Last September, 6 million people joined youth-led climate protests all around the world, from New Zealand to Indonesia, from Brazil to the United States. Fed up with years of international inaction on the greatest threat to our civilization, young people and their allies are again planning to rally in massive numbers this coming April, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Unwilling to accept anything but unprecedented, massive action on a planetary scale, many of these activists are calling for a Green New Deal to save our planet and our future: a systemic overhaul of the global economy so that it works for all, not just the wealthy few.
This sort of international solidarity action hearkens back to the anti-globalization movement of 20 years ago, when unions, environmentalists and social movements came together to call attention to the devastating effects of globalization and “free trade” imposed by multilateral institutions like World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The turn of the century protests in Seattle and elsewhere put a spotlight on what is now often referred to as the “Washington Consensus”—a decades-long, coordinated drive to impose market-centered economic and political strategies upon countries everywhere.
The transformative power of the anti-globalization movement lay in its demonstration of the interconnections of social, labor and environmental struggles across borders, and ability to unite people in high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries against a common enemy. However, much of this energy was subsequently diverted to opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, surviving the 2008 financial crisis, and confronting white supremacy and fascism in the age of Donald Trump. Activist scrutiny of the multinational institutions that govern the global economy has waned. But now, as the global climate crisis escalates and calls for a Green New Deal grow stronger, there is an opportunity to revitalize this spirit of international solidarity to develop a new international economic consensus—and new multilateral institutions—based on ecological sustainability, reparative justice, and the common good.