You might not be able to tell from listening to presidential debates, but the earth and her peoples are facing some really serious stuff right now. Like massive climate disruption that is inundating people’s homes and homelands, diminishing our food system, creating climate refugees, threatening infrastructure. All of these impacts disproportionately impact communities and countries that have done the least to cause climate change — including the all-but- invisibleBlack lives in the Global South, indigenous communities and other climate vulnerable populations.
Just because candidates are not talking about climate change doesn’t make it go away. Climate change is not a ballot question — it’s happening with or without a town hall meeting or debate forum.
That said, an even more challenging truth needs to be stated. Even if a candidate did talk about climate justice (gasp!), and that candidate gets elected (double gasp!), his or her power to actually do something is, well, negligible — unless whoever is in office is held accountable and pushed by the grassroots movements calling for system change. In other words, the climate revolution will not be elected … it will be organized from the ground up.
As folks at 350 Action have noted, people who care about climate change are not electing a candidate to lead us; we are electing a politician we can push. To paraphrase FDR, politicians will only do what we make them do. (He told a group of activists: “You convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.”) Any really progress toward sustainability and fundamental change comes through organizing, mobilization and action that advance real solutions.
In this context, elections are one part of a longer term project of building a global movement for climate justice, led by those more impacted by climate change (i.e. frontline communities). The grassroots solutions generated by frontline communities eschew the big market-based and corporation-profiting false solutions of land grabs and carbon trading, and instead emphasize transformative economies, locally controlled food and energy systems, and buen vivir/living well and in harmony with the ecosystem.
All too often, US foreign policy and so called “development policies” directly undermine the very solutions generated by grassroots communities. Climate justice requires that policies shift foreign and development policies away from the current interventionist (or, as our partners would call them “colonialist”) ways and toward grassroots-directed solutions, such as agroecology and locally controlled energy systems.
No matter who “wins” the Oval Office come November 8, the fundamental work of climate justice activists remains the same. Because the climate revolution rises from grassroots communities, grows through sustainable networks and replenishes our hope for the future.
Carol Schachet is the director of development and communications at Grassroots International. A foundation based in Boston, Grassroots International connects people in the US with global movements solving the root causes of inequality and climate change.