‘This Changes Everything’: What the Paris attacks mean for the climate protests
Key organizers are pushing for the climate marches and protests to go ahead in Paris despite threats of a government clampdown (see last night’s press statements by 350.org and Climate Coalition 21). Claire Fauset, one of many climate justice activists planning to attend the talks, explains why it’s more important than ever to take action in Paris.
This changes everything. The title of Naomi Klein's book on the urgency of the fight to stop capitalism destroying our planet was the phrase that immediately came to mind as the horror of the Paris terror attacks settled on my brain last Friday night. I was with friends recording poems and snippets for a radio project during the climate summit, and all our thoughts were already in Paris.
My mind raced like a movie montage of paranoiac dystopianism. Remembering that day in 2001 when, while planning for a campaign against the World Trade Organization, the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground. Remembering the fear, not of terrorism, not of Islam, not of getting on a plane, but of war, xenophobia, repression, and spiralling cycles of violence. Fearing now what this attack means for a Europe already swinging to the right and restricting freedom of movement in the desperate hope of stemming the tide of people fleeing the wars and poverty for which Europe itself is partly responsible. And fearing the growth of the unthinking, poisonous prejudice that values white lives over the lives of people of colour in Beirut, Baghdad, Syria and everywhere.
And of course my fears were for our mobilizations around the climate summit. Will it even happen? Are we mobilizing people to be an easy target for terrorists in a heavily militarized state? Will climate change even be on the agenda? This changes everything.
Climate change is a greater threat than terrorism, we said, in those innocent days only a week ago. And it is. And the two are interconnected. The war in Syria is thought to be partly sparked by a drought, linked to climate change. And resource dependency – specifically oil – is what is buying the guns for the Islamic State. Climate change is a greater threat, but terrorism certainly has the ability to overshadow other issues by its immediacy and horror. Our intention was to go onto the streets of Paris when the summit fails, as it inevitably will, to reach an agreement that has a hope of keeping us within a 1.5 degree temperature rise, to take to the streets and take the last word. But how can we realistically hope to take the last word with our barricades when the first word has been so devastatingly stolen by the terrorists?
Right now social movements are trying to get their heads around what these attacks mean for resistance to the corporate agenda that hijacked the climate talks long before IS hijacked the Bataclan concert hall. We know that the summit will go ahead, but there are strong indications that marches and protests may be banned as a state of emergency is extended to cover the talks.
Paris is a traumatized city. We should not stay silent about the climate crisis, but our resistance must show empathy and solidarity, both with those affected by the attacks and those targeted by the fear, racism and paranoia that now follows. More than ever this is a time for solidarity and a rejection of false 'solutions'. The COP process over the past 20 years has led to a worsening of the climate crisis and a rise rather than reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the war on terror has led to more terror – in Beirut and Baghdad as well as Paris – and to a refugee crisis that leaves dead bodies washing up on Europe's shores. The same logic underlies both of these failures. A logic of maintaining the status quo, of protecting our economic interests at all costs, of ignoring the historical and current ways in which the West is deeply implicated in the root causes of the problem. In this moment of fear and uncertainty, of multiple crises sweeping the globe, a movement for justice, equality, anti-oppression, for a liveable planet and for a change to the system based on greed and exploitation is ever more needed.
Now is not the time to stay silent.