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"Freedom" Comes to Canada

By Bryan D. Palmer - Verso, February 15, 2022

Canada has been rocked in recent weeks by the "Freedom Convoys" that have descended on the nation's cities and blocked border crossings across the country. Bryan D. Palmer maps the political and social composition of this new alt-right uprising.

Everything happening in the United States comes to Canada, only a little later and a tad more politely. The rage that erupted in a Presidential-endorsed riot in Washington on 6 January 2021 has now exploded to the north. Fueled by a confused swirl of resentment against the array of pandemic protocols that all advanced capitalist states have invoked to curb and contain Covid-19 – including vaccination passports, mandatory masking, business lockdowns, and cross-border restrictions – so-called “Freedom Convoys” have descended on the nation’s capital Ottawa, holding the city hostage. US-Canada border crossings have been blocked in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and the convoys have staged sporadic protests across the country, from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Surrey, British Columbia.

Ostensibly led by “truckers,” the mobilization has generated international attention. Copy-cat movements are springing up around the world, with Wellington, New Zealand besieged, Washington, DC threatened, and the Los Angeles – hosts of the recent Super Bowl LVI – worried that they would have had to face the blaring horns and diesel-fume spewing tractor trailer rigs of the “No Mandates: Freedom Now!” crusade. In Europe, Paris and Brussels are currently targeted by the vehicular brigade, although Macron’s gendarmes, fresh from street battles with the gilets jaunes, have indicated they will brook no blockades.

“Freedom” in the face of the pandemic we have all been living through has a nice ring to it. But the politics of these Canadian convoys do not. They are animated by a Breitbart-like appreciation that destabilization of the status quo is the first step in halting the rush to a Marxist-inspired, totalitarian world order and the restoration of a political economy of acquisitive individualism. You do not have to scratch too deeply below the surface of the leadership of this movement to discover alt-right conspiracy theories, Q-Anon claptrap, and racist anti-Muslim and white supremacy sensibilities. Twitter chatter has dubbed this mobilization the FluTruxKlux.

Post-Extractive Futures: Visions

Post-Extractive Futures: Stories

A Green New Deal for Transportation: Establishing New Federal Investment Priorities to Build Just and Sustainable Communities

By Yonah Freemark, Billy Fleming, Caitlin McCoy, Rennie Meyers, Thea Riofrancos, Xan Lillehei, and Daniel Aldana Cohen - Climate and Community Project, February 2022

The transportation system is the connective tissue that transforms pockets of communities into a networked society. It links home, school, work, and play. It drives economic growth, social mobility, and employment opportunities. 

The transportation sector currently emits more carbon pollution than any other sector in the US economy. The automobiles we drive, the trucks, trains, and ships that deliver our goods, the airline flights we take, and other transportation activities account for about 28 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. The passage of President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is replete with new funding for state and local highway expansion, and seems likely to further exacerbate the sector’s emissions. More than 120 years after electric vehicles briefly achieved popularity in the 1900s, petroleum products still power over 91 percent of today’s transportation system. Americans collectively drive more than three trillion vehicle miles per year, most of those as a single driver in an automobile. Life in the United States is organized around personal automobiles powered by petroleum. For a Green New Deal in transportation to be possible, that has to change. A climate-safe future requires a swift and just decarbonization of the transportation sector, a major expansion of public and active transportation, and the parallel decarbonization of the electricity sector.

Transportation often exacerbates social inequity and racial injustice within and between communities. Its infrastructure speeds the movement of those who are better off, to the detriment of those who are most in need. In far too many communities, governments, planners, and engineers prioritize vehicles over people and efficiency in travel time at the cost of quality of life. Choices made by elected officials and transportation agencies about how funds are allocated at the federal, state, and local levels have played a major role in reinforcing these outcomes over the past century.

In 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – the centerpiece of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. It provides substantial new funds for intra-city public transit, intercity passenger rail, and new electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It also includes $7.5 billion in new discretionary funding for innovative transit projects in the RAISE program (formerly BUILD and TIGER), along with new incentives for roadway repair and maintenance. However, the bill also allocates $350 billion towards new road and highway projects that will be administered by state and local departments of transportation. Much of this funding is likely to be spent on highway expansion projects. In short, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is poised to invest in a small number of innovative, low-carbon public transit projects alongside a massive new investment in roads and highways – locking in higher emissions for the sector than those that predated the bill. In other words, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could invest dramatically more on highway expansion than on innovative, low-carbon public transit projects. That dynamic has to change.

In this report, we propose a series of critical opportunities for new transportation-related policies to improve equal access, mobility, and opportunity in our transportation system, reduce emissions, support global climate cooperation, and develop long-lasting infrastructure and workforce development strategies on a changing planet. We argue for a move away from past policies that encouraged the release of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants while furthering social inequity. Crucially, this report aims to shift the conversation surrounding the transportation sector and decarbonization from focusing exclusively on electric vehicles and high-speed rail to addressing the many disparate parts of America’s transportation system. This includes a focus on intra- and intercity rail in addition to high-speed rail; an approach to electric vehicles that pairs supply-side policies (e.g. manufacturing tax credits) with a more progressive demand-side approach that benefits low and middle-income households with few public transit options instead of wealthy, coastal city residents who tend to purchase high-end luxury electric vehicles (e.g. Tesla).

Instead, the transportation system should be viewed as a strategic lever for investing in good-paying low-carbon jobs, justice, and a decarbonized economy. We build on the important progress Congress members have made through their introduction of bills such as the Moving Forward Act to identify a series of policies that would further that ambition.

Read the text (PDF).

5 things Canada could defund to pay for an epic just transition: We could raise $180 billion a year to fund life-giving public goods by defunding five destructive areas of government spending

By Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, David Gray-Donald, Joël Laforest, Crystal Lameman, and Bronwen Tucker - The Breach, January 20, 2023

These days, anyone proposing ambitious new social programs—not to mention a generation-defining agenda like the Green New Deal—is bound to be met with a particular refrain of concern-trolling: “but how are you gonna pay for it?”

The most effective way to combat this is to point to tangible and truly giant expenditures that actively harm our communities—and which too often remain politically invisible. 

For decades, Canadian neoliberalism has ushered in an era of austerity, but the impacts haven’t landed equally. We’ve seen budget cuts for working people and the environment—borne most disproportionately by Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people and communities that are made vulnerable in our society. On the other hand, fossil fuel companies, the military, police, large corporations, and the wealthiest families have all actually received more support from the government. 

We have starved public goods, land, and life in order to feed Big Oil, corporate profits, and the security that capitalist growth requires.

But there are plenty of options to pay for a new direction: taxes on high earners and polluting firms, cutting military expenditure, long-term investment in green infrastructure, to name a few. The real issue is political will and political power. 

The money is there we just need to seize it

Just think about the impressive government policies put in place in the span of weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. This crisis has shown us that, when it comes down to it, the money and policy tools are there. And it is worth pointing out to anyone who asks this question that what we do not spend on climate action, adaptation, and upholding Indigenous sovereignty today will make this work much more expensive later on.

Including the large flows of public money as part of what’s up for debate helps to open up an accessible and potentially transformative conversation about what we could build instead. By asking tangibly what it would look like for the police to have less power over our communities—and particularly Black and Indigenous communities—we can start a public conversation about imagining and building a truly safe world.

The “refund” part of this strategy would include supporting many solutions, from universal public transit, to direct Treaty-based funding for Indigenous Nations, to affordable energy-efficient public housing, to community-owned renewable energy, to Canada forgiving illegitimate debts and paying reparations abroad to make space for a globally just transition. 

The exact demands can and should be made more specific to communities as they organize. In most of these cases, as we phase out funding for programs that are not serving communities, there are also other programs that will need to be built up at the same time. For example, we need mental health support and public housing alongside the defunding of police and prisons, as many abolitionist groups like Movement for Black Lives and The Red Nation have sketched in more detail.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of $180 billion a year in public money in Canada that could be cut, shifted, and phased out to lessen harm and free up both money and the public imagination towards a decolonial and just transition. 

Winning even one-quarter of this amount in the next few years would free up more than five times what the federal government was planning to spend each year on climate- related infrastructure and programs as of 2021. 

These figures are taken from a 2017 to 2019 average where possible to avoid potential anomalies in government spending during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For context, in 2019 the federal, provincial, and municipal governments together spent a total of $750 billion a year.

Labor Unions, Environmentalists, and Indigenous People Unite to Defeat Mining Interests in Argentina

By Marisela Trevin - Left Voice, December 27, 2021

A zoning law would have opened up the southern Argentinian province of Chubut to large-scale mining by multinational corporations. But the law was defeated in just five days by an alliance of environmentalists, workers, youth, and indigenous people. Their fight points the way forward for other movements around the world.

The people of the southern Argentinian province of Chubut are celebrating more than just the holidays this December. After a fierce struggle against a recently enacted zoning law that would have opened the province up to large-scale silver, copper, and lead mining by multinational corporations like Canadian Pan American Silver, the governor was ultimately forced to backtrack. The law in question, which was approved on December 15, was repealed last Tuesday, just five days later.

From the night of the approval until the afternoon of December 21, the movement against the law spread rapidly throughout the province. In a context of growing austerity, unemployment, and poverty, thousands took to the streets to make their voices heard. Dozens of protesters were injured and arrested in the brutal repression, and 16 government buildings were set on fire or otherwise destroyed, including the provincial house of government. Protesters were not only demanding the repeal of the law but also Governor Mariano Arcioni’s resignation.

The governor, whose party, Chubut Somos Todos, is politically aligned with the national government, had won the elections in 2017 campaigning against multinational mining in Chubut. Since he took office, however, he has seized every opportunity to relax mining regulations against the people’s will, with the support of the national government, local business associations, and union bureaucracies.

The so-called Law on Sustainable Metal Mining and Industrial Development for the Province of Chubut had been unexpectedly approved in an expedited procedure the day before a mass protest was to be held against the bill. Among the 14 legislators who voted for it were several who, like the governor himself, had been voted in after opposing multinational mining. This group also included legislator Sebastián López, who was expelled from his party last year for having been caught on camera requesting a large sum of money to vote in favor of large-scale mining in Chubut. One of the main proponents of the bill was Carlos Eliceche, the president of the Committee for Economic Development, Environment and Natural Resources and a legislator for Frente de Todos, the national ruling party, who emphasized that the initiative was put forward “at the request of President Alberto Fernández, to develop mining and attract investments.”

Just Transition Alliance: COP26 Media Report

Beyond a Just Transition

Beyond "Just Transition"

By Dr Eurig Scandrett - The Jimmy Reid Foundation, December 3, 2021

Introduction

It is no use simply saying to South Wales miners that all around them is an ecological disaster. They already know. They live in it. They have lived in it for generations. They carry it in their lungs… you cannot just say to people who have committed their lives and their communities to certain kinds of production that this has all got to be changed… Everything will have to be done by negotiation, by equitable negotiation, and it will have to be taken steadily along the way. Otherwise, you will find … that there is a middle-class environmental group protesting against the damage and there’s a trade-union group supporting the coming of the work. Now for socialists this is a terrible conflict to get into. Because if each group does not really listen to what the other is saying, there will be a sterile conflict which will postpone any real solutions at a time when it is already a matter for argument whether there is still time for the solutions. Raymond Williams (1982/1989)

The idea of ‘Just Transition’ (JT) has gained traction in recent years. With its roots in the union movement at the end of the twentieth century, it has developed into a concept with diverse and contested meanings. This engagement with JT has created spaces within the urgent policy areas of climate change mitigation to address potential job losses and the disproportionate impact up on the poorest communities, and more positively, to work for the generation of good quality, unionised jobs and greater social equality in a green economy. This is a fast-moving and often technical area of policy development. In Scotland, the Just Transition Commission (2021) reported in May 2021 after meeting over a period of two years, and relevant technical and policy reports are published with increasing frequency.

This paper is not a detailed contribution to these debates, on which others are more competent to comment, although it will inevitably touch on these. The paper aims to take a somewhat longer-term and more abstracted view of JT. It asks what do we mean by ‘Just’ and to what are we expecting to ‘Transition’ to? It argues that, in the discussions over the meanings of JT, the collective interests of workers, low-income communities and the environment are central, and require mechanisms to facilitate challenging dialogues between these interests.

There is an inevitable tendency, in developing positions on JT, to seek common ground between the two principal social movements that have driven JT debates: unions and environmental NGOs; or else between different unions or different industrial sectors. This process of seeking common ground can lead to a dilution of principle on all sides, a common denominator that all can live with, but with which none is entirely satisfied. While the process of negotiating common ground is a necessary and useful process for practical purposes, and a process at which the union movement is particularly adept, this paper argues that JT also provides the opportunity for a deeper dialogue in which all key stakeholders – the environment and working-class people who are either dependent on or excluded from the current unsustainable economy – can seek to incorporate the principles of the others. There are areas where the union movement and the environmental movement disagree. These areas of disagreement could be seen as potentially fertile grounds for deep dialogue in order to seek meaningful and lasting resolution.

This paper is, therefore, not intended to reflect the policy of any union or environmental group, but rather constitute a contribution to a debate within these movements and outwith them as well. It is, in places, designed to challenge. Indeed, it makes the case that the union and environmental movements can best learn from one another by being willing to be challenged by each other. All social movements reflect the interests of their participants, members, opinion formers and supporters and are contingent upon the social and political conditions in which they are acting. This is a strength, but also leads to ‘blind spots’ which are best addressed through collective self-reflection and challenges in solidarity from comrades in the struggle.

It is argued here that JT provides an opportunity to explore, for example, the tension well known in unions between representing the immediate interests of members and the long-term interests of the working-class; and in the environmental movement between the disproportionately educated, white, professional middle-class membership of the NGOs and the communities most directly affected by environmental devastation.

As has been recognised in some of the debates about JT, the idea can be located in a radical working-class tradition which, in Britain includes defence diversification, the East Kilbride Rolls Royce boycott of Chilean engines, the Lucas Aerospace Alternative Plan, the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in, amongst others. JT can be more than a mechanism to address climate change, for it can also be a process which can be applied to transitions of many kinds that the labour movement and the left more generally have long advocated: the transition to a more democratic economy, more equal society and socially beneficial system of production, distribution and exchange. The paper, therefore, argues that the union movement, along with environmental and anti-poverty movements would benefit from going ‘beyond’ just transition.

CLARA Statement on COP26 Outcomes

By staff - Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance, November 13, 2021

The science is clear: we are facing “Code Red for Humanity.” COP 26 started with soaring rhetoric promising to ‘keep 1.5 alive.’ Once again though, this COP has failed to listen to science and give credence to the peoples’ voices ringing outside the negotiating rooms of the COP and those taking to the streets calling for climate justice.

One bright spot, however, is the agreement on the Glasgow Committee on Non-Market Approaches and the forthcoming work program. CLARA is committed to seeing these approaches succeed in order to enable enhanced cooperation on mitigation and adaptation in order to provide communities with the support they need for climate action. But the market based mechanisms in the rest of Article 6 risk undermining real climate action with offsets that do nothing to enhance ambition to keep temperature rise below 1.5 (see more below).

Read the text (PDF).

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