16October2019

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‘How Dare You!’ The Climate Crisis And The Public Demand For Real Action

Reality clashed with the BBC version of false consensus in a remarkable edition of HardTalk last month. Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, was starkly honest about humanity's extreme predicament in the face of climate breakdown and refused to buckle under host Stephen Sackur's incredulous questioning. Sackur's inability to grasp that we are already in a climate emergency, and that massive changes are necessary now to avoid societal collapse, was clear for all to see. His line of questioning attempted to present Hallam to the BBC audience as a dangerous revolutionary, trying to destroy capitalism for twisted ideological reasons.

Sackur: 'You want to bring down the capitalist system as we know it, is that correct?

Hallam: 'The capitalist system is going to be brought down by itself. The capitalist system is eating itself.'

Sackur: 'Well, no, the point about your...'

Hallam (interrupting): 'Let me make this point clear, right. The capitalist system – the global system that we're in – is in the process of destroying itself, and it will destroy itself in the next ten years. The reason for that is because it's destroying the climate. The climate is what's necessary to grow food. If you can't grow food, there will be starvation and social collapse. Now, the problem is, people in elites, people in the BBC, and people in the governmental sector, cannot get their heads round what's actually happening. The fact of the matter is, if you go out and talk to ordinary people in the street, they're aware of this. And that's why hundreds of thousands of people around the world are starting to take action...'

Sackur (interrupting): 'I understand what you're [saying], your perspective on the climate is that the emergency is here, it's now and we have to respond.'

Hallam (interrupting): 'No, I don't think you have [understood].'

As Hallam pointed out in the interview, 'hard science' shows that, as things stand, billions of people will die in the next few decades as a result of climate breakdown. William Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia, and the originator of the concept of 'ecological footprint', agreed. He added bluntly:

'Humanity is literally converting the ecosphere into human bodies, prodigious quantities of cultural artifacts, and vastly larger volumes of entropic waste. (That's what tropical deforestation, fisheries collapses, plummeting biodiversity, ocean pollution, climate change, etc. are all about.)'

Earlier this year, Noam Chomsky noted that:

'In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive.'

If corporate media were structurally capable of reflecting reality, this would be constant headline news:

'Every single [newspaper] should have a shrieking headline every day saying we are heading to total catastrophe. [...] That has to be drilled into people's heads constantly. After all, there's been nothing like this in all of human history. The current generation has to make a decision as to whether organized human society will survive another couple of generations, and it has to be done quickly, there's not a lot of time. So, there's no time for dillydallying and beating around the bush. And [the US] pulling out of the Paris negotiations should be regarded as one of the worst crimes in history.'

Human extinction within one hundred years is a real possibility. A massive upsurge of public concern, placing unassailable pressure on governments to drastically change course, is urgently needed. Climate strikes, with seven million people taking part last Friday, inspired in large part by the example of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, need to be ramped up even further, demanding real change; not fixes to a fundamentally destructive system that is falling apart, bringing humans and numerous other species with it.

As Thunberg passionately told world leaders at the UN in New York last week, in a powerful mix of emotion and reason:

'People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! [...] How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions.'

Thunberg's speech gave the lie, yet again, to ill-founded claims that she is being manipulated or 'manufactured' as a front for neoliberalism, 'green' capitalism or 'neo-feudalism'. As Jonathan Cook wrote in a cogent demolition of cynical claims made against her, including by some on the left:

'Thunberg is not Wonder Girl. She will have to navigate through these treacherous waters as best she can, deciding who genuinely wants to help, who is trying to sabotage her cause, and which partners she can afford to ally with. She and similar movements will make mistakes. That is how social protests always work. It is also how they evolve.'

Cook added:

'Should Thunberg become captured, wittingly or not, by western elites, it is patronising in the extreme to assume that the many millions of young and old alike joining her on the climate strikes will be incapable of recognising her co-option or whether she has lost her way. Those making this argument arrogantly assume that only they can divine the true path.'

 

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