Navigating climate change: Will it be by governments or by people?

Earth2 1


Many well-meaning writers attempt to advise governments and UNFCCC on the actions they should adopt to tackle climate change. Is such advice heeded? More importantly, can governments and UNFCCC stop global warming in time?

The history of the four major movements of the last century—Anti-colonial movements, anti-capitalist movements, civil rights movements and gender equality movements indicate that it is people, not governments, who initiated and fought for change. The environmental movement, still in its infancy, is the next big global movement. It will be much bigger than any previous people’s movement as it has to fight inequality and anthropocentrism.

The environmental movement will be chaotic, uneven in space and time, and difficult to work with as it will be fraught with all the fault lines of previous movements. Besides, it has to overcome prejudice against nature, which none of the previous movements did. Yet, it is the only hope humanity has to create a sustainable, equitable and peaceful society. The environmental movement does not have the luxury of time that the previous movements had as the Damocles Sword of the three tipping points we face today—climate change, non-renewable resource exhaustion and galloping global inequality—hangs poised to fall on its head.

It is time for the world’s working people to form a rainbow coalition to tackle these tipping points on an emergency footing, starting with climate change. Advising governments and UNFCCC is unimportant as they are not likely to heed advice or are in a position to tackle climate change in time. Their enthusiasm to address the other two tipping points is even less


The op-ed season for climate change articles happens twice a year, once before the inter-governmental Conference of Parties (COP) annual meeting every year-end and the other before its mid-year review meeting. The op-eds advise the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) annual inter-governmental COP meetings and national governments on climate change. For example, in just one national daily, The Hindu, in 2021 writers gave the UNFCCC and the Indian  Government the following advice: “India must reject any attempt to restrict its options and be into a low-development trap” (8 Apr 2021), ”Even if India were to enhance its short-term Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement in some fashion, unnecessary as of now, it should do while staking a claim to its share of the global commons” (27 Oct 2021).

Are op-eds heeded? Experience tells us that they are not, except for those who support UNFCCC and the government’s line of thought. More importantly, can UNFCCC and national governments stop warming in time?

Climate change, caused by excessive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is one of the three leading global stressors of human society. The other global stressors are the rapid depletion of reserves of important non-renewable minerals due to their over-extraction (represented by the term “peak oil,” the peaking of oil production followed by decline), and growing global inequality.

Humans draw raw materials and energy from the environment (acting as a bank), produce goods and services in the economic subsystem and dump wastes—air, water and solids—back into the environment (acting as a bin).  Extreme inequity in the distribution of surplus created in the production process or a drastic disturbance in bank and bin services the environment provides can each independently regress or collapse our anthropogenic and class-based society.


Material inequality, a social stressor, generated in the production process, has existed since the advent of class society, i.e., slavery. Inequality is historically the cause of great social stress and conflict between the haves and the have-nots.

Excessive demand on nature in the last century is the cause for the two environmental stressors. Earth’s finite capacities to provide raw materials and to neutralize greenhouse gases (GHG) are no longer able to meet the exponential growth that industrial capitalism demands. Raw material scarcity has already caused conflicts between nations. Climate change is causing a deep divide between the Global North and South. The former is largely responsible for the problem and the latter will bear the brunt of the climate impacts.

Historically, it is people, and not governments, who fought for equality and won it in stages. Governments have often violently suppressed people’s movements that demanded equality. Only on occasion have governments supported equality–when a change was inevitable and the state did not feel threatened with collapse.

Yet, op-ed writers are optimistic that UNFCCC and governments can tackle climate change. But does history bear them out?

Inequality—a social stressor

Material inequality is the unequal distribution of the surplus generated in the production process. It reinforces social and political inequality. Whatever its nature, inequality engenders conflict between people on the divergent sides of class, caste, region, nation, occupation, gender, race, and other identity spectrums.

The four leading people’s movements against inequality that caught global attention in the last century were anti-colonial revolts, anti-capitalist revolutions, civil rights movements and gender equality movements. Other sections of society too fought for their rights—indigenous and minority populations, disabled populations, etc., but their battles did not gain the same prominence as the four leading movements. A brief review of these movements demonstrates the central role that people played in ushering in a degree of equality in today’s society.  

Anti-colonial movements

In the 18th and 19th centuries, European countries went as traders to Asia and Africa, then plundered their vast natural resources and developed markets there for European goods, and finally colonized vast areas on these two continents. Their success was due to superior military technologies, and cultural hegemony.

Revolts against colonial governments intensified into a wave of full-fledged people’s movements in Asia and Africa in the early 20th century. A few colonies gained independence between the two world wars, but colonial empires remained dominant till World War II ended, after which Asian and African countries became independent in a short span of three decades.

The Indian independence movement is a good example of the twists and turns that the global anti-colonial movements took. It started in the mid-18th century as a series of skirmishes between small chieftains and the British. This was followed by the 1857 soldier’s mutiny in the East India Company that was triggered by discontent among Indian sepoys over their treatment and rumours that tallow (cow fat) and lard (pig fat)  were used in rifle cartridges, which was anathema for Hindus and Muslims, respectively.

After Indian rebels advocated direct action to overthrow foreign rule, the British legislated the 1919 Government of India Act which allowed elected Indian legislators and British officials to share power in British-governed provinces. Protest against the arrest of two prominent leaders under the draconian Rowlatt Act resulted in the infamous 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which unarmed Indians were fired upon killing hundreds. The use of non-violent hartals, boycotts, and fasts succeeded in repealing the Rowlatt Act in 1922.

In 1920 there was a call to boycott British goods, educational institutions and law courts, and for Indians to resign from government employment, refuse to pay taxes, and forsake British titles and honours. In 1942 the call for a non-violent Quit India movement led to massive public civil disobedience. The British responded with mass arrests, public flogging and firing at demonstrators. India had become ungovernable and won independence in 1947 soon after World War II ended.

After World War I, civil unrest surfaced in many Asian and African colonies. In response, the British promised greater autonomy in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India. The French Government promised citizenship to Senegalese for military services rendered, and reforms in Algeria—Arab nationalism which began as mass uprisings in Iraq, Palestine and Syria.

In North Africa, an uprising in Morrocco was suppressed by France and Spain in the 1920s. In the 1930s mass protests for independence took root in Algeria and Tunisia. By the end of World War II, civil unrest began in Africa. These movements often were rainbow coalitions of businessmen, religious reformers, women’s organizations, trade unions, and small farmers.

In some countries, e.g., Rhodesia and Angola, guerilla wars were fought against imperial powers. In others—Indochina, Algeria, Malaya, and Kenya, where armed conflicts were fought, rural populations were drawn into the anti-colonial movements.

Noting the winds of change, Britain granted adult franchise in some countries where anti-colonial movements were not strong, e.g., Ceylon, and Jamaica in the 1930s. Portugal transformed its colonies into provinces in the 1950s, and the Netherlands granted internal autonomy to Surinam and Antilles.

By the 1980s most colonies had gained independence. Just before World War II began, about 650 million people, i.e., 30% of the then world’s population, lived in colonized countries. Today only 17 “non-self-governing territories” with a population of 2 million, i.e., 0.025% of the global population, exist.

Anti-capitalist movements

Capitalism is based on the private ownership of nature and the means of production for generating, appropriating, accumulating and concentrating profit in private hands. The Industrial Revolution made capitalism the dominant mode of production in the 18th century and divided society into a class of capital owners and working people. The capitalist class is interested in maximizing profits and working people struggle to retain their employment or work and improve their living standards and working conditions. No country has escaped conflict between these classes over issues of wages and employment. Yet, in the last century, in only a few countries have working people acted to transit to a more egalitarian society, either through the ballot box or outside it.

After the French were defeated in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, disgruntled French soldiers and workers seized Paris for 2 months in the summer of 1871 and set up a revolutionary government in what is known as the Paris Commune.  Schools were opened to all and child labour was abolished. Housing rent was cancelled, pawnshops were closed, night shifts were abolished, factories of owners who had fled were seized by workers, and self-policing was introduced. The French army quelled the rebellion after two months.

At the turn of the 19th century, Imperial Russia was an emerging industrial nation vying to catch up with Western Europe. It was also deeply cleaved along class lines. These fault lines surfaced in 1905 and culminated in the overthrow of capitalism in Russia in 1917.

Because of public frustration due to economic stagnation, agrarian crisis, political repression, and Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, a wave of mass political and social unrest–labour strikes, peasant unrest, military mutinies, the formation of soviets (people’s assembly)—spread through Russia in 1905. The rebellion transformed Russia from an autocracy into a constitutional monarchy with a Duma (elected legislative), a multi-party political system, and the 1906 Constitution. 

The 1917 revolution began with widespread public protests due to food shortages and worker strikes for better wages. The Duma, after hesitating initially, formed a provisional government but was dependent on the Soviets’ nod for major decisions. The Tsar was forced to abdicate. The slogan “peace, bread and land” gained popularity among workers, peasants and soldiers.  In the next chaotic six months, the Provisional Government gradually lost credibility to the Soviets, and the latter took power in November 1917.

Political uncertainty reigned in China after the Qing dynasty began withering away in the first decade of the 20th century. The Boxer rebellion and a mutiny by a section of the army paved the way for the abdication of the Qing. By 1916 China disintegrated into several fiefdoms. Over the next 10 years, China reunified as a republic. The peasantry then mobilized and won a 20-year civil war in 1949.

While serious attempts were made in the Soviet Union and China to reduce inequality, these efforts were not sustained. And as they reverted back to some form of capitalism, inequality rose again.

Capitalism was overthrown in a few other countries, e.g., Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua. Socialist governments have been elected to power in several countries, e.g., Chile, Venezuela, and Brazil. While some of them succeeded in reducing inequality, global inequality continues to remain high. Barring Cuba, there was no attempt to make these societies sustainable.

Civil rights movements

Civil rights movements ask for equality before the law for all people regardless of their identities. The movement against racial segregation (apartheid), particularly in the USA and Africa, caught the world’s attention in the last century.

Black slavery was deeply entrenched in the southern US before its independence in 1776. In the 19th century, a global move against slavery influenced the northern states of the US to abolish it. The southern states seceded from the American Union and fought a civil war (1861-65) with the northern states to retain slavery. After the northern states won the war, the US Constitution was amended to free all bonded persons and grant all US-born persons citizenship. However, deep discrimination against blacks remained.

In the early 1940s, after thousands of blacks threatened to march on Washington for equal employment,  government jobs were opened to all Americans. The civil rights movement peaked with mass protests becoming commonplace in the first two decades after World War II ended. Consequently, in 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested while returning from work for refusing to give her bus seat reserved for blacks, to a white. The ensuing outrage reignited the movement against segregation all over the US. In 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated bus seating was unconstitutional.

As a consequence of the civil rights movement, the 1957 Civil Rights Act attracted federal prosecution if anyone was prevented from voting. In 1960, when four black college students were refused service at the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, hundreds joined them in sit-ins and boycotted lunch counters. The best-known event of that period was the March on Washington, in which 200,000 persons of all races congregated on 28 August 1963 to demand comprehensive civil rights legislation and equal job opportunities.

The murder of one black and two white activists by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, including police officers, in June 1964 shocked the USA. A month later, the Civil Rights Act, of 1964 was passed to outlaw discrimination based on race, religion, and sexual orientation, and in the workplace and hiring practices, limited the use of voter literacy tests, in schools, and guaranteed equal employment.

The South African civil rights movement, like that of the US, fought for the equality of races. The racial segregation that existed before South Africa’s independence in 1931 was formalized in 1948, creating a lawful divide, called apartheid, between white European settlers (20% of the population), Asians, coloureds and blacks. Apartheid gave whites an advantage in status and opportunity, including where they could live, work, and go to school. Non-whites had no voting rights, and could not marry whites. Apartheid laws concentrated resources and wealth with whites while severely punishing non-whites for transgressing apartheid laws.

In 1952, thousands of blacks were arrested for breaking apartheid laws under the Defiance Campaign and entering white areas, buses, and toilets. A Freedom Charter,  adopted in Soweto in 1955 demanded equal rights for everyone, nationalization of the country’s national wealth, and land reforms.

In 1960, a protest against the carrying of mandatory travel documents turned violent in the black town of Sharpville. The ensuing police firing left nearly 70 dead and 162 wounded. In 1976 violence broke out in Soweto over government orders giving English and Afrikaans equal status in black schools. Afrikaans was seen as the language of the whites. In 1977 civil rights activist activist, Steve Biko died in police custody. His funeral, attended by 20,000 people, turned into the biggest political rally of its time.

By the mid-199s, South Africa faced international censure and boycott, and apartheid started losing its grip. In 1994 elections were held based on adult franchise and South Africa embarked on its journey to becoming a multi-racial democracy.

Racial discrimination that was prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world has weakened in the 21st century but persists.

Gender equality movements

Women have been the “second sex” throughout recorded history. Their status—socially, economically and politically—barring in a few societies, was inferior to men. They were subject to discrimination and violence. Women’s liberation is a fight against patriarchy and the institutions through which it operates including the state, religion, society, labour markets, media and the family.

The classification of feminism into three waves is widely accepted to understand the women’s movements. The first wave that began in the 19th century asked for women’s suffrage, right to property and education. The focus was on legal equality. Women’s suffrage was granted in many European countries after it was granted in the newly independent countries in the mid-20th century.

The second wave which began after World War II, demanded better job opportunities, equal pay, personal law changes, reproductive rights, and an end to sexual harassment and violence. The movement’s priorities in developed and developing countries were somewhat different. In many African countries, the outlawing of genital mutilation was seen as an urgent issue, whereas women in the developed world saw the outlawing of marital rape as being immediately important.

The third wave that emerged in the 1990s added issues of intersectionality and identity to the second wave issues, and standpoint theory gained ground. The third wave sought to be more inclusive. The first decade of the 21st century saw the emergence of the MeToo movement which has focused attention on the patriarchal system that allows for misconduct and relegates women to a secondary position. Whether this can be called a fourth wave is moot.

Throughout history and across different cultures, individuals with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations always existed. Oriental and African societies were more tolerant of diversity in gender expression and sexual preference. Homosexuality was considered a sin by Christian theologists and was punished with castration or death in Medieval Europe.

Till the mid-20th century, gays and lesbians were persecuted in Europe. Oscar Wilde, the well-known 19th-century Irish poet and playwright and Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptographer and the father of computer science who played a lead role in cracking German encrypted messages in World War II, were convicted of homosexuality. Nazi Germany jailed thousands of gay men for their “deviant” behaviour and many thousands died in confinement. Several communist leaders were inimical to LGBTQs.

The emerging lesbians gays bisexuals, transgenders and queers (LGBTQ) movement is fighting for dignity and equal rights. The gay liberation movement that started around the 1970s changed Europe and North America’s attitude towards “deviant” behaviour. The consequence often is privation and even loss of life. Dr Sreenivas Silas, an Aligarh Muslim University professor was sacked by the university and committed suicide after a secretly filmed video showing him having sex with a rickshaw puller started circulating, despite an Allahabad High Court order reinstating him in his job.

The queer movement of the late 20th century gained momentum from the global gay pride marches that emerged in the 1970s, sparked by the pivotal resistance of queer individuals against police brutality at New York’s Stonewall Inn in 1969. Media attention to gay rights gained space in the 1990s and pride marches have been held in thousands of cities and towns around the world.

With the decriminalization of same-sex relations in many countries at the turn of the 21st century, gays and lesbians could finally come out. This was quickly followed by same-sex marriages being legalized in many European countries. Yet, homosexuality is illegal in about 75 countries, and in as many as 10 Asian and African countries it is punishable by death.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court passed an order reading down India’s IPC, Section 377, and held that sexual minorities were equal citizens of India. However, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling in 2013. This rallied LGBTQ and rights activists to challenge the Supreme Court ruling in and outside courts. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that sexual relations between consenting adults are not an offence, in effect decriminalised homosexuality.

The 2014 Indian Supreme Court judgement accorded the transgender community the right to choose their gender and directed the government to ensure that their legal, political and economic rights are protected. This was followed by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 in India which accords transgenders legal recognition for their gender identity, prohibits discrimination, and promotes social inclusion.

The anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, civil rights and gender equality movements were spearheaded by people and not governments. Such massive strides that these four equality movements have made would just not have been possible without people’s involvement.

The four major global people’s movements of the 20th century fought for equality in law. In addition, two of them–anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements, asked for fundamental changes in how governments are chosen. Additionally, the anti-capitalist movement asked for a change in the nature of the state—from capitalist to socialist.

The anti-colonial movement has succeeded in gaining independence for the erstwhile colonies. The civil rights movement has succeeded in engendering far greater equality between whites and coloured people than there was even a few decades back. Yet, there is more ground to cover for achieving equality in its true sense. The gender equality and anti-capitalist movements still have a long way to go to achieve equality. But the war has begun.

Inequality continues to remain a leading social stressor and needs to be tackled lest it converts into a tipping point. “Peak oil” and climate change are environmental stressors. If they are not addressed immediately, they will transform into major social stressors. As social and environmental stressors are associated with economic growth, it is important to understand their drivers.

Material growth—environmental and social stressors

Material growth is at the root of the environmental stressors—”peak oil” and climate change. As the global economy grows, increasing quantities of raw materials and energy are used as throughputs resulting in more wastes being released into the environment. The growth of energy use, mineral extraction, population and GDP were all 0.1% per annum (PA) between 1 CE and 1800 CE. After 1800 CE, their growth rates have jumped more than tenfold. The world uses 15.3 Gtoe of energy and 100 Gt of minerals today; and their growth rates over the last 3 decades have been 1.7% PA  and 2.7% PA, respectively.

Two factors locomote material growth—the generation of increasing amounts of surplus by capitalism to accumulate and concentrate in private hands, and a perception that humans have primary entitlement over nature to the detriment of other species, i.e., anthropocentrism.

Humans use technology, i.e., knowledge of energy conversion, to create a surplus—material and economic. A small energy investment is required to harvest an energy source, e.g., coal. An investment of one energy unit fetches an energy return that is many times more. The difference between the energy return and investment is surplus energy which is the basis of profit.

Since the invested energy for exploration, extraction, transport and refining of the energy source is owned by a private entity, the ownership of the harvested energy is claimed by the investor, notwithstanding that nature made the energy source. Re-investing more surplus energy increases the accumulation and concentration of surplus in private hands. This is capitalism. If the state is the investor and beneficiary, it is state capitalism.

There are two other ways of accumulating and concentrating surplus. First, the surplus created in a region or nation is appropriated by another nation that conquers or colonizes the first. This surplus accrued is in the form of war booty, tax, tribute, reparation or unequal exchange. This is a form of imperialism.

The second is through the unequal exchange of input energies in traded goods and services and unpaid externalities between sectors of the economy, regions or nations. This is a form of neo-colonialism.

Unequal distribution of surplus, powered by private ownership of nature and means of production, is the cause of material inequality and its extreme derivatives—poverty and deprivation. Social inequalities such as gender, caste and race, transform into material inequality.

The other driver of material growth is anthropocentrism. This worldview centre-stages human beings and side-stages everything else and believes that species and inanimate nature exist only for human colonization,  and legitimizes their use or destruction for human benefit.

To bolster growth humans have warred against nature. Energy equal to that in 20,000 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs was used each year to hack a third of the original 60 million km2 of forests that existed 8000 years ago. The energy expenditure for this massive ecocide exceeds the energy used in all wars fought to date.

Earth has finite quantities of raw material. It took 300 million years to create the known fossil fuel reserves, and in just 300 years we have used about 40% of the original reserve of 1,183 Gtoe of fossil fuels, excluding shales (if shales are included, 30% of original reserves are exhausted). We will run out of oil and gas in about 50 years and coal in less than a century. A techno-economically viable long-term alternative energy source is not yet visible on the horizon. About 80 critical non-renewable minerals, including iron ore, copper ore and bauxite, will be in short supply in about 50 years. An impending energy and mineral shortage will spell doom for the Global North and disaster for the Global South. The global economy will stare at a possible regress or even collapse.

The Earth also has a finite capacity to absorb and neutralize wastes. The 2,500 GtCO2 emitted to date has caused a warming of >1.1oC over pre-industrial times. The world’s remaining available carbon space to remain compliant with <1.5oC warming is ~500 GtCO2. This space will shrink with the thawing of permafrost and further loss of the Amazon and boreal forests, leaving as little as 100 GtCO2 of carbon space to remain compliant with a warming of 1.5oC. At the current emission rate of ~40 GtCO2, the remaining carbon space will be erased in the next few years.

If we continue along the business-as-usual road, warming by 2100 will be around 3oC above pre-industrial times, sufficient to fry the environment and cause massive social disruption. Sea rise will cause millions of climate refugees. Extreme heat waves will turn fertile regions into water-stressed areas and cause unprecedently large forest fires. Heavy rainfall events will cause unprecedented floods. Climate change will impact food and water security and biodiversity, and increase hunger, deprivation, malnutrition, disease and poverty, particularly in the Global South. Human migration will increase, causing collateral damage like human trafficking will increase. The global economy and the social and political order will be stressed and this will result in conflict. These impacts will be distributed in time and space. The Global South will be hit the hardest.

Global response to climate change

The global economy is addicted to growth and profit and therefore increasing quantities of energy. Renewable energies are not replacing fossil fuels but are adding to them—a Jevons Paradox.

The demand-side management mechanisms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol—Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI), and carbon markets, have failed. Between 2008 and 2021, CDM and JI projects prevented or removed less than 2% of the cumulative emissions of the North nations, a fraction that is too small to make a difference.

If we wish to remain at <1.5oC warming, considered the upper limit to avoid a climate catastrophe, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must decrease by about 8% per annum (PA) for the next 30 years. But global emissions are rising by 1.2% PA today.

The Global North, with 16% of today’s global population, is responsible for emitting  69% of the cumulative emissions since fossil fuel use began 300 years ago. Yet, the North nations are unwilling to take legal or moral responsibility for their emissions despite the knowledge of its warming impacts being known for over 100 years. To preserve their high living standards, the Global North is keen to keep warming below 1.5oC using technology.

Fast-growing emerging economies of the Global South, e.g., China and India, aspire to join the Global North by burning readily available fossil fuels. They justify their action as climate justice.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 55 highly climate-vulnerable Global South countries, wants both the Global North and the emerging economies of the Global South to reduce emissions as the vulnerable nations will bear the brunt of the climate impacts regardless of who emits GHGs.

The probability of remaining below the 1.5oC warming redline is so small that nobody but charlatans mentions it anymore. Governments and the UNFCCC will fail to restrict warming to below 1.5oC.

Environmental movements

The only other entity that may be able to tackle climate change is people’s environmental movements. At the local level, they have not been very successful in fighting for a cleaner and safer environment, and have had mixed success in environmental conservation the environment by advocating against deforestation and promoting non-chemical farming.

Climate change is an even more daunting challenge for environmental movements. They have to battle material growth and its drivers, i.e., capitalism and all forms of inequity, and anthropocentrism. This is a war that is much bigger and tougher than the ones fought by the 20th-century equality movements. The ideologies and institutions that support anthropocentrism and private property are about 5,000 years old and have developed deep roots. Dislodging them will be a herculean job, particularly as the perception that the earth has unlimited resources and that humans can use them indiscriminately to the detriment of other species is deeply rooted in today’s society.

The 20th-century equality movements took 100 years to mature. To remain under the 1.5oC warming redline, the environmental movement has to act very quickly and drastically in the next 30 years. The environmental movement does not have the luxury of time to mature that the previous movements had.

Biogeochemical cycles, e.g., the carbon cycle, are global cycles. They do not recognize national boundaries. They have been disturbed by human overuse of nature. Fixing them requires a unified global action that remains elusive in a world divided into groups of nations with differing objectives and priorities.

To keep global warming under 1.5oC the environmental movement has to cobble up a rainbow coalition of working people, farmers, women, fisherfolk, indigenous people, and a host of other vulnerable populations. And this has to be done across nations. This is no mean task and has not been attempted on such a large and diverse scale ever before. Not even the communist internationals did anything on this scale.

Environmental movements are barely four decades old and are still in their infancy. They work in isolated national-level silos, each of them addressing issues such as forests, wildlife, oceans, farming, plastics, pollution, hazardous storage, etc, to the exclusion of other environmental, civil rights, development and inequality issues. Moreover, they have yet to create effective national and international platforms that can become force multipliers.

Yet, environmental movements are the only hope we have for avoiding a climate disaster and a possible civilizational regress or collapse. It is time for op-ed writers to recognize the writing on the wall and start working with the environmental movements and writing about what people can do through environmental movements.


First published in Frontier Autumn Number, October 2023

Sagar Dhara – Male, Upper class and caste, College educated, City slicker, Member of the most ferocious predatory species that stalked earth–humans

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