Council Nurses Urge San Francisco To Divest from DAPL

By staff - California Nurses Association, March 15, 2017

Nurses from the San Francisco (SF) Metro Council attended an SF Board of Supervisors meeting to urge the city to divest from any banks and financial institutions who have investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. The SF Metro Council nurses joined other activists present from the SF NoDAPL Coalition.

After 5 1/2 hours of other agenda items and public comment, The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the resolution to direct the treasurer/tax collector to update the social responsibility investment matrix to include a screen for all DAPL related investments.  This is a significant victory for our ongoing fight to get San Francisco to fully divest from DAPL and pull out their $10 billion from Bank of America.

Kaiser SF RN, Julilynn Carter spoke during public comment about her role as a nurse and how nurses care about public health and the impact climate change has had on public welfare. She also spoke about our collective need to recognize indigenous rights.

From the Ashes of Standing Rock, a Beautiful Resistance is Born

By staff - Earth First! Journal, March 15, 2017

If you’re like me, you are probably feeling a deep sorrow in your heart over the news that oil will soon flow through that black snake of death, the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite the largest gathering of tribes in over 100 years, despite the prayers and militant resistance, despite hundreds of water protectors facing trumped up felony charges, despite the occupations, blockades, lockdowns and sabotage; DAPL has prevailed. It is true, we lost the battle of Standing Rock, but there are signs that we are winning the war on fossil fuel infrastructure.

In the past year, as the resistance at Standing Rock grew from a trickle to a flood, at least seven new oil and gas pipelines have been defeated. These include: Pinion Pipeline – NM; Sandpiper Pipeline – MN; Enbridge Line 5 – WI, MI*; Northern Gateway Pipeline – Canada; Northeast Energy Direct – New England; Palmetto Pipeline – GA, SC; Constitution Pipeline – PA, NY. Many of these pipelines were defeated when, seeing the massive resistance at Standing Rock, companies simply withdrew their applications citing “market forces”. What is left unsaid in the corporate press releases is that our resistance to new energy infrastructure is now a major market force.

In addition to these victories, the past couple years have seen communities up and down the west coast defeat seven out of eight proposed coal export terminals and four proposed oil export terminals aimed at shipping Bakken crude from North Dakota to international markets.

It is important to understand that the fossil fuel industry needs these new infrastructure projects in order to expand. Without them they cannot. While it should have been clear under the Obama administration that the US government was never going to commit to any meaningful greenhouse gas reductions (the US became the #1 producer of oil and gas in the world on Obama’s watch), nobody is under any illusion of the government reigning in emissions under the Trump regime. It is plain to see that our only hope in defeating the fossil fuel industry will not be through government action, but concerted direct action campaigns against these fossil fuel projects.

Trump's Budget Severely Hurts Working Families, Communities and the Environment

By Sharon Singh - Common Dreams, March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON - In response to the Trump administration's budget release, Paul Getsos, National Coordinator of the Peoples Climate Movement issued the following quote:

"With this budget, the Trump administration once again proves that despite his campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump is fighting for corporations and the one percent and not for working people.

"Massive cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency will make it easier for corporations to pollute our lakes and rivers that we rely on for clean water and recreation. Cuts to economic development programs in urban and rural areas will hurt low-wage workers, especially struggling communities across the country.

"Coming off the heels of the Republican healthcare proposal, it is obvious leaders in Washington D.C. are working to re-make our country to one that benefits the very rich and moves away from supporting working and struggling families, ensuring our environment is clean enough for our children and creating economic opportunities for all Americans.

Why we must fight for a safe climate

By Zebedee Parkes - Green Left Weekly, February 17, 2017

My generation has never experienced a below average temperature. The last time the global temperature was below average was in February 1985.

The recent heatwaves across Australia ushered in a new record-breaking summer: every year for the past decade has been hotter than the last.

Meanwhile our political leaders — privileged white men in suits — brought coal into parliament and made jokes while they and their corporate mates continue to burn our collective future.

We are already getting a taste of what our future holds if we do not take urgent action.

Extreme bushfires have burnt down entire towns across Australia in the past couple of years. Pacific islands are already becoming uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. Climate change-induced droughts in Syria destroyed its agriculture and helped create the conditions that led to the civil war. Floods in Pakistan in 2011 affected 5.4 million people, destroying crops and leaving millions displaced, forced to live in makeshift shelters without access to safe drinking water. The Himalayan glaciers are already melting, potentially leaving 2 billion people across Asia without sufficient drinking water.

The consequences of climate change will only get worse if we do not make serious changes rapidly. Already the Artic Sea ice is melting, which could mean sea level rises of 3–5 metres, making many coastal cities uninhabitable.

This ecological crisis is the result of human activity. Because of a constant drive for profits, corporations are felling the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate to create cattle pastures for beef production. The Amazon forest is one of the most crucial in the world in terms of soaking up carbon dioxide.

When we desperately need to reduce emissions, corporations, often backed and funded by governments, continue to build major fossil fuel projects, such as the Adani coalmine, poison our water and destroy farmland with gas fracking projects and pursue unsustainable projects that are destroying crucial ecosystems, such as the Beeliar Wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef.

No matter how urgent the need for action on climate change, corporations and their governments refuse to change. 

Solar power is now cheaper in some parts of the world than fossil fuels. In Australia, scientific studies show we have the capacity to have 100% renewables in 10 years. Yet the government continues to give billions a year in subsidies to fossil fuel corporations — money that could be going to renewable energy.

Since the international climate talks in Paris in December 2015, when the world cried out for serious climate action, Australia’s big four banks have poured $5.6 billion into fossil fuels. Governments and the fossil fuel industry are not going to change their destructive practices unless we force them to.

To do this and give ourselves a chance of a future we need to change our economic system. Right now eight men own more wealth — and all the privileges and power that go with it — than the poorest 50% of the Earth’s population.

For serious climate action to be a reality we need a society where the majority of people — workers, farmers, students, the poor, First Nations people and refugees, the victims of climate change — are making decisions in the interests of our collective future.  

To achieve this will take a gigantic struggle. But it also presents an opportunity to change the world. As Naomi Klein, author of Capitalism vs the Climate said: “I think climate change can be the catalyst we need … In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.”

If we address climate change, we can begin to construct the kind of world we want to live in.

No plan for the Valley; No plan for the workers; No plan for the climate

By IWW Melbourne - Australia IWW, March 15, 2017

As the closure of the Hazelwood power plant looms closer, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government has no transition plan for the LaTrobe Valley. It's imperative that the workers in the valley develop a program of their own to transition away from coal.

The behemoth is shutting down. Completed in 1971, Hazelwood - the Soviet-era beast of a power plant that produces up to a quarter of the state's energy - is scheduled to shut in the next few weeks.

Following the privatisation of the energy industry and years of official neglect, this is just "Another kick in the guts for the Latrobe Valley," as the CFMEU's mining and energy president puts it. The Andrews State Government has, at the last minute, shown some interest in the almost 1000 workers set to lose employment, offering grants and funding amounting to $226 million. The federal government is still scrambling to respond. 

The remaining three plants in the valley remain in a precarious position. Brown coal is plentiful in the valley, but so dirty and so low in value that there's virtually no export market for the product. It's burnt there or it's not burnt at all. But the plants haven't been updated for years, and even basic maintenance is lax, allegedly contributing to the horrific fires that burnt through the Valley two years ago. In the face of climate change, coal - and brown coal especially - is rapidly becoming a "stranded investment" that can't turn a profit and which no one will buy.

This is a good thing for the planet's climate and - in the long run - for our communities. It's also been predicted for years. So why isn't there a transition plan for the LaTrobe Valley?

Successive governments have been in denial about the realities of a shifting energy market, pinning hopes on pipedreams like clean coal and carbon sequestration.

Investment that could have been directed at rebuilding grid infrastructure to better suit renewables has instead been sunk into the pockets of multinational companies without ties to the local communities, and who answer to no one but their shareholders. Even the comparitively progressive Andrews government has, until very recently, shown no interest in the Valley - but their response has been a piecemeal kneejerk reaction to pressure bought to bear by workers. There remains no plan for the Valley.

There is no escaping the realities of climate change. Coal is going out of business - and not before time! Nevertheless, unless a thoughtfully planned and executed transition to a coal-free economy is rapidly developed, the region which has underpinned Victoria's economic development throughout the 20th and 21st centuries will once again be burnt. This plan could take many forms, but the decision must be made by those wo work and live in the Valley. Groups like voices of the valley and the earthworker cooperative are the only hope for a democratic, truly just transition out of coal for the LaTrobe Valley. Workers can't rely on the government - state or federal - to do the job for them.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #144

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 17, 2017

News of interest to green unionists:

Alabama's largest solar farm completed - By Bruce Lieberman, Yale Climate Connections, March 9, 2017 - During construction, it employed over 350 workers, and most of those were from the local area.

An open letter to America's coal miners, and to America - By Mark Sumner, Daily Kos, March 8, 2017 - I worked in coal mining for 32 years. I won’t go so far as to call myself a miner, because only a fraction of that was spent actually loading explosives in a surface mine, or working construction underground. Most of my time I was that other thing, a “company man.”

Atenco, Mexico: Campesinos opposed to the New Airport Violently Attacked - By anonymous, It's Going Down, March 10, 2017 - A group of between 30 and 40 people violently attacked members of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (FPDT) and others of the state of Mexico that are opposing the construction of the new international airport of Mexico City. This violent group was armed and shot on various occasions at campesinos that were protesting with a road blockade in Tocuila.

Chicago Teachers Union hosts International Women’s Day Protest - By Mark Ugolini, Socialist Action, March 12, 2017 - Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308 leader Deborah Cosey-Lane addressed the plight of Chicago transit workers who have been without a contract for over 14 months. “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired!” she said, after describing working conditions of woman drivers, who are forced to endure unsafe and demeaning rules, working long hours, and being denied bathroom facilities and breaks.

‘Close To A Miracle’ More People Weren’t Hurt In Newburgh Train Derailment - By staff, CBS New York, March 8, 2017 - “During that derailment, the freight cars and the tankers, they struck two pieces of CSX maintenance equipment that were on an adjacent track,” Mazzone said, adding that two employees who were operating the equipment were treated for injuries.

Coal employment prospects bleak and bleaker - By Bruce Lieberman, Yale Climate Connections, March 8, 2017 - Coal, despite what President Trump promises, will continue to be in decline — and it’s not because the federal government is regulating it out of existence.

The Crisis in the ATU: Labour Shoots Itself in the Foot - By Sam Gindin and Herman Rosenfeld, The Bullet, March 14, 2017 - A sign of the tragic disarray of the Canadian labour movement is the extent to which its misadventures keep piling up. As the turmoil within the union representing the Ontario government's unionized employees (Ontario Public Service Employees Union – OPSEU) hits the press, the chaos continues in Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The 10,500 members in that local – over a third of the ATU's Canadian membership – operate and maintain Toronto's transit system, North America's third largest public transit system, behind only New York and Mexico City. As with OPSEU, the acrimonious story is not about a tough strike or a response to an anti-union government. Rather, at a time when the union should be leading the charge to address popular frustrations with the failures in the city's transit system, the local is preoccupied with a messy internal battle.

Even if Symbolic, Chicago Fossil Fuel Divestment Could Send "Powerful Signal" - By Kari Lydersen, Truthout, March 15, 2017 - "There's a good argument to save the pension funds and pensioners when the carbon bubble bursts," said Coble. "It's like musical chairs, you don't want to be left holding these bonds when the music ends."

Expanded wind tower production in Portland shows Vic Renewable Energy Target already creating jobs - By Pat Simons, Yes2Renewables, March 10, 2017 - Friends of the Earth say expanded wind turbine tower production at Keppel Prince in Portland — Australia’s leading wind turbine tower maker – demonstrates that the Andrews government’s commitment to ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets is already creating jobs in regional communities.

A fading future for the tar sands - By Adam Scott, Oil Change International, March 10, 2017 - Oil majors are dumping Canada’s tar sands assets and investors are walking away from new projects.

5 Remarkable Moments from Bernie Sanders' Town Hall in the Heart of Coal Country - By Alexandra Rosenmann, Alternet, March 14, 2017 - Sanders wants to make sure America's coal country "heroes" get the pensions they deserve, an issue highlighted in a Van Jones "Messy Truth" segment last week.

FTAs and Agriculture: New Edition of Nyeleni Newsletter is out! - By staff, La Via Campesina, March 15, 2017 - FTAs aren’t just about ‘trade’. They’re comprehensive agreements to lock in free market capitalism, strengthen the power of global corporations, finance, and powerful governments, and advance their geopolitical objectives. There are direct links between FTAs, climate change, ecological devastation, and violations of Indigenous Peoples’, workers’ and farmers’ rights.

Freeport’s Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru hit by strike - By Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.Com, March 10, 2017 - Workers at Freeport-McMoRan's (NYSE:FCX) Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru began Friday an indefinite strike over wages, adding pressures to a stressed global copper market already affected by stoppages at two of the world’s biggest copper operations.

Freight Train Derails Along Newburgh Waterfront - By Leonard Sparks, Times Herald-Record, March 9, 2017 - A CSX train carrying hazardous materials derailed Tuesday after striking a forklift being driven across the tracks by a steel company employee, leaving an engine resting across Water Street, injuring two and alarming local officials who long feared a derailment.The 77-car train derailed about 3:15 p.m. as an employee for Steelways Inc. drove the lift across Water Street, which separates the company’s main waterfront site from a property where massive steel tubes for the Delaware Aqueduct bypass tunnel project are being stored.

'Healthcare is a Right': Bernie Sanders Finds Common Ground in Trump Country - By Nika Knight, Common Dreams, March 14, 2017 - Sanders also advocated for retired miners—many of whom suffer from black lung disease and other ailments from a lifetime of mining coal—to receive the pensions and healthcare benefits currently tied up in Congress. He specifically called out Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who represents voters in coal country, for advocating for coal company executives over their workers. One audience member—another retired miner—agreed with Sanders' assessment, telling the senator that "I think it's ironic that a senator from the Northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell."

How we can turn railroads into a climate solution

By Patrick Mazza - Grist, March 7, 2017

Railroads have become a nexus of controversy in recent years due to their role in transporting climate-twisting fossil fuels. But they could become a locomotive driving the growth of clean energy. That is the aim of a new proposal to electrify railroads, run them on renewable energy, and use rail corridors as electricity superhighways to carry power from remote solar and wind installations to population centers.

The proposal, called Solutionary Rail, has been developed by a team of rail experts, economists, and public interest advocates assembled by the Washington state–based Backbone Campaign. Bill McKibben writes in the foreword to the recently released Solutionary Rail book that he has “been following the debate over energy, transportation, and climate change since the late 1980s … So it’s hard to come up with an idea I haven’t come across before. Rail electrification, as proposed in this remarkable book, is that rarest of things: a genuinely new idea, and one that makes immediate gut sense.”

An activist movement, sometimes known as the “thin green line,” has grown up in the Northwest in recent years to resist coal and oil shipments through the region, between the rich fossil resources east of the Rockies and the growing markets of Asia. The Backbone Campaign, a group that develops innovative strategies and tactics to build grassroots democratic movements, has been enmeshed in this movement.

The movement has been successful in stopping many fossil fuel export facilities from being built along the Pacific Coast. But it’s largely been a defensive campaign rather than a proactive one. In 2013, a rail labor leader challenged Backbone Executive Director Bill Moyer to green a labor concept for modernizing rail lines in the northern states, a “yes” to accompany the “no.” Moyer took up the challenge, and the result is Solutionary Rail.

Rail electrification is common in other parts of the world. Around the globe, electricity serves nearly a quarter of railroad track miles and supplies over one-third of the energy that powers trains. But in the U.S., under 1 percent of tracks are electrified. That’s due to high upfront capitalization costs, an obstacle that publicly owned railroads in other nations do not face. Railroads in other countries also do not have to pay property taxes on electrification infrastructure, which U.S. railroads do.

Few industries are as well positioned as railroads to lead a transition to a clean economy. Unlike other heavy, long-haul transportation vehicles such as ships, planes, and semitrucks, trains can be easily electrified, and electricity is increasingly coming from clean sources such as sun and wind. Rail is already the most efficient form of ground transportation, and it has an unparalleled capacity to provide clean freight and passenger mobility.

Under the Solutionary Rail plan, electrification would be accomplished in conjunction with track modernization. Together, these would allow express freight service running above 80 miles per hour and high-speed passenger service up to 125 mph. Very high-speed passenger rail operates above 180 mph in Europe and Asia, and is being developed in California and the U.S. Northeast, but it generally requires dedicated tracks. Solutionary Rail’s more modest increase in speed is the economically practical option for most U.S. lines. Existing tracks can be upgraded, and freight and passenger trains can be accommodated on the same lines.

The proposal also includes running power transmission lines through the rail corridors. It’s currently difficult to get the rights-of-way needed to build new long-distance, high-capacity transmission lines, which means that some renewable energy, like wind power produced in the Great Plains, is stranded and can’t get to where it’s needed. But rail corridors are already being put to industrial use, so they could easily accommodate new power infrastructure, connecting renewable-energy-rich rural areas to big metropolitan areas.

To pay for all this, the Solutionary Rail team developed the concept of Steel Interstate Development Authorities, public agencies that would be able to raise low-cost capital from financial markets and take advantage of federal transportation dollars. SIDAs for different rail corridors would be created by interstate compacts and work in public-private partnerships with railroads. The electrification would remain under public ownership, managed by the SIDA, alleviating the property tax issue. Backbone is initially pushing a SIDA in the Northern Corridor, which has rail lines stretching from Chicago to the Northwest, to demonstrate the feasibility of electrification on lines mostly owned by BNSF, a property of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Rail in the U.S. is not a huge contributor to climate disruption — it’s responsible for only 2 percent of greenhouse gases from the nation’s transportation sector. But it could be a huge part of the climate solution. A cleaner, more robust railroad system could replace substantial amounts of truck traffic, while making intercity passenger service more reliable and competitive with highways and aviation. This could help railroads thrive without being reliant on transporting bulk shipments of fossil fuels. The Solutionary Rail strategy still relies on resistance movements to stop those shipments, but offers the “yes” to strengthen the “no.” That is why the proposal has drawn support from labor leaders: It would help railroad workers make a “just transition” away from fossil fuels.

The huge, public benefits of rail electrification justify a public expenditure. But electrification would also greatly benefit privately owned railroads, and so they must offer public benefits in return. One is labor justice. Solutionary Rail has adopted the justice agenda of Railroad Workers United, a group that unites rail labor across union lines. It includes good working and safety conditions. The Solutionary Rail plan also calls for right-of-way justice for native tribes, renegotiating easements where tribes have historic grievances.

With Solutionary Rail, the oldest form of mass mechanized transportation can create a track to 21st century clean transportation and become an engine for sustainably and broadly realized prosperity.

Apollo-Earth: A Wake Up Call In Our Race against Time

By Rupert Read and Deepak Rughani - The Ecologist, March 9, 2017

Why a project to find common meaning in our common struggle to prevent climate-catastrophe deserves the name 'Apollo-Earth'

There is a mission brewing and building, a mission that needs all hands that are ready: To bring the 'un-named movement' - the 'for-life' story of our time - to a tipping point.

This needs to happen faster than the rate at which our planet is approaching fatal climatic tipping points (fatal, that is, to us - always remember that it isn't strictly speaking 'the planet' that needs saving, only the animals, including ourselves, who live on it). The climate nemesis we face is now quite predictable: it is a 'white' swan event: But it could still be forestalled, with determination. If that forestalling is to be successfully accomplished, if together we are to choose to save ourselves and our descendants, then we need to see a radical shift in humanity's collective response to the rapidly growing threat of breakdown of our environmental life-support systems.

This will only happen if the forces of negativity, idiocy and oppression are outweighed by the force for rebellion, for sanity and for good in the epic struggle which will define our century.

As Their Trials Begins, Climate Protecting "Valve Turners" Say "Shut It Down" Is "Necessity"

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, March 10, 2017

Is there anything people can do about climate change in the Trump era? The new American president has asserted that global warming is a fraud perpetrated by the Chinese to steal American jobs; threatened to ignore or even withdraw from the Paris climate agreement; and pledged unlimited burning of fossil fuels. Whatever the details, Trump’s agenda will escalate global warming far beyond its already catastrophic trajectory. As we learn that 2016 was the hottest year on record, it sounds like a formula for doom.

On October 11 2016, with the presidential campaign still raging, five climate protectors traveled to five secluded locations in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Washington state and turned the shut-off valves on the five pipelines that carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada into the United States. Their action – dubbed “Shut It Down” – blocked 15% of US crude oil imports for nearly a day. It will not in itself halt global warming. But it exemplifies a rising climate resistance that is challenging our thrust toward doom – and the temptation to succumb to climate despair.

How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World — And Democracy

By Oscar Reyes, Bertie Russell - Common Dreams, March 11, 2017

“We’re living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it.” – Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona.

On 24 May 2015, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú was elected as the minority government of the city of Barcelona. Along with a number of other cities across Spain, this election was the result of a wave of progressive municipal politics across the country, offering an alternative to neoliberalism and corruption.

With Ada Colau — a housing rights activist — catapulted into the position of mayor, and with a wave of citizens with no previous experience of formal politics finding themselves in charge of their city, BComú is an experiment in progressive change that we can’t afford to ignore.

After 20 months in charge of the city, we try to draw some of the main lessons that can help inspire and inform a radical new municipal politics that moves us beyond borders and nations — and towards a post-capitalist world based on dignity, respect, and justice.

Pages