The magnitude of the planetary crisis

A complete change to the economic system is necessary if we are ever to confront and transcend the environmental, climatic and social crises upon us.

System change must address people’s individual and collective needs and promote reciprocity, redistribution and sharing.

We are facing deep-rooted climate, social and environmental crises. The current dominant economic system cannot provide solutions. It is time for system change.

For Friends of the Earth International this means creating societies based on peoples’ sovereignty and environmental, social, economic and gender justice. We must question and deconstruct the capitalist logic of accumulation.

The climate catastrophe is interwoven with many social and environmental crises, including oppression, corporate power, hunger, water depletion, biodiversity loss and deforestation.

Equality and reciprocity

At its heart sits an unsustainable economic system, the sole aim of which is endless growth and profit. This system concentrates wealth, power and obscene privilege with the few.

Corporations and national elites are empowered by that very system to exploit people and their livelihoods with impunity.

We must tackle climate change and the associated social and environmental crises by taking rapid and bold action to address the common root causes; privatisation, financialisation and commodification of nature and societies, and unsustainable production and consumption systems.

The magnitude of the crises we face demands system change.

That system change will result in the creation of sustainable societies and new relations between human beings, and between human beings and nature, based on equality and reciprocity.

Expansion of capital

But we cannot create these societies and assert people’s rights without increasing people’s power. We need to reclaim politics.

This means creating genuine, radical and just democracies centred around people’s sovereignty and participation.

International law must put people above corporate profit, ensuring binding rules for business and mechanisms that guarantee access to justice for victims of transnational corporations.

System change calls for an articulation of the struggles against oppression; that is, patriarchy, racism, colonialism, and class and capitalist exploitation.

It demands commitment to the struggle against the exploitation of women’s bodies and work. We are witnessing how the expansion of capital over the territories leads to increased violence against women alongside the violation of their rights.

Economic justice

Gender justice will only be possible when we recognise women as political subjects, stop violence against women, strengthen women’s autonomy, advance the principles of feminist economy, deconstruct the sexual division of labor and reorganize care work.

System change must address people’s individual and collective needs and promote reciprocity, redistribution and sharing.

A transformation of the energy system is fundamental to system change. It entails democratic answers to the fundamental questions: for whom and what is energy produced? And a total departure from fossil fuel reliance and corporate control.

This must be a just transition, founded on workers’ and community rights. It is not only about changing technologies and renewable energy, but about public and community ownership and control, therefore addressing the root problems of a system that turns energy into a commodity and denies the right to energy for all.

It requires equity and justice, especially for those already impacted by the changing climate in the global South.

Genuine system change would radically transform the food system towards food sovereignty and agroecology: valuing local knowledge, promoting social and economic justice and people’s control over their territories, guaranteeing the right to land, water and seeds, nurturing social relations founded on justice and solidarity, and recognising the fundamental role of women in food production, to provide an effective way to feed the world and a counter to destructive industrial agriculture.

Biodiversity and forests are best protected by the communities who live in them. Protecting forests can address climate change by maintaining natural carbon stores and reducing the amount of carbon released through deforestation, while providing communities with food, fibres, shelter, medicines and water. Just eight per cent of the world’s forests are managed by communities; it is vital we secure community rights over forests and livelihoods.

Popular mobilisation

System change must address people’s individual and collective needs and promote reciprocity, redistribution and sharing.

Solutions include public services achieved through tax justice, social ownership and co-operativism, local markets and fair trade, community forest management, and valuing the wellbeing of people and the planet.

People all over the world are already living or implementing thousands of initiatives which embody justice and challenge the capitalist logic. Now we must expand them.

And that requires commensurate international and national public policies that empower people to fight for a democratic state that ensures rights and provides environmentally and socially just public services, and active popular participation; a state that guarantees peoples’ rights to water, land and the territories, food, health, education, housing and decent jobs.

We all need to support local and international resistance, engage in popular mobilisation, strive for policy change and upscale the real solutions, the solutions of the people. This is system change.

This Author

Karin Nansen is Chair of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation, and a founding member of REDES / Friends of the Earth Uruguay.

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