By COOPER BARD

For a week from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, activists from across the East Coast gathered to camp out near the president’s house in Wilmington, Del., for “Occupy Biden.” The participants demanded that President Biden take several executive actions against climate change.

The encampment was spawned by climate-justice activists in Wilmington. A broader coalition was built that included Extinction Rebellion (XR) chapters from Philadelphia and Delaware, Indigenous groups, Veterans for Peace, 2021 Walk for Our Grandchildren, the Delaware Working Families Party, and the Sunrise Movement. Local Democratic Socialists of America chapters, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Resurgence members, and Black Lives Matter activists were also present.

The week saw an encampment along Centre Road (Route 141), a busy highway in Wilmington, and the group garnered some measure of support from passing motorists. A big banner, displayed so that it could be easily seen by the cars on the roadway, said: “Declare climate emergency!”

Veteran antiwar and climate protest organizer Ted Glick was at the scene and wrote in his blog: “We undertook this action thinking, hoping, that the Bidens would be in their home ¾ of a mile from our encampment at some point during this winter holiday week, and they were! … And then on Friday [Dec. 31], a 15 car, black-SUV’s-prominent Biden motorcade, came right past us at our checkpoint on Route 141 and then right by our camp. We all chanted, ‘Biden Be Bold,’ as loud as we could. It was a definite highpoint.”

The next day, Jan. 1, several delegations marched up to a police barricade in the middle of the woods, near the president’s house, delivering the demands to representatives from the Secret Service, as well as flowers and prayers, songs. The march involved over 40 activists.

The Facebook page for the event states: “A bold culmination of 168 consecutive hours of climate activism, but it’s only the beginning of our 2022 efforts for climate justice. What do we want? For the president to declare a climate emergency and end new fossil fuel projects. When do we want it? NOW!” [1]

Despite the rain, the group was energetic and willing to deliver their demands one final time to the president’s guards. The Secret Service naturally was unmoved and turned the demands away, informing the crowd to “speak to your representatives,” which of course, the activists had been attempting to do for their entire lives. In this country, the wealthy and powerful are the only ones with true representation.

Activists with XR told this writer that they “appreciated the comradery on display from so many groups and people” and that “we’re looking forward to continuing to push in 2022!” Several Indigenous speakers addressed the crowd; they highlighted the necessity of considering the rights and welfare of not only non-human animals, but also the land and water itself.

The demands by XR and other activists that Biden use his powers for the good of planet Earth are essentially correct. President Biden does have enormous power to do the right thing and declare a climate emergency that would require immediate remedial action. Biden could halt the approval of all new fossil fuel projects, but instead, he has done the opposite and has approved the greatest extension of drilling lands in history. It is vitally important that activists reach out to their neighbors, coworkers, and families to motivate larger and larger groups of people to make these important demands on Biden and other governmental authorities.

As it stands, however, given not only Biden’s but the whole establishment’s loyalty to fossil-fuel projects and capitalist expansion of industry, there is virtually no chance that they will significantly change course without strong pressure from a mass protest movement.

There are many things that the U.S. ruling class could do that would drastically improve chances of human survival on Earth. Among them are halting all new pipelines and fossil-fuel drilling, while investing massively in renewable energy, with the goal of making the country (and the world) 100% fossil-fuel free within the next decade. We can also drastically reduce the production of new private cars and produce thousands of jobs by developing widespread and high-speed mass transit.

Stopping the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in agriculture, ending the destruction of old-growth forests, and developing agricultural methods that don’t rely on mono-cultural production would also help considerably. Tens of thousands of acres of land could be declared wildlife preserves overnight, together with programs to restore the forests and prairies. U.S. military production should also be ended, and U.S. military bases around the world closed down, as one hour of flight by a military cargo plane releases the same carbon emissions as a civilian motorist does in a whole year.

We need to demand the creation of more durable and longer lasting consumer goods (like phones or air conditioning), the ending of wasteful and unnecessary products (plastic water bottles, NFTs, bombs), and the reduction of working hours for all people (on a sliding scale of wages and hours).

The United States could immediately halt all new luxury housing development, instead opting to build quality public housing in every city, with local gardening. This would also be a means of living with a smaller carbon footprint. In this case we should be trying to convince as many people as possible that improving the quality of housing and food is also an effective strategy against climate change.

These are only a few of many possible things that, while not halting the climate crisis right now, would go a long way towards slowing it down, and moving our society in the right direction. But the ruling class will not do this on its own!

Effectively, this means that the only practical way to save humans and many other species from extinction at this point is to build a giant mass movement that demands the needed changes. Our focus as an activist community should be in enlarging the number of participants and educating as many people as possible.

This isn’t a utopian project. Confronting the climate crisis means getting millions of people to the point where they recognize that fighting climate means improving their lives, and that these goals are directly opposed to the interests of the ruling class. To create the best possible fight against the profit-driven ruling class, we must make climate demands political demands as well. Rather than wait to see if a powerful liberal politician will break with the ruling class (they won’t), we must build the political consciousness and confidence of the working class, fostering the understanding that they have the power to make the world a better place.

Ultimately, working people need to organize themselves to take over and run production, as well as the government, instead of the capitalists. The objective would be to ensure that production is carried out for the needs of all people and other life on the planet, rather than for the profits of the few. A world socialist revolution is the only way to end capitalist exploitation of mother Earth—which, if not stopped, will lead to climate catastrophe.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/events/471942954451345/ (The Occupy Biden Facebook event.)

Photo by Cooper Bard / Socialist Resurgence.