In the current era, corporate power translates into abuses of the environment and violations of every human right, including basic human rights, worker rights, and the rights of women. As a result, limiting corporate power must be a central concern for those who seek a strategy to save the environment.
Environmentalists need to insist that businesses create or allow for mechanisms to hold them accountable to society. Corporate accountability is precisely the opposite of what is happening today in the political arena, where the allies of corporations in the government are trying to take these corporations one step beyond the reach of democratic accountability.
In addition to fighting for limits on corporate power, it’s important for environmentalists today to focus on overcoming the divisions within the environmental movement, as well as the separations between environmental, economic justice, and social justice movements. At present, even when some campaigns become successful, they don’t go all the way because they lack the integration with other struggles that’s required to effect sweeping changes.
In the earlier days of the environmental movement, back when new environmental agencies, laws, and regulations were being created and it was easier to enforce compliance with these regulations, it seemed fine for an environmental activist to specialize on an issue such as water, air, or endangered species. That kind of specialization of social change works in a period of stability and democratic accountability. But when the state has been hijacked, as it has been in the current moment, then the power needed to bring change has to be an amplified power. And that amplified power won’t come from a movement fragmented into separate silos of specialization—it will come from the integration of various environmentally sensitive projects into one movement or one big organization that helps people develop clarity about the interconnectedness of all the environmental and economic issues.
All deep change occurs when a movement is able to get a society as a whole engaged. How did we in India get our freedom? We succeeded once Gandhi was able to charge the imagination of the people of India, to help them hear the message that “you have a role in this, you can participate, and you can grow the change you want to see.” Gandhi’s leadership was more powerful than the leadership of past politicians because, instead of just giving big speeches, he shifted the frame to “you can make the difference.”
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