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ecological movements and organizations

Deep Adaptation...or Climate Justice?

By Chris Saltmarsh - The Ecologist, February 1, 2022

A review of Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos, edited by Jem Bendell and Rupert Read, published by Polity Press.

Activists in Extinction Rebellion are currently discussing the movement's new published strategy. The debates within XR often centre on a difference of approach between long standing members who were influenced by Dr Jem Bendell's paper calling for "deep adaptation" and those who want to focus on climate justice and a rapid dismantling of "fossil fuel capitalism" to avoid the need for such adaption.

This is the context in which many people are now reading Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos, a collection of essays brought together by Bendell and Dr Rupert Read, his long time collaborator and one of the many XR co-founders.

Read: The new XR UK strategy

Read: XR 2.0: We appreciate power

The book starts from the premise that societal collapse induced by climate change is inevitable or highly likely, arguing that humans should adapt to this new reality by moving away from industrial consumer society. This retains and amplifies the main arguments first proposed by Bendell in his online paper, which went viral and became influential within Extinction Rebellion, including among its co-founders.

Coal River Mountain Watch Workers Ratify First Collective Agreement

By Communications Department - IWW, January 28, 2022

Workers at Coal River Mountain Watch have ratified their first union contract in a unanimous vote.

The 2-year contract, which takes effect Feb 1, 2022, includes a raise for union members, an assurance of at least one month notification to members in the event of layoffs (something that wasn't previously done when funding ended), a process to ensure that travel costs are paid for upfront by the employer for speaking engagements, and job duties clarifications.

Coal River Mountain Watch is a small but respected organization in the southern coalfields, created in 1998 in response to the fear and frustration of people living near or downstream from enormous mountaintop removal sites. From humble beginnings as a small group of volunteers working to organize Southern WV residents to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice, the nonprofit has become a major force in opposition to mountaintop removal.

Workers at non-profits like Coal River Mountain Watch risk their physical and mental safety in the course of doing their job, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run. Even when there may be general agreement around most issues in the workplace between employees and management, negotiating a contract allows workers an opportunity to learn how to function and operate as a union.

“I’m beyond proud to be in a union now, and I’m beyond proud to work for an organization that values my rights as a worker. Here’s to a brighter future for West Virginia and the brave souls who try to make it a better place to live.” — Junior Walk, Coal River Mountain Watch staff member

“I was really happy with how this process turned out. Vernon, the Executive Director, was quick to respond to our requests for information and in only three bargaining sessions, totalling less than five hours altogether, we had a solid draft contract. It signifies to other employers in progressive organizations that this process does not have to be complicated and that unionizing can have significant benefits for an organization's long-term missions.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

“I think it's really important, after OVEC's stalling to negotiate with the union and ultimately dissolving, that the Coal River Mountain Watch Board voluntarily recognized the union and that Vernon was so quick to respond to the union's requests. Coal River Mountain Watch is highly regarded among many progressive and environmental activists both inside and outside Appalachia. They've been the targets of the coal industry's ire for decades, with employees sometimes having to fear for their life because of this work. However, with this organization now unionized, I think it speaks to the need for all non-profits to formally recognize and negotiate with their staff's union when one is presented. Many workers at these non-profits risk their physical and mental safety to continue to do this work, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a labor union representing nearly 9,000 workers across North America. Established in 1905, the IWW is known for its high standards of democracy, transparency, multinationalism, and active use of the right to strike.

Why We Need to Be Able to Say No at Work

By Kristof Calvo and Marguerite van den Berg - Green European Journal, January 26, 2022

For most of us, life revolves around our jobs. As a result, efforts to improve people’s lives have focused on improving working conditions rather than challenging the centrality of work in our lives. Sociologist Marguerite van den Berg sets out to do just this in her recent book Werk is geen oplossing [Work is Not a Solution]. In this conversation with Belgian green politician Kristof Calvo, she explains how workers can recognise and assert their power.

Kristof Calvo: You write that everyone is tired and that no one has time, yourself included. Where did you find the time to write this book?

Marguerite van den Berg: I had a six-month fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and that gave me time to work on the book. But the pandemic shook things up. Suddenly everything that makes life worth living stopped – except for the work. I had to deal with that craziness. Suddenly I felt even greater urgency to write the book.

Every author has their own method. How did you work? With fixed days for writing or by finishing a short piece each day?

I already had some parts on paper, but I wrote as much as I could in the mornings. Our kids were still at home when my fellowship started in February 2021, but things improved from May onwards.

In your book, you argue for a different view: a shift from “I am tired” to “We are exhausted”. Is this the essence of your story?

Yes. I wanted to show that everyone is struggling on a personal level. Few dare to mention to anyone other than those close to them that they are worried about how they will get through the next week. I felt compelled to acknowledge this collective feeling of exhaustion as well as its political dimension. I specifically did not want to reduce it to the vulnerability and precariousness of certain groups. Exhaustion does not only occur on the “margins”; it is happening across the full breadth of society.

Your message is clear. You don’t spare anyone in your analysis.

I address everyone directly by using “we”. Where I make a distinction, as when I speak of a “boss”, it’s a deliberate choice; I’m not referring to the person but rather the hierarchies at work that demand more and more from us.

Beyond the Green New Deal: A Discussion with Monica Atkins of the Climate Justice Alliance

After Glasgow COP26: Build the Global Movement

By Alan Thornett - London Green Left Blog, January 5, 2022

What happened in Glasgow – and where do we go from here? 

Many on the radical left have concluded that Glasgow was an unmitigated disaster. That COP is dead. That the 1.5°C maximum temperature target is dead. That any gains made in Glasgow are greenwash. That it is time to stop focussing on the COP process and chart our own independent course. It is even argued that putting demands on the COP process (or indeed other capitalist institutions) is wrong in principle because it makes us complicit with their crimes and failures. 

I don’t agree with any of this. It’s certainly true that Glasgow failed to stop catastrophic climate change – and by a huge margin. It is also true the pace of the crisis is still increasing with fires, floods, droughts and hurricanes becoming ever more destructive, and that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NCDs), pledged in Glasgow, would produce a temperature rise of not 1.5°C but of 2.4°C – which would trigger feedback processes that would take the climate crisis out of control. 

To withdraw from the COP process, however, would be a big mistake. Although we all have a responsibility for our own ecological impact, only governments have the ability to make the major structural changes necessary to get rid of fossil energy in the timescale available. Nor can we build the mass movement necessary to force them to do so if we ignore the main global forum in which they can be engaged – and which is the main driver of global public consciousness on the issue. 

A Green New Deal for all: The centrality of a worker and community-led just transition in the US

By J. Mijin Cha, Dimitris Stevis, Todd E. Vachon, Vivian Price, and Maria Brescia-Weiler - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 2022

This paper argues that labour and community-led advocacy efforts towards a just transition are fundamental to delivering the promises of a Green New Deal (GND) and a just post-carbon world. To this end, an ambitious, far-reaching project was launched by the Labor Network for Sustainability, a non-governmental organization dedicated to bridging the labor and climate movements, in Spring 2020 called the “Just Transition Listening Project’’ (JTLP).

Over the course of several months, the JTLP interviewed over 100 individuals, including rank-and-file union members, union officials, environmental and climate justice advocates, and Indigenous and community advocates to understand what makes transition “just,” what opportunities exist for a broad coalition to advance a GND-style proposal, and to document the struggles facing working people and communities across the U.S. In doing so, we utilize the tools of political geography to examine the politics of spatiality, networks, and scale as well as the geographical and spatial dimensions of policy and political-economic institutions. We are particularly mindful of two spatial dynamics.

First, that transition policies, particularly in a hegemonic country like the USA, have global implications. The industrial transition that took place from the 1970s to the 1990s, for example, bred nativism because it cast other countries as the cause of the problem.

Second, critical geographers have pointed out that environmental justice (EJ) has been neoliberalized in the U.S. as a result of its operationalization, spatialization, and administration, starting with the Clinton Administration. Because JT is rising on the national and global agendas, we pay close attention to whether these dynamics that affected EJ are also operating with respect to JT, as well as how they can be contained.

This research is particularly timely given the ongoing federal governmental efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and provide basic economic and social supports. The process of the JTLP parallels the goals of the GND–intersectional efforts rooted in community knowledge for the development of a people-led GND. This paper details the process of the JTLP and the prospects for intersectional, broad-based movements that are the only way a GND can be realized.

Read the text (Link).

COP26 to CON26: how we need to be at DEFCON level 1 to save our people and planet

By Dave Sherry - Scottish Left Review, January 2022

Climate Jobs: Building a workforce for the climate was written and published by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (CACCTU) to coincide with COP26. It is a response to the urgency of the climate crisis and lays out the type and scale of the transition needed to match it. It is essential reading for every trade unionist and climate activist.

It provides a detailed, in-depth update of the earlier work produced by CACCTU, One Million Climate Jobs (2014), showing that there are many more than a million, well paid, skilled jobs that could be created if we get serious and urgently tackle the climate emergency. Packed with ideas, examples, and accompanying technical resources, it outlines the type of workforce needed and argues that to deliver it we need to break from the failed reliance on the market and instead invest in a huge expansion of public sector jobs across all sectors – from transport, energy and food to homes, education and more.

The pamphlet argues this will require a National Climate Service, which can organise, plan and train workers as well as deliver the jobs so urgently needed, amounting to a radical transformation which will improve our lives, ensuring among other things we have warm, affordable homes, a fully integrated public transport system and most importantly a safe climate and ecology now and in the future.

World leaders, NGOs, pressure groups and corporates jetted into Glasgow for COP26. Like previous summits, it saw major corporations vie with each other in the dark arts of greenwashing, having paid millions to sponsor the event itself. COP1 met in Berlin in 1995. Since then, the process has seen a quarter-century of failure with the environmental crisis becoming rapidly and terrifyingly worse.

Failure has much to do with the fact that the COP process has never been short of corporate influence. Glasgow had 11 major sponsors, including the energy giants Hitachi, National Grid, Scottish Power and SSE. Other sponsors included Microsoft, Sky media and NatWest. Boris Johnson, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and India’s Narendra Modi arrived in town with the world’s media touting Glasgow as the ‘last chance saloon’. But Glasgow proved to be CON26. In the run-up activists around the world were already claiming it would be the most elitist, least democratic COP ever, with the politicians of the rich countries dominating the agenda and excluding representatives of the people bearing the brunt of the crisis. And, so it proved.

Now that the circus has left town every day that passes rams home its failure and the growing existential threat we face. 2021 was a year of unprecedented climate crisis marked by terrifying floods, wildfires, hurricanes and droughts. Tipping points, like the collapse of the Gulf Stream and the Greenland ice sheet, are in danger of being crossed. Meanwhile, the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon dioxide than it absorbs, making it a source of, rather than a sink for, greenhouse gas emissions.

The crisis is spiralling out of control because capitalism’s inherent inequalities of class, race and gender block any prospect of climate justice. Estimates of who’ll be displaced by climate change vary dramatically. The most cited figure is that by 2050 there will be 200m climate refugees fleeing harvest failures, droughts and floods. No wonder the UN Climate Report flashed up Code Red for humanity, warning that the worst scenarios can only be avoided by immediate government action.

Time for a Climate Insurgency?

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 20, 2021

The leaders of the world's countries gathered in Glasgow signed a death warrant for the world's people. Is there anything the world's people can do about it? To answer effectively, human solidarity may have to challenge the very legitimacy of the nation-state system.

Since the end of the feudal era the world order has been largely structured by the nation-state system. Individuals have been willing to kill and die for their countries. The pursuit of individual and collective interests has occurred largely within a national framework.

Nonetheless, social and political movements have often transgressed national boundaries and expressed solidarities that go beyond them. People frequently join together in social movements that embody the principle and practice of solidarity. And these movements often cut across national boundaries.

Image by Ralph Chaplin, published in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) journal Solidarity on June 30, 1917.

Beyond a Just Transition

Beyond "Just Transition"

By Dr Eurig Scandrett - The Jimmy Reid Foundation, December 3, 2021

Introduction

It is no use simply saying to South Wales miners that all around them is an ecological disaster. They already know. They live in it. They have lived in it for generations. They carry it in their lungs… you cannot just say to people who have committed their lives and their communities to certain kinds of production that this has all got to be changed… Everything will have to be done by negotiation, by equitable negotiation, and it will have to be taken steadily along the way. Otherwise, you will find … that there is a middle-class environmental group protesting against the damage and there’s a trade-union group supporting the coming of the work. Now for socialists this is a terrible conflict to get into. Because if each group does not really listen to what the other is saying, there will be a sterile conflict which will postpone any real solutions at a time when it is already a matter for argument whether there is still time for the solutions. Raymond Williams (1982/1989)

The idea of ‘Just Transition’ (JT) has gained traction in recent years. With its roots in the union movement at the end of the twentieth century, it has developed into a concept with diverse and contested meanings. This engagement with JT has created spaces within the urgent policy areas of climate change mitigation to address potential job losses and the disproportionate impact up on the poorest communities, and more positively, to work for the generation of good quality, unionised jobs and greater social equality in a green economy. This is a fast-moving and often technical area of policy development. In Scotland, the Just Transition Commission (2021) reported in May 2021 after meeting over a period of two years, and relevant technical and policy reports are published with increasing frequency.

This paper is not a detailed contribution to these debates, on which others are more competent to comment, although it will inevitably touch on these. The paper aims to take a somewhat longer-term and more abstracted view of JT. It asks what do we mean by ‘Just’ and to what are we expecting to ‘Transition’ to? It argues that, in the discussions over the meanings of JT, the collective interests of workers, low-income communities and the environment are central, and require mechanisms to facilitate challenging dialogues between these interests.

There is an inevitable tendency, in developing positions on JT, to seek common ground between the two principal social movements that have driven JT debates: unions and environmental NGOs; or else between different unions or different industrial sectors. This process of seeking common ground can lead to a dilution of principle on all sides, a common denominator that all can live with, but with which none is entirely satisfied. While the process of negotiating common ground is a necessary and useful process for practical purposes, and a process at which the union movement is particularly adept, this paper argues that JT also provides the opportunity for a deeper dialogue in which all key stakeholders – the environment and working-class people who are either dependent on or excluded from the current unsustainable economy – can seek to incorporate the principles of the others. There are areas where the union movement and the environmental movement disagree. These areas of disagreement could be seen as potentially fertile grounds for deep dialogue in order to seek meaningful and lasting resolution.

This paper is, therefore, not intended to reflect the policy of any union or environmental group, but rather constitute a contribution to a debate within these movements and outwith them as well. It is, in places, designed to challenge. Indeed, it makes the case that the union and environmental movements can best learn from one another by being willing to be challenged by each other. All social movements reflect the interests of their participants, members, opinion formers and supporters and are contingent upon the social and political conditions in which they are acting. This is a strength, but also leads to ‘blind spots’ which are best addressed through collective self-reflection and challenges in solidarity from comrades in the struggle.

It is argued here that JT provides an opportunity to explore, for example, the tension well known in unions between representing the immediate interests of members and the long-term interests of the working-class; and in the environmental movement between the disproportionately educated, white, professional middle-class membership of the NGOs and the communities most directly affected by environmental devastation.

As has been recognised in some of the debates about JT, the idea can be located in a radical working-class tradition which, in Britain includes defence diversification, the East Kilbride Rolls Royce boycott of Chilean engines, the Lucas Aerospace Alternative Plan, the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in, amongst others. JT can be more than a mechanism to address climate change, for it can also be a process which can be applied to transitions of many kinds that the labour movement and the left more generally have long advocated: the transition to a more democratic economy, more equal society and socially beneficial system of production, distribution and exchange. The paper, therefore, argues that the union movement, along with environmental and anti-poverty movements would benefit from going ‘beyond’ just transition.

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