By Pablo Solón, Executive Director, Focus on the Global South
Published in “Forest Cover” the newsletter of the Global Forest Coalition
It was the first time there was a space dedicated to climate change in a World Social Forum (WSF). During the three days at the WSF in Tunisia (26-30 March), 13 events were organised covering different aspects of climate change (fossil fuels, water, migrations, employment, food, mining, false solutions such as carbon markets and REDD, systemic alternatives, etc.). The methodology agreed by the 20 organisations that prepared the event did not follow the logic of the United Nations negotiations but the daily interests of the people. The goal was to discuss how to strengthen the links between social and environmental struggles. The plan was to start from the impacts and the existing struggles, in order to deepen our ideas and shared understanding about the alternatives and create action strategies to address climate change effectively. This article provides just a glimpse of this symphony of voices and proposals.
The Climate Space showed in a very concrete way that climate change is not a purely environmental issue. Consequently, it cannot be solved with a campaign that is narrowly focused on the climate crisis. Climate change is a product of the capitalist system and its logic of unlimited growth and profit maximisation. To tackle climate change we must replace this flawed logic with an alternative framework that reaffirms the importance of natural heritage to the user as being more important than the exchange/market value, and puts everybody’s welfare over and above profit for a few. We need a system that recognises nature not as raw materials but as our home, our Mother Earth. A system that preserves the vital cycles of nature, including forests and oceans, and respects planetary boundaries. A system that seeks balance and harmony rather than excessive growth. In other words, to get out of the current climate crisis it is necessary to break the vicious cycle of capital.
This debate, seemingly abstract, acquires flesh and bone when specific topics are discussed and this is what happened at the Climate Space.
Let´s take the example of fossil fuels. Several international studies have mentioned that in order to control greenhouse gas emissions it is essential to keep more than two-thirds of the oil, coal and gas reserves underground. But applying this measure conflicts with the powerful interests of corporations and states who own this capital and want to maximise their profits.
Limiting greenhouse gas emissions will not be possible if society does not regain control of these reserves and curb exploitation. But transnational corporations and governments that control the reserves will fight to the death to preserve their capital. They will respond in whatever way they can, from utilising the media to unleashing the forces of repression. Their main strength, however, is our greatest weakness: the hyper-consumerist mentality that has permeated many sectors of humanity. It is not possible to keep more than two-thirds of fossil fuels underground if we do not leave behind the ‘nightmare’ of the American dream of a car for every family/person, and adopt real solutions.
Part of the solution to climate change is to forge cities and countries with strong public transportation systems, which would make individual cars unnecessary. The true alternative is not solar-powered individual cars or other wrongly-called ‘renewable energies’ based on biomass, availability of land and other resources, but the reconfiguration of the public and individual space. The challenge is to regain control over industries, to ensure efficient transportation rather than fulfillment of shareholders’ ambitions to create profit.
Our fundamental task is to unpack the climatic and environmental dimensions that are intrinsic to every social struggle. Increasingly, struggles that generated reformist demands have become subversive, in that capitalism seeks higher levels of profit at the expense of human beings, forests and nature in general. The future of humanity and vital cycles of nature depend on this great battle that is taking place in different ways around the globe. The main task is to link climate activists and strengthen the joint struggles seeking for an articulation of national, regional and global movements and thus, contribute to making them more organic and sustained, with a broader systemic vision.
 Alliance of Progressive Labor Philippines, Alternatives International, ATTAC France, Ecologistas en Acción, Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria, ETC Group, Fairwatch, Italy, Focus on the Global South, Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and end TNCs’ impunity, Global Forest Coalition, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Grupo de Reflexão e Apoio ao Processo do Fórum Social Mundial, Indigenous Environmental Network, La Via Campesina, No-REDD Africa Network, Migrants Rights International, OilWatch International, Polaris Institute, Social Movements for Alternative Asia and Transnational Institute.