Wednesday 8 June 2011

If global warming was a bank, governments would already have saved it

Jonathan Neale's Willesden Green Library talk on Monday evening stimulated a good discussion there, and afterwards in the hospitable Rising Sun pub in Harlesden Road.

Neale suggested that those problems around climate change that could be solved through capitalism had been. But that capitalism with its emphasis on competition and reliance on neo-liberalism could not tackle the fundamental issues which required government action at a global level. He likened the situation to that of the Second World War when government intervention was required for the war effort. He said that now the need was for government action to save lives, not destroy them. This required cooperation - not competition.

He rejected notions of a monolithic, 'evil' capitalism, but instead argued that it was a complex system with different interests playing out against each other. Coal-based economies such as China, United States, India and South Africa were blocking the international level of cooperation needed. However the New York Times was in the forefront of reporting on climate change and had linked it to food shortages and uprisings.

Without the necessary cooperation conflict that we are already experiencing over competition for water, rising food prices (and subsequent food riots), and huge population movements would worsen.

Neale argued that the environmental movement was big enough to save whales but not big enough to save the world from climate change. He said that the working class were big enough to take the issue on but that the economic situation regarding employment and cuts undermined its capacity to do so.

However, the current political dominance of ideas supporting a smaller state, lower taxation, reduced public sector and privatisation were being challenged because the argument for market solutions had been undermined by the financial crisis and the exposure of the role of banks. The banks themselves had screamed for government action rather than settle for a market solution. He repeated the slogan 'if global warming was a bank governments would already have saved it'.

He ended on an optimistic note saying that the dominant idea that we couldn't change anything had been challenged by the uprisings in Egypt, Yemen and other countries. People internationally were generalising from that and had been inspired by it, affecting for example teachers in Wisconsin who, barred from striking over restrictive union laws, had all called in sick for the day and occupied state buildings, quickly followed by their students.

Neale called for campaigners on climate change to build a mass movement with trade unionists and the wider community with the demand for a million new jobs at the centre of its demands.

Videos of Neale's talk are available on Brent Greens Blog HERE

Many thanks to the Brent Campaign Against Climate Change for organising this talk and Willesden Green library for hosting it.

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