Landworkers’ Alliance launch new Horticulture Policy Proposals

By staff - Land Workers Alliance, October 30, 2017

To meet the UK demand for fruit and vegetables a massive scaling up of production is required. Currently UK production represents 58% of vegetables consumed and only 11% of fruit. Only 1% of Pillar 1direct agricultural payments are offered to the horticultural sector, despite public health advice to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, and reduce meat, dairy and sugar.

The Landworkers’ Alliance propose that a dramatic increase in the number of small and medium scale horticultural enterprises producing fruit and vegetables for local and regional markets would bring benefits, including:

  • Fresher produce, often bought within hours of harvest, brings greater nutritional benefit and better flavour, encouraging increased consumption.
  • Diverse market gardens provide fulfilling, varied and attractive career/employment opportunities for UK workers, whereas large scale, industrial production often struggles to attract local labour.
  • Spreads production risks over a much larger number of businesses in different geographic areas, insuring against problems of poor business management, spread of pests and diseases, and climatic extremes, compared with dependency on a handful of large businesses.

Author of the “A Matter of Scale” report, Rebecca Laughton says, “Contrary to popular belief, for labour intensive crops such as peas, kale, green beans and salad leaves, small-scale ecological growers often produce higher yields than industrial systems, while generating multiple environmental and social benefits. If every village, town and city was served by a network of these diverse and productive market gardens, which provide attractive opportunities for work, training and connection to the countryside, as well as fresh and tasty produce, the UK population would be healthier and happier”.

Today, the Landworkers’ Alliance outlines their proposals for how this increase in market gardens could be achieved in their new policy document, “A New Deal for Horticulture”. Seven specific measures are outlined, including:

· A coupled support scheme to incentivise domestic production and reward delivery of public goods, until the sector has strengthened sufficiently to meet a high percentage of UK demand.

· A programme to rapidly increase the number of growers, recruitment, training and access to land and start-up capital.

· A “Mixed Farms” scheme, supporting creation of horticultural units on larger farms.

· An orchard planting and maintenance scheme to encourage long term investment in fruit production.

The policy proposals are being launched on the eve of the Food Foundation’s Vegetable Summit, at which a number of leading figures in public health, agricultural policy and retail will be making pledges about measures they will take to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The Landworkers’ Alliance supports this initiative to promote the production and consumption of UK fruit and vegetables, and believes that given an appropriate policy framework, agroecological horticulture could play a significant role in meeting the UK’s need for fresh produce.

Trump’s war on science

By Cliff Connor - Socialist Alternative, November 27, 2017

— Cliff Conner is currently writing a book entitled “The Tragedy of American Science.”

How loathsome is the Trump administration? Let me count the ways. On second thought, let me not—it would take too long. But one important threat it poses to the United States and the world is to the integrity of American science. Earlier this year, on Earth Day, April 22, hundreds of thousands of people responded to that danger by participating in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and 600 other cities and towns across the country. How has American science fared since then?

Many right-wing politicians and public intellectuals are torn between repugnance for Donald Trump’s truculent ignorance and exuberance at the prospect that he can help them accomplish their goal of “dismantling the administrative state.” Trump’s first year in office helped advance their strategy of destroying public faith in “big government” by discrediting it. Not only are the Trump administration’s various agencies and cabinet offices laughably incompetent and ethically compromised; the office of the presidency itself has forfeited all claim to the respect of intelligent citizens.

The offensive against “big government” is driven by billionaire donors who finance right-wing think tanks, political campaigns, and media outlets. Their single-minded goal is to reduce their taxes and roll back governmental regulation of their businesses, especially with regard to environmental and public health protection. Their crusade against federal regulatory powers entails going to battle against empirical reality, rationality, knowledge, and expertise—in short, they have declared war against science.

The deregulation of corporate activities that have compromised the credibility of American science did not begin with Trump. Nor was it exclusively a Republican political project; the Carter, Clinton, and Obama administrations all likewise furthered the deregulation agenda.

It should not be forgotten that many of the environmental rules and regulations Trump’s team has rescinded were only put in place by Obama in the closing days of his eight-year tenure as president. All they accomplished was to provide easy targets for Trump to knock over. The tawdry assemblage of antiscience policymakers appointed by Trump, however, amounts to a reductio ad absurdum of the whole process.

In Face of Climate Crisis, Environment and Trade Union Movements Finding Common Cause

By Susann Scherbarth - Common Dreams, November 28, 2017

World climate negotiations concluded in Bonn, Germany recently after two painstaking weeks. Whilst many parties to the UN convention and other commentators choose to highlight any small steps forward in the talks, no matter how inadequate, Friends of the Earth opts to speak truth to power.

Asia Pacific is the region where the most people are already feeling the impacts of changes in the climate and Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth Malaysia spoke out in Bonn, saying “Every COP feels like a broken record.  We are sick and tired of talkshops. Act!”

2017 has been a devastating year and is set to be one of the hottest three years on record. Around the globe people are paying with their lives and livelihoods for climate-exacerbated extreme weather events in the form of hurricanes, wildfires and heatwaves. Terrifyingly, new data shows that global emissions will rise again this year after several years of stagnation—world emissions have not even peaked yet when we need them to be falling fast. The disconnect  between the scale of government action and the urgency of the climate crisis is as vast as ever.

And yet, the transition of world economies away from fossil fuels will happen. The energy transformation is as inevitable as climate change and its devastating impacts are real. The questions are; how fast will it be? who will benefit? and who will lose out?

Analysts believe the transition to clean energy sources is likely to happen faster than anyone expects. Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – not a body prone to invite instability – predicts that the pace of technological change will be underestimated.

But if left to market forces guided by transnational corporations it is very likely to be unfair, slow and painful. We should be ready for the most rapid industrial transformation ever. And we should learn the lessons from history of other industrial shifts. Trade unions are already warning that transitions of industrial systems in the past have brought a lot of suffering for workers. People’s jobs, livelihoods, connections to the land, family bonds and heritage have been lost.

With this in mind, environment and trade union movements have come together to call for a ‘just transition’—a transition that leaves no-one behind. A transition that is fair and secures workers' jobs and livelihoods through the creation of decent opportunities. Done right we can simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and also inequality, employment and democratic crises.

The Spotted Owl or: How the Right Won the Working Class

By staff - Cited, November 17, 2017

Judi Bari’s effort to ally forest workers and environmentalists could have changed the course of climate activism forever. Could her parable help us today? 

Cited teams up with Dissent’s Hot and Bothered podcast and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions to tell the story of tree spiking, a Texas millionaire, and the Northern Spotted Owl.

In this hour we look at the jobs vs. environment problem and explore how forest management might be able to mitigate climate change on a massive scale. with documentary filmmaker Mary Liz Thomson, University of Oregon sociology professor John Bellamy Foster, and independent forester Herb Hammond.

Do electric vehicles create good green jobs? An Amnesty International report on Supply Chains says No

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 27, 2017

November brought  exciting news about electric vehicles:  BYD,  one of China’s leading electric carmakers, announced that it will open an assembly plant in a yet-to-be-announced location in Ontario in 2018, (though according to the Globe and Mail article,   the new plant will only create about 40 jobs to start ).  Also in mid-November, Tesla revealed a concept design for  an  electric truck in an glitzy release by Elon Musk , and the Toronto Transit Commission announced its plan to buy its first electric buses, aiming for an  emissions-free fleet by 2040.    Unnoticed in the enthusiasm for these announcements was a report released by Amnesty International on November 15:    Time to Recharge: Corporate action and inaction to tackle abuses in the cobalt supply chain  which concludes : “ Major electronics and electric vehicle companies are still not doing enough to stop human rights abuses entering their cobalt supply chains, almost two years after an Amnesty International investigation exposed how batteries used in their products could be linked to child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” (That earlier report was This is what we die for   released in January 2016) .

Under the heading “The Darker side of Green Technology”, Time to Recharge states: “Renault and Daimler performed particularly badly, failing to meet even minimal international standards for disclosure and due diligence, leaving major blind spots in their supply chains. BMW did the best among the electric vehicle manufacturers surveyed.”   Tesla was also surveyed and ranked for its human rights and supply chain management; Tesla’s policies are described in its response to Amnesty International here.  And further, Tesla has come in for suggestions of  anti-union attitudes  in “Critics Suggest Link to Union Drive After Tesla Fires 700+ Workers” , in  The Energy Mix (Oct. 23), and in an article in Cleantechnica  .

The Amnesty International report is a result of a survey of 29 companies, including consumer electronics giants Apple, Samsung Electronics, Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft, as well as electric vehicle manufacturers BMW, Renault and Tesla.  Questions in the survey were based on the five-step due diligence framework set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.  Detailed responses from many of the surveyed companies are here. 

On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest

By Peter Linebaugh - CounterPunch, November 20, 2017

A Keynote Address, Delivered in the State Rooms at the House of Commons, 7 November 2017.

Two winds have propelled me here to you, to this House of Commons.

One wind, a hurricane and diabalo, brought flood and fire threatening the destruction of petrochemial civilization, call it capitalism. Homelessness or prison accompany the wind from, Detroit, Michigan, to Houston, Texas, from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean to northern California at the Pacific edge.

A second gentler, softer wind, a zephyr, has renewed my spirit from the Lacandón jungle in Chiapas where the Zapatistas have vowed to protect the forest and reclaim the land, or from the Great Plains of the American continent where pipe lines of oil and gas endanger the pollution of land and the rivers.  Encampments of indigenous people and their allies by prayer and by protest have become, in their words, “water protectors.”

Then, day before yesterday on Guy Fawkes Day, with some merry companio

An old oak tree in Sherwood Forest gave Robin Hood a safe house.  He told Little John that he and his merry companions (here I quote the 14th century Geste of Robin Hood) shall not rob the “husbonde that tylleth with his plough” or the “gode yeman that walketh by grene wode shawe.”ns of the indigenous people of these islands, I visited Sherwood Forest and Laxton parish in Nottinghamshire.

Laxton with its common and open fields, you know, is the oldest surviving system of agriculture based on the commons, similar to the ejido, or commons, of Mexican villages.  One of its commoners, Stuart Rose by name, took us ‘round.  By curious historical coincidence Laxton lent its name to the town of Lexington in Massachusetts where in 1775 the “shot was fired that was heard around the world.”

This was day before yesterday and since then revolutionary thoughts perforce have come to mind as I have journied at last to you here in this House.  Actually, your House provided me, a stranger, with a kind of home, because it was in its public gallery that my mother and father visited regularly in the years between 1947 and 1953 to listen to you.  Through the blinding pea soup fogs and in the pinching system of food rationing they were nourished by crystal clear words, both soft and gentle – that zephyr again – of Aneurin Bevan on behalf of housing and health care for all.  I was old enough to feel their passions and to identify with the protagonist of these words, the common people, because, as I was informed by my upper class school chums, as an American I, too, was “common.”

So, propelled by these winds of disaster and memories of defense I have become one of the scholarly vectors of a planetary discussion of the commons that began before 6 November 1217 when the Charter of the Forest was sealed and has continued ever since.  We do that work again for commons of housing and health care for all as we commemorate the Charter of the Forest, the little companion to the bigger, Magna Carta.

“It will be noticed how the word ‘common’ and its derivatives … appear and re-appear like a theme throughout the centuries,” wrote Edgell Rickword in The Handbook of Freedom, a book found in the kit of the boys going off to war in 1939.  “It was for the once vast common lands that the peasants took up arms; it was as the ‘true commons’ that they spoke of themselves when they assembled, and it was the aspiration of men not corrupted by petty proprietorship ‘that all things should be common.’”

William Blake said that “the whole duty of man is art and all things common.”

Workers’ rights are being abused as they rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

By Casey Quinlan - ThinkProgress, November 27, 2017

Day laborers, many of them undocumented, are reportedly being exploited as they rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, and their health and economic well-being are are stake.

According to a report from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and University of Illinois Chicago that surveyed 360 workers, 26 percent of workers have experienced wage theft in their post-Harvey work and 85 percent did not receive health and safety training. Sixty-one percent of workers did not have the necessary respiratory equipment to protect them from mold and chemicals, 40 percent did not have protective eyewear, and 87 percent were not informed about the risks of working in these unsafe buildings.

Workers have been exposed to mold and contamination on a regular basis, and regardless of whether workers are undocumented, they often aren’t aware of their legal protections, according to the report. To make matters worse, Texas is the only state that lets employers opt out of workers’ compensation for work injuries.

Advocates for different labor groups focusing on undocumented laborers have been speaking out on the issue of exploitation and visiting work sites to survey workers and pass out flyers with information on labor rights. There is tension between these advocates in Houston and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) on how the federal funds for hurricane recovery should be distributed. According to the Guardian, worker groups would prefer the money be distributed through the office of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), since the mayor is seen as a progressive ally. They’re afraid that if the money is instead distributed through the general land office run by George P. Bush, as Abbott wants, immigrant and worker groups won’t receive the aid they need.

The Associated Press interviewed workers hired by individual homeowners, subcontractors working on residential and commercial buildings, and work crews from outside of Texas about the working conditions. Martin Mares, a native of Mexico who came to Houston in 1995, told the AP that the demand for labor attracted people who don’t usually do this kind of work and don’t know how to do it safely. He gave the example of a pregnant woman working without gloves in an apartment building that had flooded.

Jose Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project wrote in the Guardian, “One woman contacted us when she and her crew, after spending more than 90 hours clearing out a Holiday Inn, were turned away without pay.”

Advocates for undocumented workers in Houston are also concerned about Senate Bill 4 (SB4), a Texas law that lets local law enforcement ask people they detain or arrest about their immigration status and hits local government officials with jail time and large financial penalties if they refuse to comply with federal detainer requests. The law is currently being held up in the courts, but that hasn’t completely erased fears among immigrant communities in Texas.

In addition to being exposed to mold and chemicals as well as experiencing wage theft, undocumented workers have already suffered from the devastation of the storm in unique ways due to poverty, lack of insurance, and their undocumented status. There are some 600,000 undocumented immigrants in Houston. After the hurricane, many undocumented people were afraid to use local shelters because of their immigration status or didn’t want to leave homes because they were concerned about protecting property. Although local and federal officials have tried to persuade undocumented people that they are not there to enforce immigration laws, undocumented people are still worried about the risk of seeking help...

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.

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