“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Aug 2, 2021
The images from the news videos that hit TV screens in July were too horrible to ignore. Flood waters, roaring through streets, swept dozens of cars with them in Belgium and Germany. Halfway around the globe in China, passengers trapped in a subway train, waist-deep in flood waters, captured their own horror on their cell phone cameras. Fourteen of the more than 500 people trapped in the subway tunnel in Zhengzhou, China, drowned in the flooded subway tunnel. Four more people died in their cars in a flooded highway tunnel nearby, with a total death toll of at least 58 in the province. In Belgium and Germany, more than 200 people lost their lives in the floods.
A European flood warning system had predicted the flooding of the Rhine and Meuse rivers four days before it happened. And yet, once the torrential rains hit, the rivers swelled so fast that authorities were still too slow in warning the population, and many people apparently failed to understand the severity of the flood, which was far beyond anything they had experienced in their lives. As for Zhengzhou, the area surrounding the city, a semi-arid region, got more rain in one single day on July 20 than what it gets on average in one year.
And there have been many more catastrophic floods in the northern hemisphere this summer so far. Floods in Nigeria, Uganda and India killed hundreds of people. And then there are all the other kinds of weather events—a massive drought and record-breaking heat waves in the American Northwest and Canada, followed by huge, fast-moving wildfires that have burned through more than 1 million acres and still raging. Even Arctic regions have not escaped the fires, including in Siberia.
Scientists predicted extreme, catastrophic weather events like these due to the steady warming trend of the Earth’s surface more than three decades ago. They pointed to the role of carbon dioxide emissions, coming from burning fossil fuels, in the warming of the globe. Faced with increasing publicity and awareness about global warming and climate change, governments agreed to meet to discuss ways to curb carbon dioxide emissions. But for decades so far, the only thing governments have agreed on has been just that: to meet. Several climate “conferences” and “summits” over the decades have produced only finger-pointing by the governments, which all basically say other countries should reduce emissions first, and/or more, and never meet their own promised emission limits either.
But how could anyone even expect these governments to act in unison, when each government represents the interests of the biggest companies based in their country? No, the response of the big capitalists to the climate crisis is the same as their response to every other global crisis, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: to ignore it, and to continue to focus on their own profits—especially since those who are hit by the catastrophic consequences of these crises are the poor, working-class masses in every country.
That’s how capitalism operates, and that’s why the environmental catastrophe only worsens. The kind of collective effort this crisis requires can only be realized by the working people of the world, reaching out across national borders, which bosses have proven themselves incapable of doing, over and over.