Stand With Lac-Mégantic Defendants

By the Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch - Ottawa-Outaouais IWW, July 23, 2017

Whereas, the railroad and the government has sought to blame the employees for the natural result of the combined reckless work rules and policies that undercut safety and even basic common sense.

Whereas, the Canadian Transportation Safety Board’s 18 causes for the disaster are all company policy driven.

Whereas, the MMA (Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway) has declared bankruptcy and will face no charges for their own negligence.

Whereas, two railroad workers face criminal charges and a life sentence for a tragedy caused by unsafe railroad management policies.

Whereas, the Ottawa – Outaouais IWW stand in solidarity with all workers facing unsafe work conditions and persecution from bosses and state agents

Be it resolved that, the Ottawa – Outaouais IWW fully endorses the Railroad Workers United hardingdefense.org campaign to have all charges dropped against railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Solidarity with the victims. Solidarity with the workers. Hold the bosses to account!

Citizens Begin Reclaiming Coal Country After Decades of Corporate Land Grabs

By Emma Eisenberg - Yes Magazine!, July 2017

Across central Appalachia, once-thriving mining communities have been ravaged by the collapse of the coal industry and the flight of jobs from the region. For a region that remains rich in natural resources, Appalachia’s local governments continue to struggle to fund basic services such as housing, education and roads.

One significant factor in the region’s decline is the land. Since the coal industry began its decline, and even beforehand, millions of acres have essentially been removed from the region’s economic production and tax rolls, and nothing has replaced them.

“Land is the most important thing to us, yet it’s not clear at all who owns it,” says Karen Rignall, assistant professor of community and leadership development at the University of Kentucky. “Without broad-scale knowledge of the patterns of land ownership this region cannot work together to move forward. But who owns it on paper is not always who owns it in actuality. That takes time and money to find out.”

The coal industry of central Appalachia has been on the decline for more than 30 years, with West Virginia and Kentucky losing more than 38,000 coal jobs in that time. As coal companies pulled out, they took with them the dollars that small towns used to use to fund their schools and infrastructure, and left behind abandoned mines, polluted rivers and vast swaths of vacant land.

All over Appalachia, communities and organizations are working around the clock to come up with a way to “justly transition” the Appalachian economy to whatever comes next.

Rignall and postdoctoral researcher Lindsay Shade are collaborating with a growing group of citizens that think a part of the answer to a post-coal economy may lie with an old land ownership study—and have been inspired by it to do a new one.

Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes

By Michael Colby - CounterPunch, July 21, 2017

It was twenty years ago last month that Food & Water published our report on Vermont’s atrazine addiction, a toxic herbicide that is banned in Europe but continues to be used in abundance on Vermont’s 92,000 acres of GMO-derived feed corn – all for dairy cows. We used the report to get the attention of Ben & Jerry’s, and it worked. We thought when the doors swung open to the offices of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield themselves that we’d be able to make the case to them.

Our plea at the time was the same as it is today: Ben & Jerry’s should practice what it preaches and help transition its farmers to organic production. If they took the lead, we argued, the entire state could begin a transition away from the kind of industrial, commodity-based dairy system that is wreaking so much havoc with Vermont’s agriculture – and culture. It’s a system that is doing exactly what it was designed to do: chase small farmers off the land by de-valuing production. And so it has been, for decades, an economic death spiral in which less and less is paid for more and more of the commodity product, in this case: milk.

We thought the obvious imbalance – and even direct, outright hypocrisy – between what Ben & Jerry’s was doing and what they were saying would be enough to get these do-good hippies to do the right thing. We were using logic. Because, certainly, the corporation that wanted to “save the planet” and “put the planet before profits” would want to stop being one of the state’s top polluters, right?

Wrong.

We were told at the time, by Ben himself, after a year’s worth of meetings and even an offer of a job to me “to work with us instead of going after us,” that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to “maximize profits.” Quick, throw another tie-dyed shirt to the crowd! Or launch a new flavor! Send some ice cream to the schools! Anything, just get the attention off of what Ben & Jerry’s is doing to its homeland, and our homeland – all to maximize its profits.

This was all before they sold out to Unilever, when Cohen and Greenfield still had all the power they needed to do the right thing. But, even then, the harsh reality of profits over ideals was firmly in place, with the belief that if they could convince people that eating ice cream would bring world peace, they could convince them of anything. There was nothing that a little groovy marketing couldn’t fix.

It has, of course, only grown worse under Unilever in terms of corporate accountability and transparency. All the big decisions regarding Ben & Jerry’s are now made from Unilever’s London headquarters, where it also shepherds more than a dozen other billion-dollar-plus brands. But its corporate stand on most everything associated with the gross injustices of its dairy sourcing – from migrant labor exploitation to cow abuse to rural economic plunder – remains exactly the same: stay wedded to cheap, commodity milk, reject an organic transition, and keep relying on marketing to trump the nasty realities. Free cones!

Turns out, those free-cone days that Ben & Jerry’s rolls out every year for Vermonters aren’t so free, nor are the grants they provide to so many environmental and economic justice groups. With each lick and each cash of the foundation check, Ben & Jerry’s expects loyalty to its carefully orchestrated charade: the consumption of high-fat, pesticide-laden, climate-threatening, cow-abusing ice cream produced with the labor of exploited migrant workers all leads to social and ecological justice for all! Come on, people, really?

But let’s keep looking behind the curtain.

Your Personal Consumption Choices Can’t Save the Planet: We Have to Confront Capitalism

By Kate Aronoff - In These Times, July 18, 2017

New York Magazine’s latest 7,000-word cover story about climate change freaked a lot of people out. Like the reality of climate change itself, the story is depressing. Author David Wallace-Wells—collating several academic papers and interviews with climate scientists—meticulously lays out the possibility of melting ice caps releasing literal plagues, our air becoming unbreathable and geopolitics devolving into endless war. 

The response among climate wonks took a few different forms. Climate writer and meteorologist Eric Holthaus pointed out a series of factual errors in the piece on Twitter, and The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer detailed several points where Wallace-Wells’ narrative diverges from accepted science. Scientists like Michael Mann argued on Facebook that the article leaned too heavily on doomsday scenarios, barraging readers with scenes that Wallace-Wells himself states are unlikely to come to pass. “The evidence that climate change is a serious challenge that we must tackle now is very clear,” Mann wrote in a Washington Post response to the story. “There is no need to overstate it, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness.”

The debate about the article has also orbited around the question of whether fear is an effective motivating factor in getting people to try to change things, which—however you feel about the piece—clearly needs to happen. Environmental scientist Jon Foley said no, and called Wallace-Wells’ storytelling “deeply irresponsible.” David Roberts at Vox counters that fear shouldn’t be avoided: “It may be that there are social dynamics that require some fear and paralysis before a collective breakthrough. At the very least, it seems excessive to draw a pat ‘fear never works’ conclusion.”

Less discussed in the aftershock of New York Magazine story has been exactly what kind of response fear provokes, whether in individual people or the institutions they belong to. 

Like almost everything else, our reactions to fear—climate-based or otherwise—have been conditioned by 40-plus years of neoliberalism. Shortly after September 11, 2001, George W. Bush advised a reeling U.S. public to “get down to Disney World.” As the recession loomed, he told us to keep shopping. That proposed solutions to the climate crisis have taken a similar tone isn’t surprising. For years, mainstream climate activism centered around changing lightbulbs and riding more bikes. Shop green, in other words, and the earth will follow.

That’s started to shift, thanks to movements like Occupy Wall Street and hard-fought battles by indigenous activists, joined by a younger and more militant generation of environmentalists. Pushes to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and to divest from the banks that finance them and the companies that build them, have injected environmentalism with an anti-corporate spirit, predicated on collective action.

Billions wasted and jobs lost as Ontario's Green Energy Strategy continues to fail

By Nora Loreto - Rabble.Ca, July 19, 2017

On December 2, 2010, the Ontario government promised that a new wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg would deliver 900 jobs to the southwestern Ontario region. The government release said that the plant was part of a $7-billion investment made by Samsung to invest in clean energy. Siemens would build the plant.

Half a year later, and right before the 2011 election, then premier Dalton McGuinty toured the plant. In a release announcing his visit, the government said, "The Tillsonburg plant is one of four under Ontario's revised, enhanced agreement with Samsung that will provide 16,000 clean energy jobs across Ontario."

Part of the Samsung deal was that Siemens would supply 140 wind turbines for $850 million. That contract was signed in 2014.

Six years later, Siemens has announced that the plant is closing, and 340 workers are out of a job. More than 200 of those workers immediately received a termination notice. The remaining workers will be phased out between now and 2018.

The region already faces a combined loss of 1,000 jobs at the CAMI autoparts plant in Ingersoll and Maple Leaf Foods in Thamesford.

This is just another thread in a twisting saga of Liberal mismanagement and so-called clean energy promises.

Last September, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault announced that the government would cancel several long-term energy contracts signed in 2013, to try and reduce cost to individual energy bills. This would save up to $3.8 billion, he argued.

The 20-year to 40-year contracts were intended to sweeten the deal for private companies who would participate in boosting Ontario's new green energy capacity. Rather than publicly build these facilities, private companies were promised stable profits, but would be expected to assume extra costs. The Globe and Mail explained it like this: "The private sector would be responsible for cost overruns and other construction problems in exchange for 20-year contracts from the province. The contracts essentially guaranteed that the companies would receive a certain amount of revenue -- no matter how much electricity their plants produced (though they would be paid more if the province used their electricity)."

The Samsung consortium deal, called "lucrative" in the same Globe and Mail article by the reporters, was sole-sourced. These 20-year contracts, handed out under the Ontario Green Energy Act, ended up pushing the extra costs onto customers. By 2014, Ontario's capacity to generate electricity was much higher than average usage. As demand fell, in part due to reductions within the manufacturing industry and household conservation mechanisms, Ontario was still paying for this over-supply, thanks to these 20-year contracts.

Part of the Green Energy Act removed most projects built under the act from being subject to processes defined by the Planning Act and, ironically, the Environmental Assessment Act.

By 2016, almost 60 per cent of Ontario's energy came from nuclear. Wind power made up 5.1 per cent.

Maintenance, safety, and the drive for production

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, July 19, 2017

I just read an article about Daniel L. Couch Jr., a mine maintenance chief who pleaded guilty to falsifying safety documents. Before people go throwing him under the bus, it’s important to understand a few things about mine maintenance, safety, and the push for production.

Certified mine electricians don’t just repair electrical equipment and perform maintenance, they are also required to inspect electrical equipment to ensure operational safety, electrical safety, and permissibility (the ability to operate in a methane-air mixture without igniting said methane and causing an explosion). It involves everything from checking the brakes, safety canopies, motor compartments for flammables, fire suppression systems, dust control system, and all of the explosion proof enclosures, cable entrance glands, lights and so on using feeler gauges to ensure tolerances of anywhere from .002 to .005 inches on said enclosures. We also had to hand check upwards of 500 feet of the electrical cable feeding the machine, searching for cuts and punctures to the insulating jacket, sometimes in mud one foot deep. We called them permissibility checks, and they had to be performed weekly and recorded with our signature under 30 CFR Part 75.512.  If the equipment in question wasn’t inspected and signed off on, violations were issued to the company and fines were levied.

As you can imagine, a mine electrician has a lot of responsibility. Not only do you have the responsibility of making sure people aren’t killed operating large pieces of equipment powered by 3 phase voltages from 480 Volts up to 990 “ha-ha” Volts (ha-ha because it’s always over 1000V, but they say 990V to keep from having to comply with regulations for high voltage), but electricians are also the first line of defense in keeping the company out of trouble with the law—and the company doesn’t hold back from pointing fingers if someone does get hurt or they get fined for a violation.

The problem as I encountered it, came when the company didn’t hire enough electricians, or give them enough time to do all required maintenance and safety inspections. They stretch hours out and work people mandatory over time which reduces both their mental acuity and, for some, their work ethic. The mine where I worked, gave us only 6 hours to effect major repairs, perform maintenance, and inspect equipment between production shifts. If we had to advance the section or “belt up,” we were also tasked with shutting down the high voltage feed and moving the section power center (sub station) forward in the mining process. If I’m not mistaken, the manual for a Joy continuous mining machine states it should take more than 10 hours to perform the proper permissibility checks. Things get missed, and the electrician takes the fall.

So how or why the belt drive inspections weren’t performed at Paradise No. 9 is still a mystery to the public. Whatever it was, it led Couch to falsely sign the books saying the inspections had been done to avoid fines. Perhaps he thought he could get by with it, perhaps he was feeling pressured, or maybe he was just looking for an “attaboy.” Still, I can’t help but wonder if a lack of maintenance personnel was a factor.

Sending Fascists Packing is An Act of Community Self-Defense

By Dragonfly Climate Collective and Connecticut membership of the Industrial Workers of the World - July 18, 2017

On July 8th 2017, suburbanite white supremacists chose the New Haven Green as a point of convergence in order to not only make a show of force, but to use it as a springboard for greater coordination, recruitment and organizing. They chose their site explicitly because it has for decades been a point of anti-racist struggle and popular power, where working class families and organizations from every race, nationality and every rung on the social ladder come to gather for cultural enrichment, political action, or simply as their only option. The Proud Boys, Identity Evropa, the American Guard and assorted racists and misogynists find New Haven’s communities threatening to their genocidal worldview, and on July 8th they were proven right. We release this statement in solidarity with all anti-fascists, and condemn in the strongest terms anyone who seeks to have any of us attacked or imprisoned by the police. We call on all labor, environmental and community organizations to do the same, and to mobilize in solidarity with those arrested on the Green. Several arrestees will be at New Haven Superior Court on Wednesday July 19th at 10:00am, including prominent anti-brutality activist Barbara Fair, who was a victim of racist targeting by the New Haven Police.  

For months beforehand the amateurish efforts of the local alt-right were monitored by militant anti-fascist organizers. Contrary to some recycled talking points, the work of more moderate activists were simply not “hijacked.” It is unlikely that there would have been any response at all if not for the diligence of people like the New Haven Anti-Fascists group, who are committed to preventing a repeat of the rise of groups like the White Wolves here in quiet, liberal Connecticut. Some have been fooled by the fascists’ propaganda and believe these people are simply a conservative debate club that can be moved with compelling arguments. We believe that our most powerful weapon is not violence, but for us to be better, more effective organizers than those who would drag our society back into the dark ages. And because of that belief, anti-fascists pursued a strategy of community mobilization, unifying the broadest possible number of people to defend the Green.  

But let’s be clear about this as well: when they try to occupy space on the Green, we state unequivocally that sending fascists packing is an act of community self-defense. Fascism means gangs of white men attacking anti-racist demonstrators like in Portland, OR or Berkeley, CA. It means open anti-immigrant collusion between police and Nazis like in Maricopa County, AZ. It means the mass murder of liberal youth activists in Norway. It means the White Wolves attacking an LGBTQ meeting at the Stratford Library. Some of these monsters openly admire Hitler, while others re-brand their ideology with xenophobia and “western chauvinism” as they stockpile massive arsenals and tokenize their one gay or Hispanic associate. While they may not call themselves Nazis or fascists (though some do), we understand “white nationalism,” far-right “patriot militias,” “Men’s Rights Activists,” and Islamophobic fundamentalist Christians to meet all the hallmarks that have defined violent paramilitary fascism for decades, and treat it as such (click here for a longer discussion of terminology). These individuals already operate with impunity across most of Connecticut, among rural rich kids playing with “redneck” identity, and suburbanite worshippers of racist police departments. And frankly, they have gone largely unchallenged by Democrat-dominated activist coalitions that refuse to hold their neighbors and coworkers accountable for their bigotry, instead offering nothing but empty moralizing and the bankrupt slogan, “Love Trumps Hate.”  

On July 8th, committed community activists went out of their way to deny the rising alt-right the opportunity to become emboldened, better organized and more capable of terrorizing our communities, when in actuality we all have other political commitments that demand our attention. We welcome the opportunity to engage in debate about how best to undermine fascism and turn its targeted constituencies against it, and wish to see greater collaboration across the region on this and a multitude of other issues in these frightening times.  

¡NO PASARAN!

Greens join the IWW

By staff - Green Party Videos, July 19, 2017

Staff members of the Green Party of the United States announce the formation of a union (they get the IWW's name wrong; it's in fact "Industrial"--not "International" Workers of the World, but it's the thought that counts).

Answering Annihilation: Some Notes on Earth’s Execution

By Dan Fischer - Dragonfly Collective, July 17, 2017

Half of all wild animals on Earth have been wiped out. You may have missed the news. It came from a scientific study mentioned on page 5 of last Wednesday’s New York Times. You had to flip past the usual stories of Trump regime scandals, four jewelry advertisements, and an ode to a slain officer from the New York Police Department.

“’Biological Annihilation’ Said to Be Underway.” The article took up only as much space as a Sootheby’s ad on the same page announcing jewelry sales in New York City.

While “biological annihilation” sounds like an evil plot thought up by a Bond villain, the term actually comes from a peer-reviewed study in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The authors Gerardo Ceballos, Paul Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo use it to describe the ongoing destruction of local populations within different species.

Due to the pressures of habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, species are going extinct at 100 times the rate they normally would. The PNAS study shows that populations within species are disappearing much, much faster.

Ian Angus interview: How can we save the planet?

Ian Angus interview - Climate and Capitalism, July 18, 2017

On July 7-9, I was in London (UK) to speak at the Marxism Festival, an annual conference organized by the Socialist Workers Party. I have some political differences with the SWP, but I was impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the 2500 participants, and by the number of sessions that were devoted to environmental and scientific questions. 

I was the featured speaker at two sessions, one on Facing the Anthropocene, and one launching my new book, A Redder Shade of Green. Both sessions were recorded: I will post links when they are available. After my second talk, I was interviewed by Dave Sewell for the SWP’s weekly newspaper Socialist Worker.


HOW CAN WE SAVE THE PLANET AND STOP CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE?

The environmental conditions that have sustained human civilisation throughout its history are collapsing, capitalism is to blame and only socialism has the solution. That’s the warning sounded by Ian Angus, author and editor of Climate and Capitalism website. He told Socialist Worker,

“The planet is going to change substantially. Big parts of it will be uninhabitable by the end of this century if we don’t do something now. It’s very likely that in this century ocean levels will rise by at least a meter or two, maybe more. That would mean the Thames is going to overflow and flood much of inner London. Many cities are right next to oceans. They will be flooded—not tomorrow but within our children’s lifetime or our grandchildren’s lifetime.

“In some parts of the world it’s going to be too hot to work. Many of these are places where a lot of our food comes from, so we’ll have to deal with problems with food production too.”

Ian has played an important role in popularising the concept of the “Anthropocene” on the left. Many geologists argue that the relatively stable environment conditions in place since the Ice Ages ended are giving way to something much more chaotic.

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