An Open Letter from Environmental & Climate Justice Organizations on May Day

By Climate Workers and Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project - Originally posted on Climate Workers, April 28, 2017

An Open Letter from Environmental & Climate Justice Organizations on May Day

Worker power, immigrant rights, and racial justice must be at the heart of environmental and climate movements

As environmental and climate justice organizations, we declare our support for protests planned for International Workers Day (“May Day”), May 1st, 2017 and for workers who choose to participate by honoring the general strike.

International Workers’ Day was first established to commemorate the deaths of workers fighting for the 8-hour work day in Chicago in 1886. It has long been a day to uplift the struggles, honor the sacrifices, and celebrate the triumphs of working people across the world. The day has taken special significance in the U.S. since May 1st, 2006 when 1.5 million immigrants and their allies took to the streets to protest racist immigration policies.

Today, workers face unprecedented attacks on wages, benefits, workplace safety, and the right to organize free from fear and retaliation. But we know that we are all stronger when workers in our communities have safe, fair, and dignified employment with which they can support their families without fear of deportation or violence.

The effects of our fossil fuel economy fall first and worst on working class communities, communities of color, immigrants, and indigenous peoples who have not only contributed the least to climate disruption, but have the least resources to shoulder the burden of a transition to a new, climate-friendly economy. It is these frontline communities who are also at the forefront of change and whose solutions and leadership we most need.

As organizations working to transition our economy away from profit-seeking resource extraction toward ecological resilience and economic democracy, we know that worker power has to be at the heart of that transition.

We urgently need the wisdom and skills of millions of workers to transform our food, water, waste, transit, and energy systems in order to live within the finite resources of this planet that we call home. But the Trump agenda only promises jobs building more prison cells, border walls, bombs, and oil pipelines. Workers deserve not only fair wages, but work that makes our ecosystems and communities more resilient, not destroys them.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. No significant social change in this country has come without tremendous risk and sacrifice by ordinary people – from workers who walk off the job to water protectors facing down water cannons and attack dogs.

As environmental and climate justice organizations, we support workers who choose to walk off their jobs on May 1st because we know that the fight to protect land, water, air and soil is inseparable from the fight to protect the life and dignity of workers, migrants, and communities of color.

To workers participating in protests on May 1st, we say: “Thank you. You deserve better. And we’ve got your back.”

To that end, we join with unions and worker-led organizations throughout the country in asking that there be NO RETALIATION against any worker – union or non union – who exercises their rights by taking time off from work on May 1. Further, should workers face retaliation, we pledge our strong support for efforts to defend those workers.

Railroad Workers and Our Allies Must Unite in Support of AMTRAK

By Ron Kaminkow - Teamsters for a Democratic Union, April 25, 2017

On March 16th, President Trump released a blueprint budget that proposes to slash funding for the Department of Transportation by $2.4 billion, including funding for all Amtrak “long distance” trains, along with funding for dozens of transit expansion projects nationwide. In recent months, Trump has voiced support for massive investment in the nation’s infra-structure. Yet ironically, his first proposed budget not only fails to deliver, it guts funding for existing infrastructure.

The blueprint budget proposes the elimination of most Amtrak routes across the country. If we are to save the national passenger rail system, railroad workers and their unions must unite with passenger advocacy groups, environmental organizations, and communities across the country. The vast majority of Americans want more - not less - passenger trains. In this fight, just like in others, railroad workers have lots of potential allies.

All railroaders – freight, as well as transit and passenger – should be alarmed and concerned by this proposal. Should Amtrak be defunded and dismembered, it is near certain that nothing would replace it. Privately run passenger trains fail to turn a profit – the reason that the rail carriers abandoned such service in the 1960's. And it is highly unlikely that private vendors – even if there were any – who wished to enter such a market would even be allowed by most – if not all – carriers access to their railroads. Amtrak is barely tolerated by the host railroads as it is, and then only because the act which created the entity in 1970 mandates that it be entitled to operate passenger trains on the nation’s railroads.

Thankfully, the President’s blueprint budget is not the last word on the question. We have the potential to save Amtrak – and transit funding too – over the course of the coming weeks and months, as Congress fashions what will be ultimately be the final budget. We have been down this road before of course, when George Bush was President. We will need to mobilize now like we did then. Because if Amtrak is defunded, thousands of fellow rails will lose their jobs, and as a result, we will all potentially suffer as the income for Railroad Retirement is dramatically diminished.

Ironically, as it turns out, Amtrak is one of the most efficient passenger railroads in the world, covering 94% of its operating costs at the fare box! Adjusted revenue of $2.15 billion was the most ever for a fiscal year (2016). Amtrak set an all-time ridership record despite record low gasoline prices inducing travelers to drive rather than seek public transportation. Demand for trains is out there! Considering that all forms of transportation – including airline, inland waterway, as well as automobile, bus and anything else that goes down the highway – are heavily subsidized by the states and federal government, far more than Amtrak, we are getting a great deal with the limited subsidy that Amtrak receives to keep the trains running. And in some cases – especially in rural areas – the train is the only form of public transportation available!

And trains are the safest form of transportation known to humanity. Railroad transport utilizes less land and space to transport an equivalent number of passengers in any other mode. And trains emit less pollutants than other forms, and can make use of alternative and renewable energy. As the nation’s highways and airports become ever more congested, we should be expanding passenger train options, not reducing them! As fossil fuel shipments decline, and demand for public transportation continues to grow, passenger trains could fill the void and excess track capacity in certain lanes. And in select mid-range corridors of 400 miles or less; e.g. Chicago to St. Louis, Chicago to Twin Cities; Bay Area to L.A., Houston to Dallas; Jacksonville to Miami; L.A. to Las Vegas, there is great potential to develop and expand multi-train departures on faster and more reliable schedules.

But to save Amtrak and expand the use of passenger rail – thereby increasing union rail employment, and ensuring the future of Railroad Retirement – will take a gallant effort. Rail unions cannot do this themselves, passenger advocacy groups cannot, neither can environmental organizations nor municipalities, all of whom are supporters of passenger rail. Therefore, we need a “Grand Alliance” of all of these forces to win the day. While all of us may have a specific agenda and focus, we have far more in common with one another than we have differences, there is far more that unites us than divides us. It is high time that our labor unions reach out, network, and build the necessary alliances with these forces, not just for a one-time lobbying effort for a specific narrow goal, as important as it may be. Rather, we need to build a strategic long-term alliance – despite our differences - with these forces, where we come to see one another as natural coalition partners for the long run.

Governments around the world are investing heavily in passenger rail. They understand that it is the safest, most convenient, environmentally sensitive, and often fastest way to get around. We can do it here too. But it will take the political will power and the formation of a lasting progressive coalition to bring it about. What better time than now to get started!

Jobs for Climate and Justice: A Worker Alternative to the Trump Agenda

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 24, 2017

We are in a critical political moment. The impacts of climatechange are increasingly severe, taking a toll on our health, environment and our economies. In the midst of this growing crisis, the United States now has a President and Congressional leadership that simultaneously attack climateclimate science and aim to comprehensively roll back climate protection measures and the rights of workers to organize.

Jobs for Climate and Justice exposes and challenges the Trump agenda and proposes the kind of economic program we must fight for. It also offers examples of the great organizing efforts around the country – led by working people – that provide the foundation for the a transition to a just and climate-safe economy. It is organized based on 4 elements:

  1. Create good jobs fixing the climate
  2. Protect threatened workers and communities
  3. Remedy inequality and injustice
  4. Lay the basis for a New Economy

The full working paper can be found [Here]

Which Way for Science?

By Editorial Team - Science for the People, April 18, 2017

On April 22, 2017, the March for Science will pull several thousands of people into the streets to stand up for science and resist funding cuts proposed by the current US administration. Our organization, Science for the People, sees this development as a mostly positive step in the right direction. The scale of the political and economic crises facing people across the world is enormous and will require mass movements to resist and organize for change. However, we believe there is a need to advance radical solutions to face these crises. As such we have been interested in how the March for Science has developed since its inception around January 25, 2017. Our members have been taking measured approaches to engaging with the March for Science–nationally and locally–with the overall goal of putting forward a politics capable of both taking seriously the multitude of contradictions that define scientific enterprise and accounting for the people affected by and disaffected with the pursuit, uses, and abuses of science.

For radicals and revolutionaries, unearthing and addressing the burning questions of the latent social movement for science is an urgent and primary task:

  • What’s happening to U.S. Science?
  • Who will March for Science? Who will not?
  • What is Science for the People?

Review – “Trade Unions in the Green Economy”

By x384117 - Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 25, 2017

Trade Unions in the Green Economy: Working for the Environment (2013) is a compilation of essays on the intersection of labor organizing and environmentalism, with contributions from workers, union staffers, activists, and researchers from around the world.  The usefulness of each chapter varies; some focus on the policies of various technocratic bodies, while others look at the actual social and political dynamics within pro-ecology unions, and a few advance anti-capitalist analysis.  Overall, it is a very useful introductory survey on the modern state of eco-unionism, and contains useful information for revolutionary unionists and environmental syndicalists.

The first three chapters look at the way international bodies of unions and labor organizations, such as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), have incorporated environmental concerns into their programs and advocacy efforts.  This is of limited interest to revolutionary unionists, since we primarily concern ourselves with the dynamics of the rank-and-file and on-the-ground organizing, rather than what far-off committees and technocrats are pushing around on paper.  But these chapters are still of some use, insofar as they push back against the idea that unions are generally in opposition to environmental protections and ecological concerns. International and transnational bodies of labor groups have been including environmental provisions since the 1970s, and this itself has connected more recently with the inclusion of environmental concerns in local workplace bargaining strategies since the mid-2000s in the US, UK, Canada, and Spain (among other countries).  It is also useful to know what resources these international bodies could offer to more radical local efforts; for example, the ILO has a research wing dedicated to the labor market in clean energy sectors, which could potentially be leveraged by revolutionary unionists in efforts to build up workers cooperatives. 

Subsequent chapters were much more interesting, as they looked more at campaigns and ideas more rooted in local realities, and thus more dependent on grassroots initiative and militancy.  A chapter on eco-unionism in Spain discussed efforts to redefine the subject of the worker beyond being merely an appendage of the workplace, and as somebody who is also part of the larger environment that is degraded by the externalities of capitalism; this redefinition lays the groundwork for pushing unions to advocate for revolutionizing society away from carbon-based energy systems and privatized modes of transportation, and toward an economy of green energy, public transportation, and closed-loop production cycles.  Similar types of analysis are discussed in chapters on trade unions in Australia, many of whom have adopted the Just Transition framework as a way to reconcile the contradictions of extractive industries such as mining.

Some of the most compelling chapters were on struggles where worker self-interest and ecological protection wasn’t just a matter of theoretical convergence, but of obvious and immediate importance.  One chapter discussed the Rural Workers Trade Union (STTR), an organization of workers in rural northern Brazil, in the Amazon Rainforest.  The region’s economy is a site of deep contradiction, where dependence on the land for food and water clashes with the need to extract resources to sell to regional and global markets for additional income.  The STTR helped coordinate communities in the area on options for developing sustainable industries (as opposed to the common and destructive industry of logging), and also served as the organ of local, democratic, and sustainable governance of the natural resources.  Another chapter discussed how occupational health standards became increasingly important to unions in the US who worked with dangerous and toxic materials, in industries involving energy and chemical production.  Decreasing pollution and exposure to toxins was of immediate concern to workers, as critical issues of workplace safety and working conditions.  Addressing issues of occupational health and workplace safety was pushed hard by unions like the Oil, Atomic, and Chemical Workers (OACW) of the ‘70s and ‘80s, who eventually merged into the United Steelworkers (USW). 

Demands for a safe and healthy workplace can sound relatively moderate, but in some industries they could have an explosive and revolutionary impact.  This is the argument made in an excellent chapter on the status of food workers across the world, a segment of the working class which is often marginalized in both union and environmental discourse.  The global industrial agriculture system is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions, and this is deeply connected with the low status and power of farmworkers, who are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals and brutally long working hours.  If farmworkers—who number roughly 1 billion worldwide—organized and demanded proper wages, reasonable hours, and safe and healthy working conditions, this would lead to revolutionizing agriculture, and an inevitable move away from petrochemical-intensive techniques toward sustainable alternatives like agro-ecology.  This point about organizing is important; in a brief critique of the Just Transition framework, the author argues that the use of the framework relies too much on the assumption that socio-economic restructuring and technological change comes about from rational discourse and good-faith debate, instead of recognizing that rights are fought for, not granted.  Thus a Just Transition requires workers to organize and actively fight and implement the framework, instead of simply asking the wealthy and powerful to do so for them. 

Worker power is the topic of another compelling chapter, written by a Swedish autoworker, on the subject of transforming the auto industry for the green economy of the future.  The author argues that workers need to seize the initiative and not only advocate for a complete reconfiguration of the industry toward products like public transit and green energy systems, but to also build up systems of worker self-management and actively participate in the planning and development of new production systems that can leverage their own skills and knowledge.  The example of the Lucas Plan, an attempt by aerospace workers in the UK to reconfigure a weapons plant in the 1970s, is given as a key model for how workers today can think about a worker-driven initiative toward seizing and restructuring their own workplaces, and the wider economy.

Indeed, if there is one takeaway from Trade Unions in the Green Economy, it is that worker self-organization and power are the central pillar of effective environmental unionism.  Transforming production via environmental reforms on capitalist lines will always result in a combination of 1) the displacement and destruction of working-class communities (and a concurrent shift toward reactionary politics in the absence of left-wing alternatives, as we are currently seeing in the Western world), and 2) the offshoring of dirty production to the Global South, which means that at the global level, we’re not necessarily reducing the net rates of pollution.  Furthermore, we must also recognize the limits of traditional liberal strategies for social change, which revolve around lobbying elites through the alleged power of ideas and rational discourse, and a focus on an abstract space of “public opinion”.  What we need instead is a strategy that brings politics into everyday life, where our neighborhoods and workplaces are sites of struggle for livable wages and healthy environments.    

The only way forward is to tie together unionism and environmentalism in a substantive manner, and build a strategy where we are the primary actors in transforming the economy—not politicians, technocrats, or capitalists. 

Why Environmentalists Must Be Antifascists

By Skyler Simmons - Earth First! Journal, April 21, 2017

In this age of Trump, with its’ rising white nationalism and escalating acts of terror against people of color, there can be no ambiguity when it comes to resisting white supremacists in particular and the far Right in general. And the environmental movement is no exception.

Unfortunately environmentalists have long flirted with racist and even outright fascist ideas, from kicking out immigrants to totalitarian population control. It’s time for the environmental movement to come out as an unequivocally antiracist and antifascist movement. We must show that we are ready to defend human dignity and equality with as much commitment as we defend the Earth.

While many of us within the environmental movement have been taking collective liberation seriously for years, from chasing the Klan out of our communities to answering the calls from communities of color to embrace environmental justice, our movement as a whole has done too little to challenge the racist tendencies both within environmentalist circles as well as society at large. It is time we take seriously the threat posed by racism and the Far right, and firmly position antifascist organizing side by side with our efforts to defend Mother Earth.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…

By Ali Tamlit - Red Pepper, April 23, 2017

To begin this story, cast your mind back a few months…

It’s May 2016. My facebook feed (the ultimate source of truth in our post-truth world) seems to be schizophrenic, or at least representing two entirely different worlds.

One world is the ‘green’ activists, who are in the middle of two weeks of global actions against fossil fuels. The spectacular actions in the US, Australia, the UK and most notably Ende Galende in Germany, have led some of my comrades to claim: “WE ARE WINNING!”

The other world is that of Monique Tilman, the young Black girl assaulted by an off duty police officer as she rode her bike in a car park. It is the world of police brutality, the world of indigenous people being dispossessed of their lands for tourism or ‘conservation’.

Surely, the ‘we’ that is winning can’t claim to include these people?

The green movement, under NGO leadership, seems to be content with shallow demands of CO2 reduction. Whilst the inextricable links between capitalism, ecological destruction, colonialism, white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy lie just below the surface, yet no one, within the nonprofit-industrial complex at least, seems to want to join the dots.

Capitalism’s renewable energy roadblock

By James Plested - Red Flag, April 7, 2017

Who can forget the image? George W. Bush’s stupid, blank face staring out across the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln under a giant banner emblazoned with the words “mission accomplished”.

The date was 1 May 2003 – a little over a month after the US launched its invasion of Iraq – and Bush was there to declare an end to major combat operations. As it turned out, this was somewhat premature.

Today, the environment movement seems to be having a “mission accomplished” moment of its own. With the price of renewables such as solar in free fall and new battery technology coming on line, many environmentalists are sounding the death knell of fossil fuels.

A recent article by Australia Institute strategist Dan Cass in Meanjin, “The sun rises: the democratisation of solar energy might change everything” – makes the case. The cost of solar power has decreased to the point where it’s now as cheap as, or cheaper than, coal or gas. “As late as 2007”, he writes, “Australia had only about 8,000 solar systems in total. As of 1 June 2016, there were more than 1,548,345”.

Globally, it’s a similar story. According to a Frankfurt School of Finance and Management report, in 2015, for the first time, renewables made up the majority of newly built electricity generation capacity. Investment in renewable energy, at US$265.8 billion, was more than double the US$130 billion invested in fossil fuel power generation.

Cass declares that “renewables have won the energy wars”. Crucially, he argues, this isn’t happening because of government intervention, but is in line with “capitalism as usual”:

“Consumers are rushing to a new technology that saves them money. Capital is flowing to the next big thing. Conservative critics of clean energy can’t quite admit it yet, but the rise of solar and the collapse of the old-energy utilities is ‘creative destruction’. It is the Kodak moment for big energy.”

According to this logic, we needn’t worry too much about continuing with environmental campaigning. Naomi Klein was wrong. It’s not, as she had it, “capitalism vs. the climate”, but rather capitalism for the climate. Put simply, technological developments mean that, while it may not yet be apparent, fossil fuels are dead in the ground.

All this is very comforting for those of us who have been alarmed by the headlong rush of global capitalism toward climate catastrophe. But just as with George W. Bush’s arrogant imperial overreach, this kind of triumphalism is unlikely to end well.

Review: The Anarchist Roots of Geography

From Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism - Originally posted at Marx and Philsophy*, March 28, 2017

In The Anarchist Roots of Geography, a “proverbial call to nonviolent arms,” Simon Springer discusses some of the past, present, and future relationships between anarchism and geography. He mobilizes the thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Elisée Reclus, and Lev Tolstoy to denounce global capitalism and oppression—declaring, with Kropotkin, that anarchism is “what geography ought to be”—while also affirming the more contemporary approaches of Saul Newman and Todd May, who have advanced the idea of “post-structuralist anarchism” in opposition to classical approaches through a turn to thinkers like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, among others. Springer therefore presents his own perspective as amounting variably to “anarchism without adjectives” or “post-anarchism,” neither of which is the same. The former refers to the synthesist approach favored by Voline and others in opposition to the anarcho-communist Platformism advanced by Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov, and other exiled militants following the defeat of the Russian Revolution. Post-anarchism, a more recent development, integrates the nihilism, irrationalism, and defeatism of postmodern analyses in expressing opposition to social revolution and universalism as “totalizing narratives.” In this way, while The Anarchist Roots of Geography provides many compelling insights, it itself presents a synthesis of a number of anarchist or anarchistic approaches that cannot so readily be melded together.

Springer’s main project in this volume is to bring geography back to its radical anarchist roots, thus issuing a course correction of sorts beyond those set by the hegemonic presence of Marxists within academic geography departments starting in the late 1960s. The author presents the works of Kropotkin and Reclus as luminous alternatives to the ethnocentrism and state-centricity that has plagued the discipline since its origins. Springer wishes to wield anarchism, defined as the practice of mutual aid with the concern for universal geography in mind, to undermine statism, capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, imperialism, and speciesism (or anthroparchy). For him, anarchism is the “only meaningful form of postcolonialism” (38), as the State-form effectively continues colonization even after formal independence, and—following Reclus—it must centrally express concern for the integrity of the planetary system by means of nature conservation, vegetarianism, and opposition to animal cruelty. Springer here traces the philosophical arc linking Reclus with social ecology and the animal-rights and animal-liberation movements. The author holds that direct action, cooperation, and prefigurative politics can allow humanity to affiliate by free federation, reestablish equality among humans, rebuild the commons, and overturn the domination of nature. Taking after Proudhon (1840), who analyzed property as originating in the Roman concept of sovereignty, or patriarchal despotism, Springer defines property as violence and calls for insurrection—but not revolution—against oppression. Echoing Reclus, he emphasizes the place of beauty in the struggle, citing Albert Einstein’s view that “[o]ur task” must be to “wide[n] our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (137), and he declares the importance of unity for anarchy, in parallel to the teachings of Taoism, Buddhism, and Baruch de Spinoza.

Plane Stupid wants police spies out of our lives!

By staff - Plane Stupid, April 4, 2017

Crowdjustice appeal launched by social justice campaigner/ Plane Stupid member Tilly Gifford

https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/undercover-policing-scotland/

UNDERCOVER POLITICAL POLICING & SCOTLAND

The Home Office has failed to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry into Scotland and the Scottish Government has failed to order its own public inquiry into #spycops. I am taking them to Court to make sure an Inquiry is held into Undercover Political Policing in Scotland. 

On 16th July 2015 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a public inquiry into undercover policing. This announcement followed revelations that police officers involved in spying on political campaigners had used the names of dead children to create their new identities. They had long term, intimate relationships with women, fathered children, and in some cases acted as agent provocateurs.

We know that these activities were also carried out in Scotland.

For example,  during the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005 the Metropolitan Police sent undercover police officers across the border.  
In addition, English undercover officers also had intimate relations with a number of women they targeted in Scotland, a repeated human rights violation made by the Metropolitan Police Service that they have publicly apologised for.
[1]
 
Extending the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland

Despite dozens of activists having been verified as being spied upon in Scotland,[2] the public inquiry into these violations has been limited only to England and to Wales.[3] 

The Home Office failed to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry into Scotland. The Scottish Government also failed to order its own public inquiry into these issues. As a result, I am taking them to Court to make sure an Inquiry is held.

Through the Pitchford inquiry, communities in Wales and England who have suffered extreme abuses of their Right to Private Life, have the chance to have light shed on such violations carried out by the State. As it stands now, people in Scotland have no such recourse to truth or accountability.

This court case is not just to highlight one person who was spied on, but to highlight the case of hundreds of people who deserve a public inquiry into this abuse of police power in Scotland also. We seek truth and justice.

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