Labour Students’ 2019/20 priority campaign is on fighting climate change.

Isabella Pojuner, LSE Labour Students Activist and Founding Editor of earthrise (@IPojuner)

As you probably know, the momentum around climate change (or breakdown) has skyrocketed in the past year. Fifty weeks or so to be precise, with today marking almost a year since Greta Thunberg first sat outside the Swedish Parliament on strike. She has sparked a global movement of millions. 

This momentum was responsible for Labour’s decision to pass a declaration of climate emergency in the UK Parliament, indicating political force. Some of you might think Labour has succeeded, but it is ill-equipped to deal with climate breakdown. This is the time for political, moral and spiritual revolution: yet these words have not been spoken by the party leadership. I won’t go into the details of why climate breakdown is the greatest issue humanity has faced, or how it will transform our lives completely, or how we are on schedule for the playing out of the most horrifying real-life horror film we could ever conceive

But if you aren’t already, all of the above hyperlinked articles would convince you that climate breakdown must be at the core of any left political agenda and that we should have been acting to prevent it yesterday. Ideally, thirty or fifty years ago. If you know about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s breakthrough Green New Deal, I hope you’ve heard of Labour for a Green New Deal, the UK-based campaign to lobby the shadow cabinet to propose their own. No political system or party in the world is sufficiently equipped to dealing with climate breakdown – especially Western societies such as ours which carry most of the blame. So how do we equip ourselves?

What I have learned over the past year is that students should not only be engaging in direct action or protests, but training ourselves: educating ourselves and others on environmental science and how its implications will affect us; creating the strategy to bring climate breakdown to the very forefront of politics; and ensuring we are the compassionate and resilient leaders of tomorrow. When we have Trump and Johnson installed in power, the manchilds of political history, we need to be the ones who have parental vision. We can’t expect anyone to have it for us. We can’t count on our elders to protect our interests when they have failed to do so thus far.

So why the Labour Party? Scientists at the IPCC, the most highly respected climate breakdown body in the world, have said societal collapse is highly likely (disc: not a quote or scientific language) on our current course. With the world ill-prepared to deal with this, plus rising trends in polarisation, fascism and xenophobia, I believe societal collapse would only lead to two outcomes. Fascism (even eco-fascism) or socialism. If we want to protect human rights and strengthen community, we must choose the latter. 

I am a leftist partially because of the environmental crisis. It is preventing and even regressing the advancement in issues we care about: race equality, gender equality, immigrant rights, class equality and access to basic human rights and resources. We should choose the left when just 100 companies are causing 71% of global carbon emissions. Yes, we do need system change: anti-capitalism and anti-consumerism, because these are the systems that have allowed our societies to destroy the environments we depend on while ensuring our emotional dependence on them. When students in the UK are failing to receive sufficient environmental education (though this is slowly improving), and their right to protest is not ensured (while Spanish students over 13 years have access to a union), that is a concern for members of the Labour Party, especially student members. All of these issues, just like all of us, are deeply interconnected and part of the natural environment. Within these networks, you have a voice that can be heard. 

Below is a list of actions you can take to help this crucial movement:

  1. Join the Global Climate Strike on 20th September, no matter where you are or what you’re doing in the UK. We need this to be the biggest public demonstration yet. Encourage your elders to join you and demonstrate their support. 
  2. Consider taking part in direct action. I am part of Student Climate Action, which is unfortunately only London-based at present but will be expanding nationwide. We are a group of university students passionate about alleviating climate breakdown and calling the attention of people.
  3. Consider taking part in or donating to Labour for a Green New Deal.
  4. Educate yourself on environmental science and politics, and even beyond. 
  5. Immigrants, people of colour, disabled people, the working class and women are most affected by this. Support their voices and ensure their autonomy in any decision-making processes you are part of.
  6. Talk about climate breakdown with everyone and anyone. From experience, it’s not necessarily worth your energy to convince climate deniers that climate breakdown is real. Talk to any young people you know instead – pool together and start a school strike if one isn’t already happening in your area.

No matter what issues you hold close to your heart, climate breakdown will make achieving our leftist goals more difficult. Tackling it should be everyone’s priority. In twenty years time, I hope you don’t regret not doing enough.

Get in touch with labourstudents@labourstudents.org.uk if you would like to organise a session on fighting climate change at your Labour club.

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