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As the left wakes up to climate injustice, we must not fall into ‘green colonialism’

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The mainstream transatlantic left has been acting different lately. Having been subsumed into third-way politics for several decades, it seems we are growing back some teeth in our bite on the big systemic issues of today. From Labour calling for a national climate emergency, to prominent Democrat senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declaring capitalism “irredeemable” – we are slowly unzipping ourselves from the straitjacket of incrementalist politics. The left has a new centre, and it’s not messing about.

It is nonetheless critical to ground these struggles in their long history. Indeed, many post-independence struggles in the global south have been struggles against capitalism and the political and ecological injustices it produces. Take climate change. We are finally seeing something of a start to the kind of mass mobilisation and political will needed to rise to the challenge. Most importantly, Labour’s successful call to declare a national climate emergency marks a well overdue shift from its paltry doctrine of behaviouralism, which makes climate change the responsibility of working-class people who just need to behave themselves – eat less meat, use fewer plastic bags, have fewer kids. If real action follows, the move signifies promising recognition that this crisis requires rapid, large-scale political action and systemic change – and it is the companies and institutions responsible for the crisis that need to pay.

However, alongside the hope, we also need to acknowledge we are miles away from where we need to be. While our political leadership has continually acted as if rising global........

© The Guardian