by Dr. Jason Hickel
The Gilets Jaunes are NOT opposed to sacrifices to stop and reverse ecological damage, and in fact favor more radical measures than the government has proposed.
Last month Branko Milanovic published a blog post about the Yellow Vest movement against the fuel tax in France. He was worried–like many analysts–that the uprising proves it will be virtually impossible to roll out the policies necessary to reduce carbon emissions. He’s convinced that people simply won’t accept it.He also took the opportunity to hit out at myself and Kate Raworth. “Proponents of degrowth and those who argue that we need to do something dramatic regarding climate change are singularly coy and shy when it comes to pointing out who is going to bear the costs of these changes. As I mentioned in my discussion with Jason and Kate, if they were serious they should go out and tell Western audiences that their real incomes should be cut in half and also explain to them how that should be accomplished.”Let’s deal with these issues one at a time.First, the Yellow Vests. Don’t get it twisted: the French began rioting not because of the fuel tax as such, but rather because it was extremely regressive. The burden of the tax fell disproportionately on rural and peri-urban workers who, already struggling to make ends meet under a government that is openly disdainful of working class people, were suddenly forced to pay more at the pump simply in order to get to their jobs. Meanwhile, the elites of Paris and other cities, who get to use public transportation, were less affected. The Yellow Vests felt this was unfair. And they are right.The Yellow Vests are not against environmental policy. In fact, they highlight ecology as a top priority, and have even called for stronger climate action, accusing Macron of fiddling around the edges with “piecemeal measures”. Real climate policy, they say, requires widespread economic changes, and should target the real drivers of climate change: rich consumers and, above all, corporations. I agree with them.