Fighting for humanity: Using grassroots organizing as solution to climate change crisis

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The Warsaw Climate Change Conference began just days after Typhoon Haiyan thrashed the Philippine islands of Samar, Leyte and Negros. The storm has since killed over 4,000 people and displaced millions, while the rest of the world scrambles to provide aid and an explanation for the unprecedented frequency of oceanic disasters affecting South East Asia in the last decade.

Grassroots Mobilization

Since 2005, a Global Day of Action has been held around the world to coincide with the UNFCCC. It’s objectives, naturally, are to spur national governments into concern about climate change and demand that states honour emission reduction targets while committing to new treaties.

Organizers were especially busy this year in the so-called obstructionist states at the Convention -- those hostile toward policy changes and the scaling back of greenhouse gas emissions tied to key industries.

Japan forwarded perhaps the most brazen reversal of goals, announcing it will renege on its pledge to reduce emissions from 25 per cent to 3 per cent by 2020. With the capitulation of its nuclear energy program, the island nation is consigned to dirtier forms of energy to stay functional.

The climate change denying government of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott received as much, if not more, criticism for its domestic policies, including lately a bill to repeal the nation’s carbon tax. That piece of legislation still requires a Senate vote, however, Abbott has already announced plans to slash scientific research and development funding by $400 million while dismantling investment in clean energy technologies.

More than 60,000 protestors gathered across the country last Saturday to voice their distaste for Abbott’s policies of "denialism and skepticism."

In Canada, familiar scenes gripped a nation whose Conservative government has repeatedly turned its back on climate change. Over 100 protests were held across the country on November 16 to extend an already passionate discussion about Canada’s national energy vision tied to Alberta’s oil sands, and its repeated efforts to ignore internationally binding agreements pertaining to anthropogenic global warming.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has overseen Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and has failed conclusively to curb domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

To further establish its stance as one in opposition to the environment and developing nations, the government released a statement praising Australia’s leader. "Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax...the Australian Prime Minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message."

This is a fight for humanity, not nations

For those living in the developed world, the consequences of climate acceleration are but unfortunate mementos of suffering half way around the world. The plight of victims in the Philippines, having to drag the corpses of their loved ones from underneath fallen buildings, incites a different type of tragedy and infuriation among those witnessing disaster from afar.

What is common, however, is the human struggle that all people, regardless of nationality and wealth, will be forced to confront at some point in the 21st century. This is an inevitability.

The UNFCCC is an important conference, but it has proven anemic as the sole international body for mediating anthropogenic global warming. The signing of treaties and documents -- officiated pinky swears at best -- cannot be relied upon as the only method of mobilization to combat the crisis of our collective ecosphere.

Through alternative media, grassroots organizing and radical thinking, solutions will become clearer. But to become a reality they first require political will from above and below, and solidarity with developing nations who are most affected.

It ought to be the hope of all humanity that we possess the will needed to alter our lifestyles, consumption habits and reliance upon fossil fuels perpetuating cycles of supply and demand.

Admittedly, it is beyond the scope of any piece of writing or document to reverse these deeply engrained and historical processes, but a meaningful acknowledgement of them is a bold first step. Perhaps we are close to reaching it.


Harrison Samphir is an editor and writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @HarrySamphir.

This is an abridged version of an article that appeared on Truthout and is reprinted with permission.

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