I’ve got a new piece up at the Center for Humans and Nature, “Democracy or Eco-Apartheid: Only a powerful, visionary movement can save us from green enclaves for elites and misery for the rest.”
Basically, the argument is that we can’t expect to replace fossil fuels with an endless supply of clean, green energy. At least in the coming decades, there will be limits. The question the essay addresses is, what kind of democracy (and pro-democracy movement) will it take to ensure that everyone has a remotely fair share of limited energy? If there were more room, I’d give a thorough argument for why even eco-aparteid could spell the end for all. The brief version, though, only takes one word to articulate: backlash. And a two-word example should suffice for most Canadians: Rob Ford.
At 12:57 a.m. on November 15, 2011, I got a text message reading, “OccupyNYC: URGENT … Eviction in Progress!” By the time I arrived, I couldn’t even see Zuccotti Park through the moving wall of riot cops. Yes—the filibuster is out of control, and partisan gridlock has seized Washington, DC. But North America’s deeper democratic crisis is its extraordinary inequality of wealth and power, with elites using their share to repress vigorous grassroots movements fighting to level the playing field. As Craig Calhoun, author of a first-hand account of the Tiananmen Square uprising, wrote after Occupy’s eviction, “It sounds melodramatic to say that democracy itself is at stake in the widespread moves to repress its main strategy of public demonstration. But it is true.”
This is the grim context climate activists confront. The stakes are huge. A dystopian eco-apartheid, where a privileged few find a way to hoard pleasant greenery and healthy food while the rest are exposed to dramatic ecological breakdown, lurks just around the corner. In comparison to the threat, the movement for climate justice is miniscule. Why?