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Millions Without Clean Air: Effects Of Climate Crisis & How We Fight Back

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At the time of writing, over 30 million people in the Northeastern United States are under air quality alerts as wildfires raging in Canada send toxic smoke over our cities. In New York City over the past few days, our air quality has been measured at the worst of any city in the world, and the worst NYC has ever seen. The fires that have been blazing for six weeks in Canada show no sign of stopping, and have already displaced over 20,000 people living in their path. 

Scientists know, and working people can see intuitively, that climate change makes wildfires more frequent, larger, and harder to control. Warmer temperatures, drier soil and plants, and more intense periods of drought during the warm months, all make it more likely for wildfires to start and spread, and of course, these factors are all heightened by climate change and global warming. This is why the number of large wildfires in the U.S. doubled between 1984 and 2015

Breathing low quality air can have dangerous health effects, especially for people with preexisting conditions like asthma and heart disease, and for young children and the elderly. In response to this crisis, local governments are urging residents to stay indoors. Of course, millions of working people in the affected region have no choice but to make the commute to work, and for those in construction, food delivery, and other industries, spend all day out in the smoke! 

Acute crises like these make it more apparent, but capitalism and climate change are affecting our air quality on a widespread and chronic basis. We are constantly breathing in air that has been polluted by cars, the burning of fossil fuels, and wildfires, to the point where more than 40% of Americans are breathing unhealthy air. The most oppressed and exploited feel this impact even more severely, with working families in Black, Latino, and Asian neighborhoods more likely to suffer premature deaths due to poor air quality.

The billionaires profit from polluting industries, and politicians from both corporate parties only serve to do their bidding. At the COP26 climate summit in 2021, President Biden promised that, now that Trump was out of the White House, the US was “back at the table” in the global fight against climate change. Fast forward to March of this year, and Biden approved a new oil drilling project in Alaska which will maintain our reliance on fossil fuels for decades to come, and have an equivalent carbon impact to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads

Working families bearing the burden of poor air quality and other effects of the climate crisis, workers employed in both green and polluting industries, and most importantly the labor movement as a whole, need to take up demands around fighting climate change and protecting working people from its worst effects. This means unions and labor leaders taking a militant approach, calling for strikes and unified actions across areas and industries, for demands that boldly reach beyond the workplace to address our broader needs. It also means refusing to support the politicians who are failing to deliver. A new party, independent of the Democrats and the Republicans, with accountability to the working class and our interests, would play an important role in taking the movement against the climate crisis forward. 

WE DEMAND:

  • MEDICARE FOR ALL AND WELL-VENTILATED HOMES & SCHOOLS: Working people living without clean air need immediate relief, paid for by taxing the rich. 
  • REAL STEPS TOWARD FIGHTING THE CLIMATE CRISIS, ON OUR TERMS: No more band-aids or empty promises. A fighting movement can push for the changes we need, like significant expansion of public transportation, a Green New Deal providing affordable, green housing and union jobs in sustainable industries, and general advancement toward a full transition to renewable energy. Many of these most urgently needed reforms will only be achieved by the taking of polluting industries into democratic public ownership, which will itself have to be militantly fought for. 
  • SYSTEM CHANGE TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE: To rescue ourselves from the most catastrophic consequences of climate change FOR GOOD, we need a socialist revolution, led by the working class, which replaces capitalism with a system that protects our livelihoods, meets our needs, and works in harmony with our environment rather than cashing in on it for profit. 

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