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What does climate change?

80 years of environmental politics - Left & Right

- 6:00pm
Friday January 29 2016

Venue: Room 2 430, Edmonton Health Clinic, University of Alberta
Address: 11405 87 Ave NW, Edmonton
Cost: Free

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What does climate change? 80 years of environmental politics - Left & Right

A panel discussion on what a Left response to climate change would look like (and how it would differ from the right)

Friday 29 Jan 2016 @ 4pm

Room 2 430, Edmonton Health Clinic, University of Alberta
11405 87 Ave NW, Edmonton


// Laurie Adkin - co-author First World Petro-Politics (forthcoming), University of Alberta
// Nick Driedger - International Workers of the World
// Samir Gandesha - Institute of Humanities, Simon Fraser University
// Trevor Harrison - Parkland Institute


The awareness of a growing planetary climate crisis in the 1990s appeared to coincide with a change: the weakening, if not collapse, of the traditional forces of the Old Left (communism and social democracy) and the consolidation of what many characterize as neoliberalism. For many green thinkers and activists, the political strength of the Right in the 1990s stymied any meaningful attempt to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the global reach of climate change also generated sustained international resistance, which appears unified in its opposition to fossil fuel extraction. For Klein and climate justice activists, the combined weight of this resistance could “change everything” when coupled with the “erosion” of neoliberalism’s credibility, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the assessment that climate change is inextricably bound up with capitalism (i.e., that climate change cannot be regulated or solved using “greener” forms of capitalism, but would require a “system change”).


Yet amidst the proliferation of activity--from blocking pipelines, to campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns, to blockades to stop hydraulic fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining projects and protests at international climate talks--it remains unclear how climate change politics might lead to something different. U.S. Democrats, for example, appear poised to benefit from discontents around inaction on climate change regulation (in spite of advancing neoliberal reforms in the 1990s under Bill Clinton). In the E.U., climate activism has taken a back seat to anti-austerity, as governments responsible for the strictest austerity are largely credited with leadership in decarbonizing their economies. In fact, while an agreement overhauling the Kyoto Protocol was accomplished at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP 21), the same cannot be said about the prospects for “system change.”


The focus of this panel is to consider what remains unchanged by the climate crisis. For there seems to be a continued problem of how discontents under capitalism become readily integrated into new forms of capitalism; a process whereby we unwittingly contribute to the perpetuation of capitalism without intending to. We ask panelists to consider how we might arrive at a post-carbon future from the Left. What would a Left response to climate change look like? How does this differ from the Right?


>>Questions for panelists: 

(1) How, exactly, might climate change be addressed by the Left? 

(2) How does the history of capitalism (and by extension the Left) matter for dealing with climate change? 

(3) What kind of opportunity or problems does the current politicization of climate change represent for the Left? 

(4) What can be learned from the last 80 years that would inform a Left approach to environmental issues? 

(5) How is capitalism the source of climate change? How might discontents around climate change lead to politics that move beyond capitalism? Should they?

(6) What would distinguish a Left position on environmental degradation and technology?




Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society. The Platypus Affiliated Society organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.


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