Welcome to the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

"Judi Bari did something that I believe is unparalleled in the history of the environmental movement. She is an Earth First! activist who took it upon herself to organize Georgia Pacific sawmill workers into the IWW…Well guess what friends, environmentalists and rank and file timber workers becoming allies is the most dangerous thing in the world to the timber industry!"

--Darryl Cherney, June 20, 1990.

Scientists Issue Dire Warning on Climate Change & Key Researcher Urges “Changes in How We Live”

Kevin Anderson interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, November 15, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany. The International Energy Agency predicts U.S. oil production is expected to grow an unparalleled rate in the coming years, even as the majority of scientists worldwide are saying countries need to cut down on fossil fuel extraction, not accelerate it. Meanwhile, a group of 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dire “second notice” to humanity, 25 years after a group of scientists issued the “first notice” warning the world about climate change.

This comes as a major new study says European governments have drastically underestimated the methane emissions from gas. The report finds European Union nations can burn gas and other fossil fuels at the current rate for only nine more years before these countries will have exhausted their share of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget necessary to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well, we’re joined now by the co-author of that report, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. He traveled here from England by train, refuses to fly because of its massive carbon footprint. Kevin Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain, co-author of the major new report entitled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?”

Kevin Anderson, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, there’s so much to talk about. First, you took a train here, not a plane?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yes. I always try and travel either by train or by ship, often by container ship. It’s not that I think the emissions necessarily from me or any other individual are, in themselves, really important. But I think it is really necessary, for those of us who judge that climate change is a huge and serious issue, that we demonstrate that in our own lives, and that we don’t just demonstrate it in what we do, but you try and push that agenda more widely, amongst our own colleagues, with our own universities, and then, of course, hopefully, eventually, that governments pick these things up and then scale up policies to drive this behavioral change at a national and then, hopefully, a global level.

AMY GOODMAN: You have coined the term “the climate glitterati.” What do you mean?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I think there have been—for many years, there have been people, you know, the great and the good, in the climate world. And they have certainly tried very hard to address the issue of climate change, though I think, with the latest data, we can see that emissions are going up, even this year, in 2017. So, fundamentally, they and the rest of us have actually failed in delivering what we expected to or what we hoped for.

But this particular group, I think, have done remarkably well out of the climate change world, if you like, out of all of these, the COPs or negotiations, the engagement with policymakers, the trips to Davos and so forth. And I think, in doing that, in being part of the status quo, they have actually misunderstood that a significant part of the problem when it comes to climate change is making changes in how we live our lives today, particularly those of us who are the very high emitters. About 50 percent of global emission has just come from about 10 percent of the global population. And the climate glitterati are quite clearly—and I include myself there—are in that particular group. And we have to demonstrate leadership in what we do. And I think if people are going to take our very careful analysis seriously, then we have to lend that analysis credibility by demonstrating that we are adjusting our own lives accordingly.

Abrupt Climate Justice

By John Foran - Resilience, November 16, 2017

Three of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded just ripped through Puerto Rico and the southern US – within weeks of each other! Ash rained from the sky in Seattle and Portland for weeks. Record monsoons swept through Asia. Parts of Sierra Leone and Niger are underwater. San Francisco recorded its hottest day ever and Europe endured a triple-digit heat wave they called “Diablo.” The fucking devil is here man, and its name is climate change. – Wendy & Jesse & Hayley & Teresa, “Face Down Climate Change,” Slingshot issue 125 (Autumn 2017)

I recently attended a talk by Guy McPherson, generally acknowledged as the doyen –some consider him the “superhero” – of the abrupt climate change [ACC] thesis [note to readers:  I understand that Guy McPherson can be a “polarizing” figure for some in the Resilience community; I ask only that you read my essay with the usual care, and stay focused on the nuances of my argument!).  I only came across this debate because I met – to my great good fortune – Shanelle LeFage, a millennial expert on it, and have subsequently followed her leads into the literature, discussed below.  As I learned more, I began to realize something that I had always intimated:  the science is grimmer than any of us know…

This has important implications for how those of us in the global climate justice movement approach our work, that it’s high time we tease out and engage with.

We need to overhaul our economy to meet the challenges of the 2020s

By Mathew Lawrence - Red Pepper, November 16, 2017

British capitalism is deeply dysfunctional. We have the richest region in Europe – inner London – but most British regions are now poorer than the European average. The UK’s productivity performance has been abject for a decade. We are in the middle of the longest stagnation in earnings for 150 years. Young people today are set to be poorer than their parents and poverty rates are rising. The environmental impacts of our economy are damaging and unsustainable. In short, while the UK retains significant endowments and capabilities, our economic model is failing too many people and needs radical reform.

The case for change is compounded by the challenges confronting the country in the decades ahead. Brexit is the most obvious disruptive force, and whatever relationship emerges with the EU, it is bound to have critical implications for our future prosperity.   Yet even as the UK negotiates its new relationship with Europe, an accelerating wave of economic, social and technological change will reshape the country, in often quite radical ways.  Brexit then is only the firing gun on a wider decade of disruption.  Four trends stand out that will shape the course of the 2020s: technological transformation, demographic change, the evolution of globalisation, and growing ecological crisis.  

First, ongoing technological change has the potential to reshape the economy, driving economic, social and political realignments. The accelerating capability of AI and robotics is likely to shrink the areas in which humans have comparative advantages over machines. This does not mean a post-human economy is imminent. Indeed, given the UK’s woeful performance on investment and productivity, it is the relative absence of robots that is the more obvious concern on current trends. Yet the increasing capability of machines is likely to reshape how we work. The greater risk is then not mass technologically-induced unemployment but a paradox of plenty, a world in which we are richer in aggregate but poorer in average, as the gains of automation flow disproportionately to the highly-skilled and capital grows its share of national income at the expense of labour. It is a future in which who owns the robots comes to own the world.  The continued rise of digital platform monopolies – the dominant organisational form of contemporary capitalism – is likely to further concentrate economic gains.

Crucially, the machine age will be human shaped. The pace and distributional effect of automation is driven by a series of factors that public policy profoundly shapes.  The technical capacity to automate is only one. The relative cost of labour and capital, the costs of technological adoption relative to the benefits, the ethical and regulatory norms governing the use of technology all impact on whether roles are actually automated and to what effect. The impact of technologies, in other word, is not a directionless, impersonal phenomenon but rather one embedded and shaped by our collective institutions, cultures, and politics. New models ownership of technologies, data and equity is therefore a fruitful avenue to explore to ensure the machine age is one where abundance is matched with justice.

Mexico City Earthquake Survivors: “We Had to Organize Ourselves”

By General Coordination of Mexico City Survivors - It's Going Down, November 15, 2017

With the approval of the 2018 Federation Expenditure Budget (PEF), the Chamber of Deputies showed their insensitivity and irresponsibility in dealing with the crisis left by the September 19 earthquake. They missed a historic opportunity to act in solidarity in the face of a national emergency of catastrophic proportions.

By means of mobilization, not by parliamentary will, a Reconstruction Fund (FONREC) of 2.5 billion pesos [roughly $130 million USD] was created. These resources are clearly insufficient for the reconstruction, repair, and reinforcement of the damaged dwellings and buildings.

This budget item, aside from expanding the Natural Disaster Fund, the Natural Disaster Prevention Fund, and the Capital City Fund, has no clear mechanisms nor rules to ensure that the resources land in the affected zones effectively and transparently.

Legislators who backed the 2018 PEF did not consider the situation of survivors as a priority. This is evident from their approval of 38 billion pesos [$1.98 billion USD] to continue bank bailout payments (Fobaproa).

At the same time, the federal representatives “authorized” a 200 million peso [$10.4 million USD] budget for the re-leveling of one of the buildings in San Lázaro [where Congress meets] that was damaged by the quake. It would seem that their sense of responsibility when faced with an event like that of September 19 only stretches as far as the walls of the Legislative Palace.

Furthermore, the Expenditure Budget maintains superfluous spending on perks, travel allowances, meals, and major medical expenses, for which it will designate 26 billion pesos [$1.35 billion USD], which could easily be used for reconstruction.

This disinterest compels us to strengthen our organizational efforts as survivors. Before our mobilization on November 9, a specific line item for reconstruction wasn’t even being considered in the PEF. We had to carry out joint actions for our demands to be made visible.

Protesting in the streets, where we’ve been since the day of the earthquake, we realized that there are many citizens who have demonstrated their support for us and understand our problems. Just as in the rescue efforts, we ask the people of Mexico for their solidarity in our struggle for reconstruction and against the oblivion in which we find ourselves immersed.

We will continue to bring our demands to the respective agencies, federal and local: that public resources be increased in accordance with our needs and used for the tasks of reconstruction, repair, and reinforcement of damaged buildings; as well as the issuance of advisory statements and necessary technical studies into soil mechanics, topographical levels, and materials resistance, among other subjects. Nor do we rule out turning to international agencies.

It’s important to point out that we are looking for solutions for all of the survivors, in their homes just as much as in the schools, hospitals, streets, and other public infrastructure damaged by the earthquake.

It must be underscored that the General Coordination of Mexico City Survivors is nonpartisan and from this moment on we reject all attempts to approach us in order to turn us into political spoils or a business opportunity for real estate developers.

We are citizens who demand the right to a dignified and safe home. In the face of the void displayed by the authorities, at all levels of government, we had to organize ourselves to confront the situation caused by the earthquake.

Decolonize the Caribbean

By Angel “Monxo” López Santiago - NACLA, October 19, 2017

María and Irma, 2017’s two most destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean basin, have exposed the trappings and inequalities of colonialism in the region. The hurricanes have blown away decades of legal and international maneuvers and ruses, local constitutions, and moves towards autonomy and integration and administrative reclassifications—leaving exposed a simple colonial truth.

Such reclassifications have deemed these islands everything from overseas territories (such as the United Kingdom’s British Virgin Islands) to unincorporated territories (like the United States’ Puerto Rico and American Virgin Islands) to overseas “departments” (like France’s Guadéloupe and Martinique) to overseas “collectivities” (like France’s Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy) to overseas “municipalities” (The Netherlands’ Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba). Yet the hurricanes have shown that the Caribbean islands, regardless of title, as all colonies throughout history, exist to serve the colonial masters, and not the other way around. Even sovereign island nations, like Dominica, seem to float in the same colonial stew of dependency and underdevelopment that paved the way to the destruction of human habitation in some of these islands after the hurricanes.

The hurricanes, most agree, are man-made catastrophes. Global warming has fueled super hurricanes that are more frequent and destructive than ever. Global warming is man-made. But so too is the fragile infrastructure of the islands, its energy, food, agricultural, tourism, land-tenure, finance, and debt regimes. All presented the perfect background to what we saw in the last two weeks of September of 2017.

Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis set the conditions for the degree of destruction Maria wrought. Much has been written about the vulture funds’ grip on the island’s economy, the billions owed in a national debt that decision-makers in Washington, D.C. have refused to audit, the unelected fiscal control board set up in the capital to extract money owed to Wall Street interests. That’s not to mention the austerity measures: the proposed cuts to the minimum wage and pension funds, the closing of schools, the neglected infrastructure. This neoliberal nightmare scenario meant the infrastructure and disaster preparedness necessary to mitigate a disaster like Maria were completely neglected.

Beyond recovery efforts, how do we think about this situation in ways that are not only theoretically relevant, but that allows the residents of Puerto Rico to develop a more secure, just, and equitable future? In short, how do we decolonize the Caribbean?

The truth is that talk of independence is a non-starter for many of the residents of the region. More than 500 years of European colonialism is a heavy tradition not easily disposed of. Scholar Yarimar Bonilla has wisely and skillfully avoided the at-times unproductive debate about independence for French overseas departments. Also, not even national independence our official post-colonial statuses helped island-nations escape fully their colonial grip—see Haiti, Dominica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and more. But post-coloniality and decolonization are two different things, and I argue we must achieve the latter.

Special Report: Revolt at Trump’s Pro-Coal, Pro-Nuclear & Pro-Gas Panel Rocks U.N. Climate Summit

By Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, November 14, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany. Close to 200 countries are gathered. The U.S. says that it is pulling out of the climate accord. Well, on Monday night, activists and Democratic lawmakers staged a full-fledged revolt as the Trump administration made its official debut at this year’s COP at a forum pushing coal, gas and nuclear power. The presentation was entitled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.” It included speakers from coal company Peabody Energy, the nuclear engineering firm NuScale Power and a gas exporter. The panel was the only official appearance by the U.S. delegation during this year’s U.N. climate summit.

Well, Democracy Now! was there Monday night as the U.S. delegation made its official debut. It didn’t go too well. At least, it didn’t begin well, with a White House consultant telling Democracy Now! we could not film him.

Let's Just Admit It: Capitalism Doesn't Work

By John Atcheson - Common Dreams, November 13, 2017

In almost every way you examine it, capitalism – at least the relatively unconstrained, free- market variety practiced here in the US and supported by both parties -- has been an abysmal failure. Let’s take a close look some of its worst failings.  But first, it must be admitted that when it comes to exploiting people and the planet for the purpose of generating apparent wealth for the few, it has been a smashing success.  More about that notion of “apparent wealth” in a moment, but now, the specifics.

The logical end-point of a competitive system is an oligarchic monopoly

A recent report  by UBS reveals that the global march of economic inequality is accelerating.  The report found that the billionaire’s share of wealth grew by nearly 20 percent last year, reaching a level of disparity not seen since 1905, the gilded age.  Interestingly, the first gilded age followed decades of uber-free market laissez-faire policies, just as today’s gilded age has.

Not surprising, really. Empirical evidence shows that without constraint, markets will proceed toward a winner-take-all status. In short, monopolies and oligopolies. For example, the United States has had three periods of prolonged laissez-faire economic policies, and each was followed by extreme wealth inequality and the three biggest economic crises in US history, such inequality causes.

Oh, but the magic of competition makes companies compete for our dollar, so they can’t afford to exploit us, right? Not so much.

The magic elixir of competition doesn’t work—for the simple reason that there isn’t much competition anymore. Having convinced folks that regulation is bad, the Oligarchy is in the midst of a frenzy of mergers that is giving a few large conglomerates control of many of the major market sectors.

Derrick Thompson, in a recent article in the Atlantic, lays out some of the grim statistics that illustrate the trend. As Thompson writes,

To comprehend the scope of corporate consolidation, imagine a day in the life of a typical American and ask: How long does it take for her to interact with a market that isn’t nearly monopolized? She wakes up to browse the Internet, access to which is sold through a local monopoly. She stocks up on food at a superstore such as Walmart, which owns a quarter of the grocery market. If she gets indigestion, she might go to a         pharmacy, likely owned by one of three companies controlling 99 percent of that market. If she’s stressed and wants to relax outside the shadow of an oligopoly, she’ll have to stay away from ebooks, music, and beer; two companies control more than half     of all sales in each of these markets. There is no escape—literally. She can try boarding an airplane, but four corporations control 80 percent of the seats on domestic flights.

The consolidation of the media is yet another example; just six corporations now control 90 percent of the market. And of course, there’s the inconvenient fact that the “too-big-to-fail” banks that were a major cause of the 2008 Great Recession are now bigger and fewer.

This concentration of market power translates into lower wages, fewer jobs, and higher prices – exactly the opposite of what the neoclassical economic theory embraced by capitalists tells us will happen when we remove regulatory constraints – and exactly the opposite of what the Republicans’ trickle-down myth says will happen. Or what the neoliberal Democrats tell us, for that matter.

But it also gives the wealthy control over our political system, and the people have gotten wise to it.  That’s why a little over a quarter of the eligible voters were able to put Trump in power – most of the rest of us are completely turned off by a political system that’s clearly for sale and so, increasingly, many do not show up to vote.

That control has expressed itself in policies that result in extreme income disparities between the increasingly few haves and the expanding have-nots. Today, just five people have as much wealth as the 3.8 billion people comprising the least wealthy half of the world’s population, and nowhere in the developed world is the problem as acute as it is in America.  The system is rigged, and our belief in capitalism and the power of the magic markets is what allowed that.

Dispatches from Puerto Rico: Front Line Relief

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, November 10, 2017

Our current Mutual Aid Disaster Relief team in Puerto Rico has concentrated efforts mostly on HIV/AIDS prevention, safe water outreach/education, breastfeeding in disasters and also is addressing other health needs with our team of nurses, a lab chemist, lactation counselors and a medic.

We provided health education materials, triage, screening, and assisted 100 patients one of the first days we were here, based out of a little church 1/2 way up a mountain in a little community called Quebrada Prieta. This community lacks potable water: one woman was using the water from her pool to wash and clean, most are drinking from the river that drains from the rain forest. We were able to provide lab testing, exams, and assist a home bound, double amputee diabetic patient with a host of diabetes supplies.

Another day we were in Vega Baja, close to the ocean. We saw 89 patients in a pop-up clinic inside of a restaurant called El Right Field de Tommy. Since the storm, this restaurant has been providing free rice and beans every Tuesday to residents of this severely affected neighborhood. Yet another example of mutual aid in practice. Many of the folks seen had just got water back in their homes, but were unsure if it was safe to drink and some only had a steady drip coming out of the tap, insufficient for a day’s water needs. And yet others noted that some days the water worked and other days nothing came out of the taps. So we discussed ways to make water potable, such as boiling for 2 minutes if they have a gas stove or using a bleach + water recipe to make it safer to drink.

With so many people saving rainwater, we also talked about ways to safely store it and how to prevent mosquitoes. Very few in this community had generators. However we did do a home visit with a bedridden, oxygen dependent patient in which the generator was running outside of her bedroom windows. When we walked in we could smell it in her bedroom. We talked about the impact of carbon monoxide on her lungs and helped her husband move the generator to a safer spot, further away from his wife’s windows. We also got to do some more breastfeeding education as there were a lot of moms with babies and toddlers. Many of the moms were happily breastfeeding their babies. We were able to answer their questions and provide support and encouragement that they were doing the right thing.

Still another day, we saw 54 patients at a community Center in Los Naranjos, a community that saw flooding up to peoples necks during the storm. Most lost a lot, some lost everything, most have no potable water, none have electricity. All are helping each other: one woman had 70 people on her roof during the floods. The last 6 patients of the day were home bound. All of them are strong men women and kids. The oldest was 102 years old, the youngest was still in her moms belly!

There is a much wider context, including socioeconomic status and availability of resources that factor into health and food access. First, Puerto Rico had above 40% poverty before the storm; Unemployment was above 12%. Staying healthy and eating healthy costs more money, in the form of direct costs (for example: $4 for milk) and indirect costs (taking the day off work to care for a sick family member).

Second, going to the doctor or store implies that you have a car, which implies you are driving, which implies that your car didn’t flood or get blown to pieces in the storm. Then we must assume that you bought gas, which implies that you may have stood in line for 0 minutes to 2 hours (depending on the city, it’s short in the metro area), and all of this implies that you have money, which brings me to…

Returning to your job. Many people’s jobs are too damaged to even exist anymore or they cannot work the way they once did. For example, yesterday we saw a school that was destroyed, covered in mud, windows shattered to pieces, metal cables sticking out of cracked cement, no running water, bathroom walls crumbled. These children are not in school anymore. If their parents both used to work, someone now needs to stay home or adjust their schedule to take care of the kids during the work day or they can find someone else to care for their kids, which costs money. Their days are spent collecting water for washing and cleaning from the river; arriving early at the store or the water truck to stand in line for water that’s sold out within 20 minutes; cleaning up mud from every surface of their home; caring for sick or injured family and friends and neighbors; looking for accessible/cheap food; removing every piece of furniture that was submerged in water including the children’s mattresses which are now on the curb growing mold…. and the list goes on and on and on and on.

It’s not always possible to just go to the doctor. Sometimes the doctor is the one living the scenarios described above. Sometimes the traditional organizations tasked with assistance don’t have the people-power to maintain their services. Sometimes the closest store is miles away and the land you were living off is now a bare pile of sticks.

New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100% Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever

By Julia Conley - Common Dreams, November 9, 2017

A transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday.

The German non-profit Energy Watch Group (EWG) teamed up with Finland's Lappeenranta University of Technology to present a study at the COP23 climate summit.

The results of the study, according to a forward written by EWG's president Hans-Josef Fell, show "that a 100% renewable electricity system is an effective and urgently needed climate protection measure. A global zero emission power system is feasible and more cost-effective than the existing system based on nuclear and fossil fuel energy."

To achieve the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting the warming of the earth to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the report argued that "we need a two-fold strategy: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to zero and to remove surplus carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A key aspect of this strategy should be a transition to an emission-free global economy, based on 100 percent renewable energy."

Moving to this system through the use of solar and wind power, combined with establishing energy storage systems, would bring the total cost of energy from more than 80 dollars to about 60 dollars per MWh.

Thirty-six million jobs would also be created by 2050 through the transition, compared with 19 million energy jobs in the current economy, according to the research.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle published Thursday, author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben agreed with the study's assertion that a complete shift from fossil fuels is necessary to avoid even more dangerous effects of global warming than those the planet is already experiencing.

"If we have any hope of preventing absolute civilization challenge and catastrophe, then we need to be bringing down carbon emissions with incredible rapidity, far faster than it can happen just via normal economic transition," McKibben said.

While entirely possible from an economic standpoint as the new research shows, the political feasibility of the transition is another story. "That depends entirely on whether we can build movements large enough to break the power of the fossil fuel industry that holds us where we are," said McKibben. "To go further what we need are many people in the streets demanding action and pushing governments to move much, much faster than they're currently contemplating."

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