The colonization of this continent has been a disaster for the environment, both on the continent itself and throughout the rest of the globe. The settlers have ravaged the territories they’ve stolen, and built an empire which has come to primarily contribute to the climate crisis. The U.S. military is the world’s largest institutional contributor to petroleum emissions, and beyond that, the very presence of the United States as the global hegemon has had catastrophic consequences for the planet’s wellbeing. It’s been the CIA’s meddling, Washington’s regime change wars, and the pernicious influence of U.S. corporations that’s let global warming get this dire. Without the U.S. empire, far more countries would by now have been able to progress towards socialism, and emissions would be vastly reduced compared to now. But the U.S. has stood in the way of this, and now the blowback is being felt.
The wildfires, storms, droughts, and other climate menaces this country’s people are facing prove just how imbalanced the “American experiment” is. This is a potemkin nation that was set up to extract indigenous resources, and to extract labor from Africans, Chinese, Mexicans, and every other group that’s been hyper-exploited by U.S. capitalism. The outcome is crushing, widespread poverty, including for many settlers. Which has made the population vulnerable to the environmental crisis which is unfolding. Due to these factors, the impacts from climate change are anticipated to cause the biggest upward wealth transfer in the country’s history. We’ve already been seeing this for decades, with disasters like Katrina precipitating privatization, prolonged power outages, and long-term economic devastation for the lower-class communities. Which have disproportionately included colonized peoples, such as the black people along the southeast coast.
The warning signs were here for decades that the land’s theft would lead to such a scenario. The settlers seized land that they didn’t know how to manage, and proclaimed the Natives to be the ones who are scientifically illiterate. Which is a misleading idea. Because the concept of “science” as the Europeans define it is a knowledge-gathering approach which purposely throws out knowledge already gained by other cultures, and claims to be the only belief system that knows the truth. Settler science concluded that indigenous people are too primitive to know how to keep forests safe, interpreting the Natives’ controlled burns as the incorrect approach. Then under U.S. occupation, a lack of controlled burns led to widespread fires that humans can’t control, making for a perfect storm of inept forest management and climate destabilization. Ironically, settler science’s disregard for indigenous knowledge set back thousands of years of progress that the Native civilizations had made, and returned humanity to a dangerous era where we again live at the mercy of the elements.
Settler ecologists are now having to learn from the tribes, and work with them in carrying out prescribed burns. Near where I live, the Yurok are helping bring back this traditional forest management cycle. But until the United States is abolished, such progress will remain the exception to the rule. This applies to every part of living on this land, not just fires. Indigenous people know that dams destroy the ecosystem. They know the right amount of logging that doesn’t become unsustainable. They know that big agriculture’s farming practices aren’t in any way optimal for managing the land, and that capitalism’s beef production is accelerating global warming through methane emissions. Every facet of what capitalism has brought to this continent goes against the practices that allowed indigenous people to have thriving civilizations for hundreds of generations. These practices being something analogous to communism, as the indigenous societies overwhelmingly didn’t have classes and states as we understand them under capitalism.
Because settlerism is the source of the environmental crisis we’re facing on this continent, ending settlerism is the way to end this crisis, or at least to lessen it in spite of how much damage has already been done. Settlerism has brought capitalism, the system that’s incentivized both the careless exploitation of the land within U.S. borders and the global imperialist project that’s exacerbated the world’s environmental catastrophe. It’s created a feedback loop of destruction that can only be stopped by addressing the colonial contradictions, which on this continent are inseparable from the class contradictions.
In his book The Decolonization of the United States, the communist Cyrus Orlando concludes that this will require both dissolving the U.S. itself, and cultivating a continentwide sense of patriotic revolutionary unity. This is distinct from the ultra-leftist approach of simply breaking up the existing power structure with no sense of international unification after the revolution. Orlando clarifies the difference between balkanization and decolonization:
There are many who consider any attempt to dissolve the United States by granting independence to its internal colonies as an attempt to “balkanize” the region. The left opportunists promote balkanization while the right opportunists are vehemently against it. However, what is lacking is an understanding of what balkanization is and what is decolonization. Many conflate the two terms as being one in the same; however, the truth is much different. While balkanization pits the colonized against each other to the benefit of capitalists and imperialists; decolonization is a process in which the colonized are unified against the forces of reaction.
Is it any wonder that the forces of reaction vilify decolonization by portraying it as nothing more than division and disorder? These right opportunists, and the continent’s other white supremacists, seek to maintain the occupation of these territories and the racial wealth imbalance which this occupation perpetuates. There can never be reparations, there can never be climate justice, until the occupying power at the root of our society’s contradictions is dissolved. When it’s dissolved, we can form a federation of the currently occupied nations, which will build socialism in partnership with each other. Puerto Rico, the Black Belt, the Chicano nation that’s concentrated in the southwest; all of these oppressed nations must gain self-determination, and be able to negotiate land relations with tribes that have regained full jurisdiction over their ancestral territories.
Under this arrangement, which is the only scenario where socialism can practically come about on this continent, the U.S. empire’s vile legacy will be able to get dismantled. The lumpenproletariat will get proletarianized through job programs not restricted by capitalism’s requirement of a reserve army of labor. This expanded working class will see great improvements in living standards.
The environmental degradation will be reversed, and the polluting military machine will be ended, with military forces remaining only insofar as revolutionary self-defense is necessary. America’s neglected infrastructure will be replaced by the kinds of cutting edge high-speed rail systems in socialist countries like China and Laos. Reparations for Washington’s crimes against much of the globe’s people will be paid, and the exploitation of the neo-colonies will be ended. The African nation will be given slavery reparations, following an immediate end to the racist carceral system and the reign of racial police terror. Instead of building wealth off of the blood of the U.S. empire’s victims at home and abroad, or off of profits from fracking and oil drilling, our economy will gain prosperity through its own people’s labor. And from a correct utilization of the continent’s vast natural resources.
None of this will undo the destruction of the climate and the biosphere, which will take the planet millions of years to fully recover from. But it will let us build a new civilization, one that’s compatible with the earth and therefore healthy for its own people. When we’ve stopped relying on the wealth extracted by imperialism, and nurture the land we’re on instead of destroying it, we’ll become self-reliant, like how Juche has let socialist Korea’s people become self-reliant. And we’ll be able to navigate the climate crisis with the same kind of efficiency, proletarian democracy, and unity that the DPRK’s people are able to have. We’ll just have a different route of getting to that stage, because the contradictions on this continent require an approach particular to our conditions.—————————————————————————
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