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How racist is the climate crisis?

How racist is the climate crisis? Alice Swift from Reclaim the Power on the link between antiracism and climate justice.

First published in 650, 18.06.2019 (https://www.akweb.de/)

Interview by: Ilana Krause, active in Ende Gelände since 2015,

Alice Swift – radical climate activist in the UK since 2010. (Female).

The British climate network Reclaim the Power is planing a camp and action 26. to 29. July in the South East of England. During the last few years Reclaim the Power was been know for its anti-fracking activism, especially on the company Cuadrilla in Lancashire. The aim of the camp is a close cooperation between the climate justice movement and the movement for migrants rights. Can you tell us about the background. How are these two issues linked?
In this interview with Ilana Krause from Ende Gelände Alice Swift explains the aim of the camp. Swift has been active since 2010 in the radical climate movement in the UK.

The Interview

Ilana Krause: What is the specific context in the UK that make it possible to link these two struggles?

Alice Swift: In March 2017 15 migrant justice activists stopped a chartered flight from taking off at Stansted Airport. This flight was bound for Nigeria and Ghana and was due to take asylum seekers, refugees and migrants to their countries of origin. Many had come to the UK fleeing persecution, torture, imprisonment and death. The UK‘s border policy has become worse and worse over the years as a deliberate attempt by the former home secretary and prime minister Theresa May to create a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. People are indefinately held prisoner in detention centres and are often snatched by the border force or police from their homes and workplaces. They are treated terribly, with a number of stories coming from detained refugees detailing violence, rape and abuse within detention centres.

Ilana Krause: What were the consequences of the blocking the flight?

Alice Swift: The Stansted 15 action succeeded in stopping the flight and as a result a number of people who were due to be on the plane had their asylum claims accepted including one person who was able to see the birth of his child in the UK. It brought together people seasoned in climate and ecological activism, LGBTQ liberation and migrant solidarity campaigns. However a number of months after the action the activists were charged with a terrorist related offence by the Crown Prosecution Service. They endured a very lengthy trial in 2018 over four months which resulted in them being convicted of ‘intending to cause disruption to the safe working of an aerodrome including the people within it.’ They narrowly escaped prison which was attributed to the overly harsh prison sentence of the ‘Frack Free Three’ being overturned in the high court some months before.


Ilana Krause: Okay, but how do the fight against deportation and and the struggle for climate justice  link up?

Alice Swift: The Brexit was fueled by a racist hatred towards migrants by groups, organisations and parties who are often in denial about climate change. We recognise that vast material inequality, foreign wars of aggression and natural resource depletion among other factors have propelled people to seek a decent life in the UK and the West. We also understand that these are not mere coincidences of circumstance but as a result of the systematic and calculated racist policies of colonial capitalism over hundreds of years that exploited and killed people of the Global South for wealth accumulation in the Global North.

Ilana Krause: Which role does climate justice play?

Alice Swift: We consider climate change to be the malignant symptom of capitalism par excellence; the worst manifestation of the crisis of capitalism that is taking us to the point of complete ecological breakdown. Just like the impoverishment of people of colour and people of the Global South capitalism is quickly impoverishing the Earth and the beings on it save for the ruling classes. We recognise that in building a movement truly for climate justice we must recognise and incorporate the demands of those worst affected by fossil fueled colonial capitalism.

Ilana Krause: How do you put that into practice?

Alice Swift: We have worked supporting front-line communities against fossil fuel extraction for years, mainly those fighting against fracking and coal in the UK. One fantastic result in Wales has been the ruling against the expansion of any existing coal mines and banning the creation of new mines from now on. There have however been a number of new coal mines opened in the North-East of England as companies attempt to scrape the bottom of the barrel before the coal phase-out of 2025. As well as coal, over the last six years we have to a large extent been focussing our efforts in the fight against fracking which we hope will finally die as resultant earthquakes consistently breach the safe legal limit. Despite feeling confident about stopping the consumption of home-grown fracked gas British companies directed by government policy are building huge amounts of gas infrastructure in what they consider to be a ‘transition fuel’ between coal and renewables. This ‘dash for gas’ which relies on imported American fracked gas and Russian gas will lock us into decades more of irresponsible fossil fuel consumption propelling us towards climate catastrophe. In recognising our historic responsibility of colonialism and our great carbon debt it is time we stepped up our fight to include the global front-line communities of migrants and global majority populations.

Ilana Krause: Reclaim the Power is a climate justice group. What are the groups you are working with from other spectrum for the July action? What are the challenges?

Alice Swift: We are continuing to work with front-line local anti-fossil fuel groups like Frack Free Lancashire and the United Valleys Action Group, but as we are attempt to connect the struggles of climate justice and migrant solidarity we are expanding our remit to include migrant support organisations and radical black and minority ethnic organisations. These include, End Deportations, the All African Women‘s Group & Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.

Ilana Krause: Probably challenging at times….

Alice Swift: It has been particularly challenging working with these new groups as we are a very white organisation. We carry with us the responsibility of the ecological movement’s history as often reproducing racist power relations. Therefore it has been really important for us to collectively understand our white privilege and take concerns from these groups seriously. For example we were originally going to go with the title of the camp, ‘Burn Borders Not Gas’ however after speaking to migrants that had literally watched their homes burned to the ground by border police in the Calais Jungle we changed the name for the action camp, ‘Power Beyond Borders!’

Ilana Krause: What will the action look like? How can people prepare for it and get involved?

Alice Swift: We will only say this much: Reclaim the Power has had a presence at all of the Ende Gelände actions and we are so inspired by it. We are hoping to emulate it in a mass-style action targeting a piece of gas infrastructure.