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UNDROP Alive and Kicking: Alberto Silva - Uniterre – Switzerland

Review - A Planet to Win:Why We Need a Green New Deal

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 11, 2023

In spite of this book's straightforward sounding title, A Planet to Win, Why We Need a Green New Deal (Verso, 2019), by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and The Riofrancos, this relatively short and concise book would be much more accurately titled, "Why we think our version of the Green New Deal is the best one of the lot," because there isn't a single "Green New Deal", but several, as we have noted here on ecology.iww.org. This, however, is not necessarily a negative aspect of this book.

The authors, all of them ecosocialists with a transformative approach, are quick to explain that the particular Green New Deal they seek is one that addresses most critiques of the Green New Deal in general. 

  • Would the Green New Deal repeat the mistakes of the original New Deal and exclude BIPOC people? Not the authors' version.
  • Would the Green New Deal rely heavily on social democratic Keynesian state intervention? Not the author's version!
  • Would the Green New Deal perpetuate endless growth in hubristic ignorance of the natural limits to growth, not if these authors have any say in the matter;
  • Would the Green New Deal further the continued exploitation by the Global North of the Global South? Not if the authors have anything to do with it!
  • Would the Green New Deal merely be a case of the capitalists saving themselves, with a putatively green branding? Absolutely not, the authors say.

Certainly, if given the choice, that sounds quite good to me. Clearly these authors aren't content with a naive faith that just because something is called a "Green New Deal" it will actually be a good deal.

Building a Democratic Energy Future: Lithium Extractivism and North-South Inequalities

The “Electrify Everything” Movement’s Consumption Problem

By Amy Westervelt - The Intercept, May 8, 2023

In 2019, Thea Riofrancos was splitting her time between researching the social and environmental impacts of lithium mining in Chile and organizing for a rapid energy transition away from fossil fuels in the United States. A political science professor at Providence College and member of the Climate and Community Project, Riofrancos was struck by the contrast: Lithium is essential to the batteries that make electric vehicles and renewable energy work, but mining inflicts its own environmental damage. “Here I am in Chile, in the Atacama Desert, seeing these mining-related harms, and then there I go in the U.S. advocating for a rapid transition. How do I align these two goals?” Riofrancos said. “And is there a way to have a less extractive energy transition?”

When she went looking for research that would help answer that question, she found none, at least not for the transportation sector, which was her area of focus. “I saw forecast after forecast that assumed basically a binary of the future,” she said. “Either we stay with the fossil fuel status quo and the existential crisis that that is causing for the planet and all of its people. Or we transition to an electrified, renewably powered future, but that doesn’t really change anything about how these sectors or economic activities are organized.”

Riofrancos wanted to look at multiple ways to design an electrified future and understand what the costs and impacts of different scenarios might be. So she linked up with other Climate and Community Project researchers and put together a report mapping out four potential pathways to electrification for the transportation sector. Titled “Achieving Zero Emissions With More Mobility and Less Mining,” the report concluded that even relatively small, easy-to-achieve shifts like reducing the size of cars and their batteries could deliver big returns: a 42 percent reduction in the amount of lithium needed in the U.S., even if the number of cars on the road and the frequency with which people drive stayed the same.

It’s the sort of thing politicians and electrification advocates need to think through now, when decisions can be made to guide the energy transition in one direction or another. It’s also critical to an underdiscussed component of climate action: demand for products and services and the role energy plays in fulfilling those demands. Which connects right up to another topic that American politicians don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole: consumption.

The Perfect Storm of Extraction, Poverty, and Climate Change: A Framework for Assessing Vulnerability, Resilience, Adaptation, and a Just Transition in Frontline Communities

From Farmworkers to Land Healers

By Brooke Anderson - Yes! Magazine, April 25, 2023

Immigrant and Indigenous farmworkers in California reclaim the power of their labor.

Sandra de Leon adds branches to a burn pile in Santa Rosa, CA on December 18, 2022. Photo by Brooke Anderson

On most days, Sandra de Leon prunes grapevines in Northern California’s wealthiest vineyards. But today she is dressed head to toe in a yellow fire-resistant suit, helmet, safety goggles, and gloves, carrying a machete and drip torch. She calls out over her crackling mobile radio, “Jefe de quema: aquí Bravo, informandoles que …” (“Burn chief: Bravo unit here, informing you that …”) and then rattles off data in Spanish on the number, size, duration, and temperature of a dozen or so burn piles she is monitoring on the sun-speckled forest floor. 

De Leon is one of 25 immigrant and Indigenous farmworkers gathered on a cold December morning in Sonoma County, California, for the first-in-the-country Spanish-language intentional-burn certification program. Like de Leon, each of these firefighters-(and firelighters!)-in-training has been haunted by fire. During a massive inferno in 2017, de Leon was one of many “essential workers” escorted by vineyard managers through mandatory evacuation zones to harvest grapes while breathing in toxic fumes from nearby blazes. 

“When we arrived at work, there were patrol cars because it was an evacuation zone, but they waved us through to harvest. The skies were red and heavy smoke was in the air. They didn’t give us any protective equipment. No masks,” de Leon says. “There was so much ash on the grapes that when you’d cut the grape, it would get on your face. Our faces were black.”

While she didn’t get sick, she says her co-workers struggled with asthma. De Leon recalls harvesting like this for eight hours and getting paid just $20 per hour. 

“They should have paid us more,” de Leon says. “We risked our lives for their profits.”

Today, however, de Leon and her fellow farmworkers are here to learn about “good fire”—a controlled burn land stewards use to reduce underbrush in overgrown forests to prevent the spread of more destructive wildfires. Thanks to North Bay Jobs With Justice, de Leon and her fellow farmworkers are (re-)learning skills many of their ancestors knew well. And they are putting that know-how to work healing a fire-ravaged landscape and people. 

Police Shot Atlanta Cop City Protester 57 Times, Autopsy Finds

By Natasha Lennard - The Intercept, April 20, 2023

It looks like Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was executed by firing squad — underscoring why we must stop the massive police training center.

When 26-year-old Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was shot dead by police during a brutal, multi-agency raid on the Defend Atlanta Forest, Stop Cop City encampment in January, the activist’s friends felt certain of two things: Tortuguita was murdered, and whatever narrative the police offered would be a lie.

Like clockwork, police officials claimed that Tortuguita shot first and hit a state trooper. In body camera footage that was later released — after police said none would be — one officer said that the cop had been shot by his fellow police. (Authorities dismissed the footage as speculation and said evidence did not support the remarks.) A previous, independent autopsy ordered by Tortuguita’s family found that the activist’s hands were raised when they were shot.

Then, on Wednesday night, DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office released its official autopsy report, which found no trace of gunpowder residue on Tortuguita’s hands. The young activist’s body was riddled with at least 57 gunshot wounds, including in their head, torso, hands, and legs. The medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide.

The abundance of evidence, including the government autopsy, doesn’t look like a group of police taking self-defensive action against a protester.

What it looks like is that the forest defender was executed by firing squad.

With so many gunshot wounds, the sheer brutality of Tortuguita’s killing is hard to fathom. Even if the autopsy report showed the activist had fired a gun, as police claimed, this would not have justified gunning them down in a storm of bullets.

The Willow Project: Which Side Should Labor Be On?

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 1, 2023

American unions increasingly recognize the threat of climate change to workers and their communities. Yet some unions continue to promote programs like Alaska’s Willow Project that violate the basic requirement of climate safety: that fossil fuel extraction and burning must be subject to a rapid, managed decline. Fortunately, they are not the only voices in the labor movement.

On March 21 retired members from over 30 international unions rallied, marched, and demonstrated for climate protection. They stated, “Science tells us we have to stop burning fossil fuels and cut emissions by 50% in the next seven years or face climate disasters far worse than we are already experiencing.” They called for a stop to “all new investment in fossil fuel expansion, including production, infrastructure, and exploration,” and for funds to be redirected to “projects that will build renewable energy infrastructure and meet the other needs of our communities, especially workers and their families who are negatively impacted either directly or indirectly by the transition away from fossil fuels.”[1] These union veterans may be aging, but if the labor movement is to have a future it had better listen to what they have to say.

Just days before, the Biden administration had announced approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, the largest fossil fuel extraction project on federal lands in history. It is expected to produce five hundred and seventy-five million barrels of oil over the next thirty years. Burning that oil will result in the emission of about ten million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or some three hundred million tons over the life of the project.[2] The project will wipe out the emissions cuts provided by all renewable energy developments over the next decade, adding the equivalent of two million new gasoline cars to the roads.[3]

When the union climate protectors said to stop “all new investment in fossil fuel expansion,” there’s nothing that could have applied to more clearly than the Willow Project. And yet, other parts of the labor movement have been presenting labor as that project’s enthusiastic advocate.

#STOPCOPCITY March 2023 Week of Action

The Lithium Problem: An Interview with Thea Riofrancos

By Alyssa Battistoni and Thea Riofrancos - Dissent, Spring 2023

Can we rapidly reduce carbon emissions while minimizing the damage caused by resource extraction?

After years of outright climate denial and political intransigence, the development of renewable energy is finally underway. When it comes to transportation—the number one source of U.S. carbon emissions—the strategy for decarbonization has focused heavily on replacing gas-powered cars with rechargeable electric vehicles. The Inflation Reduction Act offers billions of dollars of subsidies for both producers and consumers of EVs, including a $7,500 tax credit for buying new EVs made in the United States. The infrastructure bill passed in late 2021 included $5 billion to help states build a network of EV recharging stations. New York and California have announced bans on the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines beginning in 2035. Half of this year’s Superbowl car ads touted electric vehicles. By 2030, it is estimated that electric vehicles will make up half of U.S. car sales.

For our reliance on privatized transportation to remain the same, everything else will have to change. We’re already seeing concerns about shortages of “critical minerals” necessary for batteries and other renewable technologies. Based on current consumption patterns, for example, U.S. demand for the lithium used in batteries would require three times the existing global supply—which comes primarily from Australia, Latin America, and China—by 2050. In anticipation of booming demand, a flurry of new mining operations has begun around the world—and so have protests by those worried that mines will disturb ecosystems, contaminate water supplies, generate toxic waste, and disrupt local livelihoods.

What does the current trajectory of the “green energy transition” mean for global environmental justice? What other options are there? Is it possible to rapidly reduce carbon emissions while also minimizing extraction and maintaining—or even increasing—people’s ability to move freely and safely?

A new report from the think tank Climate and Community Project presents the data behind different visions of the green future. A scenario in which the United States reduces car dependency by improving public transit options, density, and walkability could see a 66 percent decrease in lithium demand compared to a business-as-usual model. Even just reducing the size of U.S. vehicles and batteries could potentially reduce lithium use by as much as 42 percent in 2050. In other words, the choices Americans make about domestic transportation, housing, and development matter worldwide. In this interview, the report’s lead author, political scientist Thea Riofrancos, explains the implications of its findings for climate and environmental politics in the United States and around the planet.

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