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QUELLING DISSENT: How the Big Greens Contain & Dissolve Resistance

By Kat Yang Stevens - groundworkforpraxis.com, August 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.

[image description: Black frame with a white frame inside it. Inside the white frame are two teal "boxes", one rectangular shaped on the left, a square on the right. The left rectangular box contains grayscale images of Maura Cowley (executive director at Energy Action Coalition), Michael Brune (executive director at Sierra Club), and Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org). In front of Cowley you can see the tops of two microphones. Written vertically on the right hand side of that box in white letters it reads, "DISMANTLE THE NGOS". To the right in the teal square shaped "box" it reads in white letters, "QUELLING DISSENT: How The Big Greens Contain & Dissolve Resistance" under that in black letters it reads, "by kat yang-stevens". Below that the text reads, "excerpts appeared previously in issue #113 of" with the logo for the magazine, Adbusters appearing next to that text.] // image credit: Adbusters //  Why Use Image Descriptions?

We are living in an age of unparalleled destruction. The prevailing colonialist capitalist order is forcing humanity to a state of near-total estrangement from the natural world. The earth can no longer sustain the parasitic extractive industry, which is fueled by the unending growth that capitalism demands. As we surpass the apex of the age of fossil fuels, the global elite is desperate to maintain power and control in the face of inevitable, rapidly-approaching economic collapse. They will continue to attempt to maintain the current conditions they have created, in which the incessant pursuit of the luxuries of modernity has reduced the earth and Indigenous peoples worldwide to being viewed as commodities that exist simply to provide “resources” for civil society. They will continue to deploy one of their biggest tools to quell dissent to these conditions: big “green” non-governmental organizations [NGOs].


Within the colonial borders of the US, more and more communities are feeling the direct effects of environmentally degrading industrial facilities and extractive industries. In a blatant act of cultural genocide, the city of Flagstaff, AZ recently committed 3.6 billion gallons of treated sewage water for snowmaking at the Snowbowl ski resort that sits on a mountain sacred to over 13 indigenous nations, including the Dine’ (Navajo), Hopi, Zuni, Haulapai, Havasupai, Yavapai-Apache, Yavapai-Prescott, Tonto Apache, White Mountain Apache, San Carlos, Apache, San Juan Southern Paiute, Fort Mcdowell Mohave Apache, Acoma and Tohono o’odham. Klee Benally, a Dine’ volunteer with Protect The Peaks, says the project is “incredibly offensive, unsustainable and ultimately irresponsible considering the escalating water crisis we’re facing in the Southwest.” In Chester, PA, five large waste facilities, including a Convanta incinerator – the largest in the country, processing over 3,500 tons of trash a day – have led to an asthma crisis in the majority black community. 5.6 million tons of New York City waste has already been burned in Chester, and according to the Chester Environmental Justice Facebook page, on August 13, 2014 the Chester city council approved a plan that will bring 30 years worth of trash from NYC by rail to Chester.

Frontline community organizers like Yudith Nieto with the group Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.), based in the East End of Houston, TX, have described the conditions of their mostly Latina and Xicana communities as a “living example of environmental racism.” There are hundreds of thousands of people who are living fenceline to industry and being poisoned mercilessly with little to no intervention from the Environmental Protection Agency. People there are engaged in a battle against tar sands, as their communities sit at one of the terminus points of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline – the other terminus point is in the predominantly African-American community of Port Arthur, TX. Just over the artificially imposed border between the US and Canada lies the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Reservation, which borders the city of Sarnia in Ontario – this area is also known as “Chemical Valley”. According to a 2011 World Health Organization study, the area is plagued with the most polluted air in settler colonial “Canada”. Communities there have been waging opposition to tar sands as the Enbridge corporation prepares to finish a project that will allow Line 9 to transport tar sands. Both communities are surrounded by smokestacks and being forced to breathe the poisonous byproducts of refineries and petrochemical plants, many of them owned by corporations heavily invested in the exploitation of tar sands and fracked gas as well as the construction of new pipelines to transport the toxic products. Both communities are engaged in grassroots community-led organizing and resistance to the presence of these industries. (For more on indigenous resistance to tar sands, see the short film “Kahsatstenhsera” produced by Amanda Lickers of Reclaim Turtle Island.)

Is Professional Activism Getting in the Way of Real Change?

By Henia Belalia - www.alternet.org, November 1st, 2013

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.

With budgets and voices so loud, professionals’ messages overshadow the call for uprisings coming from the trenches.

It’s disconcerting to find so few faces in the prominent ranks of the environmental movement that reflect the realities and experiences of those bearing the brunt of climate collapse. Estimates show that since 1990 more than 90% of natural disasters have occurred in poor countries and that, globally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by air, soil and water pollution. Numbers also demonstrate that low-income households are hit the hardest by disasters, due to factors such as  poor infrastructure and economic instability.

Yet those making strategic decisions are sitting in air-conditioned board rooms, hoping their conversations will pave the way for profound systemic change. Those most impacted by socioeconomic ills and environmental degradation are rarely present at those tables. This disconnect is quite alarming. Those of us frustrated with this scenario have turned to a deeper analysis and framework over the last decade— that of climate justice. Defining climage justice is a work in progress; honoring and integrating it are  lifelong struggles.

To tackle the root (read: radical) causes of the climate crisis, we must first acknowledge that environmental degradation exacerbates existing economic, racial and social injustices—an  interconnectedness that should define our analysis and actions. To truly win, land and justice defenders must recognize overlapping systems of oppression within this capitalist structure, and take strategic cues from the communities most impacted by colonization, militarism and poverty. That means building movements across issues and beyond divides based on race, class and gender, while elevating the voices that have been historically marginalized: indigenous peoples, communities of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the low-income population. To do so will take a profound decolonization of minds and professional institutions.

Apply the Brakes: Anti-Immigrant Co-Optation of the Environmental Movement

By Jenny Levison, Stephen Piggott, Rebecca Poswolsky, and Eric Ward - Center for New Community, 2010

From the Introduction: - This report is intended to explore how antiimmigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment, and will examine the anti-immigrant environmentalist network that has influenced the environmental movement for the last 14 years. In 2009, an article in the Population Special Issue of the Earth Island Journal1 mentioned a new organization and website named Apply the Brakes (ATB hereafter). A few months later, the Center for Immigration Studies2 — an anti-immigrant organization known to trade in racism — cited ATB in a memorandum denouncing Sierra Club leadership for not addressing the issue of immigration. At a time when more people of color, labor and human rights organizations are engaging in environmental concerns such as climate change and “green jobs,” ATB could very well threaten those fragile coalitions.

Read the entire report here (in PDF form).

What about the "Tragedy of the Commons"?

By "Anarchist Writers" - November 11, 2008

The term "Tragedy of the Commons" is a phrase which is used to describe why, according to some, commonly owned resources will be destructively overused. The term was first coined by Garret Hardin in December 1968. ["The Tragedy of the Commons", Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859, pp. 1243-1248] It quickly became popular with those arguing against any form of collective ownership or socialism and would be the basis for many arguments for privatisation.

Unsurprisingly, given its popularity with defenders of capitalism and neo-classical economists, Hardin's argument was a pure thought experiment with absolutely no empirical evidence to support it. He suggested a scenario in which commonly owned pasture was open to all local herdsmen to feed their cattle on. Hardin complemented this assumption with the standard ones of neo-classical economics, arguing that each herdsman would try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons to maximise their income. This would result in overgrazing and environmental destruction as the cost of each feeding additional animals is shouldered by all who use the commons while the benefits accrue to the individual herdsman. However, what is individually rational becomes collectively irrational when each herdsman, acting in isolation, does the same thing. The net result of the individual's actions is the ending of the livelihood of every herdsman as the land becomes overused.

His article was used to justify both nationalisation and privatisation of communal resources (the former often a precursor for the latter). As state ownership fell out of favour, the lesson of this experiment in logic was as uniform as it was simple: only privatisation of common resources could ensure their efficient use and stop them being overused and destroyed. Coming as it did before the rise of neo-liberalism in the 1970s, Hardin's essay was much referenced by those seeking to privatise nationalised industries and eliminate communal institutions in tribal societies in the Third World. That these resulted in wealth being concentrated in a few hands should come as no surprise.

Needless to say, there are numerous problems with Hardin's analysis. Most fundamentally, it was a pure thought experiment and, as such, was not informed by historical or current practice. In other words, it did not reflect the reality of the commons as a social institution. The so-called "Tragedy of the Commons" was no such thing. It is actually an imposition of the "tragedy of the free-for-all" to communally owned resources (in this case, land). In reality, commons were never "free for all" resources and while the latter may see overuse and destruction the former managed to survive thousands of years. So, unfortunately for the supporters of private property who so regularly invoke the "Tragedy of the Commons", they simply show their ignorance of what true commons are. As socialist Allan Engler points out:

"Supporters of capitalism cite what they call the tragedy of the commons to explain the wanton plundering of forests, fish and waterways, but common property is not the problem. When property was held in common by tribes, clans and villages, people took no more than their share and respected the rights of others. They cared for common property and when necessary acted together to protect it against those who would damage it. Under capitalism, there is no common property. (Public property is a form of private property, property owned by the government as a corporate person.) Capitalism recognises only private property and free-for-all property. Nobody is responsible for free-for-all property until someone claims it as his own. He then has a right to do as he pleases with it, a right that is uniquely capitalist. Unlike common or personal property, capitalist property is not valued for itself or for its utility. It is valued for the revenue it produces for its owner. If the capitalist owner can maximise his revenue by liquidating it, he has the right to do that." [Apostles of Greed, pp. 58-59]

Therefore, as Colin Ward argues, "[l]ocal, popular, control is the surest way of avoiding the tragedy of the commons." [Reflected in Water, p. 20] Given that a social anarchist society is a communal, decentralised one, it will have little to fear from irrational overuse or abuse of communally owned and used resources.

Revolutionary Ecology, Biocentrism, and Deep Ecology

By Judi Bari - 1995 | [PDF File Available]

I was a social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First!. So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction. Similarly, the urban-based social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues, often dismissing all but "environmental racism" as trivial. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues.

Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.

So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.

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