• Welcome to the System Change Not Climate Change Community Forum. The Forum's goal is to promote exchange of information, discussion, and debate among ecosocialists and other activists who share our belief that capitalism is driving climate change and that a radical international grassroots movement can stop it.

What's a Strategic Focus for Ecosocialists: Plastics, Housing, or Transportation?

Ted F

Some of the leaders of System Change Not Climate Change have pushed for ecosocialists to engage in organizing to combat the proliferation of plastics. Since the advent of the Anthropocene Epoch (circa 1950, in the view of some geologists), plastics have become one of the more horrific pollutants in our environment. "If things continue as they are, in thirty-five years the plastic in the ocean will way more than the fish," write Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams in their 2017 book Creating an Ecological Society.

Any campaign that succeeds in reducing this obscene pollution brings some benefit to society. Nevertheless, I have questions about how a campaign against plastics will advance the movement toward ecosocialism.

Here are some of the questions to which I would seek answers:

1. How will the anti-plastics campaign build connections with the climate and environmental justice organizations representing frontline communities, people of color, and the poor? Does the campaign relate to ongoing work and priorities set by these organizations?
2. How will the anti-plastics campaign engage labor activists and unions?
3. How will the anti-plastics campaign link its immediate demands (such as banning plastic bags in supermarkets) to anticapitalist and socialist politicization?
4. To what extent will the campaign feed narratives that climate can be averted by changes in personal consumption, Green Capitalism, population control, geoengineering, nuclear energy, or other nostrums lead away from the radical transformation of social relations envisioned by socialists.

No campaign is perfect. Still, it is relatively easy to see how a campaign for social housing can address all of these points and incorporate ecosocialist concepts. As Simon Pirani argues, "We can aim at a good life in cities so wonderful we can only begin to imagine them, built and supplied in ways that don’t deepen the horrible rupture between humanity and the natural world." Similarly, a campaign for free public transit can link racial and economic justice efforts with the rapid downgrading of the private automobile.

What do you think?

Glenn Turner

New Member
Plastics production is part of the refining of oil. The by products of refining include all the basic chemicals for making plastics, clothing (polyester etc), toothpaste, medical drugs, car doors and panels, fertilizers, etc etc The list goes on and on. It's really rather overwhelming to see how much of our life style besides cars and driving, rely on the petroleum industry.

I'm rather fascinated by the intrusion of plastic into our everyday lives. If this isn't capitalism, I don't know what is. Here is a link to an industry that sees the decrease in gasoline use in the future as an arrow towards making more plastics from petrochemicals. Petrochemicals: The Future For Big Oil | OilPrice.com

Banning plastic won't stop climate change, but the pollution of industry making things we don't need will continue. These companies will do anything to keep their profits up, including the push for non esentials. No one will deny that some uses of plastic will be important to continue, but.... the overall scheme is to increase consumption of everything to their profit.

The main issue is one of regulating and planning what we use our remaining petroleum for. But jet setting .01%ers, the ultra rich, will continue unless forced to slow down. Perhaps the collapse of the financial house of cards will do it, or a political rebellion of some sort.


These are good questions. Good questions, not just about plastics but, suitably altered, about any campaign to spend effort on supporting.
I would add one more for all campaigns. How will this campaign affirmatively affect the culture?

David J

This article describes a different sort of campaign, one centered on a specific tactic. The group Extinction Rebellion (an offshoot of Rising UP based in UK) is advocating mass civil disobedience and they are focused on pushing other climate groups to embrace this form of direct action immediately. This is in line with my own thinking. Rather than focusing on an object such as plastics, it focuses on disruption. It embraces the whole gamut of "planetary limits". More importantly, the notion of morally inspired disobedience encourages radical solidarity, a spirit of shared sacrifice and mutual aid. I also like the way they are respectfully confronting allies and asking them to reevaluate their own strategies.