Full Report from an “International Meeting on the Energy Mix and the Commons” – Buenos Aires, Argentina (English)

By admin - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 27, 2017; English translation provided by Daniel Chavez of this original report.

The Energy Mix and the Commons

On 4-5 September 2017, an International Meeting on the Energy Mix and the Commons was held at the ATE National trade union’s main office, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The meeting was framed within a broader process of exchange of knowledge and experiences on climate and energy policies in Argentina, Latin America and the world. The Argentinian State Workers’ Association (Spanish acronym ATE; acronyms will be for Spanish names where applicable) and the Autonomous Argentinean Workers’ Congress (CTA-A) are engaged in international processes towards the construction of regional and global alternatives, in particular the Development Platform of the Americas (PLADA) and the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) initiative. The PLADA platform was conceived within the framework of the Trade Unions Confederation of the Americas (TUCA; CSA in Spanish) as a strategic political proposal centred around four dimensions—political, economic, social and environmental—aiming to contribute to the design and implementation of a regional model for sustainable development. PLADA proposes a gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuels, the universalisation of access to energy services, and the rationalization of those sectors of the economy that pollute the most. TUED, a global network composed of workers’ confederations and trade unions, focuses on democratizing generation, distribution and consumption of energy around the world.

The meeting was organised by ATE and CTA-A, with the support of the Transnational Institute (TNI, a worldwide network of scholar-activists based in the Netherlands) and the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of State Workers (CLATE).

Climate Change Brings Socialism and Science Together

By Eve Ottenberg - Truthout, September 26, 2017

Thanks to climate change, science and socialism have become entwined in ways previously unimaginable. Science brings the news that, unless we act swiftly to control climate change, we will inhabit a dying planet. Socialism traces the causes of this catastrophe to the destructive and chaotic growth model of capitalism and advocates for a different system. Meanwhile, sensing the source of danger to their profits, corporate and government reactionaries fuel disinformation campaigns to discredit science and confuse the public. This has been going on for years, with disastrous results.

Ian Angus' new book, A Redder Shade of Green, (red for socialist revolution, green for ecological revolution) is about the prospect of ecosocialism in the face of capitalist ecocide. Angus has written previously about the "Anthropocene," a name for our era that emphasizes the centrality of human-influenced climate change. He does not accuse humanity as a whole of environmental destruction, but only a small sliver of humanity -- the capitalist class, which has left a gigantic, planet-sized carbon footprint. Angus repeatedly stresses that billions of people have a negligible impact on climate change and that the overpopulation argument -- which blames humanity as a whole for climate change -- has been used to distract and undermine an effective, ecosocialist movement. The US military has a hugely destructive impact on the environment. So does ExxonMobil. The many citizens of Bangladesh, reeling from climate-change-exacerbated flooding, do not.

So, what about the many environmentalists who believe a primary cause of climate change is that there are too many people on earth? Angus tries to persuade them otherwise. He observes that in the 1960s and 1970s, overpopulation was used to explain environmental degradation as well as poverty in the global south, thus providing a solution to two problems at once in a way that does not question capitalism. It took the likes of Rachel Carson, Murray Bookchin and Barry Commoner to initiate an environmentalism rooted in radical social critique, he writes, adding, "Their analysis was rejected by the traditional conservationists, the wealthy organizations and individuals whose primary concern was protecting the wilderness areas for rich tourists and hunters." Indeed, it was the Sierra Club that financed Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, a book heavily promoted by "liberal Democrats who correctly saw it as an alternative to the radical views of Carson, Commoner and Bookchin." Angus adds that Ehrlich's book "became a huge best-seller, and it played a central role in derailing radical environmentalism." The population bombers faded away, but now they are back, shifting the environmental threat focus from corporations to people.

"The populationists' error," Angus writes, "is that they assume there is no alternative" to capitalism. They assume more people means more food means more modern agriculture, which is hugely ecologically destructive. But, Angus argues, there are other agricultural models; moreover, working with the food supply we already have, there are other ways to do things. "Existing food production is in fact more than enough to feed many more people." Without current waste, it could feed billions more.

Angus observes that "too many people" is in fact "code for too many poor people, too many foreigners, and too many people of color." According to Commoner: "pollution begins in corporate boardrooms, not family bedrooms."

Socialism has not always been ecologically conscious, and for much of the 20th century it wasn't, with disastrous results. "The socialism practiced by the countries of the Socialist Camp replicated the development model of capitalism," said Cuban official Oswaldo Martinez in 2009, who, Angus reports, considered this competition, a la USSR, China and East European socialist countries, a mistake. A Redder Shade of Green is a very serious attempt to bury that past once and for all, and to ground socialism in scientific environmentalism. This, fortunately, has been socialism's direction for several decades. Not so for capitalism. "Pouring crap into the environment is a fundamental feature of capitalism, and it isn't going to stop so long as capitalism survives," Angus writes.

Fenceline Communities on Gulf Coast Face Mass Displacement & Toxic Pollution One Month After Harvey

Hilton Kelley interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, September 26, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. As many parts of the continental United States and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico recover from a devastating series of hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, Maria—we end today’s show with an update from one of the hardest-hit communities along the Gulf Coast: Port Arthur, Texas, a fenceline community with several massive oil refineries that flooded during Hurricane Harvey. Just last week, a fire at the Valero oil refinery in Port Arthur released nearly 1 million pounds of emissions into the air, prompting residents to stay in their homes for hours. Meanwhile, the 3,600-acre Motiva oil refinery in Port Arthur, that is run by Saudi Arabia, says it plans to continue a multibillion-dollar expansion of its facility, which is already the largest in the United States. This comes as hundreds of displaced Port Arthur residents, whose homes were flooded during the storm, continue to live in tents. And a number of Port Arthur residents who were renting and had to evacuate have been evicted.

For more, we’re joined by environmental justice activist Hilton Kelley, up from Port Arthur. He made history in 2011 when he became the first African-American man to win the "Green Nobel Prize," the Goldman Environmental Prize. Kelley is the executive director and founder of the Community In-Power and Development Association. His restaurant and home were both flooded during the hurricane. We last spoke with him on the phone just after the storm as he was helping save people. He joins us now in studio after attending a climate summit here in New York run by the Hip Hop Caucus.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to meet you in person, Hilton Kelley.

HILTON KELLEY: Thank you for having me, Amy. I appreciate being here.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you facing in Port Arthur?

HILTON KELLEY: Well, what we’re facing in Port Arthur, Texas, number one, is mass evacuations of our renters. We’re also facing Superfund sites. We’re also facing—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what Superfund sites are.

HILTON KELLEY: Well, a Superfund site is an area that’s been deemed uninhabitable due to contamination of some type of toxin. And most of the time in our area, it’s petroleum waste or petroleum material that has been discarded in some shape, form or fashion, and it has rendered the land uninhabitable.

AMY GOODMAN: Keep going. What else?

HILTON KELLEY: And so, with that being said, many of our people are being displaced. I mean, there’s a lot of danger when you live in a situation like this. And also, we’re dealing with a situation with our elderly, in our community and in other communities around Port Arthur, Texas, where many people’s homes that were flooded, these folks were right at their 30-year mortgage payment, where they was about to be done with that. And now they’re having to start over because FEMA is offering them a loan instead of some kind of grant opportunity. And basically, most of the people in Port Arthur has been abandoned by FEMA. The Red Cross has reached its limit. And many people were in lines trying to get their $400 check, and now that’s gone. I mean, I’ve gotten thousands of phone calls and emails saying that "We need help now," to this day. And the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is just starting to show its ugly head.

Mexico’s Earthquake: Government Represses Grassroots Rescue Work and May be Burying Survivors Alive

By Johnny Hazard - CounterPunch, September 26, 2017

The best and worst of Mexico have been on view since the earthquake of Tuesday, September 19 that rocked Mexico City and surrounding states. This was the second major quake in Mexico in 12 days; the first affected principally the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. As the officially-acknowledged death toll from the most recent tremor surpasses 400, it is important to recognize the work of students and other citizens who, with or without experience or expertise, have collected massive amounts of food, water, personal hygiene items, and blankets and distributed them to displaced persons and have cleaned rubble—manually, which is the only way to find survivors. Within minutes, people came up with ways to help: offer rides or glasses of water, find and go to buildings that had caved in or were at risk of doing so, collect provisions and move them immediately toward affected neighborhoods and towns, and go with groups of engineers, doctors, paramedics, psychologists, lawyers, veterinarians, and other specialists to affected locales. All of this apparently non-controversial human and humane activity is seen as a threat by the federal government, which knows that during Mexico City’s last massive earthquake, exactly 32 years earlier, citizen response to government neglect and to the earthquake itself was a key event in the building of resistance to one-party rule. And more recently, the 11-year-old war on drugs has led to an increasing militarization of the country, augmented by a fear of losing control in the wake of protests against atrocities like the forced disappearance of 43 education students three years ago (September 26, 2014). Authorities hoped that suppressing civilian participation in relief efforts would help in the pre-existing U.S.-style public relations strategy of glorifying police and military personnel as heroes.

In recent days, it has become increasingly evident that some of the most horrific accusations against state, local, and federal government officials and compliant mainstream media and personnel are true, ranging from inventing a little girl (“Frida Sofía”) who supposedly was communicating from under the rubble of a collapsed private school, Colegio Rebsamen in Mexico City, to government officials and military personnel actively blocking civilian efforts and confiscating relief supplies or forcing them to be surrendered to government warehouses. Volunteers and activists have asked donors and transporters of supplies to cross out barcodes on all products and write messages like “Not for resale—earthquake relief” or “No use of this material by governments or political parties is permitted”.

Chemicals used in Deepwater Horizon spill are harmful to people, study proves; finally

By Charles Digges - Bellona, September 25, 2017

Last week, the National Institutes of Health in the United States released a report that confirmed people living along the Gulf of Mexico who were very ill, but who for seven years have been told to keep quiet up about it, weren’t crazy after all.

Thousands of them had broken out in rashes. They had been coughing up blood, wheezing, experiencing migraines, and were tormented by burning eyes and memory loss. Others were surprised by heart aliments, kidney problems, liver damage, blood in their urine and discharge from their ears. Still others muddled through cognitive decline and anxiety attacks. Many went on to die.

Yet barely anyone in a position of authority was willing to believe they were sick at all. Often, even their own doctors told them that it was all in their heads.

What these people had in common was that they had been cleanup workers on the BP’s Macondo well disaster, which for 87 days in 2010 poured 4.9 million barrels oil into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded that April 20 off the coast of Louisiana. It was the worst oil spill in US history.

Some 47,000 people responded to the blow out. Fishermen rushed their boats into the fray to coral the oil at sea. Others worked to siphon it off beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. In other cases they burned it off the surface of the ocean in flames visible from space.

All of these workers toiled under a haze of chemicals dumped from the skies to bombard the ballooning slick and sink it to the bottom of the Gulf. In most cases, they didn’t have protective gear – BP and its contractors told them they didn’t need it.

The US Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency backed that up – they, too, had been assured by BP and Corexit’s manufacturer, Nalco Environmental Solutions, that it was safe.

Last week, the National Institutes of Health finally told them, after a seven-year wait, that it wasn’t.

The Debt Before the Storm

By Lance Selfa - Socialist Worker, September 26, 2017

THE SOCIALIST German playwright Bertolt Brecht once wrote that "famines do not simply occur; they are organized by the grain trade."

A similar observation could be made about Puerto Rico today. Replace "famine" with "natural disaster," and the "grain trade" with "U.S. colonialism," and you have a succinct summation of the human disaster that is unfolding on the island today.

Puerto Rico is reeling in the aftermath of landfalls by two huge hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in the space of a few weeks. As this article was being written, most of the island remained without electricity, and 70,000 residents could be in danger if the damaged Guajataca Dam failed. People all over the island are contending with flooding and food shortages--malnutrition and outbreaks of disease are real possibilities.

Any area that suffered the blows of two powerful hurricanes in succession would face major challenges.

But Puerto Rico isn't just any area. It is a colony of the United States--its oldest, in fact.

Over the last two decades, Puerto Rico's economy has been systematically degraded while Wall Street and European capital loaded up its public sector with more than $70 billion of unpayable debt.

As a result, the basic infrastructure of the island--its health care, water and power systems--were already in the grips of a desperate crisis before the hurricanes hit. For ordinary Puerto Ricans, life under successive austerity regimes had become increasingly intolerable--and it will only become more so now.

Where Non-Profits Fear to Go: Report From Florida

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, September 25, 2017

The following is a report back for a relief trip to the Florida Keys made possible by the work of numerous folks involved with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR). The immense amount of support and solidarity provided for those in need exists through the collaboration of various communities to come together in times of crisis. This represents the perspective and response of anarchist comrades, yet there are a number of different political orientations for those involved with MADR. As the predatory nature of the State continues to benefit from disasters such as these, we feel it is crucial to give space to anti-state and anti-authoritarian voices in order to continue to remind us in the storm after the storm, who the true enemy is.

On 9/18 Monday morning at 3 AM a group of 9 folks left “The Hub” (5107 N. Central Ave.) in Tampa to drive to the Florida Keys with a 12 ft truck loaded with food, water, and other necessities, as the U.S. Highway 1 checkpoint established in Florida City after Hurricane Irma, was to be terminated Tuesday at 7:30 AM. Although police stated that only residents, business owners, disaster workers and supply vehicles with proper identification would be allowed to enter until further notice.

It had been a week since residents who were able to leave had evacuated and they were just now returning to their homes, or what was left of them. The hurricane’s last minute shift to the western coast of Florida put the Florida Keys (especially the Middle Keys such as Marathon, and Lower Keys; Big Key Pine, Little Torch Key, and Key West) directly in the storm’s path, as it made landfall on Sunday, September 10th.

In order to provide much needed aid to those neglected by the Red Cross and FEMA, we drove with a van full of medical supplies and a 12 ft moving truck filled with food, water, and other necessities to the poorest areas. Yet, before we even entered, there were a number of other obstacles in our way constructed by the State and the non-profit industrial complex looking to take advantage of successes in autonomous organizing and the opportunities that disaster provides. The immense amount of supplies that have been collected at “The Hub” in the past couple weeks was made possible through the long-standing connections between various radical communities and the donation of the space from the St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Big Business, Political Allies Look to Turn Hurricane Crises to Their Advantage

By Samantha Winslow - Labor Notes, September 25, 2017

You have to hand it to Big Business and their minions: in every storm cloud they find a silver lining.

The hazards faced by residents of Texas and Florida (and now Puerto Rico) come not just from the flooding but from business interests eager to take advantage of the crisis to toss out the rules—“it’s an emergency”—and squeeze workers.

Days after Harvey hit Texas, Grover Norquist’s right-wing think tank Americans for Tax Reform was already calling for suspending Davis-Bacon on the Houston clean-up and rebuild. That’s the law that requires prevailing wage standards (read: living wage) for businesses getting federal contracts.

With Trump as president, companies are hoping for a permanent repeal.

The precedent is there. After Katrina, President Bush suspended Davis-Bacon for six months, allowing contractors to drastically lower their wages. When Davis-Bacon was reinstated, existing low-wage contracts were grandfathered in.

Bush also suspended OSHA’s enforcement of health and safety standards and had the EPA waive standards for emissions and fuel refineries.

5.7-Million-Member TUC Supports Labour Party’s Manifesto Commitments on Public Ownership of Energy and Climate Change

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 25, 2017

The annual congress of the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a historic composite resolution (also below) on climate change that supports the energy sector being returned to public ownership and democratic control.

The resolution—carried unanimously by hundreds of delegates—calls upon the national center to work with the Labour Party to achieve this goal, as well as to: implement a mass program for energy conservation and efficiency; lobby for the establishment of a “just transition” strategy for affected workers; and, investigate the long-term risks to pension funds from investments in fossil fuels.

The Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto, For the Many, Not the Few,pointed to the failures of electricity privatization, energy poverty, the need the honor the UK’s climate commitments, and to put the UK on course for 60% of its energy to be met by zero carbon or renewable sources by 2030.

The Manifesto also committed to “take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.” It calls for the creation of “publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”

Moved by Sarah Woolley, Organising Regional Secretary for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the resolution refers to the “irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment,” as well as the risks to meeting the climate challenge posed by Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and by the chaotic approach to both Brexit and broader policy by the current Conservative government.

The resolution affirmed that combating climate change and moving towards a low-carbon economy cannot be left to markets, but requires a strong role for the public sector in driving the transition. In supporting the resolution, several speakers referred to the devastation unleashed across the Caribbean over the previous several days by Hurricane Irma—the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history—and across southern Texas only days before that by Hurricane Harvey.

Memo to Jacobin: Ecomodernism is not ecosocialism

By Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, September 25, 2017

This summer, the left-wing magazine Jacobin published a special issue on climate change. The lead article declares that “climate change … has to be at the center of how we mobilize and organize going forward. From now on, every issue is a climate issue.”

That’s excellent news: a magazine that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” ought to be a leader in the fight against capitalism’s deadly assault on the earth’s life-support systems.

Unfortunately, if the special issue is any indication, Jacobin is heading in the wrong direction. Although the term eco-socialism appears from time to time (always with a hyphen, which may indicate some uneasiness with the combination) there is nothing in this issue resembling an ecosocialist analysis or program. There’s not a word about stopping coal or tar sands mining, and no mention of shutting down the world’s biggest polluter, the US military. Instead we are offered paeans to technology in articles that advocate nuclear power, geoengineering, new power grids, electric cars and the like.

But despite their technophilia, the authors display little understanding of the technologies they support. Take, for example, the piece by Christian Parenti. He has written elsewhere that the U S government can resolve the climate crisis without system change by supporting clean technologies, so “realistic climate politics are reformist politics.” This article says much the same, that “state action and the public sector” can solve climate change by implementing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). He tells us that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is “fairly simple,” because it has been done in submarines for years, and because Icelandic scientists recently developed a safe method of injecting CO2 into underground basalt, where it becomes a limestone-like solid within two years.

That sounds impressive, but is it credible?

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