Andrea(s) Speck: «The dystopian future is here, so we need to act now.»
Andrea(s) Speck is a member of various climate justice collectives on the European continent. In this interview they focus on the emergency situation and analyses the next non-violent actions for significant change.
In recent weeks we have seen how the student movement and other social groups have put on the front line of the media, political and social agenda the climate emergency in which we are immersed, calling strongly on institutions to take firm measures against climate change. To better understand this new movement, the logics on which it is based and its main proposals, we spoke with Andrea(s) Speck, one of the promoters of the movement at the European level and a long-standing activist in the area of civil disobedience and non-violence.
The future by when?
The dystopian future is here. In other words: climate change, the sixth great extinction, the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of the entire planet are already a reality, and all that remains is for us to slow down these processes and avoid catastrophe. And none of this is new, the scientific community has been calling us to action since the 1980s, so we have to act now.
Today we are really living a climate emergency, accompanied by a broader ecological emergency and a social emergency. We have a few years left to avoid the worst and limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5ºC, and for this we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 - in 11 years - and to a net zero by 2050, according to the latest IPCC report. However, emissions continue to grow and our governments have little more than fine words, if any.
This may mean that by 2090 half of the Iberian peninsula will become a desert such as the Sahara, for example. Humans constitute only 0.01% of life on our planet, but they have already caused the extinction of 83% of wild mammals and 50% of plants on earth. Xu and Ramanathan, in an article in PNAS 2017, estimated that, by the end of the century and if we do not change course, our species has 5% of facing conditions that would threaten its survival. Would you get into a car knowing that the risk of a fatal accident is 1:20? Unlikely, but nevertheless we continue with an economic, political and social model that has the same risk of our own extinction.
What is the climate justice movement?
The concept of climate justice emerged from the 2000's from various social movements as a response to the inaction of governments. Climate change is understood not only as an environmental problem, but also as a political and ethical problem.
The concept of justice refers to environmental and social justice, that is, it focuses on both the historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, as well as today's unequal consumption and the unequal consequences both today and in the future. A fundamental element of climate justice is that those least responsible for climate change are those who suffer its worst consequences; marginalized people in all societies, women and, above all, populations in the Global South.
What are the foundations from which this movement draws on a theoretical and practical level?
From my point of view, the movement has an important root in the ecofeminisms, in plural. There are ecofeminisms of indigenous and peasant women in Latin America who are already suffering the impacts of both climate change and resource extraction, in both cases threatening the basis of their lives. There are ecofeminisms in Africa and Asia where women, who are in charge of agrarian production and water management and who are being affected by climate and its changes, are taking the lead in resistance movements to the destruction of their lands and the construction of alternatives. Eco-feminisms claim another relationship with nature, sometimes based on traditional or modern spiritualities, sometimes not. I would also add queer ecology, which also connects the destruction of nature and the processes of power, marginalization, exclusion and injustice on the table.
In addition to that, climate justice includes a critique of capitalism from the perspective of an ecological and feminist economy, and demands placing life at the center, both human and non-human life. The alternatives are based on good living, on voluntary simplicity, degrowth, possibly also on anarchism, on its ecological and feminist currents.
And in their strategies and tactics the movements of Climate Justice are based on nonviolence and the experiences and theories of civil resistance or strategic nonviolence.
Greta Thunberg and the student movement have become, especially since the last 15 March, the spearhead of this movement. What other processes and groups can we find in this climate wave?
Since the emergence of the movement Fridays for Future, inspired by Greta Thunberg, other groups with different identities have emerged: Mothers for Climate or Teachers for Future have emerged in support of Fridays for Future and other groups that emerged earlier as: Extinction Rebellion, which was born in England in the autumn of 2018 (in Spain in December), or the European network Climate Justice Action, which launched By 2020 We Rise Up, a call for massive civil disobedience by 2020 from a previous phase of intensification throughout this year. Both Extinction Rebellion and By 2020 We Rise Up emphasize massive civil disobedience as a strategy to highlight the climate emergency as a priority issue for the survival of our civilization, and therefore call for urgent and radical action to reduce emissions rapidly to net zero.
At the global level, there are initiatives in the U.S. to carry out general strikes for the climate on September 20 and 27. I have my doubts about our ability to mobilize for a general strike like this. Spain's first feminist strike took almost a year of preparation, and was based on a mobilization far more powerful than the current climate justice movement. However, in Holland, Sweden and other countries there are already the first contacts with some unions. Who knows, I hope I am wrong and it will be a success.
Naomi Kein speaks in her book No is not Enough of the need to create a movement of movements that faces the current civilizing challenges in a global and coordinated way and of the possibility that it is precisely climate justice that can make this nexus of union? What points of encounter exist between this movement and other current ones?
I agree with this approach. Climate justice includes the perspective of gender justice and social and global justice, so it has the potential to bring together many of today's struggles. In addition, the impact of climate change is increasingly evident and increases other social and global injustices. And we should also talk about the limits of natural resources, about a multidimensional crisis that has come to stay (and may get worse).
To speak of the climate justice movement as a movement of movements is not the same as saying 'the priority' or 'central' movement. Rather, it is a confluence movement, since the consequences of climate change affect the whole world. We see it for example with the issue of immigration; extractivism, both in its form of extraction of minerals or fossil energies and of agro-industry in the Global South for our consumption in Europe or the USA, combined with the impact of climate change causes conflicts to intensify and increases the destruction of the land and the bases of life of many communities and countries of the Global South, thus producing migrations, of which only a small part reaches our borders. Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events (storms, hurricanes, etc.) contribute to the destruction of the livelihoods of more and more communities, causing more migrations, just as extractivism contributes to climate change through its consumption of fossil energy causing even more warming.
This is why it is so important to promote climate justice and why solidarity with immigrants, with the countries of the global South, should be part of this movement of movements. More complicated is the issue of social exclusion in our countries. There are issues that social struggles should incorporate, for example struggles against welfare cuts and demands for the creation of new jobs (and economic growth), under a climate justice perspective. Social democracy has no answers to the multidimensional crisis, and its solutions - for example the Green New Deal - require permanent economic growth for their functioning, while emergency measures to halt climate change require progressive degrowth. This means that we must move away from the logic of growth and productivism, even from the logic of salaried work. This is a big challenge, but there are answers from the feminist economy, from the good life and from the ecofeminisms.
And now what? 2020, 2030, 2050... How can we reach these key dates with our homework done?
I believe we are at the beginning of a powerful new movement, a movement facing unprecedented challenges. At Extinction Rebellion we declared ourselves in rebellion on April 8 in Spain, and in many countries it has become a rebellion on April 15 of this year. In Spain we blocked Repsol's headquarters in Madrid, and there were symbolic actions in Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Palma de Mallorca, among other cities. As By 2020 We Rise Up we will do something similar from September. In other words, we have to increase the pressure, cause powerful disturbances in the normal functioning of our societies. We are working on civil disobedience campaigns at massive and coordinated levels between movements in Europe (and beyond) and on training in disobedience. So that they will listen to us. So that they can no longer ignore us.
In all of this, I believe that the Fridays for Future movement and other student mobilizations are key, and in some countries such as Belgium they are already moving into disobedience. At a meeting of the European network Climate Justice Action one person commented that we should support them, but let them make their own mistakes in order to learn. One activist from Fridays for Future replied that "we don't have time to repeat your mistakes". Time is running out. And thet are right. Young people no longer talk about future generations, but about their own future, about their lives when they reach the age of their fathers and mothers. And it scares them, but it also makes them angry, indignant, and energetic for a new struggle. This movement has come to stay and the fine words of some politicians will not reassure them. They want to see facts.
Therefore, the most urgent thing now is to prepare ourselves for unprecedented disobedience in our countries, to organise ourselves and train ourselves in non-violent direct action. To rise up, to rebel, in an organised, coordinated and non-violent way. Awaken indifferent people, force urgent measures to stop climate change that are just, that is, that make those responsible pay, those who have benefited from extractivism and the destruction of the bases of our lives.
And we have to confront the current fascism of Vox, Trump and others. Prepare ourselves to prevent false solutions, both from a green capitalism and from new ecofascisms. We have only a few years left. If we do not succeed, I do not know whether it would be good or bad luck to live until 2050. I don't want to imagine the world in 2050 if we fail. We cannot afford to fail. We started this to win, because we love life and we love our planet.