Introduction: The PPC and Climate Justice
For U.S. climate justice activists like me, the Poor People's Campaign (PPC) is really the only game in town. That is to say, it's the only U.S. political movement that, by effective coalition building and massive direct action, has the remotest hope of radically overhauling our obscenely corrupt U.S. political system--the one now obstructing virtually all effective climate action.
And, by adding "ecological devastation" to Martin Luther King's original triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism, the PPC has--though not yet explicitly enough--made itself a de facto climate-justice movement. One strongly in sync with the climate-justice vision compellingly sketched in books like Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything and David W. Orr's Dangerous Years.
In a clumsy, indirect way, I began making this point in an article about Russiagate and climate justice published, appropriately enough, by Black Agenda Report (BAR). If that article now strikes me as clumsy, it was because I hadn't then concluded that the PPC was, for U.S. activists, the only climate-justice game in town. Held back by my own reservations about today's PPC, I sketched a desirable movement like the PPC, without mentioning the actual PPC until the very end. If I call Black Agenda Report an appropriate venue for my piece, it's because BAR writers share several of my reservations about the PPC; Bruce Dixon in particular has published an articulate constructive critique of the movement.
Since then, I've decided that the PPC is the only realistic hope for Americans seeking climate justice. Reviving Dr. King's PPC--in the fiftieth anniversary year of his assassination--is simply a brilliant movement-building coup, giving the PPC instant credibility, even with mainstream folks who generally find any political movement too radical. As with King's activist campaigns, the PPC's association with churches gives it credibility and respectability mainstream media easily denied to a movement like Occupy .
At the same time, the PPC incorporates important radical elements. Of course, there's its dedication to practicing peaceful civil disobedience--an essential tactic in today's unresponsive, anti-democratic U.S. political system. Just as importantly radical are the movement's black origins and leadership, assuring blacks and other people of color that their particular concerns will be represented. This corrects a major failing of climate and other justice movements overly associated with middle-class whites: how can such movements succeed when white skin is perceived (too often correctly) as the only "skin" in the game? By guaranteeing a real voice to poor people of color (rather than identity Democrats' purely symbolic representation in their leadership elite), the PPC renders itself bulletproof to identity Democrats' sleazy playing of the "race card" to cover their own social-justice sins. As Hillary Clinton, for example, hypocritically played it against Bernie Sanders.
So, climate-justice activists must recognize the PPC as our only viable organizing prospect in today's U.S. But does that mean we should simply jump aboard the PPC bandwagon, trust PPC strategizing, and shut our mouths about our own climate-justice vision and aims? Absolutely not!
As I'll argue in the rest of this piece, climate-justice activists can provide the PPC with a more compelling framing narrative than it's now offering. After all, what cause better exemplifies Dr. King's famous words "the fierce urgency of now" than saving human civilization itself? And--if that framing narrative isn't gift enough--we can offer a more astute political analysis, one that dictates a much sounder political strategy. An analysis and strategy demanding the impeachment--for planned climate genocide--of President Donald Trump.
Trump's Planned Climate Genocide of the Dark-Skinned Poor
To avoid frustrating readers intrigued by my purposely inflammatory title, I'll pass rapidly over what climate justice's "fierce urgency of now" adds to the PPC's narrative. Beyond the urgency of "saving human civilization itself" illustrated in the link above, volumes of evidence can now be mustered that humanity faces a climate emergency--one guaranteed, like most lesser human catastrophes, to take its first and worst toll on the dark-skinned and poor. Obviously, the longer effective climate action is delayed, the more devastating the death and suffering toll on the dark-skinned poor will be--well beyond the minimal level to justify the term planned genocide. In adding "ecological degradation" to the original PPC's "triple evils," I'm sure the new PPC's leaders realized the urgency of humanity's climate emergency. Especially as people committed to abolishing racism and poverty.
So I think it's safe, without further stressing climate action's "fierce urgency of now," to pass on to the strategic merits of impeaching Trump for planned climate genocide--above all, of the dark-skinned poor.
If I boldly embrace the purposely inflammatory--but quite realistic-- term climate genocide for Trump's climate policy, I must admit I owe a considerable debt of gratitude (as leftists often do) to Noam Chomsky. With eminently rational calm, Chomsky has repeatedly--and quite logically, for anyone who grasps climate science--dubbed today's Republican Party "the most dangerous organization in human history." Now, as one of the authors who literally wrote the book on U.S. mainstream media as a propaganda organ, Chomsky knows just how outrageous his assertion about Republicans sounds to minds conditioned precisely by the nonstop propaganda of such media. In fact, he says (in the course of the BBC interview I linked to), "Look, this is a very outrageous statement." To which he immediately adds, "But is it true?"
"But is it true?"--a question that should speak volumes to movement activists in these days of incessant, dangerous propaganda. Above all, it should speak volumes to activists in movements claiming a stance of moral witness--precisely the stance today's PPC, wrapping itself in Dr. King's mantle, has openly adopted. So when a climate-justice activist like me (emboldened by Chomsky's lifelong courage) "outrageously" asserts that Trump's climate policy is "planned climate genocide of the dark-skinned poor," PPC supporters should first and foremost ask themselves, "But is it true?" Not "How will it play with the media, prominent politicians, and the general public?" but "Is it true?"
For undeniably, if any planned genocide--climate or otherwise--is afoot, the very first thing aspiring "moral witnesses" need to know is that they have a planned genocide to prevent; questions of rhetoric and strategy are obviously secondary. Though, if past human history is any model, not blurting out the plain truth about planned genocide seems, on the face of things, a pretty piss-poor strategy for preventing it.
So, ask yourself whether my assertion that Trump's climate policy is a planned genocide--above all, of the dark-skinned poor--is true. I feel fully as confident in claiming that as Chomsky does in repeatedly, provocatively asserting that today's Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history. Following logically (just as Chomsky's assertion does) from the facts of climate science and the proper definitions of words, my assertion of "planned climate genocide" is equally outrageous--and equally true. But I'll now go far beyond merely claiming that blurting out the truth about planned genocide is the best strategy for preventing such genocide. Instead, I'll now argue that openly calling for Trump's impeachment on grounds of his planned climate genocide is the PPC's best--and perhaps only--hope for advancing its whole justice agenda.