Photo: attendees at the Texas Eco-Socialism Conference. Liberation photo
As the effects of climate change worsen and daunting evidence shows the need to change the system immediately, the organized movement to change that system has also grown. Even in Texas, where oil and gas companies hold the reins of power, organizers assembled a precedent-setting conference on eco-socialism that drew almost 100 people.
Texas branches of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, along with organizers, activists and working people affected by climate change from Texas, New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana and many other states came together for the 2022 Texas Eco-Socialism Conference on April 23. The event was also co-hosted by POWER, which stands for Public Ownership of Water and Electric Resources. Presenters covered a wide range of local, national, and international issues connected to capitalism’s degradation of the earth and what we can do to fight back. Activists also conducted hands-on workshops with attendees on how we can learn from current socialist solutions to environmental degradation.
The first session opened with a panel on the issues facing Texas and its connection to international struggles. Many of the presentations revolved around the aftermath of the 2021 winter storm, during which the state power grid neared complete collapse. Over 700 people died in temperatures that were colder than some parts of Alaska and Siberia, while the state power grid prioritized energy to empty downtown office buildings and unused stadiums. This institutional failure affected millions of people across the state, and it is the direct result of Texas’ energy policy that favors corporate profits over reliability, sustainability and preparedness. Other panelists described the ongoing, daily experiences of environmental racism, immigration and climate refugees, the need for public utilities, and the menacing Texas oil and gas industry.
Organizer Brianna Griffith ended the plenary with a sketch of demands for an eco-socialist future for Texas and the world. “The only resolution to the contradictions we’re facing — the only permanent set of solutions to the climate crisis — is revolution,” said Griffith. “Capitalism is driving us to the edge of planetary ruin and is unwilling to hit the brakes, much less turn the car around. Only socialism — the power of the people — can right the course and save the planet.” Griffith also stressed the need for working people to expand this fight into every arena:
“What we need to remember is that there is no shortcut, no secret magic trick that will make politicians or corporations give a damn. Only through greater organization, greater numbers, and a willingness to fight will we be able to win.
“This is a fight for labor unions, tenant unions, for whole communities, for oppressed people, and has the potential to unite us all. Many of these organizations will need to be built from the ground up. Many will need to remember what it’s like to fight.
“Those are the tasks ahead of us: to talk to our coworkers, our friends, our neighbors, to have a dialogue with them, share our knowledge, hear their knowledge, understand their needs, and forge the bonds of common struggle to meet those needs and more.”
Attendees then attended their choice of three breakout workshops, tackling topics such as Cuba’s short- and long-term sustainability plans as one of the most ecologically sustainable countries on the planet, socialist city planning for public transportation and parks, and indigenous agricultural methods and cultivation of sustainable forests.
After lunch, attendees continued in afternoon workshops covering more global issues and solutions. Anti-war organizers invited participants to reimagine how we could use resources if we dismantled imperialism. POWER activists detailed the long history of the fight for public utilities. Tina Landis led a session on ecological regeneration that moves beyond just preventing climate change and moves toward healing the damage. Workshops emphasized the contradictions that make capitalism incapable of solving the climate crisis, but more importantly, charted a constructive path to a future where solving the climate crisis is possible — a socialist future.
Attendees came back together for a mid-afternoon panel on local struggles. Presenters discussed local issues that Texas cities are facing such as landlord greed, zoning laws, gentrification, the mismanagement of utilities, and how these issues affect their respective cities. Most importantly, presenters talked about the work they are doing with communities to provide aid, fight back against capitalist exploitation, and win.
Participants then heard the keynote speech from Tina Landis, author of Climate Solutions Beyond Capitalism and environmental activist. She discussed concrete solutions to the climate crisis, drawn from existing science and dispelling the nihilistic myth that “there’s nothing we can do” to stop climate catastrophe.
“There are real solutions to climate change that could end the crisis within just one generation,” said Landis, “but you will never hear that from the corporate media, because the transformations required spell the demise of capitalism.” Landis concluded:
“To get there we need to organize in our communities, educate each other about the solutions, and demand that our government take real action that equals the urgency of the crisis. Studies show that despite growing concern about climate change, only 5% of the U.S. population thinks that there is anything that can be done to reverse it. If people don’t know that there are solutions, they won’t stand up and demand action, which is why we all need to educate others on this urgent issue.
“And in the end, we need socialism, that overthrows the rule of the billionaire class and puts the power and resources of society into the hands of the workers. It may seem that we are few and they have all the power, but this is just an illusion. There are millions around the globe working for real transformation of how humanity lives on the planet, you just won’t read about it in the corporate media. Now more than ever, we need to harness our revolutionary optimism — our hope that is based in reality and the understanding that the working class has the knowledge and capacity to make the change that’s needed to end the climate crisis … and we must act now.”
After Landis responded to questions, PSL organizers shared the life experiences that led them to join the movement and get organized.
The overarching theme of the conference stressed, from beginning to end, that while the situation is dire, there are implementable solutions that will reverse the course of climate destruction and heal the planet. But it will require a movement of millions — the millions of working people who are so often told that we are powerless — to overturn the exploitative system that is killing the planet. An eco-socialist future is possible if we are willing to fight for it!