Capital Blight - Green Illusions or Malthusian Miasma?

By Steve Ongerth - April 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A recent item on, published on April 8, 2013, features an interview by Steve Horn of Ozzie Zehner, author of the book Green Illusions: the Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism . Titled, “Power Shift Away from Green Illusions” the interview would have been more appropriately named, “Deep Dive into a Vat of Malthusian Miasma.”

The interviewee, author Ozzie Zehner, argues that the public is being offered a false choice between fossil fuel based civilization and a renewable energy / clean tech based alternative, and that “most environmentalists” have “jumped on board the bandwagon”.

In Zehner’s mind these are not choices at all but, in fact, the same choice, because renewable energy technology production, usage, and maintenance cannot exist without fossil fuels coexisting alongside of it throughout its usage cycle, from manufacturing, to deployment, to maintenance, and so forth.

“There’s no such thing as clean energy, but there’s such a thing as less energy,” he says. “There’s a misconception that once alternative energy technologies are off the ground they can fly on their own. But alternative energy technologies are better understood as a product of fossil fuels,” he continues, also declaring, “Our planet has bounded resources and limited capacity to absorb the impacts of human activities.” Zehner goes on to dismiss electric cars as being no better than conventional fossil fuel vehicle, asserting that electric cars “merely create a different set of side effects (than their fossil fuel counterparts). It’s just that those side effects didn’t come out of a tail pipe, where we are accustomed to looking for them." He finishes up by opining that, “Mainstream environmental groups seem transfixed by technological gadgetry and have succumbed to magical thinking about their pet fetishes.”

These arguments are hardly fresh or groundbreaking. They are, in fact, essentially the same that were made by Richard Heinberg in The Party’s Over: Oil, Water, and the Fate of Industrial Society, in 2003, by William R Catton Jr. in Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, in 1973, and by Paul Erlich in The Population Bomb, in 1968, and Zehner expressly considers Heinberg and Erlich his compatriots (though he doesn’t mention Catton).

The IWW And Earth First!: Part 1 - Establishing Roots

By X344543 - Industrial Worker, May 1988. Dedicated to Franklin Rosemont, Carlos Cortez, and Utah Phillips.

Judi Bari was both an Earth First!er and a Wobbly from 1988 to 1993 and during that time there was a close alliance between the two organizations. Although some assume she brought the two together, the truth is more complex. When Judi Bari joined Earth First! and the IWW in the summer of 1988, Earth First!ers and Wobblies were already discussing the idea of forging an alliance. There are many reasons for this, but the overarching explanation is that Earth First! and the IWW are really different manifestations of thesame revolutionary impulse.

The IWW, founded in Chicago in 1905 by radical working class anti-capitalists from veterans of various movements and struggles, united around the idea of forming One Big Union of the working class. They offered a revolutionary alternative to the classcollaborationist American Federation of Labor (AFL). The IWW pledged to organize all workers—regardless of ethnicity, gender or skill level—by industry rather than craft. Instead of the conservative AFL motto, “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” the IWW sought to abolish wage slavery altogether. No longer would workers collectively enable their own oppression by crossing each other’s (craft based) picket lines, they said. The IWW would organize the working class together. This was summarized by the slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

The IWW set out to achieve this creatively, becoming known as much for its “right brain” artistic contributions to working-class culture as well as its “left brain” organizing activities.