Ecosocialism Night School

Feeling climate dread about being climate dead? Our current historical moment is largely defined by globalized neoliberal capitalism and resultant planetary ecological crisis which makes for a scary time to be alive. After decades of failed UNCCC accords and faux market solutions, people are starting to make bold demands and take direct action, be it the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal, or global student climate strikes. As socialists, we know that responding to this moment requires theory and practice that synthesizes ecology and socialism — ecosocialism. In order to make this framework accessible for our local community, Columbus DSA explored this topic for our fourth socialist night school event: Ecosocialism: cultivate a new world from the humus of the old. (That’s humus as in the soil term, not the delicious bean paste).

Our goal for the presentation was to lay the foundations of an ecosocialist lens and brainstorm how we could apply that lens in Columbus in a way that was honest about our ecological situation and was a call to action, not a call to despair. Structurally, we covered climate science as the natural history of capitalism, alternative environmentalisms and why they fail to adequately describe or respond to the ecological degradation, Marxist theory that connects ecology and socialism, and potential for organizing in Columbus.

In celebration of women’s history month, I would like to take a moment to connect ecosocialism to socialist feminism. Ecosocialist theory informs us that capitalism exploits reproduction to drive accumulation — for workers, that means exploiting women; for raw materials, that means exploiting that whole planet. Care work (aka “pink collar” work) that is traditionally relegated to women and thus severely undervalued is “green” work because it has low carbon emissions and can create a symbiotic society where everyone can care for each other and for the Earth. This type of transformation is critical to ecosocialism and shows us that ecosocialism is also socialist feminism.

Back to Columbus, the event itself was wonderful. Three of our members collaborated to create the presentation (we borrowed some slides from Boston DSA’s ecosocialism presentation, too). This multi-presenter approach with each person bringing their own background, voice, and humor — helped by the fantastic crowd — made for a more lively and exciting presentation. We packed the room in our biggest night school yet. People came from all around the community and brought abundant energy to the space. With all that enthusiasm in the room, we had a very productive discussion. We talked about ways we could organize around making our local bus system (COTA) free and green (how can we turn COTA into ECOTA). We thought about how Detroit DSA’s work toward seizing the Poletown GM plant for green buses might intersect with our work in Columbus and potentially with Lordstown, Ohio’s GM plant. We also talked about green housing, energy justice in the shadow of American Electric Power’s (AEP) headquarters, community garden networking, and generally what would make an ecosocialist society. Lastly, we discussed in depth how local actions intersect with international solidarity (e.g. Palestine, oil extraction, and exported emissions and waste) and how we can listen to dispossessed people at home and abroad who are already fighting this fight. We are now starting an ecosocialism reading group to dive deeper into the topic. Hopefully, this will transition into a working group so we can build ecosocialism here in Columbus!

The presentation is accessible here for anyone who wants to browse the material or borrow it for their own use.

If you live in Columbus and want to join the reading group, please email brekalo@protonmail.com or fyie@protonmail.com. We will be having our first meeting on April 6th at 4pm at the Linden library and we are reading Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe by Michael Löwy, which is available in the Columbus DSA library.