By Abraham Leonard
Strikes can be messy. They can be a disruption, a nuisance, and can foster hostile backlash. And this is precisely why we must engage with those concerning the climate crisis.
We live under the illusion – the myth, even – that our society is a functional one, efficient and prosperous, in which we have neither the cause nor will to adapt from our standard routine.
And yet, below the surface, our very means of sustenance, and the environmental foundations upon which our societies have been built, are systematically corroding as a result of our own practices.
We cannot stand by and enable the façade of functionality to continue
Today’s social order has proven itself fundamentally unsustainable and in consequence, dysfunctional to the core. Strikers in London have been accused of turning people away from climate activism – supposedly the mass inconvenience caused by the strikers was only serving to prevent decent, hardworking individuals from doing their work and living their lives as they otherwise would. And yet this is exactly what we must do.
We cannot stand by and enable the façade of functionality to continue, as ecosystems collapse, and people suffer. If people cannot see dysfunction, they will not force through adequate systemic change; if we make society more evidently dysfunctional, they shall have no choice but to do so.
And so, if the streets are blocked and the roads are congested, if the sources of expropriated labour cannot produce and the gig economy workers and transporters cannot distribute, we are preventing the profit-driven modes of production and distribution from having any semblance of functionality, and with that pushing the proposition of a more functional (and hence, sustainable) alternative for present institutions back into both public discourse and political agenda.
A strike presents us with the opportunity to hold up society if we so wish.
But where our institutions continue to engage in frivolous competition and careless over- production, short-term profits will remain the focus of the very institutions and corporations most responsible for the crisis: the hundred most prominent of these being responsible for 71% of all global emissions, and the most prominent twenty being responsible for one third.
Short-term profits, rather than sustainability, will remain the factor we most readily consider in assessing functionality.
A strike presents us with the opportunity to hold up society if we so wish. It’s a chance to force in the necessary debate as to how to realign society towards an emphasis upon sustainability. And to everyone it inconveniences, it poses a test as to whether or not their actions match up to their words in combating the crisis.
Sadly, Durham University is itself a profiteering institution like any other, whose operations are not primarily focused upon sustainability.
It subsidises unnecessary luxuries for those in prominent positions and is not meeting the targets it should be regarding emissions.
Student strikes give us the power to alter this: whilst we as students are partly the consumers of the university, we are also an essential part of the product. Even a glimpse of the dysfunctionality and chaos would send a better warning than none to the university, that they must take sustainability seriously. I will henceforth be striking on the 15th, and I would urge you all to do the same. I hope to see you there!
Image by Paul Appleyard via Flickr