We’ve all heard of COPs— no, not the ones we are trying to get off campus, but the annual intergovernmental meetings held to discuss what exactly we are going to do about capitalism killing our planet. Every year it seems like climate change is at the top of the list for the United Nations and other government coalitions to tackle, and yet, every year we hear alarm bells from climate scientists warning that death is imminent. In fact, this is the 26th fucking year that the Conference of Parties has met! What are they doing there? Is it just an office party for world leaders? This year’s conference in Italy was a vacation paid for by us poor S.O.B.s considered citizens.
All 196 government leaders involved in the Paris Climate Agreement promise to keep warming levels below 1.5 degrees Celsius. For context, this means that on extremely hot summer days the temperature increase will be about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (that Postal Service song was right when they said we will be able to swim any day in November). Maybe your high school environmental studies class warned you about climate change and the increase of catastrophic disasters, but not about the intentional incompetence of rich people smiling in suits.
Here’s what the UN has to say about COP26:
“The UN chief added that it is time to go ‘into emergency mode,’ ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, protecting vulnerable communities, and delivering the $100 billion climate finance commitment. ‘We did not achieve these goals at this conference. But we have some building blocks for progress,’ he said.”
What? You accomplished exactly zero of your goals? The conservative goals that even if achieved would not stop the 1.5 C degrees of warming? They’re clowning on us with their political stunts, private jets, and promises to “go green.” Greta Thunberg was right to say COP26 was a “failure” and “greenwashing.” Days after COP26, our very own colonizer king set out to hold the largest offshore drilling auction ever. Biden is selling “public land” for pennies on the dollar by approving hundreds of permits every month and reducing fees for most companies who ask. Public land should be under the stewardship of Indigenous people. It does not belong to lumber, not to fossil fuel companies, and is certainly not for sale. Money will not save you from environmental disaster.
Climate change is a collective action problem. If you’re a granola girl bringing your reusable cup into my 8am, I see you granola girl— but it’s not enough. No matter how many college students start thrifting or participate in tree planting gimmicks, it has yet to stop the military’s disgusting waste of resources totaling 93% of the United States’ energy consumption. The United States military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. Not only are they murdering people here and abroad, but they are also forcing me to buy an air conditioner and a gas mask.
Now that your climate anxiety is at an all-time high, it’s time to learn how to protect yourself and the world from corporate greed, neoliberalism, and apathy. There is nothing standing between the forest and the loggers, between us and climate disaster, except for warm bodies. The liberal lie is that if we ask nicely, protest nonviolently, vote regularly, the death march of capitalism will stop. The industrial machine is chewing up and spitting out Indigenous people on the front lines. While people are voting instead of rioting, the death march marches on. The insulating forces of whiteness, money, and respectability will not last.
Some people are given a license to murder, to steal, to destroy other people’s property. Do not wait for legitimacy: you will never get it and that’s how this game is designed. Injustice continues while we push reforms or plead for the prison and political systems to work. When we accept that no one is coming to save us, we accept personal responsibility. Do not sign a petition and hope that someone will take notice. Build international community, disrupt business as usual, organize, arm.