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Extinction Rebellion (XR)

A Real Extinction Rebellion Means the End of Colonialism, Imperialism, and Capitalism

By Jessica Garraway - Common Dreams, September 22, 2019

Land and Water Defender Beginnings

In 2011, as a 20 year old activist new to the environmental movement I joined up with other like-minded people for a retreat in rural Wisconsin to plan and strategize our next steps. As a Black woman, it was painfully obvious that amongst the scores of people in attendance that there were very few people of color present. However, what was even more jarring than the racial disproportionality of the retreat was the attitudes of the white activists.

We were hanging out late at night in the living room of a retreat after a long day of workshops and trainings.

The overwhelming number of white activists and their views on race and the environment came to a head for me when I was asked,

“Damn, how do we get black people to care about the environment?”

This is what a white environmentalist (with dreads no less) asked me years ago. Being new to environmental spaces, I was dumbfounded by this comment. I took a long deep sigh, and thought, aren't I Black? Didn't I spend countless hours turning people out for direct actions? It was at this moment I began to realize that I was scoring points for the organization with frontline folks while within the organization I was in a sea of white people who saw me as a token.

Yet I knew that Black people care about the environment - about lead paint in housing, parks in the neighborhood, clean water and clean air. We have to care because we are disproportionately affected by the processes of capitalist environmental degradation.

Historically “environmentalism” was not the modality through which Black people explicitly addressed these issues. It was only later that I realized the lack of orientation that white-dominated environmental groups had toward people of color, and Black people in particular, helped to reinforce the alienation of marginalized communities from the wider environmental movement.

It is no wonder that so many of our people see environmental issues as largely the concern of privileged white people. Far too often we hear more about the protection of wild places we have little access to and not about the incinerators, refineries and mines that pollute our air and water. Anti police brutality movements such as Black Lives Matter struggles have focused attention on deaths of Black people through police terror, however, it is only recently that cases like Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey, majority Black cities with no access to clean water, have gotten notice.

Because of racist housing practices like redlining, Black people have been forced to live near refineries and incinerators at higher rates compared to white people. According to a recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, white people bear the burden of 17 percent less air pollution than is generated by their own consumption. Meanwhile, Blacks and Latinos experience 56 percent and 63 percent more exposure, respectively, than is caused by their consumption. Even still, it is not the consumption habits of workers that is causing this crisis. It is a political and economic system based on the accumulation of profits and ever expanding markets that is pushing the earth over the edge. Individual actions such as taking shorter showers or passing on plastic straws is not going to change that.

Earth Strike Ireland Rising

By IWW Ireland - IWW Ireland, September 22, 2019.

Millions of people took part in one of the largest international mobilisations seen in a number of decades as Earth Strike generated street protests across the globe from the biggest cities to the smallest of villages and Ireland was no exception.

As an internationalist working class movement, members of the Industrial Workers of the World have played a full role in helping to mobilise the grassroots in the build up to Earth Strike.

In Ireland activists took part in student rallies, street mobilisations and die-ins throughout the country from Cork to Derry at which thousands of people took part to help highlight this emergency call. Thousands including many schoolchildren along with teachers, parents, older supporters, community and trade union organisations came to out on to the streets in a unified global demonstration as part of a world-wide Climate Strike. Villages, towns and cities such as Ennis, Cloughjordan, Letterkenny, Belfast, Dublin, Waterford, Galway, Cork, Sligo, Derry and Athlone added their names to the vast growing list of mass protests and rallies across the country whilst similar demonstrations took part in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and beyond.

During the Earth Strike a spokesperson for the Industrial Workers of the World said that, “for wobblies, today’s actions around the world is one of people power and grassroots activism. Our union in particular has a long history of not just fighting against capital but the protection of our earth. Over the past decades our members have been targeted, arrested and imprisoned for their part played in the fight to save the earth from its destruction by the hand of capitalism. Make no mistake this is a class war in that the business class will stop and nothing in their pursuit of profit, that is the nature of capitalism.

“As a revolutionary grassroots union, it is our fundamental belief, that the only way in which we can stop the destruction of our planet before its too late is to make capitalism extinct. That can only be done by the workers themselves, the working class. Without doubt there is an urgency in that class war but it’s never too late to unionise that fight. What we can’t have now is for all that anger and energy witnessed today to be allowed to slowly evaporate. Widespread and continuing pressure must be increased on those who are killing our planet. On a day such as this, we should take note of the words of one our great troubadours, Utah Philips ‘the earth is not dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.’

Interview With An Earth Strike Organiser

Interview with IWW Member, Sab Cat - Organise, September 12, 2019

Sab is the organiser for Earth Strike UK in the South West. He’s an active and well known voice in Bristol’s syndicalist and Environmental movements. He kindly took the time to meet us down the pub for a chat about Earth Strike and the upcoming Global Climate Strike.

Organise: Could you start by giving us an introduction to Earth Strike?

So, Earth Strike is a grass roots organisation, that is creating a worker led movement to tackle climate change. We believe that the most effective way of doing that is to organise both in unions and in autonomous groups, and build towards a global general strike to shut down capitalism. Thus removing peoples participation in the system that is fundamentally the cause of ecological crisis.

Why should people get involved?

I actually really like this question. I’ve come up with a way of putting it. I think anyone, no matter what their background, whether they are a workplace activist, or environmental activist, or totally new to organising, should take a moment to ask themselves three questions.

Firstly, do you think we’re in an ecological crisis? It doesn’t take very long if you look around to realise we are. Our air is polluted, it’s estimated air pollution kills 300 people a year just in Bristol. The Amazon is on fire, Siberia is on fire. A heck of a lot of shit is on fire. A worrying amount of shit is on fire. Species are disappearing at a rate not seen since the last mass extinction, sea levels are rising. Even the United Nations is freaking out a bit at this point. The science around it has been clear for a long time now. So I think most people would say yes to this, if not well… they need to take a long hard look around them.

Earth Strike – 20 September

By EUC Dan - Bristol IWW, August 14, 2019

A lot has been going on as the Environmental Union Caucus works towards a strike on 20 September. This summer we’ve been picketing and passing out flyers, writing a Green Charter for a just transition for workers, and holding meetings with local union and activist leaders to discuss the mechanics of striking this September.

You can get up to date information for the strike event on the Bristol event page. And download and share our leaflet to help get the word out. For questions about striking in your workplace ask at an upcoming branch meeting, stop by the EUC’s Monday organizing meeting, or email sw@earth-strike.co.uk to contact our local organizer.

Right now, business as usual is not solving climate change. As workers, we have the power to disrupt and change business so that it does. Join us in building that movement. It’s time to strike back!

IWW WISERA Statement of Support for 20th September Earth Strike

By Administration - IWW WISERA, August 2019

Note: this resolution was passed specifically by the IWW WISERA (UK).

The IWW supports the call for Earth Strike on September 20th 2019 and the international dimensions of the action. The IWW will mobilise its members to take action on the day and will support its members in taking strike action.

The IWW sees Earth Strike as an important contribution to the engagement of unions in the climate crisis and in particular it highlights the need for workers action to confront and destroy capitalism to avoid extinction.

To further these aims the IWW has voted to establish an Environmental Committee to develop the union's policy and educate, agitate and organise for a mass worker-led ecological movement.

A long standing aim of the IWW has been to abolish wage slavery and create a new world where we can live in harmony with the earth. With the climate crisis revolution is now more necessary than ever before. System Change not Climate Change!

In Solidarity
Russ Spring, IWW Secretary (WISE-RA)

The Future Is Already Here

By Larry Gambone - special to IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 2, 2019

Many people do not realize that everything we need for an environmentally sane, egalitarian and authentically democratic society exists NOW.[1] The fact that these exist already is grounds for hope. Neither are most of these new developments in their embryonic form – many – thought still a minority aspect – are quite well established.

The best known of these is the relatively clean generation of electricity.[2] Solar and wind generation is at or near the tipping point for cost compared with fossil fuel power generation. Energy specialists think the tipping point could be 2025 or sooner. Some say we are there already. Countries like Costa Rica and Holland already produce or are near to producing all their electricity through renewables. Less well known, but working examples do exist of geothermal and tidal power.

The other aspect is using less electricity or other energy sources. A massive amount of energy is consumed heating and cooling buildings. Fifty percent of energy expended in the EU has to do with heating and cooling. Passive houses reduce the cost of heating and cooling to almost nothing. Houses can be oriented and constructed in such a fashion that they cool themselves naturally.[3] Trees – no yard or street should be without them, not only do they use CO2 but they also have a cooling effect. Smaller dwellings should be a priority- well designed they should be as convenient for the occupants as any McMansion. These designs already exist. There is no reason other than assuaging one's ego, that the tiny families of today need a 4000 sq. foot house. A smaller house or apartment requires less energy consumption than a large one.

Twenty-five percent of energy expended globally has to do with transport, 20% of that is trucks, 12% ships and 45% cars according to statistics in the Maritime Executive site. Energy is wasted in unnecessary driving. If you could walk to most of the shops, schools or recreation centres you would not need to drive. We need to restore the village with facilities located in a nearby 'down town' that can be easily reached on foot. Combine this with an efficient public transit system – like they have in much of Europe – and better yet make it "free" like in Luxemburg - and less people will have cars. This means, of course, less energy consumed. For many, car ownership will be a thing of the past and the existing car coops and car share companies will predominate in the urban areas.

Energy is wasted in the unnecessary traffic in goods. No non perishables ought to be shipped by truck that can go by rail and thus save energy. A carbon tax ought to be levied upon all products that can be produced locally, yet are imported from afar due to a false sense of economy. This will encourage local production – once again less energy consuming – and reduce the amount of trucking and shipping.

Agribusiness consumes a lot of energy on machinery, petroleum, pesticides and fertilizers. While I would not suggest growing wheat organically on a small scale, many other food items can be grown in this manner. Small but intensive organic horticulture can produce an enormous amount of food from a small area. Paris used to feed itself in that manner and Havana does today. No pesticides or artificial fertilizers, but the organic waste of the city. Working with tools that last a generation and not expensive, short-lived machines that require petrol. Of course, food prices will need to increase to make such small farming viable – but this could be off set by keeping rents and mortgages low through an intelligent housing policy, like the one that exists in Germany.

One of the biggest consumers of energy is the military and a good way to reduce energy consumption would be peace. They are called "Defense Departments" but few countries other than Switzerland really have a defensive policy. Most countries are geared for offense – against other countries – or their own people. Bombers, missiles, drones, air craft carriers, nuke carrying subs, are not weapons of defense – they are for attacking. Ironically, we have no enemies other than a handful of home made bomb and small arm toting maniacs against whom such offensive weapons are useless. Using the model of Switzerland, we could have a cheap – and therefore less energy consuming – military. A military trained in guerrilla warfare using small arms, RPGs and SAMs – cheap stuff.

The future that is now, is more than energy efficiency, it is also about equality and freedom. Freer, more democratic and more egalitarian institutions exist already and are more widespread than you might think.

#ShutItDown: Organizing to Strike for Climate Justice

By Patrick Young - Rising Tide, July 14, 2019

Throughout the 2018–2019 school year, young people around organized massive school climate strikes to demand that the world’s leaders take immediate action to address climate change. The strikes started first in Sweden, then spread throughout the European Union and around the world. By March, 15 tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries around the world walked out of school as part of the first Global Climate Strike for Our Future issuing a strong challenge to the world’s leaders. Greta Thunberg, one of the strike’s leaders wrote in an open letter in the Guardian,

“We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future… We will no longer accept this injustice… We demand the world’s decision-makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves. The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Inspired by these bold youth-led actions and motivated by the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, others in the climate movement have issued calls for climate strikes starting as soon as September of 2019. Starting on September 20, the students who have been organizing the weekly climate strikes are launching a major strike and week of actions. Then starting on September 27th, Earth Strike is calling for a general strike demanding immediate climate action from governments and corporations worldwide. WeRise2020, a widespread network of climate action groups across Europe is planning on mobilizing alongside EarthStrike starting on September 27th for four to six weeks of escalated actions before pausing to regroup for another wave of action.

These calls for climate strikes offer an inspiring vision for action at the scale and scope needed to disrupt the entrenched power structures that have created the climate crisis and continually blocked the serious measures needed to combat it. But beyond calls to walk out of school and work, truly effective climate strikes will require a strategy for mass participation and disruption to seriously threaten the entrenched power structures. It won’t be easy but by drawing on the lessons from previous mass strikes and tested organizing principles we believe that it is possible to build mass climate strikes that can offer a credible threat to the governments and corporations that have failed to address the climate crisis.

Unions and Climate Strikes: How climate strikers can involve unions/union workers

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 2019

The following is text from a leaflet you can download intended for Climate and Earth Strike organizers who wish to engage unions, union workers, or workers in general in an effort to invite them to participate in the Climate and Earth Strikes from September 20-27, 2019. There is a generic version and an IWW specific version (below and right; click on the image to view and download a PDF of either or both).

Unions have engaged in strikes for the environment since the 1970s, known as green bans. However:

  • Generic LeafletWhile it is tempting to believe we can create enough buzz to convince enough workers to actually engage in work stoppages (actual workplace strikes) on September 20, 27, or any other date, we cannot guarantee it, even though some unions and union officials have suggested that a “strike” for the climate (e.g. Bruce Hamilton, Vice President of ATU) or at least for the Green New Deal (e.g. the Massachusetts Teacher’s Union) are exactly what are needed.
  • Things can change between now and September 2019 and we cannot predict how that will unfold.
  • We can recall the immigrant workers’ “general strike” on May 1, 2006, in which some unions, notably the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), participated as a possible forerunner, but again, we cannot guarantee it.
  • Anyone can call for a general strike, but actually organizing one is much more difficult, as Jane McAlevey points out here.
  • Some unions may participate, but won’t publicly announce their intent, because doing so could bring swift retribution from the bosses.
  • IWW Specific LeafletWhat we can do is urge workers to participate in the day(s) of action by attending events in the morning (before work), at lunch, or in the evening (after work); we can suggest they use a vacation day (but not a sick day). They can also sign a statement, draft a resolution for their union “in support”, or (if possible) hold a “stop work meeting” to discuss the issue. They can also conduct a social media campaign, such as taking a selfie with a sign saying they support the strike, and include a hashtag (this video from England has similar suggestions).
  • Meanwhile, those organizing day(s) of action can support unions in their day-to-day struggles and they can be prepared to pledge to defend any workers who actually get disciplined for participating in the strike (but this should not be dangled as an offer to pressure workers into joining).

There are a number of “green” unionists who are working on this, including (but not limited to):

The IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus will try and keep a record of who in the labor movement is (or who may be) participating in the strikes. Visit our website and enter these tags in the “search” engine (or enter the same hashtags on our social media pages) for news: #GreenBans; #EarthStrike; #ClimateStrike. Email euc@iww.org for more information.

Talking Shop: Burning Up

By staff - New Syndicalist, June 22, 2019

In this episode of Talking Shop, we interview Simon Pirani, the author of ‘Burning Up – A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption’. Simon is a writer, historian, and researcher on energy, as well as an activist involved in social and labour movements.

In ‘Burning Up’, Simon argues that, throughout the twentieth century, industrialisation, urbanisation and mass consumption were the driving forces for the technological changes and changes in energy consumption that created the current climate crisis. He also discusses the social transformations that would be needed to build fully sustainable relationships to the environment.

We asked Simon about what climate change looks like in the present day and near future, the promise of movements like the school strikes, and the climate denialism of big business. We talked about how and why unions should be mobilising their membership behind climate issues, and about moving beyond the false dichotomy of jobs vs positive environmental policies.

The Green New Deal is Only a Beginning

By WobblyBall - Open Letter, Summer 2019

A lot of friends are having conversations about the environmental movement (like XR) and environmental justice, especially focused around colonialism and environmental racism. Another aspect to it is the movement's relationship to the working class and to organized labor (and we need to understand, in this, that the makeup working class is heavily influenced by race and racism).

The environmental movement is increasingly pushing for a Green New Deal, and expecting (understandably) the labor movement to get behind this, especially the Trades. I'm a Trades worker who's a straight up anticapitalist, but who would be critically supportive of most forms of "Green New Deal" as a very partial step towards averting the climate crisis. Of course, environmentalists pushing for this need to understand that the new industries are largely non-union, and the unions (some of which don't aggressively organize) are unlikely to get behind the decline of unionized industries and the growth of non-union ones. Getting labor on board would take also building up a more aggressive, organizing current in the unions.

Then, there's a broader issue of having a Just Transition for the entire working class- not only for workers in construction or extraction, but for workers in all industries. A lot of the major protests we're seeing, such as in France, Haiti, or the Netherlands, are against attempts to make the working class pay more for fuel- a favorite solution to technocrats who figure a little Pigouvian tax on gas can internalize those external costs and knit up the climate problem neatly. For most working people, the biggest costs in our lives are food, housing, and transportation-- all areas where there needs to be transitions towards sustainability in ways that don't hit the poorest hardest.

The environmental movement could make alliances with transport workers and riders around demands for more and free public transit. Workers forced out to the fringes of the city have to make long commutes in and pay for all that gas.  If the movement fights for rail, it should also make an absolute push against reduction in train crew sizes, for the safety of everyone.
Even better than more public transit, more affordable housing near where people work. More walkability of neighborhoods and less compulsory transportation--and don't let the call for walkability be a cover for displacement of the working class into the suburbs (again, the commutes!).

The environmental movement already needs to take a strong interest in the reshaping of cities that are designed around needing a car, and that cluster polluting industries in poor (especially black) neighborhoods. Of course, be aware that all new construction, including of "green" housing, has environmental costs. Look into also supporting more funding for things like WAP conservation funding (where I work), which upgrades existing housing stock to be more energy efficient. Though be aware that this is mostly non-union, like most of residential construction, in part because of the suppression of undocumented workers.

While we're talking about urban geography, let's talk food justice from a working class perspective. Now, a lot of environmentalists try to court small farmers--and as someone from a small farming family, I'm not going to go into all the reasons that the decline of family farms can't be reversed by conscientious consumerism. My main concern is supporting farm workers and healthy food access.  Let's talk about sustainable changes in farming that are focused on changing how the food the majority of people buy and eat is grown, instead of creating a specialty expensive market. Let's take a look at the idea of co-ops not as health food stores for that niche market, but as a way to bring produce at a low price into food deserts. Let's not only support community garden space in working class neighborhoods, but also fight for a strong labor movement, living wages, and access to childcare so people living in those neighborhoods have time to do things like use a community garden. Also, when talking about urban farming, it's often good to look not just at flashy new hydroponics and vertical farms, also at the populations already doing that work, like Hmong families in St Paul.

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