Donald Trump has been the president of the USA for less than 2 weeks. Yet, it already looks like a long-lasting global nightmare. His first decisions, addressing abortion, immigration, fossil fuel infrastructure, research on climate change, and the “Muslim ban” shape a deep backlash – a regression on fundamental civil, social, collective and individual rights, which could take many years to overcome.
Here’s an attempt to reflect on what his latest decisions mean for the climate movement, from a European and rather privileged perspective. We’d love to hear your own reflections in the comment box at the bottom of this page.
We also invite you to join 350.org’s Europe team and a range of speakers from the climate justice and migrant justice movement on 15 February for an online discussion about what happens next.
Against Trump and his world
From Russia to Brazil, from the Philippines to Turkey, from Brexit to polls showing that Marine Le Pen could really become France’s new president, from Aleppo to fortress Europe, sometimes it’s hard to think of a region where the progressive agenda is moving forwards.
In Europe, far-right leaders like Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Frauke Petry and Geert Wilders are organizing to take power – and others like Theresa May already have. A nationalist-populist agenda is on the rise, and represents one of the biggest threats to our fundamental, civil and social rights, to our freedom of association, to religious liberty and to bold climate action. Yet, one of Trump’s advisers can say out loud that the “green movement is the greatest threat to freedom” – and no one really doubts that they will all unite to repress its organisers.
For those of us who don’t live in the US, it’s important to acknowledge that our fight is not only against Trump, but against the world he represents. A world of hatred, wars, and inequalities of which he is the latest avatar.
Resisting Trump has little to do with fighting against the USA or against a leader that would be inherent to the US political field. It is a global fight.
Confronting reversed intersectionality
It comes as no surprise that Trump is, at the same time a racist, a sexist, an islamophobe, a climate denier and worse… Trump’s policy articulates and links together forms of oppression, domination and violence spanning the realms of gender, race, class, religion, sexual orientation, mental & physical disabilities all at the same time. As such Trump embodies “reversed intersectionality”.
We won’t be able to confront Trump & his world if we don’t build a movement that is able to tackle racism, sexism, islamophobia, homophobia and climate denial simultaneously.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should stop focusing on climate. Rather: we have to build a movement that proactively strives for intersection between our movements, and ensure that our successes and victories can benefit all, not just the most privileged. As suggested by Naomi Klein:
“It’s abundantly clear that we will not build the power necessary to win unless we embed justice—particularly racial but also gender and economic justice—at the center of our low-carbon policies.”
It can begin with a very simple question: do our demands contribute to more justice for those who suffer the most from the “reversed intersectionality”? If they don’t, we should change them.
Bringing the struggle home
Our capacity to resist will be stronger if we start from the grassroots, in our communities and neighbourhoods. This is the only way for us to really build powerful intersections. The ongoing backlash will deeply change the shape of international relations, of flows and exchanges.
Local organising, local exchanges, local solidarity efforts might prove to be powerful ways to fight global infringements of rights and to boldly demand the just world we want to see. We need to play offense not defense. Now is the moment to not only to defend our existing rights but to fight to expand them further. And in such contexts, local acts of solidarity are global acts of resistance.
One way to start could be to identify places (territories, neighborhoods, communities) were several forms of domination intersect – we know, for instance, that the most affected by air pollution are often people of colour, living in popular neighborhoods and more generally, there are rising evidences of environmental racism (an issue that Black Lives Matter has contributed to raise within the climate movement). This could be a place to start to tackle climate issues together with social and racial ones.
Intentionality vs passive solidarity
We also cannot give up on international solidarity.
Too often, we tend to lean on a passive approach of solidarity – we’re eager to commit to make sure that there is no place for racism, sexism, islamophobia in our movement, in our campaigns. But we don’t proactively engage with groups fighting against racism, sexism and islamophobia as part of our work of organizers of the climate movement – because we don’t have the time, because we consider that the connections between those causes or issues are too distant or too abstract.
Of course, there are many exceptions: the People’s Climate March, or more recently the Women’s marches have been examples of mobilisations articulating very different issues, stories and experiences together. More importantly, there are lessons to draw from the leadership that indigenous groups, native people and impacted communities in the climate movement.
But we tend to leave the responsibility to protect fundamental rights to human rights groups (while those groups have started to include environmental and climate crimes in their demands and campaigns). We need to challenge ourselves and be more proactive, and commit to making sure that our movement and climate campaigns are actively contributing to the fight against racism, sexism and islamophobia. After all, we know that fundamental rights are global and indivisible and that an infringement against one of those fundamental rights is an infringement against all of them – including the fundamental right to a future preserved from climate chaos.
We also need to learn to move out of our comfort zones – and be more proactive in our outreach and in the alliances that we build. The divestment campaigns provides a good example of what is still, at this stage, a missed opportunity. We have spent a lot of time working with christian communities, especially after the encyclical was published. Almost at the same time, muslim leaders gathered in Istanbul adopted a declaration on climate change which went further than Laudate Si – e.g. explicitly calling for divestment. Yet we have done little about it. It’s time to fill the gap! This will have an impact on both our divestment campaign and on our capacity to be more efficient when it comes to building solidarity.
Resisting, withdrawing cooperation, building genuine solidarity
We should strive towards a commitment to
- to carry out a determined and pro-active campaign of resistance against attacks to migrants, refugees, Muslims and other groups impacted by Trump-like political forces in Europe
- to strengthen solidarity towards individuals and groups affected by the politics of hate, in our campaigning, organising, mobilising, communications, policy, research and advocacy work
- to continue aligning on, building and communicating a bold, compelling vision for a safe climate and a better future that encompasses all of our connected struggles, and that drives people to action.
This should unfold on all our areas of work and our strategies – of resistance, of non-cooperation and of supporting alternatives (in this case: building genuine solidarity).
Resistance sounds obvious: it is about stopping national-populism & far-right extremism at its roots.
If we want to resist Trump and his world we have to start from their manifestations where we live. The “Muslim ban” didn’t fall from the sky. It was built on the back of many other restrictions to the fundamental freedom of movement – which we have to confront where they are happening (Frontex in Europe, right-wing populist parties and nationalism-populism.).
But resistance doesn’t only happen in the streets: we can push local authorities to adopt dissident regulations, challenge environmental racism (and its roots).
We shouldn’t see this as “one more thing to do” that would divert us from our core-cause.
There’s something consistent in what we fight against – and there’s a corresponding consistence in what we stand for.
Those we are fighting against want to extract all natural resources, especially fossil fuels and tear down all the abstract walls (rules, regulations) and physical ones (distance and borders) that do prevent their free circulation (i.e. their free trade). At the same time, they want to restrict people’s freedom of movement to its maximum – even if it implies letting thousands of people die at sea, or take executive actions that go against fundamental texts such as the universal declaration of human rights.
We demand the opposite – for we know that we won’t be able to build a just world if people are not free to move. It that perspective, it’s important to consider that this isn’t about “defending” our rights – but rather expanding them to all.
Or, in the words of our colleague Hoda Baraka
“Climate change knows no boundaries and neither will we”.
This global backlash won’t last without our (passive) consent. To the same extent that we’ve proven that it’s possible to challenge an industry as big as the fossil fuel industry by withdrawing our cooperation (divestment being rooted in the affirmation that climate change won’t happen not in our name, nor with our money) we should work on identify where our (passive) cooperation is crucial for those policies to be implemented – and then organize to stop cooperating.
Some have already started to call for a boycott of Uber – once it was clear that the company was not joining taxi drivers in their efforts to block airports after Trump signed the decree enforcing the “Muslim ban”. Identifying the economic actors that contribute actively to implement the national-populist policies and boycotting them looks like a possible move forwards.
Building genuine solidarity:
We can’t keep on working in silos (or bubbles, as we call them these days). Breaking them is probably a long task, but the beginning looks simple: organize meetings with groups from communities directly affected by Trumpism to discuss how to move ahead, with the understanding that there might not be immediate overlap with climate work right away. But with a clear commitment to build long-term relations, based around mutual understanding and trust – i.e. beginning by showing solidarity where it is needed, even if it’s not directly related to climate.
Over to you
So what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below. And we also invite you to join us for an online conversation on this topic on 15 Feburary, at 7.30pm CET. Sign up here for details.