Going Slowly to 100% Renewables … by 2025?

By Dan Fischer - Peace News, April 5, 2020

It has been 55 years since the social ecologist Murray Bookchin argued that “wind, water, and solar power” (hereafter, WWS) could “amply meet the needs of a decentralized society” and eventually replace all fossil, nuclear, and bioenergy sources. The alternative, he warned, would be a future of “radioactive wastes,” “lethal air pollution,” “rising atmospheric temperatures,” “more destructive storm patterns,” and “rising sea levels.” Having declined to tear down its smokestacks, society has entered Bookchin’s dreaded scenario and, according to today’s scientists, accelerates toward “hothouse Earth,” “doomsday,” and even an “annihilation of all life.”

The urgency for reaching 100% WWS can’t be overstated. Leading climate scientists report that “tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2°C of warming,” and today’s level is already at 1.2° and rapidly climbing. Moreover, society has pushed Earth past four other “planetary boundaries.” While all energy sources have an impact, small-scale WWS sources are by far the cleanest option available, and they also doesn’t involve nuclear power’s existential weapons proliferation risks.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that many Green New Deal supporters call for 100% WWS by 2030 or sooner. Activists in the United States and the United Kingdom are calling for zero emissions nationally by 2025, a stringent deadline that requires a very rapid phase-out of fossil and bioenergies and that necessarily excludes the lengthy construction of new nuclear power facilities and large-scale hydroelectric dams. The journalist Hazel Healy has even written about achieving zero emissions worldwide by 2025. To be sure, these targets are mind-bogglingly ambitious compared to, say, Joe Biden’s mid-century target. But if anything, 2025 is already pushing our luck from a climate and ecological perspective.

Wondering about the potential for rapidly reaching 100% renewable energy, I reached out to two of the most optimistic and two of the most pessimistic scholars on the technologies. Based on these conversations, I offer the following suggestion. Achieving 100% WWS within five to ten years, if it can be done at all, would likely require slowing down the industrialized world. It would mean abandoning what Michelle Boulous Walker calls today’s “culture of haste” and “relentless demand to decide, respond and act.” Instead of a frantic construction of hydrogen-powered airplanes and concrete-intensive high-speed rail, it would mean making most production local and most travel leisurely-paced. It would mean switching from full-time jobs to part-time crafts and hobbies, from patenting technology to sharing it, and from GDP to something like the Indigenous Environmental Network’s proposed “Index for Living Well.” While it’s common to read of “roadmaps” to WWS, we would probably get to the destination sooner with maps of biking trails and bus routes.

Know the Union: Steve Ongerth

By Editorial Collective - Industrial Worker, Fall 2019; IWW leaflet hand drawn by Judi Bari, October 1989.

How would you like your name printed? (Options include first and last, first and last initial, first, X-number, etc. It’s completely up to you)

Steve Ongerth

What are your pronouns?

He/Him

What branch or local are you affiliated with?

Bay Area IWW GMB

Do you hold a local or national office? If so, what is it?

No

Why did you join the IWW?

I was inspired to join by reading the work of Judi Bari (“Timber Wars”) and greatly appreciating her green syndicalism (she was also an IWW member) in 1995.

Why have you stayed?

I believe in what the IWW stands for and its potential (in spite of its imperfections and limitations).

Is there a wobbly (current or historical) you most admire? 

Judi Bari (of course! And I actually was friends & comrades with her from the time I met her and joined the IWW in May 1995 until she passed away in 1997).

The revolution is over, the wage system is abolished, we installed whatever post-capitalist system you prefer. What are you doing Saturday?

Hiking in the woods or along the Bay (which hopefully isn’t drowning the SF Bay Area due to climate change and sea level rise)

What are you working on right now (union-wise)?

I am one of the cofounders of and active organizers of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus (I also maintain its webpage https://ecology.iww.org) I am also the Bay Area IWW Tabling Coordinator.

Union Members Support Coal Phase Out at Levin Terminal in Richmond

By Steve Morse, Martha Hawthorne, Jonathan Kocher, Jud Peake, and Steve Ongerth - Open Letter, January 2020

We are rank-and-file union members who support Richmond’s proposed ordinance to phase out coal and pet coke export from the city.

Others supportive of the ordinance who were present at the December 3rd meeting of the Richmond City Council, include members of unions representing nurses, educators,  and city and county workers. 

The Richmond City Council has been debating an ordinance to phase out coal and pet coke transport from the Levin Terminal over three years. It will finally come to a vote on Tuesday, January 14. We support this ordinance, and Richmond residents’ demands, because we support healthy, vibrant communities with clean air that are free from coal dust.

We also support good, well-paying jobs – union jobs – and the right to bargain collectively and organize for ourselves and our communities.  And we support full employment and a just transition for all workers displaced by the rapid transition away from fossil fuels toward clean and renewable energy that can protect us from climate disaster.

As union members, we call on other union members to oppose the fossil fuel corporations’ agenda -- which callously divides workers, community members and environmentalists -- so that we can’t effectively fight for our common interests and protect the health and safety of our families.

We ask all people to be fully part of the fight for protecting and expanding green union jobs. We all must work for a commitment to a just transition that goes beyond vague support.

We can have good jobs, healthy communities and environmental justice. With real unity, we can halt the power of the oil and coal industries to pollute our neighborhoods, and to pollute our planet.

The Green New Deal offers us a way forward. At the local, state and national level, it is our best strategy for jobs, community health and climate justice. A poll by Data for Progress shows that 62% of working union members favor a Green New Deal, while only 22% are in opposition. We want the collective voice of union workers to reflect this sentiment.

While just transition is a strategy to fully compensate and retrain workers displaced from the fossil fuel economy, the task at Levin Terminal is simpler. The workers can retain their jobs, their wages and benefits. They can retain their representation by the Operating Engineers and the other unions. By shifting terminal operations to handling materials that are compatible with community health and a sustainable world, their jobs can be sustained as well.

We commit ourselves to joining with community health and climate justice activists to create one or more viable fleshed-out plans to change the materials that are stored and shipped at the terminal.  At UC Berkeley alone, there are many resources, including the Labor Center, that could help hone this plan.

We ask Levin and the unions to commit to ongoing meetings with the Richmond community and to work in good faith to make this transition happen.  We also ask Levin to withdraw the threat that they made at the Dec. 3 City Council meeting that they would litigate if the ordinance passed. After all, this ordinance doesn't call for an immediate ban, and it includes an option to return to the council if replacement commodities genuinely cannot be found.

The Richmond City Council voted to push the vote on the ordinance to this Tuesday.  The clock is ticking, and the health and safety of the people here in our community is at stake. How much longer will workers and Richmond residents have to endure the worst air quality in the Bay Area?

The Industrial Workers’ Climate Plan: A Great Green Charter

By various - Bristol IWW, 2019

An ecology movement that once seemed jaded is budding and blossoming beautifully. The fantastic efforts of the school strikes’ movement and groups like Extinction Rebellion, Earth Strike and the Green Anti-Capitalist Front have forced green issues back into mainstream public debate. This achievement has been marked by declarations that there is a ‘climate emergency’, first by the Welsh and Scottish governments and then, fittingly on 1st May, by the UK Parliament. A fortnight earlier, the University of Bristol had become the first UK university to declare a climate emergency. So successful have these campaigns been that there is now a broad consensus that something must be done. It is essential to build on this achievement and keep up the momentum. We urgently need to continue the conversation about what do to now.

Alongside the general strikes for climate action in September 2019, Earth Strike is therefore proposing that a Great Green Charter would be a powerful rallying document for the environmental crisis of the Twenty-First Century. The nineteenth-century movement called Chartism inspired the idea of a Great Green Charter. The Chartists drew up clear and agreed points which they pursued with a mix of political, economic and cultural approaches. Chartism became the largest reform movement of its time, taken up by thousands of ordinary people across the United Kingdom. The Chartists were successful, in as much as most of the points listed on ‘The People’s Charter’ were eventually attained, and even exceeded. While this was not within the years of Chartism, and achieved only after great struggle, the Chartists defined the terms of political reform for the decades to come.

Read the report (PDF).

The Case for an Ecosocialist Rank & File Strategy in the Building Trades

By Ryan Pollock - The Trouble, November 28, 2019

The building trades have often been one of the more reactionary elements of organized labor in the United States. Even as a tradesman myself—an inside wireman with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)—I had my own doubts about how much support for the Green New Deal (GND) could be garnered from the building trades. 

My recent experience at the 60th Annual Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention shattered that understanding. Not only were many of my fellow trades siblings—plenty of whom work in the fossil fuel industry or represent fossil fuel workers—strongly in favor of the GND at the start of the convention, but the political struggle to get most everyone else on board required minimal effort. In the end, our state AFL-CIO passed a GND-style resolution. This victory is a powerful model for conventions across the country; it shows how resolutions like this one can become a standard labor demand.

In March of this year, shortly after the release of the GND resolution in Congress, the AFL-CIO Energy Committee released a memo harshly criticizing the resolution. Surprised by the response of an organization that I felt the resolution intended to strengthen, I set out to identify their reasons for opposition. In the process, I discovered a pro-GND resolution passed by the Alameda, California Central Labor Council (CLC), a confederation  of union-delegates that make recommendations on local and statewide labor and political issues. 

After reading the Alameda resolution, I wondered if I could pass something similar in my own CLC (Austin, TX), to which I’m a delegate. After tweaking the language of the Alameda resolution to make its references to the crisis in California more relevant to Texans, I submitted the resolution at the July meeting of the Austin CLC. After some explanation and discussion, the resolution passed unanimously.

The next step was the state level—a week after the Austin CLC meeting, the 60th Annual Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention took place, and I was appointed by my union local to attend. 

Soon after the meeting agenda went public, I received a call from my friend Jeff Rotkoff, the Campaign Director for Texas AFL-CIO, letting me know that leadership at Texas AFL-CIO loved my resolution, but that it was also already causing a stir. While they applauded my efforts, they didn’t expect it to get very far. I didn’t blame them at all for their pessimism. I didn’t expect much progress myself. Over the next few days, entire districts of building trades threatened to walk out of the convention if my resolution even made it to the floor. I came ready to fall flat on my face.

When I arrived at the stakeholder meeting that had been set up to discuss my resolution, however, my expectations quickly brightened. I was immediately introduced to Lee Medley, President of a Gulf Coast United Steelworkers (USW) local, who, instead of writing me off as I had expected, showed both good faith and a genuine interest. He asked me if I was familiar with the concept of just transition. As I informed him that the trades defining our own terms for a just transition was exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this resolution, I understood that we were going to be making some serious progress that weekend.

On Climate Action by Jacob Morrison

By Jacob Morrison - Industrial Worker, October 2019.

A speech by the secretary of the Huntsville, AL branch on the nature of individual vs. class-based climate action.

My desire tonight is to connect action on climate change to a working class politics, to directly connect the material interests of the working class to action on this looming issue.

As an exposition, I want to point out some of the way that environmentalist campaigns are framed, and the history of this framing.

I am sure we have all seen the famous picture of the crying Native American in the Keep America Beautiful PSAs. And I’m sure that mostly the feelings that we have regarding that PSA are positive. Don’t literally throw full bags of uneaten McDonald’s food at the feet of a Native American as you drive by — pretty uncontroversial stuff.

But did you know who funded these PSAs? The American Can Company, the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., Coca-Cola, and the Dixie Cup Company.

And here is another question – do you know why they funded this PSA campaign? I am sure that many of us would like to believe, in the classic American sense, that the corporations were simply operating benevolently in the best interest of the country, because they care about the environment and they care about us.

Well, my dear, sweet, naive fellow workers, I regret that I am the one who must inform you of this, but you would be wrong.

You see, originally the conversation around litter and disposable single use products was around production and not consumption. Meaning that there was a strong movement to nip this problem in the bud, rather than stem the tide after the dam broke. In the 1950s, single-use items were fairly new and not nearly as integral to our lives as we see them today. So many people said we should just ban them. Vermont did just that and, following the leadership of Vermont, state legislatures the country round had anti-single-use production bills lined up.

The corporations smelled a threat to their profits. With this ad, and many like it, they were able to change the entire focus of the debate from the producer, the multi-million dollar, international oligopolies with immense political power, to the average, atomized, individual consumer.

So now we have myriad anti-litter laws, but no laws targeting companies, laws like the refillable bottle law in Finland with decreased their garbage output by almost 400,000 tons. We’ve got these anti-litter laws, but no laws remaining like the deposit law that Oregon passed in 1972 targeting corporations that decreased the number of beverage containers used in the state by 385 million.

The rightful ire of the public was  successfully shifted on this issue from the source of power to largely powerless individuals. This phenomenon, turning workers on each other other, convincing them to look to their left or their right but never up, follows a pattern. This happens all the time on any number of issues, whether it be immigration, union versus non union workers, the worker versus the homeless person, and even regarding the subject at hand today, climate change. Capital interests invest huge sums of money to shift the blame from them, from the source of the issue, down to us, so that we are too busy fighting to address the issue, and all the while the capital interests rake in the profits and the working class suffers.

With this frame in place, let’s turn to the topic at hand today — climate change.

The conversation on this topic has been, until very recently, almost exclusively looking at the atomized, individual consumer as the problem. We’ve got websites that will tell us our carbon footprint, but what we don’t have is websites that will tell you how corporations and the monied elite set the structure up such that you must pay them, thus creating the carbon footprint that you do in order to move through the world. We’ve got articles telling us that if we set our thermostats down or up two degrees we would decrease our carbon footprint by so much but next to no effort is spent on why our utility company is still using fossil fuels when we’ve got so many other options.

The through line of much of the environmental talk, the climate change mitigation talk, is that as individual, atomized consumers, we must simply consume less. This talk, as Matt Huber points out in a paper called Ecological Politics for the Working Class, is a recommendation that is hardly likely to appeal to a working class whose wages and living standards have stagnated for almost two generations.

XR call for just transition from North Sea oil to renewable energy

By Gabriel Levy - People and Nature, September 5, 2019

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Scotland is appealing to North Sea oil workers to support a “just transition” away from oil and towards an energy system based on renewable electricity.

“The current oil and gas workforce can and should be redeployed to replace the fossil fuel that we can no longer afford to produce”, says XR Scotland’s appeal to communities in the north-east of the country that are dependent on oil. “Without a just transition to renewable energy from sun, wind and wave, we are fucked.”

There’s no better way forward for XR than seeking alliances of this kind, in my view. So here’s the whole text of the leaflet. (And if you want to print some off and distribute them yourself, here’s a PDF version.)

Do you think you have skills that could be transferred to the renewables energy industry? YES □ NO □

Do you think that the entirety of the estimated 20 billion barrels of fossil fuel under the North Sea should be produced? YES □ NO □

Do you believe the planet can survive global hydrocarbon reservoirs being drained? YES □ NO □

Do you have children and/or grandchildren? YES □ NO □

Did you think last year, that we would be experiencing a massive fire threat to the Amazon and the Arctic regions, and the loss of the Arctic Sea ice? YES □ NO □

Are you interested in getting involved in the campaign for a planned and just transition to the renewables?

contact neil.rothnie@gmail.com. I’ll put you in touch.

A Real Extinction Rebellion Means the End of Colonialism, Imperialism, and Capitalism

By Jessica Garraway - Common Dreams, September 22, 2019

Land and Water Defender Beginnings

In 2011, as a 20 year old activist new to the environmental movement I joined up with other like-minded people for a retreat in rural Wisconsin to plan and strategize our next steps. As a Black woman, it was painfully obvious that amongst the scores of people in attendance that there were very few people of color present. However, what was even more jarring than the racial disproportionality of the retreat was the attitudes of the white activists.

We were hanging out late at night in the living room of a retreat after a long day of workshops and trainings.

The overwhelming number of white activists and their views on race and the environment came to a head for me when I was asked,

“Damn, how do we get black people to care about the environment?”

This is what a white environmentalist (with dreads no less) asked me years ago. Being new to environmental spaces, I was dumbfounded by this comment. I took a long deep sigh, and thought, aren't I Black? Didn't I spend countless hours turning people out for direct actions? It was at this moment I began to realize that I was scoring points for the organization with frontline folks while within the organization I was in a sea of white people who saw me as a token.

Yet I knew that Black people care about the environment - about lead paint in housing, parks in the neighborhood, clean water and clean air. We have to care because we are disproportionately affected by the processes of capitalist environmental degradation.

Historically “environmentalism” was not the modality through which Black people explicitly addressed these issues. It was only later that I realized the lack of orientation that white-dominated environmental groups had toward people of color, and Black people in particular, helped to reinforce the alienation of marginalized communities from the wider environmental movement.

It is no wonder that so many of our people see environmental issues as largely the concern of privileged white people. Far too often we hear more about the protection of wild places we have little access to and not about the incinerators, refineries and mines that pollute our air and water. Anti police brutality movements such as Black Lives Matter struggles have focused attention on deaths of Black people through police terror, however, it is only recently that cases like Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey, majority Black cities with no access to clean water, have gotten notice.

Because of racist housing practices like redlining, Black people have been forced to live near refineries and incinerators at higher rates compared to white people. According to a recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, white people bear the burden of 17 percent less air pollution than is generated by their own consumption. Meanwhile, Blacks and Latinos experience 56 percent and 63 percent more exposure, respectively, than is caused by their consumption. Even still, it is not the consumption habits of workers that is causing this crisis. It is a political and economic system based on the accumulation of profits and ever expanding markets that is pushing the earth over the edge. Individual actions such as taking shorter showers or passing on plastic straws is not going to change that.

Earth Strike Ireland Rising

By IWW Ireland - IWW Ireland, September 22, 2019.

Millions of people took part in one of the largest international mobilisations seen in a number of decades as Earth Strike generated street protests across the globe from the biggest cities to the smallest of villages and Ireland was no exception.

As an internationalist working class movement, members of the Industrial Workers of the World have played a full role in helping to mobilise the grassroots in the build up to Earth Strike.

In Ireland activists took part in student rallies, street mobilisations and die-ins throughout the country from Cork to Derry at which thousands of people took part to help highlight this emergency call. Thousands including many schoolchildren along with teachers, parents, older supporters, community and trade union organisations came to out on to the streets in a unified global demonstration as part of a world-wide Climate Strike. Villages, towns and cities such as Ennis, Cloughjordan, Letterkenny, Belfast, Dublin, Waterford, Galway, Cork, Sligo, Derry and Athlone added their names to the vast growing list of mass protests and rallies across the country whilst similar demonstrations took part in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and beyond.

During the Earth Strike a spokesperson for the Industrial Workers of the World said that, “for wobblies, today’s actions around the world is one of people power and grassroots activism. Our union in particular has a long history of not just fighting against capital but the protection of our earth. Over the past decades our members have been targeted, arrested and imprisoned for their part played in the fight to save the earth from its destruction by the hand of capitalism. Make no mistake this is a class war in that the business class will stop and nothing in their pursuit of profit, that is the nature of capitalism.

“As a revolutionary grassroots union, it is our fundamental belief, that the only way in which we can stop the destruction of our planet before its too late is to make capitalism extinct. That can only be done by the workers themselves, the working class. Without doubt there is an urgency in that class war but it’s never too late to unionise that fight. What we can’t have now is for all that anger and energy witnessed today to be allowed to slowly evaporate. Widespread and continuing pressure must be increased on those who are killing our planet. On a day such as this, we should take note of the words of one our great troubadours, Utah Philips ‘the earth is not dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.’

Interview With An Earth Strike Organiser

Interview with IWW Member, Sab Cat - Organise, September 12, 2019

Sab is the organiser for Earth Strike UK in the South West. He’s an active and well known voice in Bristol’s syndicalist and Environmental movements. He kindly took the time to meet us down the pub for a chat about Earth Strike and the upcoming Global Climate Strike.

Organise: Could you start by giving us an introduction to Earth Strike?

So, Earth Strike is a grass roots organisation, that is creating a worker led movement to tackle climate change. We believe that the most effective way of doing that is to organise both in unions and in autonomous groups, and build towards a global general strike to shut down capitalism. Thus removing peoples participation in the system that is fundamentally the cause of ecological crisis.

Why should people get involved?

I actually really like this question. I’ve come up with a way of putting it. I think anyone, no matter what their background, whether they are a workplace activist, or environmental activist, or totally new to organising, should take a moment to ask themselves three questions.

Firstly, do you think we’re in an ecological crisis? It doesn’t take very long if you look around to realise we are. Our air is polluted, it’s estimated air pollution kills 300 people a year just in Bristol. The Amazon is on fire, Siberia is on fire. A heck of a lot of shit is on fire. A worrying amount of shit is on fire. Species are disappearing at a rate not seen since the last mass extinction, sea levels are rising. Even the United Nations is freaking out a bit at this point. The science around it has been clear for a long time now. So I think most people would say yes to this, if not well… they need to take a long hard look around them.

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