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Who's Really Responsible for the Climate Crisis?

The following is the speech delivered by Imran Mulla at the June Climate Strike.

There is a dangerous narrative surrounding the climate crisis, a narrative that is being used to obstruct meaningful action, a narrative that is used to undermine effective activism – and that is the narrative of individual cut downs. It’s the mythology that promotes the absurd idea that we can solve the climate crisis by recycling, and not using plastic bags, and drinking with paper straws. The distortion of environmentalism into a matter of individual choices and consumer behaviour is not just ridiculous, it’s genuinely insidious.


Just one hundred companies are responsible for 70% of global carbon emissions.


One hundred companies, 70% of global emissions – and we’re all treated as equally guilty because our existence leaves a carbon footprint? Who is it that benefits from this narrative?


Earlier this month, the chief executive of Shell, Europe’s biggest oil company, called for climate action to target “consumers who choose to eat strawberries in winter” and those who don’t recycle. And that’s the problem. The myth of collective responsibility is perfect for the corporate elites, the true culprits, because they use it to deflect from the scale of their crimes.


I wonder, how many of you have been accused of hypocrisy because you’ve been in a car before, or because you’ve forgotten to use a recycling bin? This is the genius of those who seek to obstruct real, concrete policies that will actually have an impact. We need to liberate ourselves from the idea that we are all sinners simply for being born into this system, and for being dependent upon it.


This sense of shame can be paralysing. It is the single biggest thing that makes people not want to think about the climate crisis, that makes them turn away from our movement. We need to free ourselves from this idea of collective guilt, and instead recognise that we have a collective responsibility to speak out against those who are truly responsible.


The roots of the ecological catastrophe that we face are in our civilizational worldview – one that assigns the natural world no intrinsic value. Indeed, in corporate culture there is no value in anything or anyone beyond monetary value. That’s what we need to be talking about. The governments of the world spend five trillion dollars a year subsidising fossil fuels. We can’t rely on the people in power.


Just last month, Boris Johnson – likely to be our next prime minister - received £25,000 from Bristol Port, Britain’s leading climate denial group. Professor David King, the former UK special representative for climate change, has testified that when Johnson was foreign secretary he oversaw “devastating” cuts in efforts to tackle the climate crisis. That makes our job all the more important.


Never think that there’s no point in taking action. These climate strikes are meaningful action. As a result of the combined and cooperative efforts of Extinction Rebellion and Youth Strike For Climate the government has already made the unprecedented move of declaring a climate emergency.


Don’t let anyone tell you that this is useless, or that it’s hypocritical because we all contribute to climate change. We are already having an impact, and we have great potential. What distinguishes this movement from the failures of previous environmental movements is that we have no trouble in calling out the people driving us to ruin and destruction. We have no trouble in doing what’s necessary and calling for meaningful systemic change at the highest level – and we have to keep going, because resistance is our last chance for survival.

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