Key to the Leap: Leave the oil in the soil


“What is necessary first and foremost is the cessation of fossil-fuel combustion. We have no choice but to slam on the brakes and come to a dead stop with respect to carbon emissions before we go over the climate cliff.”[1]

Posted on November 6, 2016

Ian Angus and John Riddell argue that using the Leap Manifesto as the basis for building a new socialist movement in Canada must include confronting the climate crisis and the power of Big Oil.

In the Autumn 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine George Martell argues that “the Leap Manifesto offers a genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy — to directly face up to capitalism — if we are prepared to take the Manifesto’s demands seriously.”

Martell’s thoughtful essay is followed by responses from activists representing a variety of viewpoints, including the following contribution by John Riddell and Ian Angus.

Ian Angus is editor of Climate & Capitalism and an activist with Sustainable North Grenville. John Riddell, a historian of the socialist movement, is active in Toronto East End Against Line

by Ian Angus and John Riddell

George Martell correctly notes that the Leap Manifesto’s impact on the New Democratic Party has opened new possibilities for the Left. Its “direct opposition to the oppressive logic of global capitalism,” offers us a “genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy.”

But to seize this opening, the Left must resolve a timescale problem that Martell does not address. His movement-building program is long-term, but the world climate crisis demands immediate action. We believe that the Leap Manifesto can bridge that gap.

Ecological emergency

The world ecological crisis is now apparent in abrupt climate shifts that are impossible to miss even in capitalist heartlands. As John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark write, delay is unacceptable.

The Paris climate agreement called for a 1.5oC ceiling on global warming, but already, just months later, scientists tell us that goal may be impossible to meet, because governments have not acted. As Naomi Klein says, “the governments that made this promise are now pushing for more fracking and more tar sands development,” which is “utterly incompatible” with their stated goal.[2] Nowhere is this more evident than in Canada. The Trudeau government has combined promises for climate action with support for more pipelines and more tar sands mining.

As Naomi Klein wrote in This Changes Everything, capitalist governments will not rein in climate change. “Only mass social movements can save us now.” She recently elaborated on her call for uniting the broadest possible range of grassroots movements

“So long as climate change is just one issue on a checklist, it will always fall off that list, because there’s always issues that are more pressing. And that’s natural. Of course people are more focused on putting food on the table, taking care of their families and healthcare and education.

“The question is: How can we [engage with climate change] in a way that addresses those core bread-and-butter concerns, rather than trying to compete and say, ‘There’s no jobs on a dead planet’ – a slogan you hear a lot in the environmental movement.”[3]

The Leap Manifesto summarizes this approach as “caring for the earth and for one another.” It stresses the urgency of action: “Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming.” The Manifesto’s website, posted on the eve of Canada’s October 2015 federal election, hammers this home: “Small steps are no longer enough. 2016 is our year to leap.

…(read more).

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