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Capital Blight - They Really Don't Know Clouds At All.

By x344543 - September 9, 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 discussion among IWW members about whether or not to change the default delivery option for the union's official organ, the Industrial Worker, from hard copy to PDF has touched on a larger debate over the "greenness" of "the cloud."(the many data centers that form the backbone of the Internet).

My attention was drawn to this debate by one of my fellow worker's reaction to the following statement from the current editor of our union's venerable publication, the Industrial Worker in reference to a change in the default option from a paper copy to an emailed PDF:

Go paperless, live in harmony with the earth and help save the union money!"

The union implemented this change to cut costs. The apparent environmental benefits are merely coincidental, though it's gratifying to see that the membership is taking the environmental tenets of the IWW Preamble seriously.

My aforementioned fellow Wobbly took exception to this statement thusly:

From some of what I have read, the physical maintenance of the digital world is anything but green, even though the idea that computers = lower pollution and energy consumption is to be found pretty much everywhere these days.

Below is a link to an article from the New York Times on the subject.  One of the key points is how much of the energy -- about 90-94% -- is wasted just keeping servers idling in case they need to be pulled in as backups.

The specific article he referenced, Power, Pollution, and the Internet actually quotes a slightly lower figure of 88 - 93%, but more about that later.

He then offered the following quotation to emphasize a comparison between data centers and the paper industry:

Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the country that year, based on an analysis by Jonathan G. Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University who has been studying data center energy use for more than a decade.

Datacenter Dynamics, a London-based firm, derived similar figures.

The industry has long argued that computerizing business transactions and everyday tasks like banking and reading  library books has the net effect of saving energy and resources. But the paper industry, which some predicted would be replaced by the computer age, consumed 67 billion kilowatt-hours from the grid in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Electric Power Research Institute for The Times.

Skepticism of any capitalist industry's claims to be "green" should be regarded as healthy, but that skepticism should be followed by careful examination of all of the facts.

Capital Blight: It's Past Time to Get Off the Coal Train.

By Steve Ongerth - April 24, 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 debate took place on my personal Facebook page regarding the matter of jobs and the environment, and there is little doubt that it will not be the last.

As you may (or may not) be aware, I have been combing various environmental and labor news sources for stories about campaigns where class struggle and environmentalism have some degree of intersection (or conflict, though the latter is almost always manufactured vy the capitalist class). Most of these I have been posting on the new IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus Facebook Page, but since much of that happens while the only means of information transfer is a smart phone, so often, due to the limitations of smartphone apps, I have to engage in some klunky work-arounds, and sometimes that means that certain bits of information wind up on my personal page first, but I digress...

Last week, I happened upon a statement from a BLET engineer downplaying the dangers of coal dust drifting from coal trains passing through the southern part of the Seattle metropolitan area, and I immediately regarded this as the thoughts of a scissorbill and I said as much. That statement drew a response from another individual, a Facebook "friend" (a former Wobbly turned low-level ILWU leader, by the way), telling me that the coal dust issue was overstated, that the Sierra Club--who was leading the opposition to coal trains there--was hypocritical (due to the latter's having accepted donations from capitalist Natural Gas interests), and that I was insufficiently "solidaric" with my (business) union brothers and sisters. He informed me that the Sierra Club was only canvassing well-to-do neighborhoods in the area and completely ignoring those working class neighborhoods closest to the potential route, which--by the way--had far more immediate and far more serious environmental issues.

Since I am a transportation worker by trade (I'm a ferryboat deckhand, iu510 you know), I figured I might have fired before aiming, so I decided to dig a little further (pun not intended) and see just what was up.

I needn't have held my fire.

Good Energy, Bad Energy

Friends of the Earth International, 2013 - copied according to Creative Commons License

The world’s current energy system – the way we produce, distribute and consume energy – is unsustainable, unjust and harms communities, workers, the environment and the climate. Friends of the Earth International's new report demonstrates why a just, sustainable, climate-safe energy system is more urgent than ever.

Key points

  • Our current energy system is unsustainable, unjust, and harming communities, workers, the environment and the climate.  This is fundamentally an issue of power: of corporate and elite power and interests outweighing the power of ordinary citizens and communities.
  • The destructive energy sources on which the world current relies are driving climate change and many social and environmental problems and conflicts, including land grabbing, pollution, deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems, human rights abuses, health problems and premature deaths, and unsafe, insecure jobs and the rupture and collapse of local economies.

Friends of the Earth International believes that it is possible to build a climate-safe, just and sustainable energy system which ensures the basic right to energy for everyone and respects the rights and different ways of life of communities around the world.  To get there we need to challenge corporate power and exert real democratic control over the energy decisions of our governments.

  • We urgently need to invest in locally-appropriate, climate-safe, affordable and low impact energy for all, and reduce energy dependence so that people don’t need much energy to meet their basic needs and live a good life.
  • We need to end new destructive energy projects and phase out existing destructive energy sources, all the while ensuring that the rights of affected communities and workers are respected and that their needs are provided for during the transition.
  • To make the transition happen we also need to tackle the trade and investment rules that prioritise corporations' needs over those of people and the environment.
  • Our vision is guided by an idea called energy sovereignty.  This is the right of people to have access to energy, and to choose sustainable energy sources and sustainable consumption patterns that will lead them towards sustainable societies.

PDF File

Jobs Beyond Coal

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, 2012

This manual is intended for anyone—communities, unions, environmentalists, native tribes, public officials, and others—involved with or affected by the retirement of coal-fired power plants. It is designed as a guide for those who wish to make the transition away from coal in a way that is most beneficial and least threatening to ordinary workers, consumers, and community members.

In the past decade, a broad-based campaign has formed to move America beyond coal and power the nation with clean energy. The movement includes people from all walks of life—medical professionals, faith leaders, environmentalists, business people, workers, decision makers, and local residents—who are working to address the serious pollution problems caused by coal and to seize the economic opportunity offered by clean, safe, renewable energy.

This campaign has been remarkably successful, preventing the construction of more than 165 new coal-fired power plants, and thereby keeping energy markets open for clean energy. In state after state, as newcoal proposals have stalled, advocates have launched campaigns to retire existing coal plants and replace them with clean energy, securing the retirement of more than 110 existing coal plants to date.The coal industry and their allies regularly claim that jobs, workers, and unions benefit from coal plants and that transitioning away from coal will harm them. Industry claims about creating or protecting jobs have often proved fallacious or hugely exaggerated. Still, this message resonates powerfully in tough economic times and presents a real challenge to coal retirement efforts.

Several recent campaigns have demonstrated that coal retirements can be structured in ways that take care of affected workers and the area economy, and even win the support of organized labor and local decision makers. As the case studies described in this manual show, addressing these economic challenges is most effective when the concerns of workers and the local economy are built into the campaign objectives, messaging, proposals, action, and interventions in policy arenas.

Read the report (PDF).

Transport Workers and Climate Change: Towards Sustainable, Low-Carbon Mobility

By ITF Climate Change Working Group - International Transport Workers’ Federation, August 4, 2010

This report, now more than a decade old, was remarkably forward-thinking for its time (except for the uncritically positive assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage and Cap-and-Trade, positions the authors would likely now no longer hold. It also, interestingly, includes in an appendix, the delegate of one union affiliate, Robert Scardelletti, President of the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), from the US, who dissented from this report's conclusions, because it's green unionist orientation would "destroy jobs", a position held by the most conservative unions in the AFL-CIO.

From the introduction:

Climate change is the biggest single challenge ever faced by human civilization. Human economic activity has put so much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere that serious global warming is already happening. As a society, we have no choice but to reduce these emissions drastically in order to stand a good chance of avoiding potentially catastrophic changes in our climate. Moreover, emissions from transport are rising faster than emissions from any other sector and in some cases the increase in transport emissions is counteracting emissions reductions achieved in other sectors. Lowering transport emissions presents a series of unique and formidable challenges.

The good news for transport workers is that a serious approach to emissions reductions will create new opportunities for quality employment, particularly in public transport, railways (both passenger and freight), transport infrastructure, road repair, and in developing clean transport technologies. But failure to act on climate change will have the opposite effect.

Read the text (PDF).

Coal’s Assault on Human Health

By Alan H Lockwood, Kristen Welker-Hood, Molly Rauch, and Barbara Gottlieb - Physicians for Social Responsibility, November 2009

Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. This conclusion emerges from our reassessment of the widely recognized health threats from coal. Each step of the coal lifecycle—mining, transportation, washing, combustion, and disposing of postcombustion wastes—impacts human health. Coal combustion in particular contributes to diseases affecting large portions of the U.S. population, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, compounding the major public health challenges of our time. It interferes with lung development, increases the risk of heart attacks, and compromises intellectual capacity.

Oxidative stress and inflammation are indicated as possible mechanisms in the exacerbation and development of many of the diseases under review. In addition, the report addresses another, less widely recognized health threat from coal: the contribution of coal combustion to global warming, and the current and predicted health effects of global warming.

Read the report (PDF).

France ends coal mining with tears but not a single protest

By John Lichfield - Indypendent, April 24, 2004

The French coal miner, a powerful symbol of social revolt and industrial strength for more than a century, passed into extinction yesterday.

The French coal miner, a powerful symbol of social revolt and industrial strength for more than a century, passed into extinction yesterday.

The last lump of coal was ceremonially carved last night from the La Houve mine near Creutzwald in Lorraine. An industry that produced 60 million tons of coal and employed 150,000 people as recently as 40 years ago has ceased to exist.

Although several smaller European countries have already stopped coal mining, France is the first of the world's large industrial powers to abandon production of what remains the world's second largest energy source.

Paris decided10 years ago to close its remaining mines, rather than compete with cheap, open-cast coal from other countries. The last shipments of French coal cost €130 (£86) a tonne to extract. Coal imported from Australia costs €40 (£26) a ton, including transport costs.

French coal miners, once numbering 300,000, built a fearsome reputation as the spearhead of social revolt and the champion of workers' rights - illustrated by Emile Zola's novel Germinal, based on the strikes in the northern coal fields in the 1880s. The last pit closed yesterday with nostalgic ceremonies but not a single protest.

By agreement with the unions, all redundant miners are paid 85 per cent of their salary until they are 45 and then 80 per cent until they reach normal retirement age. They keep their free homes and generous health and other social benefits.

Although the end of the industry has been a cause for mourning in the once great coalfield near the German border, there has been none of the social unrest about the sudden destruction of communities that accompanied the demise of Britain's coal industry. Britain still has 16 pits and 4,000 miners, compared with 170 pits and 180,000 miners at the time of the 1984-5 strike, according to the National Union of Mineworkers.

The subsidised inactivity of tens of thousands of men in France's former mining regions has brought other social problems, such as alcoholism, suicide and higher rates of divorce. In the north, where the last mines closed in 1990, and in central France and the Marseille area, which ceased mining last year, former pit workers have found it hard to live without the companionship and almost military discipline of the mines.

Under the 1994 redundancy agreement, men as young as 35 can draw almost full salaries for life, provided they do not take another job. Other work in the ex-mining areas remains hard to find. Some have taken up hobbies; others voluntary work, but many find themselves slumped in front of the television all day. Although the active coal miner has ceased to exist, there are more than 380,000 former coal miners or their widows who have rights to benefits up to 2050.

The last few coal miners, who ceased work yesterday, had mixed feelings. Bernard Starck, 50, said: "When you're down there, you're useless as an individual. You live for, and through, your work mates."

"The redundancy terms are fair but the past few months have been a time of great suffering. It was as if we were working for nothing."

Coal-Mine Workers and Their Industry (IWW)

By the Education Bureau of the IWW for the Coal Mine Workers Industrial Union 220, 1923

Preface from the original:

THIS HANDBOOK for the coal-mining industry is issued by the Industrial Workers of the World for the Coal-Mine Workers' Industrial Union No. 220, of the I. W. W.

It is the opinion of the above organization that the main thing which separates the workers from control over and possession of the industries is their industrial ignorance. They may be mechanics and experts in their particular lines, but very few of them have that general grasp of all the facts pertaining to their industry which is indispensable in an age when the burning question is the taking over and the running of the industries by the organized workers. The first actual attempts in this line in Russia in the early stages of the revolution collapsed, mainly for lack of the necessary knowledge by the workers. We ought to learn from the mistakes made by others.

This handbook is the first book to be issued by the I. W. W. for the coal-mining industry. For that reason it is in the nature of a general introduction to the industry. The object of it is to arouse the interest of the coal-miners in the idea of taking over the mines and their operation through the unions, in accordance with the general program of the I. W. W., and to make them join Coal-Mine Workers' Industrial Union No. 220 of the I. W. W.

We have tried to make each chapter a more or less independent link in the chain of 18 chapters, in order to make them suitable for reprinting in periodicals without any considerable changes. This accounts for the repetitions that occur now and then.

In due time this general introduction to the various phases of the coal-mining industry should be supplemented with one work after another, written with a view to teaching the workers to manage the industry on a world basis, in such a manner that there will be no risk of industrial collapse with subsequent reaction.

We hope the coal-miners reading this book will help us in circulating it to the limit of their possibilities.

Pages

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