The super-storm that ravaged Haiti, Cuba and much of the East Coast of the United States two weeks ago, just ahead of the U.S. elections, may finally be recognised as the ‘shock and awe’ phase of climate change’s permanent war against the United States.
Certainly the devastating effects of climate change have been visible elsewhere in the world much earlier. Hurricane Sandy may bring even the most ideologically blinded in the U.S. to join the awareness of the rest of the world, as the reality of climate chaos becomes irrefutable. Some argued that the storm’s ferocity was the great equalizer, because rich as well as poor were left without power for days and weeks, luxury townhouses were swept aside along with seaside shacks and derelict public housing buildings. But that claim ignores the stark reality of the dramatic wealth-poverty divide in this country—laid newly bare by the storm.
In New York, probably the most unequal city in this country, the collapse of infrastructure under the relentless pounding of hurricane-force wind and rain was not an equal opportunity catastrophe. Who will be able to rebuild—and who will not? Whose lives will be permanently destroyed—and who will ultimately walk away with some frightening memories? Who had insurance coverage for their houses – and who lived in uninsured rental apartments? Without the subways, people of means could join the endless lines for crowded taxis—poor people walked. When banks and finance companies and the stock market closed, their salaried employees continued to collect their pay checks—poor people, who couldn’t get to their low-wage hourly-paid jobs, didn’t get paid at all. Do we really think that the rebuilding of the opulent high-rises of Manhattan’s Battery Park City will take as long, and leave their residents as desperate, as the reconstruction—or even repair—of the huge public housing projects in Red Hook, Brooklyn, demolished by the raging floods?
Its proximity to the U.S. elections means this storm provides a broad test for the capacity and the legitimacy of government: will its response be able to provide for despairing people’s most basic needs, or will government failure lay bare, as did Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the racism, poverty and disempowerment that still shape so many lives in this country? Hurricane Sandy posed an immediate choice in the presidential election as well, with voters choosing a campaign and a candidate acknowledging the moment demanded full mobilisation of every facet of public and government capability. Supporters of the defeated Mitt Romney had called instead for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to be defunded and urged victims of the storm to rely on the largesse of the private sector and church-based charity.
In the longer term, of course, the super-storm’s challenge goes way beyond the election to the far more important question facing our movements: how to fight with renewed urgency to realise Rachel Carson’s vision of the human right to a safe environment for the entire planet.
In the meantime, for those of us in this country unaccustomed to the immediacy and implacability of war, the massive destruction in much of New Jersey and New York City gives us a hint of what it must have been like in Iraq, almost ten years ago, when George W. Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ destroyed power generators, electrical plants, water treatment facilities and more—suddenly rendering the once-modern city of Baghdad, with its skyscrapers and highways, silent and dark. For those on the twentieth floor of urban apartment buildings, the struggle to find clean water and a way to lug it upstairs without elevators could not have been so different than that faced by Iraq’s high-rise dwellers.
Understanding this storm’s impact in the context of our on-going struggles against climate change AND against inequality and war, may turn out to be one of the most important outcomes of this long and toxic election season.
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.