COP26: Climate Solutions Must be Intersectional, Equitable and Anti-Capitalist

The opinions expressed in this article as the opinions of the writer and do not represent the opinions of The Hysteria Collective as a platform.

On 6th November 2021, or the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, 20,000 people took to the streets of London. Another 100,000 marched in Glasgow. Trade unionists, feminists, LGBTQ+ activists, faith groups, young people and folk from all walks of life came together to tell our leaders that their ‘solutions’ to the Climate Crisis are insufficient. We need change. We need it fast. And we need it to be intersectional.

The Climate Crisis does not affect us all equally. Those at the sharpest ends of state violence are disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change. This means that feminists – or those of us who fight for intersectionality – must stand beside our brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings of marginalised communities all over the world and demand intersectional and equitable climate solutions with their interests and their welfare at the forefront.

Women and people of marginalised genders are disproportionately affected by the Climate Crisis

Women and people of marginalised genders are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change because they are already on the sharpest ends of state violence. While our trans and non-binary siblings are of course integral to this crisis, unfortunately, much of the discussion and research in this area does focus on the experiences of cisgender women.

In many parts of the world, such as the Global South, women still have less access than men to education, to well-paid employment, to resources and healthcare. The continuation of sexism, misogyny and the marginalisation of women globally puts so many women at a disadvantage that when the effects of the Climate Crisis are felt whether it’s through access to food, water, flooding or deforestation, women are less able to be resilient to these impacts than men.

With this in mind, it should be obvious that climate justice has to be a feminist and LGBTQ+ issue because those most impacted by climate change are our sisters and siblings around the world who live their lives on the front lines of flooding, deforestation and reduced access to food and water. Likewise, they are also the most likely to be systematically excluded from emergency disaster relief.

The Agricultural Gender Gap is one example. Despite making up 51% of the global population, women only make up a small percentage of landholders in the agricultural sector. In many countries, women have less access to cash and credit to buy resources, tools, seed and fertilisers, and have limited access to education and funding. It is not that women farmers are any less capable than men; they are just not allowed access to the same resources and thus, when their farm experiences a flood or a drought and their crops are damaged, they are left unsupported.

By bringing in the voices and experiences of women and people of marginalised genders into conversations about climate solutions, we can begin to find genuinely intersectional and equitable solutions rather than solutions that prioritise and focus on the experiences of those who already have certain privileges protecting them from the sharpest edges of the Climate Crisis.

An anti-Capitalist solution to the Climate Crisis

Governments and big businesses have gotten rich through methods that we now know have contributed to the Climate Crisis.

Widespread industrialisation since the 19th Century, and even since the earliest centuries of Capitalism since the 16th Century, have relied on and grown powerful through the exploitation of natural resources like coal, coffee, tea, oil and – of course, the big one, slavery.

Since the very beginnings of Western Capitalism, wealthier countries (typically of the Global North) have extracted, stolen and colonised land and resources from less wealthy countries (typically the Global South) to fill their banks and fund their extravagant lifestyles while the people of those countries are exploited, abused or forgotten

20th and 21st Century Capitalism and neoliberal economics (think Thatcher in the 1980s) are intrinsically at odds with climate justice. Think of the shiny tower blocks like Trump tower and that ridiculous golden toilet, of Wolf of Wall Street mentality, of growth and extravagance and wealth. It’s always about doing more, being more, having more – but at whose expense? And at what point does our consumption come at the expense of the planet?

However, alternatives including ecological economics, a circular economy or ecosocialism stand in stark contrast to these ideas of excess and consumption.

Ecological economics, which emerged in the 1960s and 70s, argues that the health of the natural environment is essential to a healthy economy. It criticises endless economic growth and the excesses of a consumer-capitalist society. Ecological economists like Dr Tim Jackson of Post Growth: Life after Capitalism and Kate Raworth of Doughnut Economics argue that societies and economies should be based around ideas of balance and equilibrium rather than endless growth and profit. This means reassessing what we give value to in our societies. Do we value our natural capital such as the health of our rivers and oceans, of biodiversity and coral reefs? Or do we value the money big business invests in the fossil fuel industry?

A circular economy uses this idea of balance and equilibrium as resources are intended to be endlessly reused and recycled. This ditches the throwaway culture that many of us grew up in. Old plastic can become clothing. Food waste can become natural fertiliser that doesn’t harm the biodiversity of our soils and our rivers.

Ecosocialism first gained some popularity in the 1980s though some argue it can be tracked all the way back to Daddy Marx himself. It considers Capitalism to be completely at odds with climate justice and argues we will never halt climate change in a Capitalist society. Combining the two threads of ecology and socialism, it argues that an ecosocialist society would exist on carbon-free energy. The US Green Party has already embraced ecosocialism; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also a prominent democratic socialist while, in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has been an outspoken advocate for ecosocialism for decades.

Conclusion

We need intersectional, equitable and anti-capitalist solutions to the Climate Crisis. While the discussions surrounding COP26 are all well and good, we need urgency and radical climate action because we really are running out of time. If the world leaders won’t save the planet for us, it’s time we stand up and demand meaningful change.

The queer and feminist liberation bloc is an umbrella group of intersectional feminist and queer activist groups committed to environmental protection and social justice who took to the streets of London on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice 2021.

A huge thank you from all of us at The Hysteria Collective for the support of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Feminist Fightback, Stonewall Housing, UVW Sector of Violence Against Women and Girls, Women’s Strike Assembly, Grabbing back, The Feminist Library, Samba Sisters collective and more!

Photo courtesy of Callum Shaw

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