The Necessity of Community in an Age of Climate Catastrophes | Omid Fouldapouri
As California is currently facing one of the most sweltering heat waves we’ve felt for years, it truly exemplifies the grave state of the climate right now. With temperatures upwards of 90 degrees even on the beaches, almost everyone in the state is affected. Up until now, the political action that we have seen on this issue has been weak, and has been far from curbing significant climate disasters that are sure to impact us in the near future; thus it’s time for a new perception on the action needed to take on this crisis. The current situation hits the houseless and those who don’t have AC units especially hard, thus demonstrating how the issues of environment and classism are fundamentally related, and how the marginalized always get hit the hardest.
The global climate crisis is currently accelerating at a speed never seen before. And yet, the Earth hasn’t even warmed up to the extent it’s predicted to soon. This acceleration has even caused many scientists to go out and protest, risking arrest, as they demand immediate explicit change to the current system’s organization, among various other demands. Species are dying and cities are flooding. The climate becomes more extreme for all of us. Every day, we continue to see cases of extreme climate affecting people becoming more common and more dangerous. Such is unfortunately the case again in Pakistan, where instead of being hit by extreme heat, they are now being hit by monstrous amounts of rain resulting in widespread floods affecting 33 million people so far. These cases aren’t one-offs though. If the Earth continues on its current trajectory, these will be known on the record as the moderate cases that demonstrated the beginnings of what is to come.
Yet another urgent and immediate crisis is currently hitting the capital of Mississippi. Jackson has recently been decimated by large amounts of flooding as a result of rain, with the floods also resulting in the destruction of their water systems, leaving nearly all of the city’s water undrinkable. Coincidentally, a report came out fairly recently describing how none of Earth’s rainwater is safe to drink anymore. These examples, which are all mostly just news from the past week, also show the extent to which those who don’t contribute significantly to the environmental catastrophe pay the highest price. While the governor tells Mississippi residents to shower with their mouths closed, he has his own personal water tanker outside his mansion providing him with clean water while everyone else is left to suffer on their own. The wealthy and powerful will always have the connections to maintain the highest quality of life even as everyone around them suffers from their inaction and constant excessive usage. An important aspect of both the case in Pakistan and Jackson, keeping in mind the lack of international/federal support for them, is the specific demographic affected. In Pakistan, an impoverished country of nearly entirely people of color, fails to get the attention it deserves in a crisis like this. Jackson, an impoverished city with an 80% Black population, also fails to be adequately recognized and aided as well. The systematic racism and classism becomes clearer and clearer as the cases worsen.
With all of this in mind, it is also important to recognize the connection between the climate crisis and the notions of profit which our whole world depends on. As capitalism seeks to poison all avenues of life through its disregard for humanity, global infrastructure weakens through an emphasis on utilizing cheap ecocidal materials rather than what is sustainable and ecologically friendly. Why go with infrastructure or city planning that decreases carbon emissions, when you can make lots of money organizing everything spread out and only accessible through roads instead of public transportation? Hint: that’s how our local communities are organized. In addition to the lack of public transportation being an absolute nightmare for anyone who doesn’t want to drive all the time or be stuck in traffic, roads also take up lots of land that could have just been left to nature. Instead, they absorb heat and are mainly used by polluting vehicles. Even as transportation is its own issue, it connects to how the societal organization of the status quo and the lack of radical change will cause the planet to become a burnt hellscape as a result of profit-seeking ventures. All of this goes without even mentioning the energy crises that stem from the excessive usage of energy our world demands and our unsustainable methods of achieving it.
Another urgent issue threatens the entire global population: agricultural failure as a consequence of global warming. When the average global temperature heats up even a “little,” severe consequences result, such as less access to fertile soil, and therefore less land for growing food. Though we are already seeing these crises showcase themselves now, an even more ominous concern looms in the future, agricultural collapse. However, this isn’t to say that leaders can’t change this outcome, as our fate is solely in our collective hands.
All of these issues continue to propagate themselves and become increasingly more extreme due to our collective inaction and dependence on globalization and electoralism. We depend on global leaders, global supply chains, and global resources for what are fundamentally community issues that can only be solved by the community. The solutions start with local food chains, local organizations, local resources, and local collective action. As both our past and our present demonstrates, when a community comes together democratically to solve problems and build up bottom-up collective structures of personal defense and protection, seemingly insurmountable issues can be solved. Pipelines can be stopped and people can be saved. Such is the case in Cheran, where locals fed up with the constant violence of the government and gangs pushed them out and emphasized community organization. Now, the community organizes democratically and safely, and Cheran’s forests are regrowing better than ever. In Jackson, a network of cooperatives known as Cooperative Jackson is currently taking action to help the most vulnerable and affected communities. Their beliefs and practices of developing sustainable democratic local cooperatives has allowed them to create the infrastructure of support as they have today. In practicing mutual aid, they demonstrate a long needed value that the world severely lacks. Mutual aid is a value that contradicts profit and capital, as it regards the protection, prosperity, and health of people. Community fridges are a great example of mutual aid, as anyone can give when they want, and anyone can receive when they need. Cooperation Jackson may not be big enough to alleviate the entire crisis, but it definitely helps. And if more can follow in their footsteps and take inspiration from their valiant efforts, we might just be able to curb the future’s crises and create a better society for all.