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Are There Two Different Versions of Environmentalism, One “White,” One “Black”?

By Brentin Mock - Grist, July 31, 2014

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.

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers
The mountains and the endless plain –
All, all the stretch of these great green states –
And make America again!
– Langston Hughes, 1938

I really didn’t want to have to address this. While reading through University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor’s latest report, “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” and thinking about what I would write about it, I had hoped to focus on the solutions. Those solutions — confronting unconscious and subconscious bias and other subtle forms of discrimination — are the parts I had hoped environmentalists would be eager to unpack.

I thought they’d read about the “green ceiling,” where mainstream green NGOs have failed to create a workforce where even two out of 10 of their staffers are people of color, and ask themselves what could they do differently. I thought, naively, that this vast report, complete with reams of data and information on the diversity problem, would actually stir some environmentalists to challenge some of their own assumptions about their black and brown fellow citizens.

I was wrong.

On Bill McKibben’s ‘call to arms’ for the New York Climate Summit

By Anne Petermann - Global Justice Ecology Project, July 17, 2014

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.

The September climate march was called for by Big Green NGOs 350.org and Avaaz, who have thrown copious quantities of cash at it. But many environmental and climate justice organizations and alliances based in the New York/New Jersey region and across the US have demanded a seat at the organizing table to ensure that the voices of front line and impacted communities are heard, despite their small budgets.

The demands of the march: there will be none. That’s right. The march will simply bring together an estimated 200,000 people to march through the streets of New York and then…  There will be no rally, no speakers, no strong political demands.  Just people showing up with the overarching message that the world’s leaders should take action on climate change.

Please.

What kind of climate action should be taken is a question that has long been debated by climate justice activists, organizations, social movements and Indigenous Peoples all over the world for decades.   “Climate action” can include things like geoengineering schemes–manmade manipulations of nature on such a massive scale that the impacts can’t possibly be known, but could definitely be catastrophic.  They can also include actions already taking place, such as the building of vast hydroelectric dams that flood vast expanses of land and displace thousands of Indigenous Peoples or land-based communities. Climate action can also include ongoing grabbing of land for the development of vast plantations of oil palm, GMO soy or non-native trees for so-called bioenergy.

So no, not all “climate action” is created equal.  A lack of clear justice-based and ecologically sound demands in this “historic” march will leave a vacuum.  And no vacuum remains empty for long.  It’s simple physics.  The media will not cover a march with no demands. They will find a message.  And likely, as so often happens, those with the connections and the money will win the messaging game.

World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme 'complicit' in genocidal land grabs - NGOs Plight of Kenya's indigenous Sengwer shows carbon offsets are empowering corporate recolonisation of the South

By Nafeez Achmed - The Guardian, July 3, 2014

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.

Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations.

Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.

The concentration of ownership of the world's farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: "The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing."

Less known factors, however, include 'conservation' and 'carbon offsetting.'

In west Kenya, as the UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) reported, over a thousand homes had been torched by the government's Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to forcibly evict the 15,000 strong Sengwer indigenous people from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills.

Since 2007, successive Kenyan governments have threatened Sengwer communities in the Embobut forest with eviction. A deadline for residents to leave the forest expired in early January, prompting the most recent spate of violence. The pretext for the eviction is that the indigenous Sengwer – labelled wrongly as 'squatters' – are responsible for the accelerating degradation of the forest.

Elsewhere in Kenya's Mount Elgon forest, however, the KFS' track record reveals a more complicated story. In 2010, the indigenous Ogiek were issued a deadline to relocate in the name of forest conservation and reforestation. In February this year, Survival International reported that, like the Sengwer, the Ogiek continued to be violently evicted from their homes in violation of court orders, with reports of government officials and their supporters seizing their land.

While deforestation is undoubtedly linked to the activities of poor communities, the Kenyan government's approach illustrates favouritism toward parochial vested interests. In addition to the indigenous communities, the forests are also inhabited by many thousands of tea-planters, loggers, and squatters.

People's Climate March: An invitation to change everything?

By Brad Hornick - rabble.ca, Jun 24, 2014

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 very large and loud event is about to reshape New York City once again this September and likely propel social change across the continent. A convergence of organizations under the banner of the "People's Climate March," have pledged to make this event in New York City an opportunity for an unprecedented climate mobilization. Offering no less than an "invitation to change everything" and to "take a stand to bend the course of history", hundreds of diverse organizations (green NGOs, academic, peace, religious, labour, civil-rights, etc.) have already lent their names to the initiative.

The target date is September 19, 2014, when United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is organizing Heads of State and Government, along with corporate and civil society leaders to discuss climate change. This is the first global climate meeting since the disastrous UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. The meeting is not officially part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but is a call by Ban Ki-moon to "scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action" and will come one year before countries attempt to conclude another global climate agreement in 2015.

The rationale for Ban Ki-moon is to sidestep the formalized discussions within regular UNFCCC processes and to challenge "those who make the decisions" which for the organizers means a heavy corporate presence. Ki-moon is providing a stage for individual leaders to make individual pledges, and declare their own ambitions (in the midst of hopelessly inadequate official response to massive evidence of impending global ecological catastrophe in the our short-term future). For organizers of a counter climate demonstration, this has all the ingredients of a perfect storm.

To gauge the Peoples' Climate March's potential to "change everything" it is critical to understand the context in which this is all occurring. History produces moments when objective conditions are more propitious, yet never determinative, of revolutionary change. It takes human agency to animate history, but acting in the right moment helps. In terms of objective conditions on the economic front, one need not look any further than the recent and now ubiquitous words of Thomas Piketty who explains that "when accumulated wealth grows to extreme proportions…it becomes especially destabilizing" and that since the 1980s we have had "powerful forces pushing towards divergence… towards extremely high levels of inequality."

Cowardly Climate Report Urges Business as Usual

By Shannon Wilson - Energy Justice Network, June 23, 2014

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.

The National Climate Assessment Report released by the Obama administration in May revealed some harsh truths about the climate chaos our species is facing. However, a studious reading of the report will show that it merely provides cover for business as usual, greenwashes the Democratic Party, and promotes destructive solutions such as turning our remaining natural forests on public lands into bioenergy feed lots for industry.

The Obama Climate Assessment asserts that current worldwide emissions of 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year can be allowed to peak at 44 billion tons by 2045. This is counterintuitive — and many scientists might say it’s outright insane, based on the information that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists reveal in peer-reviewed research from around the world.

The Climate Assessment notes that 50 percent of the C02 released takes up to 100 years to be cycled out of our atmosphere, and the remaining 50 percent can take upwards of 1,000 years. Based on that fact alone, emissions must be reduced from the current 34 billion tons starting today if we expect the biosphere to continue to sustain humans over the next 50 years.

It seems that the Obama administration and the Democratic Party expect endorsements from national environmental organizations for merely admitting that global climate chaos is occurring. However, the report makes it clear the administration and Democratic Party have little or no intention to implement tangible plans to actually reduce emissions.

Green Groups Endorse Empty EPA Carbon Emissions Regulation

By Ken Ward - TruthOut, June 17, 2014

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.

For environmentalists, it turns out, climate truth is not merely inconvenient, it is incomprehensible. How else to explain the fawning response of major green groups to President Obama’s cynical carbon emissions scheme?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed coal plant emissions regulations are a trifecta of terrible: near to useless as emissions policy, effective in distracting attention from the administration’s overarching pro-fossil fuel plan, and a tragic obfuscation of the latest, deadly climate science reports.

The facts are not in dispute. Climate is in free fall, with recent definitive evidence that the first major geophysical system (the West Antarctic ice shelf) has passed its tipping point, guaranteeing 10 feet of sea level rise and providing irrefutable evidence that the entire, fragile system which has permitted civilization to develop is collapsing. The internationally agreed objective of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius is clearly way off base and all climate policy and strategy based on that target, which assumes a timeframe allowing for incremental response, is miscalculated.

In this context, President Obama unveiled an energy policy last month brazenly entitled “All of the Above,” which assumes a global temperature rise of 6 degrees Celsius, calls for an increase in oil and gas extraction and barely addresses climate change.(1) This pathway to doom was followed up last week with the EPA’s proposed emissions regulations for coal plants, which one business commentator described as a “big favor” to the power industry. The draft rules call for 30 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels, half of which is already accomplished, and ignores the reality that coal being ripped from Appalachia and Western states will simply be shipped and burned elsewhere.

President Obama should have given the American people an honest explanation of the terrible predicament we now face and at least a sketch of the scale and timing of the global response now required – which must include new forestry and agricultural practices in addition to emissions cuts. What we got was a tepid description of the problem, weaker than past presidential statements, a flat lie (that natural gas has substantially less impact on climate than coal) and an understatement of risk so vast, in light of the most recent Antarctic news, as to arguably be considered misconduct.

A United Front Against Climate Catastrophe

By Burkely Hermann - Z Blogs, June 13, 2014

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.

Aggressive militarism continues to emanate from the office of the presidency and the US government itself. With drone strikes in foreign countries, an “empire of drone bases” in Africa as the Washington Post once called it, and a continuing war in Afghanistan, you would think that there would be mass protests on the streets against these injustices. Instead, there have been noble and honorable protests against drones, the war in Afghanistan, Bush era war criminals, and so on, but they have been too limited. At the same time, protests calling for the coming climate catastrophe to be adequately addressed have been growing among indigenous people and concerned citizens in both the Global North and the Global South. This is despite a laser focus of the big environmental organizations, Gang Green, on stopping Keystone XL but not a focus on many other issues. This article outlines why the peace movement[1] and the environmental movement within the United States should join together as a united front against corporate power and global neoliberal capitalism.

Jolly Green NGOs vs Environmental Movements

By Peter Rugh - System Change not Climate Change, April 10, 2014 (used by permission)

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.

Jolly Green NGOs are mighty popular dudes. Their donation envelopes have been at your table for years, right next to your gas bill, asking you to feed them in exchange for a tee-shirt or a tote bag.

“Collectively,” Inside Climate News reports, they have “15 million members, 2,000-plus staffers and annual budgets of more than $525 million” in their jolly, green bellies.

But despite the widely acknowledged severity of the environmental crisis we face and the supposed-size of the environmental movement, how come we’ve seen, comparatively, so little action?

In physics, mass is a measure of inertia, yet historically we masses have shown ourselves to display a propensity for social change; from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia all the way up to the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt in 2011. A mass environmental movement in the United States in the 1970s prompted Richard Nixon, one of the most reactionary presidents to ever occupy the White House, to create the Environmental Protection Agency — a pretty radical step at the time.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the largest of our Jolly Green NGO’s are taking our Jolly Green Dollars and putting them towards lobbying politicians to pass miniscule legislative measures that don’t come close to addressing the radical change necessary to tackle the ecological emergency we’re in.

This Inside Climate info-graph sketches out who’s got the dough and where they’re spending it.

Dear Governor Jerry Brown: Will you Deny the Citizens of California their Civil Rights to Safety?

By Shane Davis - Fracktivist, March 29, 2014

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.

Dear Governor Jerry Brown:

With 2,139 oil and gas wells already fracked, will California repeat the same mistakes of the past and let a largely unregulated industry invade? Will you frack to the moon and back, or will your ‘Moonbeam’ shine a new light on harmful fracking and ban it outright in California?  Governor Brown, your environmental legacy could easily be erased by allowing fracking in California to continue. Will you have the courage to be a national leader and ban fracking altogether or will you be swayed by the multi-national ‘OILigarchy’ to destroy California’s water, soil and air for offshore profits of the few?

REWIND: Since the late 1890’s prospectors have been in search of oil deposits spanning nearly every square inch of Los Angeles County.  Oil was finally discovered at a depth of 460 feet using a makeshift drill carved from a 60 foot eucalyptus tree. WildcatterS swarmed to Los Angeles looking for land to lease and wells to drill anywhere they could find with hopes of striking it rich.

In 1906 a few of the wealthiest prospectors who dominated the Los Angeles oil field thought the local ranch-lands that grew beans as a major cash-crop had  vast oil plays under them. They were wrong. There was no oil to be found, so the men quickly ripped out the farmland to create a section of land into a ‘classy subdivision’ called Beverly Hills. Before they sold a single lot in Beverly Hills, they added restrictive covenants to every deed forbidding any oil exploration or oil wells on the property. That protection was essential for any respectable neighborhood, because the oil boom had ruined one street after another in Los Angeles.  Entire neighborhoods had vanished under the forest of wooden derricks and a grimy film of oil, and the roar of the escaping natural gas and the ump-um ump- um of the pumps never ceased.

The horse-drawn wagons that carried heavy drilling equipment and pipe tore up city streets. And the blocks off Santa Monica near Vermont  Avenue had become a raucous oil workers shantytown. The saloons were busy 24 hours a day. Prostitutes often plied their trade from temporary shelters made from canvass stretched over wooden poles. Gamblers worked out of two room shacks, with a pool table and tobacco counter in the front with pinball machines, card games and a quick exit in the back. These abuses flourished because the city hesitated to clamp down on the oil industry.1

Fast-forward to 2014 where the Los Angeles City Council in a 10-0 vote, unanimously enacted the first moratorium on fracking in California. California currently has approximately 2,139 oil and gas wells that have been fracked with tens, if not, a hundred thousand more to come. The majority of the wells are horizontally fracked in the central valley which is considered the Unites States largest agricultural lands providing more than 50 percent of all the nations produce and 95 percent of the almond market.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Faces Protests Over Fracking as Epic Drought Looms

By Tara Lohan - Alternet, March 11, 2014

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.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is having a hard time maintaining his green image. Like President Obama, Brown has stumped about the dangers of climate change and the need to take action. But Brown’s message runs afoul of his own actions to open California to more oil and gas drilling enabled by hydraulic fracturing and other extreme extraction methods.

Demonstrators protested the governor and the president’s hypocrisy on the issue of fracking (Obama’s been singing the praises of natural gas) when the two were part of a climate change task force (or “task farce” as demonstrators made clear) in Los Angeles last month.

It’s not the first time Brown has come under attack since signing SB4 in September, a law to regulate fracking in California. Supporters of SB4, introduced by Fran Pavley, have called it the “toughest law in the country” (though it’s an extremely low bar) but opponents say it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting people and the environment, and until more is known about the dangers and health impacts the practice should be halted.

Thus far fracking had taken place in California with little regulation. Almost every major environmental organization pulled their support for SB4 as the bill became more watered down as it passed through the state legislature. A Los Angeles Times editorial summed it up: “We previously endorsed the bill, and Pavley deserves praise for trying, but at this point SB4 is so flawed that it would be better to kill it and press for more serious legislation next year.”

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