Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking

By Pete Dolack - CounterPunch, November 24, 2017

The world’s governments got together in Germany over the past two weeks to discuss global warming, and as a result, they, well, talked. And issued some nice press releases.

Discussing an existential threat to the environment, and all who are dependent on it, certainly is better than not discussing it. Agreeing to do something about it is also good, as is reiterating that something will be done.

None of the above, however, should be confused with implementing, and mandating, measures that would reverse global warming and begin to deal concretely with the wrenching changes necessary to avoid flooded cities, a climate going out of control, mass species die-offs and the other rather serious problems that have only begun to manifest themselves in an already warming world.

The 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP23, wrapped up on November 17 in Bonn. Fiji was actually the presiding country, but the conference was held in Bonn because Fiji was not seen as able to accommodate the 25,000 people expected to attend. The formal hosting by Fiji, as a small Pacific island country, was symbolic of a wish to highlight the problems of low-lying countries, but that this was merely symbolic was perhaps most fitting of all.

These conferences have been held yearly since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Two years ago, at COP21 in Paris, the world’s governments negotiated the Paris Accord, committing to specific targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Although capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (as measured from the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution took off around the world) has been considered the outer limit of “safe” warming, a goal of halting global warming at 1.5 degrees was adopted at Paris. The catch here is that the goals adopted are far from the strength necessary to achieve the 2-degree goals, much less 1.5 degrees.

Before we explore that contradiction, let’s take a brief look at the self-congratulatory statements issued at the Bonn conference’s conclusion.

This is Caguas: “Centro de Apoyo Mutuo”

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, November 26, 2017

The rest is Puerto Rico.

Centro de Apoyo Mutuo, Centers for Mutual Aid, exist as raised fists across the island landscape of post hurricane Irma, post hurricane Maria Puerto Rico.

In the narrow, colorful streets of Caguas, a building seized and defended by community is being painted by Centro organizers and a Mutual Aid Disaster Relief medical and systems crew from the main land.

Outside, a tuff tank 400 gallon buffalo awaits the systems teams’ erection of the high volume modular water filtration system and pump which will fill it with potable water for the community, creating a resource on lands reclaimed by autonomous Apoyo Mutuo community members.

By 2pm it is pumping heavily, spilling treated water from the mouth of a hose until long after sunset.

Apoyo Mutuo seized the space a month and a half ago. A month ago they defended it from policia who demanded to know their individual names.

“We just kept responding that our name is Centro de Apoyo Mutuo.”

At 8, a crowd fills the parking lot sharing donuts cut in halves with the opening scenes of a documentary on a history of direct action occupations in Puerto Rico playing on the concrete wall of the lot in front of the building.

Community members spend the following two hours taking turns at the pump and watching the buffalo fill. An Apoyo Mutuo comrade laid out their mission for us at the community kitchen where solidarity work and mutual aid feeds 300 people every day.
“We are changing the way we relate to each other. Thats what we want. To change the behaviors we have learned through capitalism.”

We parted with the crew of community members from Centro de Apoyo Mutuo late in the night after helping paint the new community kitchen space, building a compost toilet and pumping hundreds of gallons of potable drinking water into a common tank.

This is the work of actualization.

This is the dream of a new Puerto Rico being manifested by autonomous direct action.

Keep your fracking sand out of our port

By Brian Huseby - Socialist Worker, November 27, 2017

SUPPORTERS OF Olympia Stand, a climate justice coalition in Olympia, Washington, has constructed an encampment blocking the railroad tracks to the Port of Olympia--under a banner reading "No Fracking Sand in Our Port."

The purpose of the blockade is to prevent fracking sands, known as ceramic proppants, from being shipped from the port to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and other places.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from source rock, primarily shale. This is done by pumping a mixture of fracking sands, and large amounts of water and chemicals into the veins of the source rock to open them and extract the oil and natural gas.

Each time a well is fracked, between 2 million and 8 million gallons of fresh water is used. Fracking fluid goes through the aquifers, contaminating drinking water with chemicals, many of which are cancerous. Fracking can lead to local drinking water becoming undrinkable and even flammable. Recent research has found further evidence that fracking is causing earthquakes.

As one activist at the blockade said in an interview: "We are here because we reject the port's complicity with the fossil fuel industry. For example, they have a bad contract with Rainbow Ceramics [the Houston-based company that produces the proppants] that allows the proppants to be stored at the port for free."

At about the same time last year and at the same place, a similar blockade was built to stop the trains then shipping fracking sands to North Dakota. The same activist added, "We are here to celebrate the anniversary of last year's blockade and also the 10-year anniversary of the attempt to prevent the port from sending military equipment to [Joint Base Lewis McCord]."

In 2007, members and supporters of Port Military Resistance engaged in a protest that included street battles with police over transporting military equipment between the port and Joint Base Lewis McCord. The equipment consisted mostly of motor vehicles that were returning from Iraq for maintenance and repair and were then scheduled to be returned to Iraq.

Will Houston’s Post-Harvey Recovery Exacerbate Inequities or Build a More Just City?

Robert Bullard interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, November 24, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are just back from COP23, the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, where the Trump administration tried to derail the conference by pushing coal, nuclear and gas as solutions to climate change. Well, on this Democracy Now! special, we’re looking at the ways climate change is already affecting the United States.

We turn now to Houston, which was devastated by massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey. The storm shattered all past U.S. rainfall records, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes in the fourth-largest city in the United States. Some call it the “Petro Metro,” Houston, because it’s home to the country’s largest refining and petrochemical complex. The storm also caused massive environmental and public health impacts. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, more than a million pounds of air pollution have been released into the air as petrochemical plants were forced to shut down by the storm.

Well, over Labor Day weekend, just as the floodwaters were receding, Democracy Now! traveled to Houston, where we spoke with Professor Robert Bullard, among others. Dr. Bullard is a professor at Texas Southern University, a historically black college and university. He’s considered the father of environmental justice. We spoke with Professor Bullard at his home, which he had just returned to after evacuating. I began by asking him about his experiences of the flood.

Here's the Teacher-Friendly Antidote to Heartland Institute's Anti-Science School 'Propaganda'

By Ashley Braun - DeSmog Blog, November 26, 2017

On a Monday morning at the end of October, Rob Ross asked a group of earth scientists and educators a question: How many of them had received copies of the Heartland Institute book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming?

You could feel an immediate sense of frustration in the air. Roughly half of them raised their hands. The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based think tank that rejects the scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and has received funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry.

In March, it mailed, unsolicited, a 135-page book and accompanying DVD to tens of thousands of science teachers at public high schools across the U.S., with plans to keep that up until the report was in the hands of every last one.

While it received swift backlash — including from Democratic senators, Heartland’s most recent effort (though not its first) to spread climate science denial in public schools had a somewhat fortuitous timing. Ross and his colleagues at the Paleontological Research Institution were putting the finishing touches on their own book for science educators, The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change.

We “had it mostly done when we learned about the Heartland Institute's project to distribute misinformation” to teachers across the country, Ross told DeSmog. He recalls finding out about Heartland’s teacher mailing either through Facebook or the news. It caused an immediate stir among the community of earth science educators.

At first, we were, of course, incredibly alarmed but our second thought was, ‘Well, OK, we have a product to counter it,’” said Ross, who was one of The Teacher-Friendly Guide’s editors.

This gave us a really strong motivation to get the book in the hands of as many teachers as possible across the country.”

Don Duggan-Haas, who also contributed to the guide, says their team felt compelled to respond more directly to Heartland’s misinformation but in a way that wouldn’t delay their own publishing date.

The Teacher-Friendly Guide already had 11 chapters covering everything from the evidence and causes of climate change to the obstacles in addressing and reasons for teaching it. Adding a final chapter, written by Alexandra Moore, in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQ) seemed like the best approach.

Nature Lovers May #OptOutside on Black Friday, but They Consume Resources Year-Round

By Matthew Klingle - Common Dreams, November 26, 2017

While shoppers scramble for Black Friday bargains this year, outdoor retailer REI is closing its 154 U.S. stores. This is the third consecutive year that the Seattle-based company will ignore the frenzy that traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season. REI’s nearly 12,000 employees will get a paid holiday and will not process any online orders.

Instead, REI exhorts workers and customers to get outside with family and friends. #OptOutside, a Twitter hashtag that REI coined to promote its anti-Black Friday, has been widely adopted by outdoor lovers, as well as environmental groups and businesses that partner with REI to promote this event.

The campaign has drawn international praise from the advertising industry and has become a yearly phenomenon. State parks from Oregon to Indiana, often in concert with local nonprofits, offer free admission and other perks on Black Friday. This year REI is launching an “experiential search engine” where users can share photos and video of their favorite outdoor destinations, augmented with information such as directions to trailheads or events celebrating our nation’s public lands.

Many observers have praised REI for mixing business savvy with crunchy acumen. But how did REI and other outdoor companies align themselves with conservation? How do they square selling expensive apparel and promoting carbon-spewing tourism with their customers’ love for the outdoors? And how radical is “Green Friday,” especially if the OptOutsiders are carrying backpacks stuffed with the latest gear made from precious petroleum, rare metals and pricey fibers?

The answer is that shoppers have long expressed their affection for nature in what they buy. Consumption and environmental concerns, past and present, fit together as snugly as a foot in a beloved hiking boot.

Commune by the Tracks: Discussion on the #OlympiaBlockade

By the collective - It's Going Down, November 25, 2017

In this episode, we discuss the ongoing Olympia blockade against fracking proppants with several locals who have watched the blockade, also known as Olympia Stand, grow. Our guests discuss how the current encampment, which has now lasted for over a week, has grown every day of its existence. Our conversation raises the question about why the encampment this time around is larger and more determined, as well as the threat of climate change creating a wider sea of public support.

Beyond these overarching questions, we also discuss how the local press has lied about there being fracking proppants at the port, as well as how people at the encampment are using the space to engage each other and the surrounding community. One point of contention that is brought up is the issue of demands, and how they impact the wider struggle that they come out of. We also touch on how various groups of people within a set struggle can come to terms with each other and work on a common project, even if they do not agree on everything.

Overall, the encampment is discussed as an extremely positive development, both in terms of wide public support and as an opportunity to move forward, as the threat of climate change becomes ever more dire. We close by looking back on 2017 and where it seems that things are headed in terms of the anarchist movement, as well as the lessons that the Olympia blockade offers other autonomous struggles.

Listen Here: https://ia601508.us.archive.org/32/items/olytwoint/olytwoint.mp3

Farmworkers Say “Us Too,” Demanding Freedom From Sexual Violence

By Michelle Chen - In These Times, November 21, 2017

Ahead of the Thanksgiving feast, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) hit midtown Manhattan on Monday to face down the suits with chants of “Exploitation has got to go!” CIW was there to demand humane working conditions on their farms.

Peppered with brass-band musicians and street puppets, the protesters rallied at the New York, N.Y. offices of the fast food giant Wendy’s.

CIW members hoisted tomato and bucket-shaped picket signs with slogans like “freedom from sexual violence” and “Justicia” to face off against Wendy’s cheery, red pigtails. They demanded fair wages and freedom from violence and exploitation.

This week’s march, part of the coalition’s multi-city tour to promote its Fair Food labor protection program, put women workers at the frontlines, protesting the epidemic of sexual assault in agricultural labor, which affects as many as eight in ten women.

Decades before labor-relations courts and bureaucracy-laden contract negotiations, workplace disputes with powerful corporations were resolved with fists and clubs. And in Trump’s America, CIW workers are turning Florida’s vast tomato fields into the latest frontline in the struggle for the rights and dignity of immigrant communities.

“As farmworker women, this experience poses an incredibly hard choice; we don’t have another job, we have to suffer this abuse, because we have a family to maintain,” said organizer Lupe Gonzalo, speaking on the violence that stalks women working the fields, at an October gathering at a Minnesota theater. “Our silence is something we must grow accustomed to every day.”

Voices like Gonzalo’s rarely take the public spotlight in conversations on sexual violence and discrimination, but her words resonate deeply on the edges of the economy. As a minority in a male-dominated workforce, working in brutal, isolated conditions, women are exposed daily to sexual violence, be it coworkers’ harassment or rape by supervisors.

Although agribusiness corporations have historically failed to address sexual abuse in their supply chains, CIW members say they’ve virtually eliminated sexual harassment from the fields they’ve organized via targeted enforcement, broad-based monitoring and worker education efforts. Additionally, strong community support and the group’s pioneering Fair Food Program (FFP) has helped break the culture of silence in the fields by making women’s rights everybody’s business—from coworkers and neighbors all the way up to multinational restaurant chains.

Wendy’s is now the lone holdout among the large restaurant chains that CIW has pushed over the years to sign onto its FFP code of conduct. Since the 1990s, the group has marched on college campuses, rallied at corporate offices and lobbied on Capitol Hill to promote an innovative form of collective worker protection that has evolved into FFP's worker-led social responsibility system.

Though not a formal union contract, the program's model, which now protects some 35,000 workers, essentially provides a bill of rights for thousands of laborers in Florida’s heavily consolidated agribusiness sector to promote structural change at all levels of the industry. The binding agreement mandates that all companies in the supply chain—including growers and retailers—provide an additional penny-per-pound premium that is passed through to pickers. This adds a considerable amount to workers’ annual wages. Meanwhile, the agreement ensures enforceable standards for fair working conditions, job security through direct, long-term employment and due process for abuse complaints.

Farmers storm India’s national capital, demanding freedom from debt and better price for their produce

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 23, 2017

Several thousand small-holder farmers from across India held a massive demonstration in New Delhi, from 20-21 November to draw attention to the acute agrarian distress plaguing the countryside and seeking immediate intervention by the Union Government.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements – who are also part of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, joined in large numbers.

For long, farmers movements and civil society organisations in India have been pointing out the problem of mounting debt in rural farm households.

A steady and steep increase in cost of production over the last three decades, near-stagnant farm incomes and increasing cost of rural household expenses, which are exacerbated by crumbling public welfare services and privatisation drives, have resulted in nearly 60% of the farm households trapped in a cycle of debt. Back-to-back droughts and unseasonal rains since 2012 resulting in severe crop losses, a crash in farm prices over the last several seasons have only worsened the crisis.

On a set of 25 crops, the Government of India offer a guaranteed and minimum support price across to the country’s farmers. However, for several years now as social movements have pointed out, this support price is marginally above – in some instances below – the cost of production.

In 2014, while campaigning for general elections, Narendra Modi who is currently the Prime Minister, had publicly promised to procure farm produces at a higher rate, which would be at least 1.5 times the cost of production. Yet, this is far from reality. What is worse is also that farmers are right now forced to sell their produces at levels that are even lower than the minimum support price.

Green revolution and the subsequent opening up of Indian agriculture to the global free market, has exposed the country’s small-farmers to unfair and unequal competition on the world scene. Agricultural policies that are focused on exporting food, rather than promoting local production and distribution has only favoured agribusinesses and severely marginalised the peasants and small-holder farmers. Despite this, global institutions such as the WTO continue to mount pressure on the Indian government to reduce the support price further and to lower the import tariffs!

The consequences have been devastating. Since 1995, at least 300,000 farmers in India have been forced to commit suicide unable to bear their piling debt and harassments from lenders. Government data shows that on an average 2000 farmers are forced to quit agriculture everyday and migrate to cities in search of work in factories and construction sites.

To Stop Keystone XL, 8,000 People in Just 24 Hours Make 'Promise to Protect'

By Jon Queally - Common Dreams, November 22, 2017

It's been less than 48 hours since a panel in Nebraska gave final approval for the Keystone XL pipeline to built in the state, but already more than 8,000 people have vowed to put their bodies on the lines—and in front of the construction path, if needed—to make sure the construction never happens.

The vow to stand against the pipeline—dubbed the "Promise to Protect"—was launched Monday during a gathering of Indigenous leaders and their allies in South Dakota who renewed their vows to defend sacred lands, waters, and sites against new pipelines and any expansion of the Canadian tar sands. The petition was then endorsed by other Native tribes, green groups, and high-profile climate activists.

Joye Braun, leader of the Wakpa Waste Camp at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, said, "It gives me a great sense of hope and community to see nearly 8,000 people who have signed on to the 'Promise to Protect' our water, our homelands, our people, and to stand in solidarity with us on the ground. Especially our Indigenous communities, our tribes, and our farmer and rancher friends. This is hope, this is power—people power."

Faith Spotted Eagle, member of the Yankton Sioux Nation, said the surge of people commiting to stand against Keystone XL shows the Monday's decision was not a win for pipeline owner TransCanada.  "Continued attempted assaults on Mother Earth are never winning actions," she said. "The No KXL Dakota/Lakota gathering at Kul Wicasa on the same day of November 20 is an exciting renewed strong circle of allies who walk forward  stronger than ever. We will prevail in our spiritual movement."

People can sign the petition as individuals, but entire organizations can also make the commitment.

"TransCanada has many hurdles still ahead on Keystone XL, and if they ever run out, thousands of people have promised to be the biggest one," added May Boeve, exectuive director of 350.org, also backing the petition. "This pipeline's route through the upper Midwest has been hampered at every turn for nearly a decade, and we're doing all we can to keep it that way."

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