Collapse Total: New Tactics and Strategies for the Climate Justice Movement

Editor’s note: From the 15th to the 22th of November, in different countries, the Glasgow Agreement is articulating mobilizations, protests and blocks against one of the biggest oil & gas companies in the world: Total.

This story first appeared in Common Dreams.

By João Camargo

The social alliance to take on global capitalism must be global, radical, popular, tactically, and strategically focused, while at the same time flexible and imaginative.

Is climate collapse close to being averted? How close are we to winning? Is the climate justice movement organized to win? Are current strategies and tactics enough? What else do we need to try and how fast? The Glasgow Agreement, People’s Climate Commitment, is a global platform of grassroots and social movements for climate justice. It is planning on going after French multinational Total simultaneously all around the world this November, in an action called Collapse Total, and organising climate justice caravans in all continents next Spring.

As fossil fuel investment and projects jump from country to country, as their destruction-ridden profit keeps on building on the collapse of the climate, tactics and strategies on the global scale must be tried.

The climate justice movement is pursuing the task of taking on the entire global fossil industry, that is, global capitalism. Yet, as it remains mostly a group of dispersed, uncoordinated, and loosely connected movements, how can this task become achievable? Fossil capitalism has its fingers everywhere, in each government, every press agency, every media outlet and network, in anything that money can buy. It articulates its strategies, coordinates its wars and dictates the policies that have been dooming us to climate collapse. They have known about climate change since the 1960’s. They have coordinated for decades to spread misinformation to mislead Humanity and cut the essential action to prevent climate chaos.

The climate justice movement needs a lot of imagination to break the mold of its own business as usual, like most social movements that have gotten used to normality, procedure, method and repetition. To overcome these challenges, the movement needs to permanently test new tactics and strategies.

Collapse Total is focusing on one of the many and influential tentacles of fossil fuel capitalism. From the 15th to the 22th of November, in different countries, the Glasgow Agreement is articulating mobilizations, protests and blocks against one of the biggest oil & gas companies in the world: Total. This French multinational is neck deep into promoting the climate collapse, with mass investments in new fossil fuel projects, oil and gas fields, pipelines, offshore drilling, fracking destruction, tar sands and the destruction of lives and the livelihoods of millions of indigenous communities, peasants and every landscape they set their eyes on. They have spent billions to make trillions. They have hired armies of lobbyists, mercenaries, and political campaigners to keep oil and gas flowing, in whichever situation. They have known about their impact on the climate since at least 1971, yet have always promoted denialism. They are the glowing example of the fossil fuel multinational, dooming us while hiring public relations’ experts. It has recently changed its name to Total Energies, changed its logo and announced a net zero target for 2050. Yet, Total it is planning to drill around fifty exploratory oil and gas wells this year alone (in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon, Oman, USA, Bulgaria, Bolivia, two in Angola, two in Papua New-Guinea, two in Norway, two in Malaysia, two in Mexico, three in Cyprus, three in the UK, four in Brazil, four in Myanmar, six in Guyana and eight in Suriname).

Total is one of the biggest historical contributors to the climate crisis, with higher emissions than most countries in the world. With the pushback from climate protests in the last years, they have greenwashed themselves to try and look like something else, while pushing for EACOP, a new massive pipeline in Uganda and Tanzania, increasing the production oil and gas in war-devastated Iraq, prompting a military dictatorship in Myanmar or receiving full state protection in Northern Mozambique, while local communities are devastated by climate change and gas-related terrorism. They maintain their support for fracking in Vaca Muerta, Argentina, for tar sands in Canada and oil and gas all around. They never stopped. They never will. Unless they are forced to stop.

As fossil fuel investment and projects jump from country to country, as their destruction-ridden profit keeps on building on the collapse of the climate, tactics and strategies on the global scale must be tried.

Has a similar tactic to this been tried before? Shell Must Fall is probably the referential for going after a single company, with a strong focus on Royal Dutch Shell’s AGM in the Netherlands and its shareholders, with a focus on disrupting it to prevent the company from proceeding with its regular business by disrupting its administrative order. Collapse Total proposes to act in a broader sense, by going after Total’s infrastructures, headquarters, offices, banks and gas stations, with different tactics that fit local conditions.

This is, of course, only a small step, as there are dozens of other companies willing and able to take over Total’s place that need to be dismantled, and after this action, a thorough evaluation of its impact must be made. Will it be something to replicate, to adjust or to be written off the movement’s parafernalia of tools? Does it contribute to building up the movement and to weaken fossil capitalism? Only experience will provide the answer.

On the other hand, in the Spring of 2022, a great climate justice caravan will travel in different continents, crossing territories in the frontlines of the climate crisis and the climate justice struggles to directly connect to communities. Much like great historical political caravans—the Salt March, the Selma to Montgomery march, the World March of Women—this caravan will walk for hundreds of kilometers and talk to thousands of people, to bring the climate crisis and its connections to the capitalist system of destruction and oppression to the fore. It will signal top-emitting infrastructures in its path, pointing out the culprits for the current situation. It will look to broaden alliances, campaigns, connecting struggles and peoples to achieve an ever broader scope of action and a vision for the future.

The social alliance to take on global capitalism must be global, radical, popular, tactically and strategically focused, while at the same time flexible and imaginative. It must try, try and try until it finds the tools to win. It is quite an enormous task, to take on global capitalism, and it will need to be taken one step at a time, but there’s a deadline. We need to win before we are out of time.

Banner image by niOS at flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

2 thoughts on “Collapse Total: New Tactics and Strategies for the Climate Justice Movement”

  1. I do not support ideologies and agendas that use ecology and the preservation of natural systems and species as their front to promote their political views. I refer to socialists of course, and as an activist, organizer and writer on environment for fifty years, I have seen their attempts to twist issues that are scientific or environmental at their core into anti capitalist screeds. The American left has long been hostile to (and separate from) the real environmental activists who have fought hard battles for over half a century. They try to fit all environmental issues into a socialist procrustean bed. They remain peripheral, marginal, useless. They have exploited the climate change issue into one of what they call “climate justice”, which is meaningless but fits their mode of operation. Climate justice is an empty phrase that has lured many liberals and leftists into the leftist/socialist lair. Once lured there, they are lost to the really crucial movement that puts ecology first and uses it as its ethical, philosophical and political core principle. The social justice movement is doing the same, sabotaging the environmentalists as much as the climate change deniers try to do. Environmentalism IS a social justice movement on its own terms but the left is clueless about it. It poses far more of a threat to capitalism and corporations than the tiny bearded arguing leftists. It is time for them to close shop and join the REAL movement for planetary survival.

    1. Empire is empire is empire, civilization is civilization no matter its economic system or “political views”. Socialist can be just as ecologically destructive as capitalist. It must be recognized that climate change is only a symptom of the problem.
      “Our world is in crisis. Species extinction, topsoil loss, deforestation, rising seas, ocean acidification, global warming. It’s no exaggeration to say that the dominant culture is killing the planet.
      At the same time, societies around the world are staggeringly unjust. Neocolonialism builds up empires on the backs of indigenous peoples, sweatshop workers, unpaid and underpaid women, and the bodies of our nonhuman kin.”
      https://deepgreenresistance.org/about-us/

      DECISIVE ECOLOGICAL WARFARE STRATEGY
      Goal 2: To defend and rebuild just, sustainable, and autonomous human communities, and, as part of that, to assist in the recovery of the land.
      Strategy B: Aid and participate in ongoing social and ECOLOGICAL JUSTICE struggles; promote equality and undermine exploitation by those in power.
      https://deepgreenresistance.net/en/strategy-tactics/decisive-ecological-warfare/the-strategy/

      That being said your analysis of liberals and the left is correct. It’s all in the book “Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It ”
      https://www.brightgreenlies.com

      The only way to effectively fight back is to organize and form coalitions of allies to defend life on the planet. ” As radicals, we intend to dismantle gender and the entire system of patriarchy which it embodies. The freedom of women as a class cannot be separated from the resistance to the dominant culture as a whole.”
      https://deepgreen.ie/about-us/

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