Book Documents Environmental and Social Justice Struggles in Changing World


“Power in a Warming World: The New Global Politics of Climate Change and the Remaking of Environmental Inequality” by David Ciplet, J. Timmons Roberts and Mizan R. Khan will not tell you what just happened in Paris; it was written in the early part of 2015, but the book does give you some of the background you need to analyze what happened at COP21 on your own.

In a disclaimer, I have worked in my community with Ciplet, and more closely with Roberts, and can hear their voices in this book. Both are people whose actions in the community are consistent with the vision of the book.

I am not much for the intellectual history of the schools of thought in political science or sociology, but I am familiar enough with the academy to know that these things must be done, and what is presented here is quite readable and informative.

As an activist, I have fought corporate power for more than 40 years, but benefitted from the clear descriptions of how the corporados have learned to use the U.N. process to undermine real change, and it made me ponder how nation states continue to repress the indigenous and hoodwink the large NGOs into playing their game.

The book also highlighted the various differences between Big Enviros and the grassroots of the world, and how they relate to corporate power and thereby get access to the process. Among the more disgusting practices highlighted is that instead of solving problems the traditional and continuing method of dealing with grassroots movements is to offer access to the outer circle and nominal recognition without ever shifting the nature of power, so the concerns of the poor and indigenous rarely ever actually get incorporated into the solutions.

I grew up middle class and white in America, so I will not claim any actual knowledge of the global repression, but I work on some issues that continue to face the same kinds of marginalizations by the power brokers and the big NGOs.  I therefore very much appreciated that the authors are willing to openly note the problems with the economic-growth mantra that must be addressed as part of the struggle to stop climate change, adapt to what we cannot stop, and create justice and economic equality so we can continue to have a livable planet. We are not going to grow ourselves to reduced carbon emissions.

If you have an interest in climate, the United Nations, NGOs and the intersection of non-state actors with state repression in service to the exploitive industries, this well-written book is for you. If you are an activist or involved in NGOs seeking to nonviolently overturn the corporate order, it is a good read that informs and provides some context.

The work to stop climate change, embedded in the efforts for justice and equality, is going to be one of the great struggles of the 21st century. This book provides a decent map for those in the struggle who are looking for allies and leverage.

Providence resident Greg Gerritt is the research director for Prosperity for Rhode Island.