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Companies Proclaim Water the Next Oil in a Rush to Turn Resources Into Profit

Suzanne McGee - The Guardian, July 27, 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.

"Is now the time to buy water?" enquired the email that showed up in my inbox earlier this week.

Its authors weren't worrying about my dehydration levels. Rather, they were urging me to think of water in quite a new way: as a commodity to invest in.

Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next?

After spending nearly 30 years of my life writing about business and finance, including several years dedicated to the commodities market, the idea of treating water as a pure commodity - something to bought and sold on the open market by those in quest of a profit rather than trying to deliver it to their fellow citizens as a public service - made me pause.

Sure, I've grown up surrounded by bottled mineral water - Evian, Volvic, Perrier, Pellegrino and even more chi-chi brands - but that has always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to whatever home I'm occupying. All it takes is turning a tap. The cost of that water is fractions of a penny compared to designer bottled water.

Capital Blight - LIUNA Official Declares, "the Earth is flat; I saw it with my own eyes!"

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus July 21, 2014

Those familiar with the IWW EUC will recall that we pull no punches in attacking the shortcomings of the business unions (the building trades in particular) on matters of both class and ecology, particularly the Keystone XL pipeline.

In late April of this year, Sean McGarvey, president of the North American Building Trades' Unions issued this statement calling for the expediting of the Keystone XL Pipeline and defending Alberta tar sands mining (which Keystone XL would facilitate, and a key--no pun intended--reason for widespread opposition to it by environmentalists).

In it, he declared:

"I've just spent several days with other building trades union leaders visiting the oil sands region and meeting with officials from the Canadian government as well as industry representatives and contractors...and what we heard, and more importantly what we saw with our own eyes, is nowhere near what the American public is being told by the radical environmental movement."

The assorted labor fakirs referenced by McGarvey included:

  • Terry O'Sullivan, General President; LiUNA
  • Ed Hill -International President; IBEW
  • Bill Hite - General President; United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters
  • Joe Nigro - General President; SMART (International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers)
  • Eric Dean - General Secretary; International Association of Ironworkers
  • Mike Pleasant - Administrative Assistant to the General President; United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters
  • Terry Healy- Vice President and Special Assistant to the President; LiUNA

There's little doubt that McGarvey is openly hostile to the environmental movement, evidenced by his attempts to marginalize the vast and growing popular opposition to Keystone XL (as well as many other) pipeline(s), tar sands mining, fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, offshore drilling, and crude-by-rail (all of which are inevitably interconnected due to the current capitalist push to extract every known source of carbon before the impending carbon bubble bursts and strands $trillions in assets) as "radical" (read: fringe) environmentalists.

He claims (without any peer reviewed studies, corroborating evidence from independent sources, or even so much as a single citation) that Canadian government officials, industry representatives and contractors, and his own eyes tell him:

  • The development of the oil sands accounts for only 7.8% of Canada's annual overall GHG emissions; and only 1/640th of global GHG emissions.
  • The government of Alberta implemented stringent GHG regulations in 2007, becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to do so. Since 2007, these regulations have resulted in GHG reductions of 23 million tons, the equivalent of taking 4.8 million cars off the road for one year.
  • Since 1990 GHG emissions from oil sands development have been reduced by 26%.
  • The Royal Society in Canada has studied water quality impacts and its conclusions suggest that oil sands development are not a current threat to aquatic ecosystem viability.
  • Alberta law requires all lands disturbed by oil sands operations be reclaimed. All companies are required to develop a reclamation plan that spans the life of the project.
  • McGarvey wants us to believe that if the capitalists say something is "green" and "safe" that we should trust that information, especially if it's backed up by the (arch conservative, pro-fossil fuel extraction) Canadian government. There couldn't any conflict of interest there right? And of course, we can trust McGarvey's own eyes, because...well...he sees with them, and seeing is believing! (or so McGarvey wants us to think).

    If I were him, I'd get my eyes checked, because there's a whole bunch right in front of his eyes that he's not seeing. Either that, or he chooses not to see it.

    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.

    How Green is the Green New Deal?

    By Don Fitz - Climate and Capitalism, July 15, 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 world has over half a century of experience with programs that claim to help nature or feed the planet while they do the opposite.  The twin crises of the early 21st century are economic and ecological collapse.  Should we increase production to create more jobs and accept horrible environmental damage?  Or, should we protect a livable world at the cost of causing more unemployment?

    An increasingly popular answer is the “Green New Deal” (GND): create “green jobs” in order to jump start the economy.   But the GND might not provide long term employment and could cause major environmental harm.  Digging beneath the surface appearance of the GND requires exploring its family tree: the Green Revolution, Green Capitalism and the Green Economy.

    The Green Revolution

    As capitalism spread across the globe, hunger and starvation spread with it.  Hoarding food and selling it to those who have plenty has always been more profitable than sharing food with those who need it.

    By the middle of the 20th century, agribusiness decided that new plant varieties could be the focal point of a “Green Revolution” that would “feed the world.”  According to Stan Cox, dwarfing genes “allowed the plant to divert less energy to making stems and leaves and allowed the farmer to apply much more nitrogen fertilizer without making the plants get too tall and fall over.”  But these new varieties required pesticides and were more vulnerable to diseases. [1]

    For at least 10,000 years, humans have been using “open pollination” seeds which could be gathered and planted the next year.  The Green Revolution also promoted hybrid seeds, especially for corn.  But hybrid seeds did not reproduce traits sought by farmers.  Those who use them must return to the seed company each year.  Hybrids fostered agricultural dependency.

    One of the best summaries of the effects of hybrid corn is in Carmelo Ruiz’ story of Henry Wallace, the agrarian progressive who was Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture.  According to Ruiz, “Among the most celebrated attributes of hybrid corn is the ease with which it can be harvested by machine.”  Huge fields with “genetic uniformity created a dream situation for pests.” [2, p 10]  As with dwarf varieties, this generated a need for pesticides.  Rapid growth as well as pesticide destruction of the soil’s natural fertility created a need for fertilizers.

    A huge increase in output resulted: “between 1950 and 1980, US corn exports were multiplied times 20.” [2]   Results also appeared in increased farming costs, impoverishment of family farmers, and further concentration of wealth in agriculture.

    Was this truly the price that had to be paid in order to “feed the world?”  Is it possible that the same yield increases could have occurred if research had gone in another direction?  Ruiz quotes geneticist Richard Lewontin as concluding, “Virtually no one has tried to improve the open-pollinated varieties, although scientific evidence shows that if the same effort had been put into such varieties, they would be as good or better than hybrids.” [2]

    Research focused on developing hybrids because they were part of an overall agenda to concentrate capital.  Proponents of the Green Revolution identified a real problem (hunger), but they trumpeted a solution friendly to big business which created as many problems as it solved.  Meanwhile, a low-tech solution was ignored.

    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.

    Chapter 21 : You Fucking Commie Hippies!

    By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

    “Fort Bragg has bred a race of people who live in two-week stints, called ‘halves’ which end every other Thursday with a trip to the bowling alley for highballs and to cash the paycheck. The most altruistic among these are church-going, family-and-roses, four-holidays-a-year American workers. At the other end of the line (sometimes in the same body) are people who would kill hippies with a certain fundamental zest; who are still angry about events of twenty years ago and have been patiently tearing up the woods ever since…People want to work the last few years [while the forest lasts], go back into the hard-to-reach places and cut those last trees, the way a tobacco addict wants to smoke all the butts in the house when stranded.”

    —Crawdad Nelson, June 28, 1989

    “It’s time for loggers—and employees of nuclear power plants, for that matter—to consider the idea that their jobs are no longer honorable occupations. They have no God-given right to devastate the earth to support themselves and their families.”

    —Rob Anderson, June 21, 1989

    With the arrival of summer, Corporate Timber organized its biggest backlash yet against the efforts by populist resistance to their practices, particularly the possible listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as an endangered species. Masterfully they whipped up gullible loggers and timber dependent communities into a mob frenzy, framing the very complex issue as simply an opportunistic effort by unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs to use the bird to shut down all logging everywhere forever. At the very least, they predicted (lacking any actual scientific studies to prove it) that listing the spotted owl as “endangered” would result in as much as a 33 percent reduction in timber harvesting activity throughout the region. Nothing could be further from the truth in the timber wars, of course, but that didn’t stop the logging industry from bludgeoning the press and public with this myth to the point of overkill.

    A sign of the effectiveness of Corporate Timber’s propagandizing was the rapid adoption by timber workers, gyppo operators, and residents in timber dependent communities of yellow ribbons essentially symbolizing solidarity with the employers. [1] This symbol was far simpler than Bailey’s “Coat of Arms”, and such activity was encouraged, albeit subtly, by the corporations themselves, but the timber workers who had already been subjected to a constant barrage of anti-environmentalist propaganda were swayed easily. [2] One industry flyer even went so far as to say, “They do not know you, they have never met you, and the probably never will meet you; but they are your enemies nonetheless.” Yellow ribbons had been used for this purpose for several years already, but never on such a widespread scale. [3] Many of those sporting yellow ribbons, particularly on their car or truck antennae adopted other symbols as well. [4] These included t-shirts, bumper stickers, and signs with slogans such as “save a logger, eat an owl”, “spotted owl: tastes like chicken”, or “I like spotted owls: fried.” [5] Gyppo operators even began organizing “spotted owl barbecues” (with Cornish game hens standing in for the owls). [6]

    All of this was anger directed at the environmentalists in a frenzy, which even the biggest enablers of Corporate Timber privately conceded was “knee jerk”. Pacific Lumber president John Campbell did what he could do sow more divisions by denouncing those that sought to preserve the spotted owl as “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (CAVE). [7] Louisiana Pacific spokesman Shep Tucker declared, “We want to send a message across the country that this is not acceptable, and we can do it by pulling out all of the stops and descending on Redding in force.” [8] As if this weren’t enough, local governments of timber dependent communities, including Redding, Eureka, and Fortuna, got into the act and passed resolutions opposing the listing of the owl as endangered. [9] The climate of fear generated by this effort was so intense that Oregon Earth First!er, Karen Wood, who—with a handful of other local Earth First!ers—had walked picket lines in solidarity with striking Roseburg Forest Products workers;, commented that one could not venture into a single business without seeing pro-Corporate Timber propaganda in her timber dependent community. [10]

    Progressive Extractivism: Hope or Dystopia?

    By Don Fitz - Climate and Capitalism, 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.

    Continuing the  debate on extractivism in Latin America. Don Fitz says it highlights different views on what type of society we are working to build and how we plan to get there.

    Previous articles in this discussion:

    Don Fitz  is editor of Green Social Thought: A Magazine of Synthesis and Regeneration, which will publish this article in its Fall 2014 issue.

    The controversy over extractivism in Latin America has become a lot hotter.  Though social justice and environmental activists have sought a partnership for years, this could become a wedge issue.  The debate is core to our conceptualization of what type of society we are working to build and how we plan to get there.

    Historically, social justice advocates have pointed to economic growth as the road to eliminating poverty.  Inspired by authors such as Andre Gunder Frank and Eduardo Galeano, they understood that “underdevelopment” is not a result of Latin American countries’ lagging behind the Europe and the US.  It has flowed from their wealth being drained as they produced raw materials for rich countries. [1, 2]  Could they break out of the “underdevelopment” cycle by keeping the profits from extracted raw materials?

    A new generation of Latin American authors has challenged the focus on extractivisim because of the damage is does to indigenous cultures, the environment, and health of current and future generations.  Yet, their challenge is itself being challenged by those who insist that governments such as those elected in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Brazil are improving the quality of life of millions of people by retaining a much greater proportion of extracted wealth.

    Extraction is the beginning point of economic systems.  It provides the physical basis for production.  Wealth from manufacturing allows for the financing of medical care, education and other social services.  Extraction includes not only critical metals of iron, tin, copper, zinc, gold, lead, manganese, chrome, gold and silver, but also fossil fuels from gas fracking, coal mining and oil drilling (essential for plastics), tree harvesting, crop monocultures, and massive exhaustion of water, both for electrical power and aiding every other type of extraction.

    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.

    Blaming Migration for our Problems is Dangerous and Wrong

    By Adam Ramsey - The Ecologist, June 21, 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.

    Rupert Read finished his piece on why he hates immigration by saying that mainstream politicians love it for the same reason that Hitler does.

    Usually, comparing your opponents to Hitler immediately means that, under Godwin's Law, you've lost the argument.

    But Rupert had already lost his argument long before that.

    To summarise, Rupert makes a case that migration is a tool of the powerful against the powerless, and is environmentally damaging. He therefore argues that we should 'love migrants, but hate migration'.

    He gives a list of reasons for why he thinks migration is a bad thing. Let me go through each of his points and explain why I disagree.

    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.

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