I love the Occupy Movement’s “1% vs. 99%” frame. It speaks clearly and directly to the major problem holding back social progress in a wide range of areas: the control of obscene wealth and political and economic power by a tiny minority at the expense of everyone else.
The truth is, though, that there’s little chance that the “99%” is going to be united anytime soon to stop that “1%” from the society-suicidal path they’ve got us on. However, it is possible that a big chunk of it, a majority or even 2/3rds or more, could come together in some way in the not too far off future. This can happen if we in the Occupy and progressive movements do our work well, and the economic/political/climate/social crisis continues or deepens (which is certain for the climate crisis and very likely otherwise).
Who are the social forces in society who must be united if we are to have the political power to enact change? I’ve put forward below what I see that could make up such a people’s alliance. I’ve done so using how President Barack Obama and the Democrats are perceived as the primary point of reference.
I see five groupings of people within the 70-75% of the U.S. population that, potentially, could come together in support of a broadly-based, independent, progressive popular movement. For a period of many years to come, I think we have little chance of winning over the other 25-30%, the 1% plus all those (overwhelmingly white people) from the upper-middle, middle and working classes who are ideological, or ideologically-influenced, right-wingers.
1) Least Likely: These are people who are “Obama and the Democrats” all the way. Some of this grouping are aware of the limitations of the Democratic Party but have little hope for anything better emerging that would become capable of winning political power. Some in this grouping benefit economically from their ties to the Democratic Party, on local, state or national levels, including a portion who are part of the 1%. Many are very afraid of the hard-right Republicans. Many have little direct, on-going exposure to organizations which put forward a consistently progressive point of view, a reflection of the weakness of the political Left (and something which is also true in general for all five groupings).
2) Critical Pro-Democrats: These are people who generally “get it” as far as the corporate ties of the dominant players within the Democratic Party, who are concerned about various aspects of the Dems’ policies, strategies or methods of operating, but who believe that a “lesser evil” is better than a “greater evil.” With Obama as President, many are more supportive of him and the Democrats and give them more slack because he is our nation’s first African American president. A higher percentage of people in this grouping are probably professionals, people with more of a stake in the system, than in the three categories below. Some in this grouping are willing to take part in campaigns on issues, including participation in street demonstrations. Some give money to activist progressive organizations.
3) The Ambivalent Middle: These are people who tend to be registered to vote as independents, if they are registered to vote at all. They don’t much like, or have little enthusiasm for, either party. There are probably more white working-class people in this grouping than in the two categories above. This grouping includes what have been called “Reagan Democrats” as well as low-income people of color who rarely vote because they have little hope that things will change no matter whom they vote for.
4) Dems a Problem, Not the Solution (With Exceptions): These are people who affirmatively want an alternative to two-party politics as usual, either through the electoral arena, outside of it, or both. They range from activists and supporters of groups like PDA, the Green Party and local Occupy groups to people who work in or support constituency-based or single-issue groups, to people who are more willing to vote for an independent candidate on election day. They are often critical of Obama, believing that many of his decisions are nowhere close to what is really needed or just plain wrong. They are willing to work with progressive Democrats on issues, and they are willing to actively pressure Obama to do the right thing, as was true, for example, for activist people from this grouping as far as the tar sands pipeline. Some of them might end up voting for Democrats on election day but wish there was a different kind of electoral system that gave them more genuine choices without having to worry about a third party vote helping Republicans. Others rarely vote for either Dems or Republicans, certainly on the national level.
5) Dems and Reps are the Enemy: This grouping includes people who hardly ever, if ever, vote because they see the electoral system as rigged and corrupt. For those who do vote it’s rarely for a major party candidate. Their view of Obama is very negative, believing that whatever he does that is positive is almost always partial, at best and, as with grouping #4, nowhere close to what is really needed or wrong. Overall he is seen as an apologist for the U.S. Empire and its dominant players, and there is little sympathy from this grouping for him when he is attacked by the hard-right. For many there is little willingness to work closely with progressive Democrats, even those who have a consistently good track record as far as their positions on issues and a willingness to stand up for those positions. It is from this grouping that a fairly large percentage of hard-core and militant progressive activists comes.
In general, I would see most of the activists and supporters of a new, broadly-based alliance representing the interests of the “99%” coming from groupings #2, 3 and 4. Less will come from groupings #1 and 5. A fairly high percentage of those from #1 are going to stay tied to the Democratic Party for a long, long time, and a fairly high percentage of those from #5 will be leery about building an alliance reaching into the ranks of Critical Pro-Democrats.
So much for sociological analysis. Let’s make it happen in reality! We badly need such an alliance. This is not the only thing we need, but it’s an absolute necessity if we are to stand a chance of overturning the relations of power, empowering the disempowered majority and building a new world.
Ted Glick has been active since 2004 building the climate movement and since 1975 building the independent progressive political movement. Other writings and information can be found at http://www.tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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