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Artists of the Movement: IPCC Reflections

On August 9th, 2021, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report detailing the current state of the climate crisis and laying out the dystopian future that potentially awaits us. 

In a way, the details of the report are not a surprise. We are living the climate crisis. All around the world,  massive wildfires are burning up continents, horrific floods are wiping out entire towns, and sky shattering storms are leaving people wading through feet of water just to get to work. This report is not a  surprise: all we have to do is look around. 

But there is always that thought in the back of our minds that hopes that this is a cosmic accident. That it’s just this one storm, just this drought, just this heatwave that is bad. Tomorrow, we will all wake up and everything will be ok. The IPCC report tells us in scientific detail how that will never be true. That with every increase in global temperature, we are guaranteed to see more mass suffering at the hands of a dying world. 

This is heavy. This is terrifying. It’s ok to recognize the emotional impact of seeing these sentences in print.  No one can accept this reality and not begin to mourn for the world we are losing. But that doesn’t mean that we have lost. 

Even as the IPCC lays out a grim picture, it tells us there is hope. That is no surprise, all we have to do is look around and see how the people are rising up to demand a just world.  In these pages, we will confront hard truths about the state of the climate. But we will also speak honestly about the things we can and have to do in order to not only save our world but build a better one.  We are going to organize to build a future worth living.

Confronting a crisis on a planetary scale is daunting, but together we can move mountains. 

It is always darkest before dawn. It is up to us to make sure the sun rises. 

What is the Report NOT Telling You:

  • The Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) that are warming the planet are a direct result of industrial greed by major corporations since the Industrial Revolution. Currently just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global emissions. 
  • This was all preventable. Government officials and corporate leaders have known about global warming since the 1970s. The reason why we are experiencing this is because of inaction and greed by our leaders. 
  • Indigenous peoples maintained and cared for a thriving natural environment for millennia  and still do. We have the knowledge to create a world in harmony with nature.

Where Do We Go From Here? By Evan Weber

In early August 2021, the most respected climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us we are out of time. In their sixth and latest report, they laid out the stark realities of our global climate future. We are locked into rising sea levels for the next new hundred years and rising temperatures until we reduce our emissions to zero.

We will be beyond the reach of livable habitable earth in the next two decades without immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gases.

Do politicians know what it’s like to be a young person alive today? To have to read these reports and articles about the potential end of civilization as we know it in our lifetimes, and be expected to just go to school, or work, and act like everything is normal? Like everything is okay? Well, it’s not okay. And we’re not going to act like it.

We didn’t need this report to tell us how bad things are. We’re already living through chaos. Fires are burning forests the size of U.S. states and skies fill with haze and smoke from thousands of miles away. Buildings are collapsing into the sea. Infrastructure is literally melting. Power is getting shut off and people are dying by the hundreds from heatwaves.

That’s all from the last few months alone. Meanwhile, the wealthy elite are debating whether we should even act at all, and the President of the United States is letting climate-denying Republicans scale back his already insufficient climate pledges — putting the pursuit of “bipartisanship” over the existential future of our civilization. 

This latest IPCC report should be a wake-up call that half measures are not nearly enough to end the climate crisis. Even if we act now with the boldest possible action, there is still irreversible damage locked in from decades of fossil fuel use: sea levels will continue to rise, ice sheets will melt rapidly, and many coastal cities will cease to exist due to rising sea levels. Let’s be clear: this was avoidable. These severe, nearly irreversible impacts are due to inaction from our politicians, many of them bought by oil and gas executives protecting their pocketbooks at the expense of everyone else. It is because of their failure to act that some of the places we love and call home will one day cease to exist.

Right now, we have the chance to pass historic legislation that could begin the decade of the Green New Deal. This legislation must include: a fully-funded Civilian Climate Corps, significant investments towards public housing, schools, transit, and renewable energy, strengthened union and worker protections, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, with at least 40% of investments to frontline communities.

 The IPCC report is clear: the stakes are high and we’re running out of time. Anything less than delivering the full scope of climate action is ignoring science and a failure for the millions of people who live in this country and need care.The worst thing we as individuals can do right now is give into despair. To all the young people out there feeling scared, feeling numb, feeling angry: Don’t give in, or they win. Now is the time to get organized.  

Talk to your neighbors. Gather your friends. Join our movement. Do what you can. The time for disruption is now. A better world is possible and within reach, let’s create it together.

Organizing Will Save The World

Over the course of these pages, we have journeyed through the murky waters of where the industry-caused climate crisis could take us. But we have also seen all of the solutions, all the ways forward, all the bright futures that await us if we take action.

But the question still remains: how can we pull this off? How can we reorganize global systems to function for working people instead of the richest 1%? The answer is all-encompassing but straightforward: we have to organize ourselves. 

Why will community organizing save the world?

 Because it is the only way that we can win the future we dream of. But what is community organizing? There is no one straightforward definition but we offer up this one, forged by generations of resistance by oppressed peoples: Community organizing should be radical in its desire to end systems of oppression, it should be grounded in solidarity, and the lived experience of working-class communities, especially working-class communities of color. Additionally, community organizations not only must be dedicated to racial, economic, and social justice but has to live those values by placing power with the communities most affected by the current systems. 

We are already powerful. As a unified and well-organized collective, there is nothing that we as the people cannot accomplish. That is why our politics try to isolate us and cut us off from one another. Working together, building together, creating together, we can change everything. 

Organizing is the method by how we realize our collective power. Working together, building together, creating together allows us to dream of bright futures where we all have enough. Systems of oppression rely on complacency, on the inability to see other ways the world can work. Organizing is imagination and creation. As Frederick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without demand”. Organizing is how power concedes before the demand. 

How will community organizing save the world?

Because it is both the model and the method. 

First, the model. The process of bringing people together for political action does not only create organizations, it also creates community.   There is nothing that brings people together like the unified struggle for a greater good. In our organizing spaces, we can create a community that is in opposition to oppressive systems like white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, patriarchy, and more. 

In our spaces we can build relationships, work together, learn from one another and care for one another in radically healing ways.  . We can imagine little corners of our world that are a reflection of the future we are trying to build. 

That is what we mean when we say that organizing provides a model for a liberated future. Our community spaces allow us to show ourselves and others that it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be isolated, over-worked, struggling individuals. We can be members of a rich community that cares and provides for one another. 

That is not to say that community organizations are magically free of replicating these systems. Many groups, Sunrise included, have institutionally caused harm to Black and Brown organizers. The work of existing in organizing communities requires us to unlearn the socialization at the hands of an oppressive world. For white accomplices across the spectrum of class, sexuality, and disability, the need is urgent to unlearn our internalized white supremacy and to divest from the power we are unduly given. Organizing spaces can provide ways for white allies to unlearn without causing any more harm

This example is powerful. Organizing gives us the chance to see our dreams of a better world realized in limited ways. We cannot create what we cannot see. 

Then, the method. You might be asking yourself: what exactly is the tipping point? How is it that getting all these people together and envisioning better worlds is going to radically transform anything? How exactly is organizing going to save the world? 

The dominant political, social, and economic systems of our world are reliant on our silence and compliance. Ask yourself: what would happen if one day everyone just stopped complying? 

One of the goal of organizing is to build movements capable of mass non-compliance. We want to make it possible for a critical mass of people to stop society in its tracks, literally, so that we can win our demands. This is successful because nothing can function without working people.  Without us. 

One powerful example comes to us from the Cochamba Water War in Ecuador. In the late 90s and early 2000s, a movement of farmers, workers, street vendors, and community members stopped the privatization of the water supply of Cochamba, Ecuador. Organizers in the Coordinadora organized walkouts, marches and even instituted a General Strike. They literally brought the economy and life of Cochamba to a halt. The power they had generated and the impact it was having on the city led to an end to movement to privatize their water supply.

Mass non-compliance isn’t without it’s challenges. Protestors in Cochamba faced violent resistance from police and other law enforcement. But the impacts of organizing people into action are undeniable. Most if not all victories for working class movements have come from mass non-compliance, across a variety of tactics. 

Organizing works. Together we can and are building a critical mass of people to stand up, fight back and resist the policies, institutions, and systems that are harming us. We are creating spaces where we can hold one another through this struggle. That is what a movement is all about. 

How do I organize?

Brick by brick. Bit by Bit.

There is no right place to “start” or to continue your journey as an organizer. Join an organization doing work in your community.

All you need is a few friends, a clear vision for the future, and clear demands for how to get there. Ground yourself in what your communities need, educate yourself and your fellow community members, care for one another, be bold and confrontational and most importantly reach out to people, knock on doors, and do what you can to grow the movement. 

We can do this. We have everything we need to stop the climate crisis in its track and build a more sustainable, fairer, and just world. We don’t need anything other than the power of the people united.

Let’s go.  

How Will the GND Transform our Communities? By Kashish Bastola

Storms surge and fires burn, but public school students have to take the fall.

I vividly remember the day in 6th grade when my school told us the basement was indefinitely shut down due to a gas leak. I immediately grew worried. I had an art project in my art class in the basement. My Spanish class was down there. The locker room, P.E. gym, and cafeteria were located in the basement too. What were we supposed to do? The basement was guarded with yellow caution tape. I was worried, like the rest of my teachers and peers. It wasn’t until recently that I learned this is not a common occurrence, especially for non-public school students. This gas leak was not an isolated event—it was a manifestation of a nationwide crisis.

This crisis, the climate crisis, requires a massive mobilization of people to prevent millions of disaster-related deaths during our lifetimes. This mobilization—bringing our society to 100% clean and renewable energy, living-wage jobs for all in need of employment, and a just transition for all workers and frontline communities—must happen in the next 10 years. I imagine the Green New Deal will help schools like mine build resilient infrastructure that will keep young students safe while we go to school. I imagine my teachers and counselors not being overworked and underpaid. I imagine my school will finally have a strong custodial, psychologist, and food service team that is dignified and fully-resourced. I imagine predominantly Black and brown schools that are filled with nurses, counselors, and support-staff as opposed to militarized police officers. 

Growing up, I remember having the privilege of walking to the public library after school to do my homework and participate in the enrichment programs my town had for youths. I would not be the student I am today without the investment my community made in me by simply providing resources to the public library. Imagine if this kind of support was available to everyone. A Green New Deal will pour resources into our communities, prioritizing Black and brown communities, ensuring that we have an abundant future. Public school staff and students have long awaited this revolution in public education to transform the way younger generations emerge in society. It’s been time that we upgrade facilities for our nation’s highest-needing schools. A Green New Deal will be the first step to combatting the multi-generational disinvestment of Black and brown communities and the cycles of harm perpetuated by corporate greed and independent schools.

But, let’s be real, the “best thing” that could happen to public schools at this moment is a Green New Deal for Public Schools. We need to build resilient institutions of public education in every part of this country. We must fully universalize public education in the face of independent schools. To me, a Green New Deal means not having to evacuate my school’s basement where I have several classes because of a gas leak. To me, a Green New Deal means being able to have access to social workers and psychologists and counselors and nurses at every single public school in our country. To me, a Green New Deal means empowering communities to participate in our most basic form of democracy by electing a school board that will protect universal public education. To me, a Green New Deal means paying food service workers and custodial workers a livable wage with comprehensive support services. To me, a Green New Deal means that my education is the same as every other student’s education in every other zip-code of this country.

Public Education is but only one area where the Green New Deal could transform our lives. Imagine if there were actual large-scale investments in revitalizing public housing, public transportation, renewable energy and more. 

The Green New Deal is a path forward to a future that is exciting, livable and joyful.In the Houston, Texas area, students have had to miss weeks of school because of petrochemical plant explosions near their schools which contaminated the air. The climate crisis has been disrupting our public education too long for it to be considered an issue of the future. We need a Green New Deal now. As the youngest member of our 400 mile march from New Orleans to Houston in the summer of 2021, I marched for youths like me who deserve a chance. The Green New Deal is a vision we must aspire to; it is a re-ignition of the American engine of prosperity as Heather McGhee puts it. It is the transformative investment we must be willing to make in our own livelihoods to escape the crises we are facing as a humanity. This is the decade of the Green New Deal and we must win. We literally have no other option now.