Taking a Leap

This issue of a “Just Transition” has come to the forefront as the climate movement begins to be taken seriously by both labor and capital. The painful reality is that the necessary shift from fossil fuel energy to sustainable energy will be disruptive for everybody. Sorry. Guess we shouldn’t have waited till it was a crisis to start planning. But that’s capitalism for you. Permanent crisis. We can pretend there will be a seamless, just transition to a new “green capitalism” where everyone has jobs and wealth or we can admit that, as Robert Jensen puts it “we will need ways of organizing ourselves to help us live in a world with less energy and fewer material goods.”

At this very juncture, our  Canadian friends are grappling with the same difficult economic and political implications, in what is perhaps a preview for us here in the US. A document called the Leap Manifesto has roiled the New Democratic Party and forced the entire nation to see there are some hard choices (and struggles) ahead. In unflinching terms, the Manifesto lays out the science and the timeline. It says “no more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure”, which doesn’t go over so well in Alberta, home of the Tar Sands. They want to build pipelines, and by they, I mean the corporations, the workers, and the politicians who want to be re-elected (including NDP Premier). You know the argument by now: jobs, the “economy”, slow transition, etc.. Sound at all familiar?  Reality bites.

The Leap coalition, with a strong youth contingent, pushed hard to have the document (some principle authors include Avi Lewis and wife Naomi Klein) accepted into the party platform and though the agreement reached was to continue the debate, the issue was contentious enough to bring down the party leader. Conservatives mock the proposal as “utopian and idealistic” and say it will hurt workers and the economy. Of course unchecked climate change will result in ecocide and social chaos but whatever.

To fund the transition, the Leap proposes taxes; taxes on transactions, taxes on wealth, taxes on carbon. Opponents want hard and fast numbers of what all this “costs”, what the “price” will be. And it is here that the climate movement faces its own crisis. How it answers that question is the most critical juncture we face; will it reject this Market language and logic and propose a totally new framework-  or will it try to mitigate and mollify Capital using the same failed logic which got us here in the first place. This is an ideological struggle of the first order, of historical magnitude, and it is now in play. The only Just Transition is one that abandons Market logic altogether. Neither the cost nor the price nor the value can be calculated in dollars and cents.

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