is the actions of governments and large corporations which are foundational to causing the economic distress of the majority of people.

Even more insidiously, the same can be said for those who became the scapegoats; immigrants.

Refugees and immigrants are mostly seeking to enter the global north, due to events caused by the same northern states. Whether it be direct invasions (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), proxy-warfare (Syria, several African and South-american countries) or through economic exploitation (outsourcing production were wage-slavery can be used, exploitation of natural resources in poorer countries, economic sanctions), the peril that the global south finds itself in can largely be attributed to the influence of northern states, seeking to control their resources, and for that reason also their general development.

After all, a prospering nation is unlikely to accept that multinational corporations extract their natural resources at absurdly low payments.

The example can also clearly be made on the American continent alone, as immigrants and refugees from the South have become the scapegoat for many working people, as to why their job-opportunities are dwindling. This is convenient to both the government and the corporations, as it keeps the focus away from the fact that they are responsible for outsourcing the industry to utilise slave labour in the global south and east, and also their efforts to destabilise southern countries for the purpose of installing governments subservient to the US.

Even within the EU, much of the unsustainable national debt of Greece and others, is a direct result of predatory efforts by German and French banks, as is explained especially well in the work of Yanis Varoufakis (former Minister of Finance of Greece, Greek MEP, Founding member of Diem 25).

What all of this means, is that the experience for many working people is one of financial struggle to stay afloat. A struggle that is mostly caused by the actions of large corporations and the governments which they have captured. This “captivity” of governments doesn’t end with politicians and regulatory agencies; it has also hijacked the movement of protecting the environment.

Billionaires like Bill Gates have not hesitated to take full advantage of the situation, with a rhetoric that emphasises certain talking points which are both cynical and false. The problem of environmental destruction is often framed as if it is mainly caused by overpopulation and as if it can be resolved through means of bio-engineering. Gates himself heralds solutions based on large scale manipulation of the environment, yet perhaps most urgent is the conviction that chemicals and pharmaceuticals will solve the problem. Industries in which he himself is heavily invested.

Arguably, the most important example here is that of chemical agriculture, as it has become a prevalent belief that it is only by genetically modifying our crops, and spraying heavily with pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that we can possibly feed the world. This will not work, because it is the practice of chemical agriculture that is causing the problem.

Despite the efforts of major pesticide producers such as Monsanto (now Bayer), of which Gates owns a large share, to conceal the truth, it has become clear that chemical agriculture causes depletion of the top-soil, leading to crops and plants lacking vital nutrients, and also that these chemicals directly harm the human gut-micro-biome, thus causing a wide variety of cancer and toxicity.

It may seem cynical to criticise those who are otherwise hailed as saviours, yet looking at the general status, actions, and influence of large corporations, it should not come as any surprise that they would co-opt a movement as important as that of environmental protection.

Extensive and excellent reporting has been done at The Grayzone:

This is not a problem that can be resolved within the current structures of society; the very driving forces stand in the way of it in their desperate attempt to both maintain a pyramid-like structure in society of which they are at the top.

What is needed is far different than what we are doing now.

Firstly, we need to realise that the natural world is not some simple process that we can simply manipulate as we please; instead we need to see that it is all one big, extremely complex and interconnected eco-system. The problems we are now seeing come as a direct result of our efforts of disrupting that eco-system. It is an utterly wrong assertion to say that humans are a cancer on this planet, as we are an integral part of it. What can be said, is that we are acting like a cancer on the planet, and that we are doing so to our own detriment.

Thus, we need to take the responsibility, individually and collectively, of transforming our lives so that they gain alignment with the natural world. This involves:

  • Transitioning towards locally produced, chemical-free, regenerative agriculture, which will empower individual farmers, reduce need for transportation, and create nutritious food, all of which will have a positive effect on the eco-systems. Organisations such as Farmer’s Footprint are working towards exactly that.
  • Choosing to buy items that are, as far as possible, produced locally and in ways that respect the natural world. A challenge considering the degree of greenwashing taking place, yet nonetheless something that becomes possible to do when trying to consider the full life-cycle of a product. For example, a plastic bottle is toxic to produce, use, and will likely not be recycled properly, whereas a aluminium can is a better choice simply due to its recyclability.
  • Connecting with others. This can seem like a practically useless proposition, yet it may just be the most essential part of creating the change that we so desperately need. As explained, so much of the problem that we find ourselves in comes as a result of our disconnection from each other. The destruction of the natural world and it’s ecosystems is a fact, yet replacing real dialogue around the issue with performative virtue-signalling, covering a claim to superiority, while disregarding the economic circumstances of others does nothing but worsen the situation. It is exactly this polarisation that enables the status quo, as it leaves us in resentment of others, disabling us from fostering the cooperation that is needed.

The restoration of the natural world is a challenge that demands fundamental change to every aspect of our lives, and hoping to achieve it through billionaire saviours, politicians, or through demonisation of others will simply enable the status quo.

Real change takes connection; a fellowship that enables us to create parallel systems to the ones that exist now, which will not only make the current, crumbling systems obsolete, but also create something truly worth living for.

Thus, real change starts with connection, dialogue, and empathy.

Further reading:

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