Mutiny’s first zine argues that capitalism is the cause of climate change. First special issue produced for the student climate strike. Available in print format here.
14 February 2020.
Doomsday clock at 100 seconds
How can we win?
In January 2020 the atomic scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight. Last year more carbon was released into the atmosphere than ever before. Across the world climate change deniers or politicians in the pockets of the energy and oil companies are getting elected.
But it isn’t hopeless. People are fighting back. The 20 September protests in 2019 were the largest mass actions since the Iraq War, and more demonstrations are coming. Extinction Rebellion and the Fridays for our Future protests are rocking the establishment.
But the politicians favour the status quo. They might support small incremental steps – but with less than a decade to stop runaway global warming, we are almost out of time. They are slow to act because we live in a global system which prioritises profit and money above all else – they can’t rock the boat: they defend this system.
And there is a danger that our movements only scratch the surface. XR demands that the government ‘tells the truth’. Fine – but what then?
How do we deal with the fact that the police are already clamping down on protests and beginning to criminalise climate activists? What if the government continues to ignore student strikes? Or patronises people with lip service but no real action?
If we accept that the cause of climate change isn’t just a series of bad decisions by bad people, then we have to conclude it is caused by systematic problems to do with how our society is structured (see ‘what capitalism is’ below).
Oil is burned for profit. Rain forests are cut down for profit. Some people are getting more and more filthy rich the closer we get to Doomsday.
It is working class people, who make up the vast majority of society, who are best placed both to stop devastating climate change and to take power out of the hands of the bosses and their politicians.
It will be the working poor of countries like Bangladesh that suffer the most, as the rich use their power and resources to escape.
That is why we are calling on workers to join students and climate activists, to take strike action, to stop the wheels of industry. Then we need to take control of our economy, wrestle it away from the rich and powerful.
That means genuine economic democracy, it means planning what is left of our resources. Students, young people, and workers united together against the 1%. A force like that would be unstoppable.
The Doomsday clock is ticking closer to the end. Now is the time for action.
Time to Mutiny!
What is the Doomsday Clock
Launched in 1947, the exact time the Doomsday Clock tells is determined by nuclear scientists who assess how close the world is to destruction. Originally they feared only nuclear war. At the height of the Cold War, when the USSRand USAthreatened the world with mutually assured destruction, it was set at two minutes to midnight.
Now it isn’t just nuclear war, it’s also runaway climate change. The decision in January 2020 to move it to 11:58:20 is the closest it has ever come to midnight – to the end of the world.
Protest or resistance?
We want to make a simple point.
Demonstrations and marches are important. They are a protest against what is happening. But we also need resistance. We need to shut things down, disrupt, to break up the status quo.
The school strikes and Extinction Rebellion are examples of resistance: they are not just a protest. This is why the powers that be are getting scared and beginning to clamp down. They can handle a march through central London. What they can’t handle is mass strikes, occupations, students and workers linking up and fighting back together.
When London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that the XR occupations would be shut down because it was ‘business as usual’, he made it clear that when it comes to saving our planet from climate death, he is on the wrong side of history.
During the Berkley Free Speech Movement in 1964 (look it up if you haven’t heard of it) one of the student leaders gave this speech:
There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part… You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels… upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
This November, the Conference of Parties (COP) meets for the 26 time. Established to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP meets every year in a different country. This year it is meeting in Glasgow on 9-19 November.
But more carbon is being put into the atmosphere than ever before. COP is failing. One journalist commented that COP25 in 2019 ended in a ‘failure’, a ‘disgraceful, disappointing’ conference.
Every year the big fossil emitters refuse to budge and petro-chemical lobbyists wine and dine politicians and make the case for doing nothing.
Expect protests, direct action, radical assemblies and workshops, and a demand from the people to those in power – we are running out of time and every year wasted is another year closer to climate death.
Get in touch and join the Mutiny in Glasgow!
Clutching at straws
Bits of plastic tubing won’t be what break the camel’s back.
You can’t stop climate change by buying the right – or not buying the wrong – stuff. This crisis exists because of the way the world runs, not the choices individual people make. Although there’s a relationship between the two, the global setup is what’s driving things. Focusing on individual choices lets those running the world get on with business as usual.
On the last large climate protests, the media reckoned they had a ‘gotcha’ moment when a picture of protestors on their way home, queuing in McDonalds, went viral. As if the scientific case for climate change evaporates because you’ve snuck in a Happy Meal.
Likewise, plastic straws. Nasty things fished out of dead sea creatures. So there was a big campaign, and now most places are using paper ones. Hurrah!
Straws suck. Except plastic straws make up about 0.025% of the plastic waste in the oceans. When it comes to climate breakdown, these aren’t the straws that will break the camel’s back. That camel is already struggling under a world economy that’s dependent on fossil fuels – from that plastic packaging you sort through to transport and energy.
Half the world’s CO2 production comes from energy and heat production – or, rather, from the dependency of this on fossil fuels.
Sticking it all on the individual is an easy way out: do your bit, and let the world carry on as normal. But the world isn’t simply made up of individuals putting different bits of waste into different recycling boxes.
Even if we all spent half the day sifting through the rubbish, like an angst-ridden dung beetle, global emissions would continue to rise.
The pressure on personal responsibility (recycle more, consume less) instead of measures to transform how the world is run, leaves that world under the command of the large corporations, which are dependent on climate destruction to make their profits, and on their political representatives. They’re totally happy to let you focus on picking through your bins, just so long as you don’t challenge them. Why not? It’s a great distraction.
The focus on individual behaviour diverts from raising much more important questions about our entire industrial civilisation.
Collective is effective.
Let’s not kid ourselves – eating at the Happy Falafel (or whatever) rather than Maccy D’s, fine as it may be, isn’t doing ‘our bit’. ‘Our bit’ is to stop capitalism devouring the planet in its unending hunger for profit.
The climate crisis isn’t an individual problem relying on a series of individual responses: it’s a global crisis demanding collective action.
As critic of green capitalism, Richard Smith, put it: ‘We can’t shop our way to sustainability, because the problems we face cannot be solved by individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritise the needs of society and the environment.’
Solutions need to be collective. That collective needs to operate democratically – in the interests of the great majority – to wrest control from the tiny minority who benefit from climate destruction. And it needs to be global, to address the scope of the crisis.
So, if you’re hungry on the way home today, and McDonald’s is the only thing open – go for it, we won’t tell. We’ve all got bigger Filet-O-Fish to fry.
What capitalism is, and why it’s screwing the planet
The crisis of the environment isn’t because people in power do dumb things. It’s because of the way the world runs.
Flipside is, the people in power can’t fix things, any more than a dog can make an omelette. It’s not because the dog won’t – it can’t. It’s not what dogs are for. Though the mangiest doggo is still infinitely more lovable than Donald Trump.
It’s the same with capitalists and planets as dogs and omelettes.
It isn’t just that the politicians ‘aren’t doing anything’, it’s that they exist to serve an economic system which is the cause of the problem – capitalism.
The reason capitalism is screwing the planet is hard-coded into the way it works. Capitalism is unique because it’s based on production for sale, not for direct use. Elon Musk didn’t build a Tesla for himself, knock one out for his aunty, then think, ‘what am I going to do with this extra car I’ve accidently built?’ No, he built for the market, and only for the market. To exchange for money. Shed loads of money, in Musk’s case.
Profit is what capitalism is all about. Money exists to make more money, and when it hits a limit, it all comes crashing down.
In order to keep making that money, people and planet are sacrificed: industries spew carbon into the atmosphere; rain forests are cut down for logging and farmland; ocean fish stocks are plundered to the point of collapse. Not for need, but for profit.
This isn’t because the people in charge are necessarily bad people – though often, like Trump and Johnson, they’re complete arseholes – but because that’s how capitalism works.
The market seems to exist independently of human will, as a natural force, like the law of gravity, rather than what it really is – the product of human activity. So, politicians tell us that we can’t reverse carbon emissions because ‘the market’ won’t bear it – as if the market were an independent thing that lorded it over us all.
Which is exactly what it has become. But like anything that has been made by people, it can be unmade by people.
It’s not enough to change the people in charge: we need to change the whole system they’re in charge of.
And that billionaire Elon Musk we mentioned? Well he is building a space ship so he and other rich friends can escape the planet when the ice caps melt. But for us… there won’t be enough space ships for us.
Not a role model
The lemming is reputed to commit mass suicide from time to time, herds of them leaping off cliff edges into oblivion. It’s an enduring myth, though not strictly true. And even more importantly for us, it’s not a role model. The cliff edge of the climate emergency is right in our path. Let’s turn around and tell the politicians and the bosses we aren’t going to jump!
Why you should become a mutineer
Half of global warming since the industrial revolution has happened in the last 25 years – since the first UN Climate Change Conferences met in 1995. They meet, they talk, they fail to agree, and the crisis not only gets worse, it gets worse faster.
The reason is simple. The political elite represents the economic elite, and capitalism is hard-wired for growth.
Alongside this, a new generation of far right leaders are peddling nationalism and racism. They are blaming minorities – migrants, Muslims, Roma, others – for the social crisis. Behind the racism, they back the billionaires and big business. They are climate-change deniers, or they just don’t care.
In their shadows are the fascist street thugs – people full of hate who want licence to beat up Muslims, or feminists, or LGBT couples, or anyone else who doesn’t fit the profile of the white master race.
Creeping fascism is the politics of despair. It grows where people are ground down and impoverished, but see no effective way of hitting back.
Benefit cuts, low wages, shit jobs, and bullying supervisors make people angry. Rip-off rents for tiny flats make people angry. Dirty streets, run-down hospitals, and underfunded colleges make people angry.
The Tories blame the migrants. But your real enemies don’t arrive by lifeboat – they arrive in private jets.
To fight climate catastrophe, corporate power, and creeping fascism, we have to unite against the system.
Single-issue campaigns are important, but not enough. All the major issues – from the climate crisis to the rise of the far right – are linked.
The Labour Party is too focused on elections, Parliament, and internal wrangling. We need a joined-up network that fights on every issue and whose aim is total system change. Some things can be done through political parties and Parliament. But most things need people to organise in workplaces, colleges, schools, and estates.
The earth is on fire. The world is in crisis. We need revolutionary change to save the planet, free humanity, and create a world of democracy, equality, peace, and sustainability.
Why are the police treating environmentalists like extremists?
Why has the government put climate-change campaigners on an ‘extremist watch list’?
The police recently put out literature comparing Extinction Rebellion to Nazis and Islamic terrorists. After an outcry, they apologised and retracted. The brochure from counter-terrorism police was intended to ‘recognise when young people or adults may be vulnerable to extreme or violent ideologies vulnerable to extremism.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said that actually police had maybe done the right thing – they have to base their assessment on the ‘security of the public’.
The reason why groups like Extinction Rebellion are being targeted is because they are disrupting ‘business as usual’. This is what the bosses hate and the police are there to prevent.
You are allowed to protest as long as you do so within the rules set by the government, and the government has no interest in you successfully challenging them.
The brochure said that any young people at school who displayed any pro-XR radical tendencies should be reported to Prevent, the controversial government programme that turns teachers into spies for the government.
This is only the latest example of how the police target environmentalists. PC Mark Kennedy was sent under cover into left-wing environmental groups and ended up in relations with female activists who didn’t know he was a cop. Those women felt violated and used.
A couple of years ago it was revealed that the police maintained a ‘domestic extremist’ database of thousands of people who had gone on demos or made subversive comments on social media.
In the USA, the FBI has been found out to be spying on environmentalists and recording their activities to launch law suits against them.
What we should take from this is that the police are not primarily here to protect us, they are here to protect the rich and their businesses – which are destroying the planet.
Who’s really responsible for climate change?
As the climate crisis grows ever more urgent, there has been increased focus on who is to blame. Big name environmentalists, including David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, have been highlighting population expansion as a major cause of climate breakdown.
The implicit racism in the population expansion argument lies in the fact that populations are growing most rapidly in the Global South, and therefore the suggestion is that they must control this rapid growth.
But places where population has been growing most rapidly have also seen their carbon emissions growing at a slower rate than in countries that have a much lower rate of population growth, such as the UK.
Between 1980 and 2005, 18.5% of the world’s population growth was in sub-Saharan Africa, but only 2.4% of the growth in CO2. By contrast, North America contributed 4% of the extra global population, but 14% of extra emissions.
The numbers are startling. One sixth of the world’s population produces no significant emissions. When aggregated by income, the richest half emit 86% of global CO2 emissions. The bottom half only 14%. The very poorest countries, home to 9% of the global population, are responsible for just 0.5%.
Clearly, this is not an issue of population growth: individuals in the developed Global North produce considerably more emissions than those in the underdeveloped Global South.
The richest 10% of the global population are responsible for 49% of CO2 emissions. In the face of such disparity, our efforts are best placed in organising to force the largest emitters to change.
As the school strikes have already shown, our strength is as a collective. A good example of this has been the drive to force UKuniversities to divest from fossil-fuel research and partnerships. So far, 79 universities have divested a total of £12bn from the fossil-fuel sector.
Through organising together and pressuring our institutions we are able to force through the sort of changes that can be felt globally.
When we are reaching climate breakdown and have huge swathes of the population living in poverty – charity Shelter estimated that there are 320,000 rough sleepers in the UK – we must question whether this system is working for the majority.
Climate breakdown and inequality are inextricably linked, and the excesses of the very richest come at the cost of everyone else. We will only be able to tackle climate change if we also tackle the injustices we see across the globe.
Don’t just fight for the climate, fight for global climate justice.
Students have been revolting as long as there have been students. And it’s achieved much more than letting off steam and blagging a day off school – school strikes have changed the world.
Let’s start with resisting the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. On June morning in 1976, up to 20,000 black students walked from their schools to protest against having to learn in Afrikaans – the language of the white elite.
Police fired into the march. On the first day of protests alone, tens of students were killed and emergency clinics were swamped with the wounded. But the movement built, learned, and adapted.
Black workers and white students struck in support. Resistance went viral and global. This is the pivotal moment that built the mass movement that eventually brought down apartheid.
Because kids went on strike.
Fast forward about a decade and a lot closer to home – in 1985, British school kids went on strike against government attempts to force them onto fake ‘training schemes’, working in companies for a token amount of cash.
Youth Training Schemes had nothing to do with training, and everything to do with using school leavers for cheap labour. Tens of thousands of kids went on strike. The government backed down and shelved the schemes.
Because kids went on strike.
In 2003, school students walked out of lessons and staged demos to protest against the Iraq War. There were protests in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leicester, Wrexham, Cambridge, and Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes! Like, nothing ever happens in Milton Keynes, right? They resisted suspensions, expulsions – even, at times, arrests.
In 1968, in Paris, high-school students were up front and central in the revolts that led to a general strike, nearly bringing the government down. ’68 didn’t just shake France – it shook the world. Google it – crazy stuff granny got up to.
In 1968, they chanted ‘Paris, London, and Berlin – we will fight, we will win!’ Today, it’s these places, and many more – Hong Kong, Cape Town, Hyderabad – resistance is global.
Fight. Win. Worldwide.
These zine articles were written and edited by members of Mutiny. Join us.