One of the many pernicious ways that capitalism manifests its contradictions is the despoliation of the earth. Built into capitalism’s DNA is the necessity for constant growth, and the extensive networks of production and distribution that have been built to support this growth are based on sources of energy that are either directly derived from fossil fuels or generated by burning fossil fuels, with few exceptions. The well-touted consequence of this endless thirst for oil and energy is the warming of the climate, which contributes to climatic, political, and social destabilization all over the world, and has an outsized impact on the global South on populations that, because of the already-extensive economic inequality generated on a global level by capitalism (superintended by the United States and its corporations and financial institutions), are already extremely vulnerable. This leads to environmental disasters that largely impact poor, working-class people of color who have no means of restitution.
Mutual aid’s role in environmental crises aims to ameliorate the damage caused by these disasters while building power in the long run to change the structures that have produced them. Mutual aid recognizes that waiting on an ineffective, racist state to provide sub-par services with budgets that have been cut to shreds in favor of funding endless wars abroad, then allowing private companies to take advantage of climate (or political, or economic—any one of a series of domains that are intertwined) crises to further the penetration of capital, will only amplify and prolong the problem.
Instead, people who have the means, skills, and time can provide direct aid to victims of climate disasters. The model of mutual aid provides an alternative to the largely ineffective model of charity (and the aforementioned state and private “fixes”) that reproduces hierarchies instead of overcoming them. Mutual aid in climate disasters is a means for building power for the working class by creating and strengthening ties between people and communities that have been erstwhile alienated from each other through the marketplace.
Furthermore, mutual aid as practiced by members of a local community has the creative ability to adapt and react to specific, local, material circumstances. While this may not immediately give rise to sustainable, utopic alternative organizations of our reproduction in the here and now, it helps in laying a material and conceptual groundwork for future alternatives. Because in the long run, in order to cease the reproduction of capitalism, we must reorganize our reproduction outside of the circuits by which capital valorizes itself, in local and sustainable ways. We must be prepared for the inevitable crises to come and for the difficult task eliminating the conditions that give rise to them.
Put these ideals into practice and join us on October 5 and October 6 for a two-part workshop with the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief training team, as we train our community on principles of grassroots direct action humanitarian aid and crisis response.