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Confronting White Privilege In The Climate Justice Movement

Article by Dennis Trainor Jr; Image By John Minchillo - Acronym TV, October 1, 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.

Speaking at the opening plenary of the New York City Global Climate Convergence in the days before the People’s Climate March, Nastaran Mohit told the assembled crowd that the revolution “and this (Climate Convergence) movement is not going to be spawned from the activist white community. It is going to be led front and center by marginalized and the most directly affected communities.”

Mohit, a New York City based labor organizer who was instrumental in the success of Occupy Sandy, went on:

“For these communities, Climate Change is not a far off thing, it is right at their backyard. For these communities it is an issue of survival. Climate organizing is not a privilege for them, it is a life and death matter.”

While Mohit characterized the People’s Climate March as an “epic event” that she was “proud to participate in” she was quick to balance that excitement with skepticism over the funding behind the march and “the lack of demands, the parade route” (the parade went no where near the U.N.).

“We also need to be very real when we talk about how scary it is for the big green groups (and) the big corporations for this movement to challenge Capitalism.”

After the People’s Climate March, it is Time to Demand More

Article and Image By Peter Rugh - Waging Nonviolence, September 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 400,000 people who packed Manhattan’s Central Park West for the People’s Climate March on September 21 have all gone home to their apartments, farms, cabins and lobster boats. They’ve returned to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia, to the Philippines and the Pacific Islands. The “U.N. Climate Summit” banner that, last week, formed the backdrop for the impassioned speeches of 120 heads of state — and Leonardo DiCaprio — has been taken down. Debate in the newly renovated General Assembly Hall has turned to terrorism — a different kind of security threat than that posed by drought and rising sea levels. The metal barricades erected against protesters who flooded the heart of global capitalism at last Monday’s Flood Wall Street demonstration have been cautiously removed by the New York Police Department. Frostpaw the polar bear has gone to jail.

The summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which served as the inspiration for the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street, occurred ahead of conferences scheduled for Lima in December and Paris in 2015, where new long-term agreements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be hammered out. If we are to believe 98 percent of the world’s scientists, the future of human subsistence on this planet hinges on the strength of the pacts world governments will forge. Precious time will tell what the lasting impacts of the demonstrations will be, but already the protests that shook New York and much of the world (there were over 2,000 People’s Climate Marches globally) appear to have left their mark upon upper echelon spheres of power.

The day following the march, the heirs to John D. Rockefeller, the famed 20th century oil baron, announced they were divesting their $860 million charitable fund from fossil fuels. Addressing the United Nations last Tuesday, President Obama referenced the demonstration, stating, “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”

While it might seem like another toothless remark from the president, it at the very least shows that the commotion two days earlier penetrated the inner sanctums of power.

“Often times, what we hear from politicians is that we don’t have the numbers, that people don’t care,” said Phil Aroneanu with 350.org, the environmental organization that helped spearhead the march with thousands of labor, faith and environmental justice groups. “With 400,000 people on the streets Sunday we really feel like we proved otherwise.”

The march was particularly a success, Aroneanu noted, in that it broke down color barriers for an environmental movement that for the past several decades has been highly segregated between white and wealthy and low-income racial minorities.

“Though we still have a long way to go, it was the most diverse of any march we’ve organized so far,” Aroneanu said. “Our partners in the climate justice movement really showed up and took on leadership roles. We have to make sure we are not leaving any of our brothers and sisters behind.”

The climate march, more than any other mass mobilization before it, reflected the faces of those who bear the brunt of climate change.

La Via Campesina rejects UN Plan for Climate Smart Agriculture

By Sara Sullivan - Climate Connections, September 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.

International Peasant Movement/Movimiento Campesino Internacional

History presents itself first as tragedy, and the second time as a farce.

As women, men, peasants, smallholder family farmers, migrant, rural workers, indigenous, and youth of La Via Campesina, we denounce climate smart agriculture which is presented to us as a solution to climate change and as a mechanism for sustainable development. For us, it is clear that underneath its pretense of addressing the persistent poverty in the countryside and climate change, there is nothing new. Rather, this is a continuation of a project first begun with the Green Revolution in the early 1940’s and continued through the 70’s and 80’s by the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction projects and the corporate interests involved. These projects, such as the so-called Green Revolution, decimated numerous peasant economies, particularly in the South, to the extent that many countries, like México for example, that were self-sufficient in food production, became dependent on the North to feed their population within a short couple of decades.

The result of these projects, dictated by industrial capital’s need for expansion, was the coopting of traditional agricultural producers and production and their insertion into the present industrial agriculture and food regime. A regime that is based on increased use of toxic chemicals, dependent on fossil fuel inputs and technology, increasing exploitation of agricultural and rural workers, with its resulting loss of biodiversity; a food system that is now under the control of corporations and large industrial farmers, the main beneficiaries of these projects. The result has been the loss of food security and sovereignty, transforming entire countries that were once net food exporters into net food importers. This is not so much that they cannot produce food, but because now, instead, they produce commodity crops used to produce industrialized foods, fuels, manufactured products for sale, and for speculation in the world financial markets.

Today, some of the same actors of these previous projects, such as the World Bank, are the forces behind the imposition of climate smart agriculture as a solution to climate change and to increase income of the rural poor using the same failed thesis that to increase incomes one must increase productivity. It is clear that the intention is to create a market for the Green Revolution as a solution to climate change, poverty and as a proposal for sustainable development in rural areas. We identify this as part of a larger process of “green” structural adjustment projects required by an economic system and the political elites in distress, because they have exhausted other places for enormous speculative financial investments and now see agriculture and agricultural land as the new frontier.

Climate smart agriculture begins with deception by not making a differentiation between the negative effects of industrialized agriculture and the real solutions offered by traditional sustainable peasant agriculture which has contributed to alleviating poverty, hunger and remediation of climate change. To the contrary, climate smart agriculture equates and equally blames all forms of agricultural production for the negative effects that in fact only industrialized agricultural and food production has caused, and fails to recognize and accept the differences between “agri-cultures” and agricultural production methods. The agricultural activity that has most contributed to greenhouse gas emissions has been industrial agriculture, not smallholder sustainable agriculture.

Indigenous Anarchist Critique of Bolivia’s ‘Indigenous State': Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

By Bill Weinberg - Upside Down World, September 7, 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.

Originally published on June 7, 2014 at World War 4 Report, with a shorter version on May 26, 2014 at Indian Country Today Media Network.

Bolivian historian and social theorist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is author of the classic work Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, and has recently emerged as one of the country’s foremost critics of President Evo Morales from an indigenous perspective. Indian Country Today Media Network spoke with her in New York City, where she recently served as guest chair of Latin American studies at New York University’s King Juan Carlos Center. The complete text of the interview appears for the first time on World War 4 Report.

What are you doing here in New York City?

I have been invited as chair of Latin American studies by the King Juan Carlos Center, which is sort of funny, it sounds like a horrible place for me. But Spain should give us back a little bit of what they took! And my salary is like a millionth part of what they owe us.

And what are you doing now in Bolivia?

I used to teach at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, which is the biggest public university in Bolivia. And I was very much involved in university politics, because I was trying to fight corruption in the university. In 2005, I had a 15-day-long hunger strike, and we managed to kick the dean out. But he left a lot of corruptos were still there, and I was forced to retire.

Since then, I have been doing community things, trying to network and create micro-politics… Since I wrote my study on anarchism, I discovered the importance of community to politics, as opposed to the individualist liberal conception…

What was the title?

Los Artesanos Libertarios y la Ética de Trabajo (Libertarian Artisans and the Work Ethic), based on oral history.

What kind of artisans?

Shoe-makers, carpenters, masons. In La Paz. They founded the Local Workers Federation. The foundation date is uncertain. We more or less think it was 1926 or ’27. ..

An anarcho-syndicalist federation?

Yes. It actually started with discussion circles as early as 1908—purely workers, without any intellectuals. Only intellectuals that were workers at the same time. I discovered that my great-uncle, from an estranged part of the family—because he was a worker, a mechanic, so my mother wanted nothing to do with him—was an ideologue of this movement.

This federation still exists?

No, no, no. It was destroyed by the MNR [National Revolutionary Movement, which took power in 1952]. Because under the Marxist view of the labor movement at the time, the artisans are not workers, and therefore they deserve to be erased from history! Only “proletarians” count, only the slaves of the machine count.

The final blow was in 1964, with the dictatorship. Only one union remained from the Federation, it was all-female union of flower vendors, in the Mercado de Floristas. We managed to find them still alive and conduct these interviews in 1985, ’86. And that archive, which is 100 cassettes, I have been working full-time digitizing here in New York…

And this relates to your current community work?

Yes, I am still working with artisans, with urban self-reliance groups in La Paz, ecological and feminist groups, working in the qhatu, or traditional peasant fair or market. This is a very ancient tradition form colonial times, in which indigenous communities used the market to prevent being used by the market. There is always a barter section, negotiation of prices, at the local level. It is a market that is not depersonalized; it is a conscious market, where people are there, not just prices and commodities. It is against the supermarket, against the mall. It is against the corporations and brands and selling things that are pre-packaged. You harvest lentils from your own garden, and you never put it in a plastic package. So the qhatu is a form of resistance to the world market. It is resisting the market with market—it is almost like a vaccination!

I am part of a collective that produced hand-made books and hand-woven bags frmo recycled plastic, as well as lettuce and potatoes and fava beans and sweet peas and medicinal herbs. Grown in community gardens in La Paz. And we sell them at the traditional markets in La Paz.

And we have made campaigns—a campaign against plastic bags, a campaign to promote walking instead of taking trucks or buses or cars. Walking is very difficult in La Paz if it’s uphill, because of the altitude. So we have a slogan, Camina La Paz, aun que sea la bajada—Walk through La Paz, even if it’s only downhill! At least just get a bus ticket one way!

So we try to link every public issue where human rights, indigenous rights, and the rights of the Pachamama are involved. So we joined with TIPNIS, we joined CONAMAQ, we joined the support network for the human rights office that was almost taken over by the government. We are defending the CONAMAQ people who were kicked out of their office… We are just there for them, if they need shelter for the night or a good breakfast, we go and do that. We are not many, but we do whatever we can.

We call ourselves Colectivo Ch’ixi—from the Aymara word meaning “stain.” We are mestizos, but we have a strong Indian stain in our souls. We are “impure.” We are not “pure” people. And we have to recognize also that there is a European stain in our bodies and in our subjectivities. And the good part of that stain is the idea of freedom and individual rights. From the Indian part we get the idea of community and of cycle, intimacy with the cycles of nature. But we do recognize the value of individual freedoms and rights—sexual rights, the right to have a sexual identity that is different from the rest, or of abortion. All this comes from the best contributions of European civilization and the Enlightenment.

Mobilizing for Justice in the Anthropocene: Autogestion, Radical Politics, and the Owl of Minerva (2/2)

By Javier Sethness Castro and Alexander Reid Ross - Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism, September 18, 2014

This is part II of an interview on Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press, 2014). Read part I here.

In the interviews you hold with Chomsky and Hardt in Grabbing Back, both thinkers point out the irony whereby the so-called “socialist” governments that have been elected throughout much of Latin America in recent years—Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Uruguay, for example—notoriously have in fact been engaged in a significant intensification of the extractivist trends which their neoliberal precedecessors oversaw. This developmentalism has inexorably brought these “Pink Tide” governments into conflict with indigenous peoples, and it certainly has not been auspicious for nature, however much posturing Rafael Correa and Evo Morales like to advance in terms of the “rights of nature.” The fate of Ecuador’s YasuníNational Park is emblematic in this sense. As editor of Upside-down World, Grabbing Back contributor Benjamin Dangl has written at length on these tensions. How do you see indigenous concepts like sumak kawsay (“living well”) as realistic alternatives to State-capitalist depredation?

I think the implications of Dangl’s analysis of extractivism is as important today as, say, Rosa Luxemburg’s work on the Accumulation of Capital in the 1910s or David Harvey’s work on the Limits to Capital in the 1980s, and it fits with some really important thinking going on by people like Silvia Rivera CusicanquiRaúl Zibechi, and Pablo Mamani Ramírez. The Pink Tide governments are interesting to me, because they show how rhetoric centered around land can lead to a kind of fixation on natural resources and infrastructure, which precludes the Prebisch-style development of the Third World. So I wonder, does the focus on “the land” come about through the export-based economies that were generated by the annihilation of industrial infrastructure vis-à-vis globalization, and does it also reflexively work to thrust into power a so-called populist leadership that makes gains in the social wage by simply speeding up the process?

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

By Indigenous Action - May 4, 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 ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.

They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.

Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.

The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Accomplices not allies.

ac·com·plice
noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
a person who helps another commit a crime.

There exists a fiercely unrelenting desire to achieve total liberation, with the land and, together.

At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible.

There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.
But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices. Abolishing allyship can occur through the criminalization of support and solidarity.

While the strategies and tactics of asserting (or abolishing depending on your view) social power and political power may be diverse, there are some hard lessons that could bear not replicating.

After the Climate Movement: Ecology and Politics in the 21st Century (1/2)

By Javier Sethness Castro and Alexander Reid Ross - CounterPunch, September 15, 2014

This is part one of a two-part interview. The next part is forthcoming:

Edited by CounterPunch regular Alexander Reid Ross and newly published by AK Press, Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab assembles a formidable collection of articles and reports written by scholars and activists from North and South alike who are concerned with the distressing acceleration of massive land-expropriations executed by capitalist interests in recent years. Otherwise known as the “New Scramble for Africa,” the “New Great Game,” or the “Global Land Rush,” the global land grab has involved the acquisition by foreign power-groups of anywhere between 56 and 203 million hectares of lands belonging to Southern societies since the turn of the millennium. The corporations responsible for this massive privatization scheme hail from both wealthy and middle-income countries: India, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, and the U.S., among others.

In part, the global land grab can be explained by the progression of ecological degradation, particularly through climate change, as combined with the desire of the ruling classes of these countries to ensure food security for their populations—the fate of local populations in the countries whose lands are colonized for export-oriented production be damned. Another factor has to do with the vast concentration of wealth in the hands of the transnational financial aristocracy, who are lending out capital less readily now during the Great Recession than before, such that they have more capital on hand with which to invest in overseas land ventures. However, not all the territory which has been usurped by corporations and banks of late is to be dedicated exclusively to food production; much of it instead will be directed toward the cultivation of agrofuels (biofuels) that are slated to replace petroleum to a limited extent as a base or transitional fossil fuel, with this being a situation that can be expected greatly to exacerbate food insecurity and starvation in the countries whose governments welcome (re)colonization. The scale of investment in agrofuels is truly staggering, in light of plans to occupy almost 6 percent of the territory of Liberia and 10 percent of that of Sierra Leone with African palm plantations; a similar if more immediately acute dynamic is unfolding in Indonesia and Malaysia, whose vast swathes of tropical rainforests are being expeditiously torn down in favor of palm oil crops. Summarized briefly and correctly by Sasha and Helen Yost, this process is one whereby land-based communities are dispossessed in order to “feed the industrial nightmare of climate change.”

Bill McKibben of 350.org Gets Schooled by Amanda Lickers of Reclaim Turtle Island

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.

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.)

Conflicting messages about conflict: the “battle” against Enbridge

By Zig Zag - Warrior Publications, June 22, 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.

With the federal government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on June 17, 2014, there arose a chorus of angry disapproval from many people in BC. Some talked about waging a “war against Enbridge,” while others proclaimed the beginning of the “battle.” Predictably, the political parties opposed to the Conservative government promised to put a stop to Enbridge, if elected. Those who have worked to oppose Enbridge over the past 5 years renewed their pledges to carry out court cases, referendums, voting campaigns, as well as civil disobedience.

In fact, the “Hold the Wall” campaign initiated by the Yinka Dene Alliance claims that over 22,000 people have pledged to do just that, “using all lawful means.” But what if a court decides its unlawful to “hold the wall”? Those with perhaps the most realistic grasp of the situation have renewed their calls for direct action, if and when necessary, to physically stop the construction of the pipelines.

Clearly there are mixed messages being transmitted.Direct Action

Many people are talking about the necessity for direct action. Direct action is one of those terms used by so many different groups, in so many different ways, that its real meaning has become blurred.

Warriors build fire on road during blockade of SWN vehicles, Oct 2013.

Mi’kmaq Warriors build fire on road during blockade of SWN vehicles, Oct 2013.

Direct action means taking action to directly stop, delay or disrupt an activity. Here are some basic examples:

  • A road block against logging trucks, and which effectively stops logging from occurring, is a form of direct action.
  • A protest in a city street against logging is not a form of direct action, unless that protest manages to disrupt the offices of the logging corporation, for example.
  • A banner drop is not a form of direct action, unless the banner disrupts or delays some type of activity.
  • Standing on the side of a road with picket signs is not direct action, but standing in the road and blocking industrial machinery from reaching its destination is.

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