How can climate justice activists stop capitalism’s drive to catastrophe? The author of Fossil Capital considers lessons from past revolutions and proposes an action program for today.
Andreas Malm teaches human ecology at Lund University, Sweden. He is the author of Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, and The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World.
Reprinted from Socialist Register 2017: Rethinking Revolution (Merlin Press and Monthly Review Press, 2016).
REVOLUTION IN A WARMING WORLD
Lessons from the Russian to the Syrian Revolutions
by Andreas Malm
It doesn’t take much imagination to associate climate change with revolution. If the planetary order upon which all societies are built starts breaking down, how can they possibly remain stable? Various more or less horrifying scenarios of upheaval have long been extrapolated from soaring temperatures. In his novel The Drowned World from 1962, today often considered the first prophetic work of climate fiction, J. G. Ballard conjured up melting icecaps, an English capital submerged under tropical marshes and populations fleeing the unbearable heat towards polar redoubts. The UN directorate seeking to manage the migration flows assumed that ‘within the new perimeters described by the Arctic and Antarctic Circles life would continue much as before, with the same social and domestic relationships, by and large the same ambitions and satisfactions’ — but that assumption ‘was obviously fallacious.’ A drowned world would be nothing like the one hitherto known.