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A Green New Deal Must Be Rooted in a Just Transition for Workers and Communities Most Impacted by Climate Change

By various - Climate Justice Alliance, December 11, 2018

A Call for Special Attention to Highly Impacted Communities Leading a Just Transition

What is the Climate Justice Alliance?

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is a growing alliance, currently linking 68 community organizations, movement networks, and support organizations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico to unite under Just Transition strategies. CJA’s inter-generational constituencies are rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, and poor white communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. They share legacies of colonialism, racial and economic oppression, along with rich histories of environmental, economic and social justice organizing.

CJA believes that in order to effectively confront the climate crisis, we must transition our priorities from global systems of production and consumption that are energy intensive and fossil fuel dependent to more localized systems that are sustainable, resilient, and regenerative.

The transition itself, however, must be just.

What is the Green New Deal (GND)?

The GND is a proposal recently put forth by Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and currently supported by 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. It comes on the heels of the midterm election where Democrats won the majority in the House as well as the election of a number of self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists. Building off of energy from the demonstrations in Nancy Pelosi’s office by the youth of the Sunrise Movement, the GND, at this stage, has been presented as a call for the establishment of a House Select Committee that would be charged with “developing a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral.”  It also aims to “significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and … promote economic and environmental justice and equality.”(1)

The GND is the first time in many years that a proposal of this type has been presented by a number of members of a major U.S. political party. It proposes to tackle climate change and inequality simultaneously, while revolutionizing conditions for workers.  It is a much needed aggressive national pivot away from climate denialism to climate action with large scale federal legislative and budgetary implications.

Petro-masculinity: Fossil Fuels and Authoritarian Desire

By Cara Daggett - SagePub, June 20, 2018

Global warming poses a problem for fossil fuel systems and those who profit from them; leaving fossil fuels in the ground likely means leaving trillions of dollars of profit in the ground. Vast networks of privilege that are sustained by fossil economies are likewise threatened. As Jairus Grove reflects, ‘environmental justice will require unequal roles: significantly constraining, even repressing, the powers of the Eurocene’. Similarly, the ‘Planet Politics Manifesto’ reminds us that ‘the planet is telling us that there are limits to human freedom; there are freedoms and political choices we can no longer have’.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the amount of money and privilege at stake, the tragic ethos demanded by global environmental justice is being resisted. Those regions that have emitted the most carbon dioxide are positioning themselves to profit from a warming earth by advancing a militarised and corporatised version of climate security. The result, as Christian Parenti foresees it, is the likelihood of a ‘politics of the armed lifeboat’, given that, already,

the North is responding with a new authoritarianism. The Pentagon and its European allies are actively planning a militarized adaptation, which emphasizes the long-term, open-ended containment of failed or failing states – counter-insurgency forever. This sort of ‘climate fascism’ – a politics based on exclusion, segregation and repression – is horrific and bound to fail.

‘Climate fascism’, with its camps, barbed wire and police omnipresence, is a likely outcome of climate (in)security.

A nascent fossil fascism is already evident in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the conservative capture of the US Congress. In a short time, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party have shored up fossil
fuel systems by denying climate change and dismantling a host of environmental policies including: withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, installing a climate denier (Scott Pruitt) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, taking steps to kill the Clean
Power Plan, weakening the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, lifting a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land, ending a study on the health effects of mountaintop coal removal, and moving to open nearly all US coastal waters to offshore drilling for oil.

Climate denial obviously serves fossil-fuelled capitalist interests. However, coal and oil do more than ensure profit and fuel consumption-heavy lifestyles. If people cling so tenaciously to fossil fuels, even to the point of embarking upon authoritarianism, it is
because fossil fuels also secure cultural meaning and political subjectivities. Since the new imperialism of the 19th century, fossil fuels have become the metaphorical, material, and sociotechnical basis of Western petrocultures that extend across the planet.

In other words, fossil fuels matter to new authoritarian movements in the West because of profits and consumer lifestyles, but also because privileged subjectivities are oil-soaked and coal-dusted. It is no coincidence that white, conservative American men – regardless of class – appear to be among the most vociferous climate deniers, as well as leading fossil fuel proponents in the West.

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Civil Rights and the All Mighty Economy

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, January 16, 2018

When I attended Clintwood High School throughout the mid-90s, there was an amazing lack of ethnic diversity.  Our school was 99.8% white. The one student of color who attended CHS had been adopted and raised by a white family. It goes without saying that we had a very limited understanding of diversity. What little we did know came in the form of 80’s and 90’s whitewashed television programming pulled in with our 10-foot diameter c-band satellite dishes perched up on the hillside.

According to some, I should be racist. I was from the South, I was raised in a predominantly white area, and my hometown had even been renamed after Henry Clinton Wood, a Major in the Confederate army. So why ain’t I? Why do I stand in solidarity with people of color against injustice and the institutionalized racism of our nation?

It’s because our parents and the United Mine Workers taught us differently.

The few people of color in our county lived in the small town of Clinchco, Virginia, an old coal camp built by Clinchfield Coal Company. Like the rest of us, they were coal mining families. Their grandparents and great-grandparents had moved from the deep south searching for a better life. Though still wrought with oppression thanks to company-owned towns and the mine guard system, many people saw coal mining to be more preferable than sharecropping in the Jim Crow south.  While racism was still unavoidable in certain places throughout Appalachia, the United Mine Workers gave everyone rights as laborers and justice when facing the greed and oppression meant to subjugate us all to the will of the wealthy elite.

What racism did occur was often brought on by the coal companies themselves and the local elites who sought to divide the workforce and prevent unionization. They segregated the housing, churches, and bathhouses, doing what they could to socially and racially stratify us.

But the union wouldn’t stand for racism and segregation.  As my dad once said, “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is when you go into the mine, we all come out the same color, and so do our lungs.” This was the understanding of equality that was passed to me and my brother.

It was this sense of equality that held us all together, keeping our union and our communities close-knit and strong. It was this same understanding that led Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Appalachian coalfields in his work on the Poor People’s campaign. He had long known that the issues of racism have been rooted in classism and that classism has always been rooted in economics.

In the years since the union fell, the belief in equality that once bound our communities together has faded. Each calculated move by the industry has seen to the demise of our solidarity, starving us out during each strike, shutting down union operations, and even corrupting union leadership. In the absence of our once mighty union, the industry has guided us once again towards classism among the poor and middle class, classism that gives way to prejudice and racism.

We are caught between multimillion-dollar misinformation campaigns aimed at our continued exploitation, and the condescension afforded us by a liberal elite who believe us too stupid, too far gone, to help ourselves. What we need now are voices that call out clearly across the divide of populist politics, voices that cannot be easily drowned by the money of industry and philanthropies alike. We need voices that unite us all, from the coal mines to the inner cities, from the fields of migrant workers to the sweatshops of Bangladesh. If we are ever to find true justice in this world, we must stop letting money speak louder than our own voices of reason and equality.

“It is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he should lift himself up by his own bootstraps. It is even worse to tell a man to lift himself up by his own bootstraps when somebody is standing on the boot.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Climate Movement to May Day Strikers: "We've Got Your Back"

By Deirdre Fulton - Common Dreams, April 27, 2017

Just as labor leaders are standing firmly behind this Saturday's national climate mobilization, the environmental movement has declared its support for workers who plan to strike as part of Monday's May Day demonstrations.

May 1st, International Workers Day, will see rallies, marches, and strikes around the country and the world; in the United States, acts of civil disobedience, work stoppages, and boycotts will target the Trump administration and support immigrants who have experienced an increase in raids and racist rhetoric since the election of President Donald Trump.

"May 1st is the first step in a series of strikes and boycotts that will change the conversation on immigration in the United States," said Maria Fernanda Cabello, a spokesperson from Movimiento Cosecha, which is part of a coalition organizing the actions. "We believe that when the country recognizes it depends on immigrant labor to function, we will win permanent protection from deportation for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, the right to travel freely to visit our loved ones abroad, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect."

An open letter signed this week by more than 80 environmental and climate justice groups recognizes that these demands and those of green groups have many points of intersection. 

"Today, workers face unprecedented attacks on wages, benefits, workplace safety, and the right to organize free from fear and retaliation," reads the letter, whose signatories include 350.org, Greenpeace, Rising Tide North America, and the Sierra Club. "But we know that we are all stronger when workers in our communities have safe, fair, and dignified employment with which they can support their families without fear of deportation or violence."

What's more, the letter continues:

The effects of our fossil fuel economy fall first and worst on working class communities, communities of color, immigrants, and Indigenous peoples who have not only contributed the least to climate disruption, but have the least resources to shoulder the burden of a transition to a new, climate-friendly economy. It is these frontline communities who are also at the forefront of change and whose solutions and leadership we most need.

[...] As environmental and climate justice organizations, we support workers who choose to walk off their jobs on May 1st because we know that the fight to protect land, water, air and soil is inseparable from the fight to protect the life and dignity of workers, migrants, and communities of color.

This language dovetails with that of Mary Kay Henry, international president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who declared Wednesday, "Every day SEIU members and our communities experience the impact of toxic pollution in our air and water and the catastrophic impacts from climate change that are made worse from this pollution."

Of Saturday's Peoples Climate March, Henry said: "We march because we are on the frontlines. As working people, people of color, and immigrants, we march because our families are disproportionately hardest hit by pollution and climate change's impacts. We march because as service and care workers we are on the frontlines of caring for and responding to impacted families and communities."

The letter from eco- and climate-justice groups calls on employers not to retaliate against workers who choose to go on strike, and pledges to defend workers who face retaliation.

Why Environmentalists Must Be Antifascists

By Skyler Simmons - Earth First! Journal, April 21, 2017

In this age of Trump, with its’ rising white nationalism and escalating acts of terror against people of color, there can be no ambiguity when it comes to resisting white supremacists in particular and the far Right in general. And the environmental movement is no exception.

Unfortunately environmentalists have long flirted with racist and even outright fascist ideas, from kicking out immigrants to totalitarian population control. It’s time for the environmental movement to come out as an unequivocally antiracist and antifascist movement. We must show that we are ready to defend human dignity and equality with as much commitment as we defend the Earth.

While many of us within the environmental movement have been taking collective liberation seriously for years, from chasing the Klan out of our communities to answering the calls from communities of color to embrace environmental justice, our movement as a whole has done too little to challenge the racist tendencies both within environmentalist circles as well as society at large. It is time we take seriously the threat posed by racism and the Far right, and firmly position antifascist organizing side by side with our efforts to defend Mother Earth.

Why did Plane Stupid chain themselves to the runway at Stansted Airport?

By Plane Stupid - New Internationalist, March 29, 2017

Editor's Note: Plane Stupid includes members of the IWW.

Just over a year ago we were convicted for our part in the Heathrow 13 action. We occupied the Northern runway at Heathrow, cancelling 25 flights, saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted and protesting against the construction of the proposed third runway. For this we nearly went to prison.

So, why this move? Why is a well known environmental group now taking action against mass deportations?

Well, as Audre Lourde says, ‘there’s no such thing as a single issue campaign, because we do not live single issue lives.’ We do not see ourselves as ‘environmentalists’, nor do we see the fight against airport expansion or the fight against climate change as isolated from any other issue. Airport expansion is a form of violence and a form of oppression, one that a minority of people will benefit from the profits, whilst countless people will suffer from loss of community and health, both locally and globally.

As Black Lives Matter clearly stated back in September, the climate crisis is a racist crisis as it is Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies feel the worst effects of this violence. Oppressions are connected and the different forms it takes often share common roots. These roots include capitalism, racism, hetero-patriarchy and colonialism.

Black Awakening, Class Rebellion

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor interviewed by George Ciccariello-Maher - ROAR Mag, December 2016

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written the most important book of 2016. Published by Haymarket, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation has struck a chord nationwide, garnering major awards but more importantly sparking necessary debates. Like all militant texts, it walks the fine line between Marx’s “ruthless critique of everything existing” — in this case, not only the white supremacist power structure, but also the abject failure of Black elites and the Obama “illusion” — and the revolutionary optimism coalescing in the streets from Ferguson to Baltimore and beyond. By showing us how we got here, to a society in which “colorblind” rhetoric provides cover for not only racist continuity but also the dispossession of the poor as a whole, Taylor’s book is a compass for charting a different course altogether. George Ciccariello-Maher interviews her for ROAR Magazine.

Solidarity Politics to Resist the Coming Regime

By Deborah S. Rogers - Common Dreams, November 23, 2016

Many have issued clarion calls for resistance against the neofascist headed for the White House, his odious henchmen in tow. Few, however, have outlined all the steps needed to block Trump’s repugnant agenda and build a united movement that can upend the power dynamic in this country. Here’s my list: two popular suggestions, and four that take us well outside our comfort zone.

First, we need to have each other’s backs. Yes, I know, many have already said this. Now we need to make it concrete. We need hotlines, safe houses, support groups, and community meetings to share experiences and identify needs. Some will need body guards. We need methods of networking that exclude informants. We need to define a new ethic of intervention in public spaces when we see something that needs to be stopped. We need to exchange information across identity lines so we know what’s happening to others, and can ask for or offer help. We need an early warning system.

Second, we need to resist everything Trump, whether executive, legislative, judicial, national, local, corporate or social. Resistance can’t just be a catchy slogan; we need to actually do what it takes. Block it. Tie it up in court. Do an end run around it. Defund it. Walk out. Strike. Don’t cooperate. Refuse to comply. Gene Sharp, the famous non-violent resistance theorist, has written books on how ordinary people can make it impossible for governments to act against the public interest by withdrawing their consent and cooperation.

We need to get involved in decision-making at every level. By the time a national-level candidate is running, all the important decisions were made long ago. Join (or create) a political party at the local level. Run for mayor, city council, county commissioner or school board. Get involved at the state level – run for office or intervene in meetings of the public utilities commission, water permitting board, or legislative committees. Economic decision-making may be even more important. Join or create a workers’ or consumers’ cooperative. Push to set up a community or state bank. Establish a neighborhood small-scale renewable energy grid. If enough of us get involved at the local level, together we can change the political and economic equation throughout the entire nation.

We need to take back our time and money for political engagement. Public participation used to be commonplace in the US. But now, with worsening economic status and growing material expectations, most of us are working so long and hard that there is virtually no time left for political engagement. The people who can fully engage in politics now are those whose time is paid for as a candidate, consultant, party operative, or within a non-profit. Yet if we depend on corporate wealth and private foundations to make our political engagement possible, we have already lost. The only realistic way for most of us to gain more time is through reduced material consumption and increased collaboration. We need to stop buying excess stuff – donate to independent media or kick-ass political organizing instead! We need to learn how to share jobs, housing, vehicles, entertainment, childcare, eldercare, and all the other things that people think they have to do or enjoy individually. It’s time to break out of the rat race and find time for many more of us to be involved in community, state and national political life.

We need to build bridges with those who think differently from us. The right, despite serving the worst corporate masters, has successfully recruited large numbers of working people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. The Democrats, meanwhile, have abandoned them, while progressives have been unwilling to reach out and establish a dialogue with the white working class in recent years. In low-key conversations, I’ve been repeatedly amazed to find out that my right-leaning neighbors are mad about many of the same economic trends and abuses of power, and wish for many of the same outcomes. Yes, vocal Trump supporters tend to have views that can only be described as hateful. Once you identify common ground, however, you will learn when you can call on them to help fight an important battle. Even more powerful would be organizing to protect their economic survival when Trump throws them under the bus, as he inevitably will. Working toward shared goals can lead to increased tolerance and, eventually, respect. Change is possible.

We need to shift to a politics based on solidarity rather than identity. Wait—don’t we need to take a stand against Trump’s virulently racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and homophobic agenda? Yes. But going along with their divide-and-conquer strategy will only make things worse. We need to focus on building a united front that is strong enough to take on an authoritarian government backed by powerful corporations. If progressives remain Balkanized based on identity and refuse to join forces because of very real, long-standing and legitimate grievances, we are done for. We need to form coalitions, networks, and political parties that unite, not divide. We can take on Trump and address these urgent identity-based grievances in the process, by coming together in solidarity around common agendas. Will there be huge fights about what that common agenda is; what kind of internal decision-making to use; which policies to promote? Of course! It’s incredibly difficult to work through political and social differences. But it’s absolutely essential if we intend to take back power.

A quick fix is neither possible nor desirable in the urgent need to prevent Trump and his ilk from ramming through their devastating agenda. Ultimately, we can succeed only if we unite in solidarity, moving out of the "protest paradigm" and learning to exercise the power we have. Let’s get started now, before it’s too late!

Bite the Hand That Holds the Leash

By Patrick O’Donoghue - First of May Anarchist Alliance, November 18, 2016

“The thing to remember about people like Trump is that they offer false solutions and scapegoats to real problems- like the Klan did and still does, like the Commission on Public Safety did here in Minnesota during World War One, like the anti-refugee/anti-immigrant crowd does in stirring up hate against Somalis and Hispanic people in St Cloud and around the Twin Cities. The solutions Trump peddles don’t work. Deporting Mexicans can’t bring back jobs that got replaced by machines. Profiling Muslims can’t bring us security when the main domestic terror threat is white supremacists. You can’t reverse the stagnation of wages by busting unions. You can’t stop outsourcing by trying to stop other countries from developing.”

The night Trump got elected, I did a lot of soul searching, because the work I do as a revolutionary and an organizer involves, a lot of the time, trying to help and support people who… probably voted for Trump.

The place I work is mostly white, with coworkers that, like me, come from rural and blue collar backgrounds. It’s a place of contradictions, where rants about the boss getting rich off your labor comes as easily off of people’s lips as rants about ‘welfare queens’ coded in the tired language of black bashing, where nobody likes a cop until the issue of protesters and ‘thugs’ comes up. It’s a place where machismo is key and being “not PC” is part of being a man. A number of my coworkers are in that strange, almost fabled breed of voters who were excited about Sanders, then after he lost the primaries drifted towards Trump- more didn’t bother voting at all. It’s a racially divided workplace, and the black section, which has a union, is under attack from the company. Our section, mostly white, is non-union, and so far hasn’t gotten involved. Most aren’t even aware of the contract disputes; the two sections don’t talk much.

I was sitting on leave, thinking about my work, and wondering how the hell I could bring myself to go into work again and keep trying to talk to, and listen to, and support people who were fine with throwing my Muslim and queer family members and friends, and our immigrant and black coworkers, under the bus for a guy who made a lot of promises he can’t keep about making America great again. I knew, intellectually, why I had to- because after decades of neoliberal policies by a Democratic Party that abandoned the Great Society vision, of mechanization and outsourcing, of the Farm Crisis, and of the weakening of unions and the left, has left a lot of rural and working class white people searching for answers. I knew, intellectually, that if those answers don’t come in the form of standing with other exploited and marginalized people, they were going to come in the form of blaming even more exploited and marginalized people, of buying into the far right. I knew, from experience, that trying to approach anti-racism solely from a stance of guilt and blame is usually counterproductive and feeds the same processes that drive people to retreat into racism in the first place. I knew that I had to keep trying- but deep down in my gut, I felt like I was betraying my friends who are facing worse dangers under a Trump administration than I’m going to.

Then, the day after the election, a coworker of mine did something I hoped would happen for a long time. The man is a classic Rust Belt populist. A laid off union ironworker turned mariner, raised in a trailer park worrying about whether they’d have electricity that month. He harbors a lot of racial resentment over what he feels like are his problems not being acknowledged, being written off because of his relative white privilege. He resents being blamed or made to feel guilty for racism- and in a process familiar to anyone from my hometown, that defensiveness slowly turns into a defense of racism itself, a way to way to reject the blame by rejecting the idea that anything was wrong in the first place. This guy approached a queer coworker and an amazing organizer, and asked to meet with him, a Mexican, and a known Black Lives Matter arrestee to talk about forming a union. He insisted. He started talking organizing strategy. I got the news after work, in a pho shop near the waterfront. I almost broke down. It was the best news I could have hoped for. It gave me the strength to come into work ready to keep organizing.

White Australia has a Black History

By Patricia Olive Corowa - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 9, 2016

Lyrics to the tune of 'I will survive' by Gloria Gaynor:

At first I was afraid; I was petrified.
Thinking all the racists out there would eat me alive.
But I've spent so many nights
Thinking how we've been done wrong
And now I'm ready
And now I'm feeling strong
And yes we're black
Give us some space
We're standing up and speaking out
for our black and deadly race.
We will use all our strength and might
And we will win the final fight
We won't give up
Until the wrongs are all made right.

Go on now, talk
Heard it before
You can't silence us and keep us down anymore
Our people have anger and pain that makes us cry
But we won't crumble
We won't just lay down and die!

No, not us, we will survive
Long as we have pride in us I know we'll stay alive
We've got happier times to live
And much wisdom to give
We will survive
We we survive, hey hey.

Sometimes it takes strength just not to fall apart
So many still trying to live with their broken hearts
But from strength to strength we go
We will no longer be told no
We wont surrender, we will only grow.
Forget about the hate, don't even make a fuss
Let's only give our time to those people loving us.

Go on now, look, the other way
Turn your cheek and a deaf ear
To the truths we say.
Just know that in time, you will be judged for all your lies
Because we won't crumble
We hold our heads up high!

But from strength to strength we go.. Ever Onwards!

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