To Stave Off Zombie Apocalypse, Organize a New Society Within the Shell of the Old

By x365097 - Southern Maine IWW, July 13, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Let’s think back to late summer, 2008 — half a decade ago, right about now. It had been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq by the US, and nearly six years since the invasion of Afghanistan. The PATRIOT Act was still in the news, there was massive anti-Bush agitation from liberals and the left, and many people were looking forward to a change of regime — any change — in 2009.

The financial catastrophe that would soon arrive, however, punctuating the presidency of George W. Bush like a second 9/11, would make matters unfathomably worse, complicating the US economy for years to come and paving the way for the austerity agenda to trample workers’ hard-won economic rights like Orwell’s proverbial jackboot to the face. Of course, there had been preliminary signs of trouble; those had been plain to see. But when the blows finally started hammering down, they caught almost everyone unprepared.

Individualist survivalists, already bolstered by the much-hyped threat of terrorism, came out of the woodwork to sell emergency water filters and K-rations to the gullible and (somewhat justifiably) afraid. The average American worker hunkered down, usually alone or with a few family members, and prayed that the worst — a foreclosure, an eviction — might pass them by. And the media told us endless stories about the struggle to survive amid the mindless hordes who would ravage the remains when it all finally broke down outside the “Green Zone” of Wall Street.

It didn’t — and still doesn’t — have to be this way.

Capital Blight - They Really Don't Know Clouds At All.

By x344543 - September 9, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A recent discussion among IWW members about whether or not to change the default delivery option for the union's official organ, the Industrial Worker, from hard copy to PDF has touched on a larger debate over the "greenness" of "the cloud."(the many data centers that form the backbone of the Internet).

My attention was drawn to this debate by one of my fellow worker's reaction to the following statement from the current editor of our union's venerable publication, the Industrial Worker in reference to a change in the default option from a paper copy to an emailed PDF:

Go paperless, live in harmony with the earth and help save the union money!"

The union implemented this change to cut costs. The apparent environmental benefits are merely coincidental, though it's gratifying to see that the membership is taking the environmental tenets of the IWW Preamble seriously.

My aforementioned fellow Wobbly took exception to this statement thusly:

From some of what I have read, the physical maintenance of the digital world is anything but green, even though the idea that computers = lower pollution and energy consumption is to be found pretty much everywhere these days.

Below is a link to an article from the New York Times on the subject.  One of the key points is how much of the energy -- about 90-94% -- is wasted just keeping servers idling in case they need to be pulled in as backups.

The specific article he referenced, Power, Pollution, and the Internet actually quotes a slightly lower figure of 88 - 93%, but more about that later.

He then offered the following quotation to emphasize a comparison between data centers and the paper industry:

Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the country that year, based on an analysis by Jonathan G. Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University who has been studying data center energy use for more than a decade.

Datacenter Dynamics, a London-based firm, derived similar figures.

The industry has long argued that computerizing business transactions and everyday tasks like banking and reading  library books has the net effect of saving energy and resources. But the paper industry, which some predicted would be replaced by the computer age, consumed 67 billion kilowatt-hours from the grid in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Electric Power Research Institute for The Times.

Skepticism of any capitalist industry's claims to be "green" should be regarded as healthy, but that skepticism should be followed by careful examination of all of the facts.

Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight

By Naomi Klein, September 3, 2013. Source: Naomi Klein

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Naomi delivered the following speech on September 1, 2013 at the founding convention of UNIFOR, a new mega union created by the Canadian Autoworkers and the Canadian Energy and Paper Workers Union.

I’m so very happy and honoured to be able to share this historic day with you.

The energy in this room – and the hope the founding of this new union has inspired across the country – is contagious.

It feels like this could be the beginning of the fight back we have all been waiting for, the one that will chase Harper from power and restore the power of working people in Canada.

So welcome to the world UNIFOR.

A lot of your media coverage so far has focused on how big UNIFOR is – the biggest private sector union in Canada. And when you are facing as many attacks as workers are in this country, being big can be very helpful. But big is not a victory in itself.

The victory comes when this giant platform you have just created becomes a place to think big, to dream big, to make big demands and take big actions. The kind of actions that will shift the public imagination and change our sense of what is possible.

And it’s that kind of “big” that I want to talk to you about today.

Common Misconceptions and Entangled Histories: a Review of Jonathan K London's Academic Revisionism of Earth First! - IWW Local #1

By x344543 - August 29, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In my efforts to uncover as much potentially useful information as I can for the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus's website, the results of which generally wind up in our Green Unionism library, I occasionally come across an unexpected nugget of gold. Other times, it turns out to be iron pyrite (Fool's Gold). Such was the case with Jonathan K London's muddled academically oriented article, "Common Roots and Entangled Limbs: Earth First! and the Growth of Post-Wilderness on California's North Coast", published in Antipode 30:2 in 1988.

The article begins auspiciously describing the pioneering "green syndicalism" of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, as led by Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Greg King, et. al. London observes that Local #1 (which he describes mainly as "North Coast Earth First!"--that the IWW's role in that history is frequently omitted is not the fault of London):

"offer(ed) the promise of a truly radical movement, by which I mean one that truly confront(ed) capital’s interlinked degradation of both natural and human communities. This article examines the efforts by the North Coast Earth First! to inscribe a new community of activists and timber workers joined in the struggle to contest corporate claims on the redwood forest."

These conclusions match my own direct experiences, having worked alongside Bari, Cherney, and others between 1995-98 and having helped usher in what ultimately became the "Blue-Green Alliance" (that this effort was co-opted by reformist elements was sadly beyond our control).

Having established this, London unfortunately proceeds to the very dubious conclusion that Local 1 ultimately alienated the timber workers with whom they achieved common ground by, "by redefining the redwood forest as the exclusive property of the activists themselves."

A careful examination of London's presentation of the information in which he attempts (vainly) to make his case reveals that he offers no substantive proof to make such a conclusion, and what historical accounts he does reference are carelessly cited out of historical continuity and context. It betrays a lack of deep understanding of the actual issues, and instead suggests a very shallow--perhaps even sectarian--examination of what really happened in the so called "Timber Wars".

The Department of (Dirty) Energy

By Burkely Hermann - Originally published at whiterosereader.org, August 14, 2013; reposted by permission of the author.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Yesterday I was walking around Washington, DC with my friend from Chicago and my dad. We walked past a number of government buildings like the USDA (US Department of *Agribusiness*) and the Department of Education on the way to the Air and Space Museum. One of biggest government buildings was the Department of Energy. There was a flag emblazoned with the symbol of the department which has a lightening bolt going through the middle of it and a number of exhibits inside the building. To my companions, in brief I told them about the article I was writing, and how Jimmy Carter created the cabinet-level executive department in 1977. That article is the one that continues on for the next ten paragraphs and is a detailed critique and analysis of how the powerful and influential “energy lobby” corrupts the Energy Department from the inside out.

I first looked at who leads the department itself. The current Energy Secretary, a fracking-lover and nuclear power-lover, Ernest Moniz is one of the many “corrupted” officials of the Obama administration. This is nothing new because over half of the secretaries since the beginning of the department were either corporate-friendly or part of the military-industrial-complex. Only one person didn’t follow this pattern as he was a GOP Governor in South Carolina. On top of this, the sitting Deputy Energy Secretary, Daniel Poneman, “served as a principal of The Scowcroft Group for eight years, providing strategic advice to corporations on a wide variety of international projects and transactions,” before he took his current political office. Additionally the Secretary of Energy’s thirteen member Advisory board is corrupted in a sense. Ten of the members are corporate-friendly, with the rest either connected to universities or the scientific community. This group, while not forming policy, has seemingly profound influence on the Energy Secretary.

A Drunken Psychopath At the Wheel: Fukushima Revisited

By John Reimann - June 11, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Like a psychopathic drunk driver careening down a busy street, capitalism on its last legs is creating untold disaster in its wake. One of the most serious is the ongoing example of Fukushima…. The plant’s owner, Tepco, is using some 400 metric tons per day of water to cool the damaged fuel rods in plant number four. However, a greater problem is that an equal amount is flowing from surrounding mountains underground under the plant and into the ocean.

Read the entire article in PDF form.

Get updates on Fukushima and other Nuclear Power Nightmares on our Facebook Page every day at GMT - 7:00 (Pacific Time).

Does the Environmental Movement Speak for You?

By Burkely Hermann - Originally published at State of Nature, Spring 2013; reposted by permission of the author.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For years, I thought the big environmental organizations were on my side. Just look at the nice logo for the World Wildlife Fund which has a polar bear as its image and the Defenders of Wildlife with wolves howling in the background. However, as I entered my first year of college I had a rude awakening. In researching for a talk, I found that companies ranging from the worst polluters to health insurance firms had representatives on the boards of these organizations. Over two months later I followed up on this and my anger was even greater as I woke up to the reality. In 2008, when the anger over the Sierra Club partnering with Clorox spread nationwide, NBC News quoted Gwen Ruta, a vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, as saying that “partnerships between businesses and advocacy groups can be good for the planet and a company’s bottom line.” I asked myself: are these huge environmental organizations corrupted by the business community and the two-party oligarchy?

Let us jump back to the Forward on Climate protest in DC on February 17th. I went to the protest on this very cold day and wrote something everyone should keep in mind. Looking back, I remember how the rally before the march on the White House seemed like an Obama rally, and a bit like a rock concert. While there were college students and people of all persuasions – races, genders and ethnicities – the rhetoric of the speakers deeply worried me. My friend, who was also equally critical of Obama, concurred. While there were some good speakers such as indigenous rights groups and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, there were also a number of Obamacrats, such as Sheldon Whitehouse, the sponsor of the internet censorship bill, SOPA, and Van Jones, who formerly worked as Obama’s “green jobs” czar. Also, there were some strange speakers like an investment banker, an actor on a reality TV show, a commentator who has a CNN show and the Sierra Club President. It seemed to me that this rally was trying to channel all of the people there to have one demand: end the Keystone XL pipeline. I still think that people were thinking for themselves, and the march itself was inspiring to see, but it seems a lot of people took in the pro-Obama rhetoric without questioning it. As a result, I now believe that the permitted and approved march was almost worthless, and was a waste of time because no sort of political change came, especially since these “pseudo-protests” were on a Sunday, when the federal government wasn’t in town, meaning they were not a threat.

You may wonder how this ties into the environmental movement. Major “partner organizations” of this the Forward on Climate protest included the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club (a main sponsor), Environment America, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Wildlife Foundation (NWF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wilderness Society. These organizations are part of what will be referred to throughout this article as “Gang Green,” (or Big Green) a moniker which represents the top ten groups in the mainstream environmental movement, all of which have huge staffs and a good number of lobbyists, and bring in millions each year. Journalist Naomi Klein recently wrote in The Nation about these groups, saying how the divestment campaign pushed by young activists has missed an important target: Big Green, which has

led the climate movement down various dead ends [including] carbon trading, carbon offsets, [and] natural gas as a “bridge fuel”… [because] the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations, formed corporate partnerships with [or have stock in] the big emitters… [including] Conservation International… [the] Wildlife Conservation Society… WWF [World Wildlife Fund]… the National Wildlife Federation [and]… the Nature Conservancy.

As Klein says, “the message to Big Green is clear: cut your ties with the fossils, or become one yourself.”

Railroading Quebec

By Jonathan Flanders - Reproduced from Counterpunch, August 12, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The bad news for the beleaguered trackside inhabitants of Lac Megantic, Quebec, continues to roll relentlessly downhill, just as the The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway(MM&A)  train did before it exploded in their town, incinerating more that forty of their citizens. After MM&A CEO Edward Burkhardt assured them that his railroad would pay for all the expenses of a cleanup, in the more or less immediate period after the crash(he took a few days to show up), his railroad has sought bankruptcy protection both in Canada and the US, and it has been revealed that it had only 25 million dollars in liability insurance. This is a fraction of what the ultimate cost will be to remediate the environmental disaster created by the wreck. Never mind making whole the families of the dead in Lac Megantic.

According the CBC “ “Burkhardt said that the railway wishes to continue to work with municipal and provincial authorities “on environmental remediation and cleanup as long as is necessary, and will do everything within its capacity to achieve completion of such goal.””

Evidently this railroad’s capacity only extends as far as hiring lawyers, since it has welshed on its bills for the cleanup so far, leaving Lac Megantic and Quebec to step in to pay cleanup workers. And as we know, once the corporate lawyers start circling  a disaster, the settlement will take years, not months.

Reinventing the Wheel - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By x356039 - August 12, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the discussions of climate change one item often overlooked is one of the most surprisingly obvious: food. Without any doubt the modern industrial food system is incredibly destructive to the environment. The carbon emissions, runoff from feedlots, use of pesticides and other toxins, and the impact of genetically manipulated frankenfood on ecosystems are all proven environmental consequences of factory farming. In spite of these factors industrialized food is often very far down on the list of mainstream environmental activists' priorities.

The relative lack of emphasis is not surprising. When it comes to climate change the first targets of efforts are usually the fossil fuel industry and rightfully so. It is thanks to their activities we are facing a climate crisis in the first place. On top of that agribusiness and their supporters have for decades made the case their methods are what the world needs to keep everyone fed. These claims often go unchallenged with food activists focusing more on the health consequences and nutritional benefits of natural, organic food over factory food. Thanks to these factors the mainstream discourse is not whether or not we should ditch fake food but seeking the best balance between factory food & real food.

This status quo suit agribusiness just fine for a very simple reason. Contrary to their most strident claims organic farming can not only feed the entire world, In some cases it can do it better. According to a report released by the United Nations FAO in 2007 organic farming techniques, when implemented in a comprehensive fashion, are capable of yielding as much in terms of crops as “traditional” factory farming. Quite contrary to the claims by more moderate voices it is very possible to do this without the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically mutilated crops, or any of the other dubious hallmarks of fossil fuel farming. Even more impressively organic farming performs up to 60% better in drought-prone areas like Ethiopia than high cost, high maintenance, highly destructive factory farming.

Capital Blight: Reflections on the August 3rd, 2013 Protest in Richmond, California

By x344543 - August 11, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I--along with approximately 3500 others--attended the Summer Heat: Together we Can Stop Climate Chaos rally, jointly organized by 350.org and a coalition of local environmental and social justice groups.

The coalescing of these forces reflected a confluence of several factors, including:

  • The struggle of a predominantly people of color community to wrangle some justice for the environmental and economic transgressions committed by the Chevron corporation, which has for all intents and purposes run Richmond like a company town (and this corporation's refinery--a piece of the once ubiquitous Standard Oil monopoly--actually existed before the town which we now call Richmond was established);
  • A massive explosion and fire that occurred at the refinery a year previously, which investigations later revealed was due to corroded pipes, which refinery workers complained about to management, but were allowed to let stand, lest the company's profits be lessened by so much as a penny;
  • Chevron's connection to the extraction of tar sands from Alberta and elsewhere which represent a form of "extreme energy" which endangers the environment, workers, and communities along the transport routes of this stuff (whether by train, truck, ship, or pipeline), and has already caused massive devastation and death in Kalamazoo, Minnesota; Lac Megantic, Quebec, and Mayflower, Arkansas, just to name a few places; and
  • The increasing realization that continued unabated use (and increased use) of fossil fuels (and for that matter, capitalism in general) has the human race on a collision course with doom, because (capitalist) human caused global warming--which has already progressed past the dangerous two degrees Celsius threshold that gives 350.org its name--will almost certainly condemn the human race, and quite likely all of the Earth, to a Venus like end, and must be stopped...yesterday.

Due to the participation of my fellow IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus members, Elliot and Ryan, an idea that they planted as a seed blossomed into a sizable labor contingent, composed of over thirty unions--including the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch--that endorsed the rally and participated as an organized force in one way or another. The idea became so popular within the coalition organizing this particular campaign, that 350.org hired an organizer, Brooke Anderson, to make it happen--which she did to great effect. Ultimately 208 participants, including all three of us, my wife, 350.org spokesman Bill McKibben, ILWU Local 6 president Fred Pecker, and Richmond's mayor, Gayle McLauglin.

The event began with a meet-up at the Richmond BART station--the Bay Area's principal public transit system--an electric heavy rail network, whose union workers--represented by various ATU and SEIU Locals were embroiled in a nasty labor dispute with the agency's management and had (before the date of the rally) engaged in a one-week strike. Due to my efforts, and in no small part because I am a transit worker myself, a ferryboat deckhand at another one of the Bay Area's public transit systems, I suggested to Anderson that she make overtures to the BART workers as workers who work as part of the solution to capitalist fossil-fuel driven climate change; she agreed. At the other end of the equation, as a member of the rank and file opposition caucus, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, to which several rank and file members from the various BART unions have since joined, I pushed for the committee to reciprocate; they did.

As one would expect, corporate media coverage of the event, while extensive, was overall mediocre to atrocious.

350.org compiled the coverage here.

None of the print media so much as mentioned the sizable labor contingent, though Brooke Anderson provided a fairly detailed account missed by the corporate media.

One of the worst offenders was the San Jose Mercury News who quoted San Jose State Political Science professor Larry Gerston (quite likely out of context) commenting about how people support projects like the Keystone XL pipeline because they're eager for "jobs" (in spite of the substantial proof that Keystone would provide almost no permanent jobs, and our own analysis that more permanent jobs than there are available workers in the US would be created if the full potential of renewable energy were deployed--environmental considerations and all).

Rather than provide yet another lengthy recounting of the march, rally, and planned civil disobedience that followed, I will keep this already lengthy article from becoming that much longer by offering a link a concise and to the point account by Richmond Progressive Alliance members (and rally co-organizers) Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon, published in Counterpunch. To round out the day's happenings, I have also included Ethan Buckner of Forest Ethic's report. Finally, 350.org's official press release (in which I'm quoted), published by EcoWatch gives a glowing account, as one would expect. Likewise, Susie Kagel--who was present at the arrest site, taking statements from the would-be arrestees--covered the demonstration quite thoroughly in Grist.org (of which, Bill McKibben is a board member).

Earth First!, by the way, also wrote glowingly of the event. They actually went as far as to give the IWW the majority of the credit for organizing the labor contingent, which is a refreshing change from the IWW's role in major uprisings being largely ignored. In this case, while Earth First!'s compliment is much appreciated, the IWW cannot accept that credit; we were merely one of thirty labor unions involved--though, of course, we were the only one who explicitly calls for the abolition of capitalism.

On the other hand, Fellow IWW member and rally participant, John Reimann offers this far more critical account.

My opinion of the demonstration falls somewhere between these two poles, and there are some very important lessons revolutionaries need to take from this struggle.

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