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Global Climate Justice Activism: “The New Protagonists” and Their Projects for a Just Transition

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Ecologically Unequal Exchange

Abstract

The contributors to this volume have provided ample evidence to support calls for fundamental, transformative change in the world-system. If there remained any doubts, their analyses show that the capitalist world-system threatens not only the well-being of a majority of the world’s people but also the very survival of our planet. Indeed, the urgency of the ecological and economic conditions that many people now face and the immense inequalities that have become more entrenched require that scholars become more consciously engaged in the work of advancing social transformation. Revolutionary change is emergent in movement spaces where people have long been working to develop shared analyses and cultivate collective power and agency by building unity among a diverse array of activists, organizations, and movements. We discuss three examples of transformative projects that are gaining increased visibility and attention: food sovereignty, solidarity economies, and Human Rights Communities. If widely adopted, these projects would undermine the basic processes necessary for the capitalist world-system to function. With these projects, defenders of environmental and social justice not only work to prevent their own (further) dispossession by denying capital its ability to continue appropriating labor and resources from working people and communities, but they also help deepen the existing systemic crisis while sowing the seeds of a new social order.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a detailed discussion of what just transition work looks like, see “Climate Justice is Racial Justice is Gender Justice,” Interview with Jacqueline PattersonYes! Magazine, August 18, 2017 at http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/just-transition/climate-justice-is-racial-justice-is-gender-justice-20170818.

  2. 2.

    Smith served on the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum as a delegate from the International Network of Scholar Activists, as well as in local and national level efforts to help link global campaigns to more localized settings (see, e.g., Smith et al. 2011; Smith 2012).

  3. 3.

    Parts of this chapter draw from our contribution in Resilience, Environmental Justice and the City, Edited by Beth Schaefer Caniglia, Manuel Vallee, and Beatrice Frank, “Environmental Justice Initiatives for Community Resilience: Food Sovereignty, Just Transitions, and Human Rights Cities.”

  4. 4.

    The notion of “just transition” first emerged from labor activists seeking to ensure that reducing the carbon-intensity of the economy did not disadvantage the most vulnerable workers. However, interpretations of just transition have varied between moderate and radical elements of the environmental justice movement. The groups of which we write embrace a more radical activist frame calling for large-scale social transformation that addresses both institutionalized racism and social exclusion while aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions (see Evans and Phelan 2016).

  5. 5.

    http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html.

  6. 6.

    A second meeting called the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Defense of Life was held in Tiquipaya in October 2015. An estimated 15,000 people attended that meeting, which was explicitly aimed to shape the Bolivian government’s negotiating stance at the Paris climate talks later that year (see http://www.jallalla.bo/en/).

  7. 7.

    http://rio20.net/en/iniciativas/another-future-is-possible/.

  8. 8.

    http://rio20.net/en/iniciativas/another-future-is-possible/.

  9. 9.

    http://ggjalliance.org/road2paris.

  10. 10.

    For perspectives from leaders in this movement about the challenges of movement-building and cross-racial organizing, see Confronting Environmental Racism: Views from the Frontlines of the Climate Justice Struggle, January 22, 2015 at http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/global/climatechange_dialogueseries.

  11. 11.

    Of course, within these frontline communities there remain serious divisions over appropriate strategies, and often community leaders and members prefer efforts to benefit from participation in the prevailing capitalist order, including cooperation with extractive industries, over resistance.

  12. 12.

    http://viacampesina.org/en/.

  13. 13.

    http://www.nyeleni.org/spip.php?article290.

  14. 14.

    See also http://www.navdanya.org/.

  15. 15.

    There is resonance here with the Indigenous notion ofbuen vivir discussed above.

  16. 16.

    http://ggjalliance.org/just-transition-assemblies.

  17. 17.

    http://ggjalliance.org/ourpowercampaign.

  18. 18.

    http://www.cooperationjackson.org/blog/2015/11/10/the-jackson-just-transition-plan.

  19. 19.

    For more background on Human Rights Cities, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Rights_City.

  20. 20.

    Smith has been part of an emerging network of human rights city leaders that has been convening within the framework of the US Human Rights Network. This network has recently become more formalized by creating a national steering committee and planning regular national Human Rights City convenings (see: http://www.ushrnetwork.org/our-work/project/national-human-rights-city-network).

  21. 21.

    http://www.ushrnetwork.org/resources-media/born-struggle-implemented-through-struggle.

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Smith, J., Patterson, J. (2019). Global Climate Justice Activism: “The New Protagonists” and Their Projects for a Just Transition. In: Frey, R.S., Gellert, P.K., Dahms, H.F. (eds) Ecologically Unequal Exchange. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-89740-0_10

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