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A just transition from coal demands a cross-regional sharing of benefits and costs

By Natalie Bennett - The Ecologist, January 4, 2018

The world has to stop burning coal to produce electricity. We cannot afford the dirtiest fuel, killing with its air pollution, heating the planet with its carbon. That’s a reality that’s dawned in increasing numbers of countries, with the UK among them, who have signed up to the Powering Past Coal alliance, launched at the Bonn climate talks.

In Britain, the reality is this signature is more symbolic than practical. The government had already promised a phase out by 2025 (which could be a lot earlier). In August only 2 percent of electricity was produced through coal and its financial cost is increasingly ruling it out.

But the politics of coal are very different in Poland, where 80 percent of electricity is still produced with highly-polluting fuel, and the government is one of the last in the developed world still building new coal-fired stations.

Not-for-Profit, Open for Business

By Sophia Burns - The North Star, December 15, 2016

Reflections on Angry Inuk: White Animal Saviour (Industrial) Complex* and the Perpetuation of Colonial Domination

By Darren Chang - PPEH Lab, March 18, 2017

Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s 2016 documentary, Angry Inuk, is a story about the erasure and domination of Indigenous peoples by colonial powers. The film impassionedly defends the seal hunt industry by revealing how Western environmental and animal advocacy NGOs (e.g., Greenpeace, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International), have devastated the livelihoods of Inuit communities that rely on the industry for subsistence. The NGOs have destroyed the Inuit seal trade economy by successfully campaigning the European Union to ban products made from seals, despite allowing an exception for the trading of Inuit seal products. This reflection examines how the strategies carried out by Western NGOs to achieve their “victory” are rooted in colonial-capitalism, white supremacy and Eurocentrism, and therefore reinforces colonial domination. Below, I focus on a few strategies employed by the NGOs, as highlighted in the film.

One strategy is that the NGOs deliberately mislead the public with select imagery of seals. For example, one segment shows how the NGOs continue to use images of white-coated seal pups in their campaign advertising, even though the slaughter of white-coated seal pups has been banned in Canada for over thirty years. Another segment shows how images of seals “crying” have been heavily used in advertising by the NGOs to pull on the public’s heartstrings for effective fundraising. However, tearing has no known relation to cognitive or emotional response in seals, and serves only to protect their corneas from salt. Arnaquq-Baril also plays a 1978 interview in which Paul Watson admits that targeting the seal hunt and exploiting images of harp seals have always been the easiest way for NGOs such as Greenpeace to raise funds. At the time of the interview, Watson had left Greenpeace and founded his own Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Years later, Watson and Sea Shepherd have gone on to raise money using the exact same strategies targeting the seal hunt. This manipulative profit-driven fundraising and advocacy strategy fits into the existing nonprofit industrial complex, where the growth of NGO organizational capacities is prioritized and pursued by appealing to the sentiments of the settler-colonial population and the state.

Other parts of the film illustrate how NGOs invoke nationalist and colonial discourses by shaming the government of Canada for allowing the seal hunt, and appealing to European sensibilities in lobbying the EU for the ban. These strategies rest on the Western civilizational binary logic that defines accepted Western practices as “civilized” and non-Western practices as “savage” or “barbaric”. Tracing the NGOs’ actions along this logic illuminates why the mostly-white Western animal advocacy NGOs tend to exert a disproportionate level of aggression to end culturally-specific animal exploitations and killings practiced by people of color. Meanwhile, campaigns to challenge the infinitely more destructive and violent animal exploitation industries founded, upheld and propagated by their fellow whites (e.g. industrial animal agriculture that brutally slaughters billions of animals yearly) are carried out with less intensity and far more civility.

More importantly, if we interpret the exception in the EU ban allowing Inuit seal products to continue being traded through the civilized/savage binary logic, we see how the Inuit exception could have led more Members of the European Parliament to support the overall ban. That is, the MEPs did not vote to ban seal products because they thought killing seals was immoral or unethical; instead, the MEPs banned seal products because seal hunting was associated with the “barbaric” Inuit, who the “civilized” Europeans preferred to distance themselves from. Moreover, to uphold this European self-aggrandizing fantasy, it was important to deny the Inuit their voice and presence. Therefore, in all the NGO campaigns against the seal hunt industry, the commercial seal hunt has been whitewashed, or portrayed as predominantly white. Simultaneously, Indigenous seal hunters who depend every bit as much on the commercial industry to maintain the price of seal products, were completely erased as members of the commercial seal hunt. Effectively, the Inuit exception fixes the Inuit seal hunters and their cultures and ways of life in the past. The underlying message of the Inuit exception is that while the EU allows the Inuit seal hunters to continue their way of life, they could never expect to be part of a modern industry, because there is no place for the Inuit way of life in modernity.

In emphasizing these racist NGO strategies, Angry Inuk reveals the ways in which colonizers disintegrate Indigenous sovereignty through their good intentions to “save” others. This time, however, unlike the earlier colonizers who tried to save Indigenous peoples from so-called savagery through genocide and assimilation, the white animal saviours reproduce this colonial process (regardless of their intentions) by attempting to save animals. What many white animal saviours need to confront is a problematic drive to save every individual animal in denial of ecological realities and the necessity for some Indigenous peoples to kill other species for subsistence. White animal saviours should also own up to their unethical, institutionally racist practices of NGO campaigning.

The Women’s March was a huge success. Next up: Sustained Resistance

By Elizbeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, January 22, 2017

Unionists were among the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who joined in the Sister Marches for the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2017 . The Canadian Labour Congress statement of “Why we March” is here . Unifor’s President Jerry Dias endorsed the March and called for a “united mobilization effort” against the Trump agenda. The March was an undeniable success, and the Washington organizers, quoted in a Globe and Mail report, recognized: “This is more than a single day of action, this is the beginning of a movement – to protect, defend and advance human rights, even in the face of adversity. ”

Jeremy Brecher of Labor Network for Sustainability tackles this issue for U.S. labour unions in “How Labor and Climate united can trump Trump” . After cataloguing some of the worst threats under a Trump administration , he calls for “an alliance of unions and allies willing to fight the whole Trump agenda” and states: “Such a “big tent” needs to include unions that are not part of the AFL-CIO, such as SEIU, Teamsters, and National Education Association. Some unions may choose not to join because they are unwilling to take a forthright stand against the Trump agenda; it would be both absurd and catastrophic for that to prevent the rest of the labor movement and its allies from taking on a fight that is about the very right of unions to exist.”

The United Resistance, led by the NAACP, Greenpeace USA, and the Service Employees International Union, is chief among these new alliances, pledging to “stand together” on the issues of civil rights, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, social equality, action on climate change, public health and safety, public dissent, and access to information. Their inspirational video is here , as well as a list of the alliance members. The AFL-CIO is not listed as a member of the United Resistance, though their recent blogs oppose Trump’s nominees, and they promoted the Women’s March. For more about the United Resistance, see “More than 50 Organizations Launch United Resistance Campaign as Trump’s Cabinet Hearings Begin” in Common Dreams (Jan.10).

In a second article , SOCIAL SELF-DEFENSE: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism , Jeremy Brecher borrows a term from the Solidarity movement in Poland 40 years ago, and takes a larger, more global focus. He writes that “Social Self Defense includes the protection of the human rights of all people; protection of the conditions of our earth and its climate that make our life possible; the constitutional principle that government must be accountable to law; and global cooperation to provide a secure future for people.” “Social Self-Defense is not an organization – it is a set of practices to be engaged in by myriad organizations, hopefully in close coordination with each other.” Although the article highlights a number of examples, such as the growing Sanctuary movement in the U.S., and case studies of alliances, including Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense , the overriding impact is to emphasize the scale of the task: “These actions appear to be on the way to being the greatest outpouring of civil resistance in American history.”

Greenpeace Workers Strike Amid Claims of Exploitation

By Cyrus Ward - Young Progressive Voices, August 16, 2015

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.

Workers at two California Greenpeace offices have gone on strike amid concerns over an unjust quota system that creates a zero-sum, high pressure environment which puts canvassers in risk of being fired, every 3 weeks.

According to a press release sent by a new organization named “Greenpeace on Strike,” many the environmental organization’s canvassers with over 1 year experience regularly raise nearly 6 to 7 times as much money as they are paid. Despite the significant payday for Greenpeace, the organization uses a quota system that doesn’t take into account the lifetime fundraising totals of canvassers. The system runs on a 3 week quota that means that canvassers can be fired for short-time lull in fundraising even if the canvassers’ lifetime totals are still above the 3 week average.

In response to the strike, 16 of the Greenpeace workers in San Diego were delivered with letters of intent to terminate by Greenpeace under a claim of job abandonment. Greenpeace On Strike’s press release claims that these letters are a direct violation of section 7 & 8 of the National Labor Relations Act.

Despite the threatening response by Greenpeace, one of the striking canvassers said “by no means are we doing this to bash Greenpeace. We love Greenpeace, and we are Rainbow Warriors. That’s why we want to make Greenpeace better.”

Regardless of the outcome, it is abundantly clear that despite its leftist political ideology, Greenpeace’s workplace is far from democratic.

Railroad Workers United's Jen Wallis and Greenpeace's Kim Marks on We Do The Work radio

By Jen Wallis and Kim Marks - We Do the Work Radio, July 28, 2015

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.

March for jobs, justice and the climate launched in Toronto

By Megan Devlin - Rabble.ca, May 22, 2015

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.

It was chilly in the shadow of the TD building at King and Bay Thursday morning as about 40 members of a coalition of grassroots organizations raised their red placards at the launch for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate.

The march will happen July 5 -- on the eve of the Pan American Climate Summit of the Americas -- but it was clear that the movement has already gained support.

The launch criticized the fossil fuel industry's power and called for a justice-based transition to a clean-energy-based economy.

"We're ready for the next economy," Naomi Klein said in her address. "Canadians are clearly getting tired of the fossil fuel roller coaster."

The march is a collaboration among a range of stakeholder groups including 350.org, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, GreenPeace, oil divestment activists from the University of Toronto and Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, which represents many of Alberta's energy workers.  

Greenpeace Supports Railroad Workers Safety

By Brian Manning - Greenpeace Blog, March 20, 2015

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. It should also be emphasized that the IWW is not affiliated with Greenpeace, nor has Greenpeace yet admitted to any wrong doing when they closed several canvassing offices in 1988 to avoid an IWW unionization effort by the workers there. Nevertheless, the fact that Greenpeace is willing to go on record supporting the (quite reasonable and modest) demands by railroad workers is significant.

Communities across the globe are working together to keep coal in the ground everywhere and promote a just transition to a renewable energy future. In the Pacific Northwest, we’re working with a broad, diverse and growing coalition of environmental, business, faith, and health groups to stop coal exports. People are coming together to shutter coal-fired power plants, holding big polluters accountable, grassroots efforts at the mines for a greener and safer future.

As we continue moving forward together to stop coal and other fossil fuels most responsible for climate change, the workers that would carry the dangerous cargo have a big fight on their hands to prevent the industry from changing to one-person train crew restrictions. Railroad workers like conductors already are facing chronic fatigue that increase the risk of accidents.

EcoUnionist News #14

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Ending the Oil Age

By Jess Worth; lead image by Jenna Pope - New Internationalist, November 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.

In September 2014, the $860 million Rockefeller Foundation made an historic announcement. Timed to coincide with massive marches for climate action all over the world, the fund revealed it was going to divest from fossil fuels. Following in the footsteps of the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and Stanford University, the latest major institution to make such an announcement is also the most symbolic. Because the Rockefeller fortune owes its very existence to oil.

The Rockefeller story is also the story of the rise and fall of the first ‘oil major’. Standard Oil, founded by John D Rockefeller in 1870, soon came to control the burgeoning US oil industry, from extraction to refining to transportation to retail.

It built an unprecedented monopoly that ultimately became so publicly despised that the US government stepped in and broke it up – birthing Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, among others. But by then, Standard had already set the Western world on a path to oil dependence that we are still shackled to, chain-gang-style, today.

The forced break-up created the Rockefeller millions. A century later, those millions are being used to make a dramatic point: we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the oil age.

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