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Labor in the Age of Climate Change: Any just transition to a green economy must take place on labor’s terms — not capital’s.

By Stefania Barca - Jacobin, March 18, 2016

Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?

I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.

Fortunately, history is rife with examples of this kind of green-red synthesis — labor environmentalism is as old as the trade union movement.

For much of its existence, labor environmentalism focused on the workplace and the living environment of working-class communities, linking occupational health and safety with the protection of public and environmental health.

In the 1990s, labor environmentalism began embracing the concepts of “sustainable development” and the “green economy.” More recently, as climate change has intensified, “just transition” (JT) has become the idea du jour. JT is based on the notion that workers shouldn’t bear the brunt of the shift to a low-carbon economy, whether in the form of job losses or destabilized local communities.

To this end, blue-collar unions — particularly those in heavy industry, transport, and energy — have forged so-called blue-green alliances with environmental groups across the globe. These convergences demonstrate a growing consensus around the need to tackle climate change, advancing union involvement and sustainability as the means to that end.

Yet important cleavages exist within this consensus, especially when it comes to the just transition. Some groups simply push for job creation in a greened economy. Others, refusing to abide market solutions, have adopted a radical critique of capitalism.

How this schism shakes out will decide whether labor unwittingly bolsters capital — or confronts capital and climate change.

Paul Krugman’s Sorry Salvation

By Dan Fischer - CounterPunch, March 8, 2016

Paul Krugman has been writing about “salvation”. When it comes to global warming, the normally hard-headed economist puts aside his skepticism and awaits the fall of solar panels from heaven. Or rather, from Democratic politicians and polluting industries that dominate their climate policies. In a 2014 piece “Salvation Gets Cheap,” Krugman contended that thanks to price drops in renewable energy, small policy changes could put salvation “within fairly easy reach.” In last month’s “Planet on the Ballot,” Krugman argued that electing Hillary Clinton president would mean “salvation is clearly within our grasp”.

“So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be.” The progressive pundit offers countless feel-good predictions along these lines. A deeper look at Krugman’s words, however, reveals a disturbing indifference to the loss of millions of lives, livelihoods, and homes. Currently, an estimated 400,000 people die each year from climate change, 98 percent of them in the Global South, according to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, a study commissioned by twenty governments. Krugman looks away, instead seeing salvation in pathways that increase global warming far above today’s already genocidal amount.

While he mocks conservative climate change deniers, Krugman himself is in denial about the necessary solutions. A fast-paced transition, while technologically possible, is not compatible with economic growth. This presents a problem for Krugman, who has spent his career defending a capitalist economic system requiring infinite growth. “All that stands in the way of saving the planet,”the Nobel prize winner declares in “Salvation Gets Cheap,” “is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests.” Unfortunately, his own columns offer a vivid illustration. Krugman’s liberal climate denialism has five basic steps.

EcoUnionist News #81 - The #COP21 Greenwash

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 15, 2015

Paris, France: COP21 has concluded, and the results could be summed up as less-than-inspiring, but just about what many of us in the green unionist movement (small thought it still is) expected: a complete and total capitalist greenwash designed to make it look like more business as usual was somehow a change from business as usual. Without going into all of the gory details, the so-called "agreement" which took two weeks to hammer out doesn't even rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic. It rearranges the fabric on the deckchairs on the Titanic while at the same time proclaiming to seal the breach in the hull and pump out all of the water, yesterday.

In short, the backers of the deal (capitalists, politicians, mainstream Big Green environmental NGOs, and all of the fossil fuel capitalists pulling the strings) are proclaiming that somehow this "achievement" is "groundbreaking" because it advises, suggests, or pleads (depending on which part of the thesaurus one chooses) that the capitalist class voluntarily reduces the world's GHG emissions to a point "substantially lower than" 2°C (but doesn't even specify what many believe to be the needed limit of 1.5°C).

Of course, there are no hard limits, no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties for "ignoring" the suggested reductions. Worse still, the agreement removes all references to the rights of Indigenous peoples, does not address the disproportionate effects of capitalist GHG emissions on the Global South, women, or the working class. The excessive hoarding of wealth and disproportionate emissions caused by the Global North are not referenced. No mention is made of agroecology (thus paving the way for capitalist driven "climate-smart agriculture" (read "privatization")). No limits are to be placed on air travel. Nothing is said of energy democracy or just transition.

Worse still, all of this deal making took place in the shadow of what has become a fascist police-state atmosphere in Paris, France, in response to the tragic bombings and attacks that took place on November 13, 2015. While capitalist delegates and their enablers were allowed to seal the fate of the rest of us with near impugnity, dissent was smashed by placing restrictions on where protesters could demonstrate, and several clmate justice leaders were placed under house arrest (though, at the end of the two week clusterfuck, many defied the bans anyway, but only after many of the NGOs had demobilized the 100,000s more that would've joined in had the ban not been in place). Meanwhile, other events that had nothing to do with protesting COP21 were allowed to happen with little or no restriction.

While this is not the worst possible outcome one could have envisioned, it still leaves an enormity to be desired, and all of the self-congratulatory fawning over it by Big Green and the capitalist class won't change that.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story.  In spite of the capitalist greenwashing attempts, most climate justice activists are not buying the official line, and have declared, rightly, that the struggle doesn't end here. The power does not lie in the hands of the capitalists or their enabling delegates. It does not lie in the halls of state or the inside-the-beltway offices of the Big Green NGOs. It belongs to the many who make up the noncapitalist class of the world, and when we realize it, organize, and act accordingly, this sham of a deal, and the capitalist system that spawned it can be banished to the dustbin of history where it rightly belongs, and replaced by a truly effective and tranformative framework for achieving the systemic change that is needed. An essential part of that change will involve the workers of the world organizing as a class along industrial lines. While this is not the only part of the strategy, it is nevertheless an important one.

There are many stories to be told about COP21, and they simply cannot be summarized into a single article, certainly not without much reflection.

Paris deal: Epic fail on a planetary scale

By Danny Chivers and Jess Worth - New Internationalist, December 12, 2015

Image, right: 'D12' day of action in Paris, France, 12 December 2015. by Allan Lisner, Indigenous Environment Network

Today, after two weeks of tortuous negotiations – well, 21 years, really – governments announced the Paris Agreement. This brand new climate deal will kick in in 2020. But is it really as ‘ambitious’ as the French government is claiming?

Before the talks began, social movements, environmental groups, and trade unions around the world came together and agreed on a set of criteria that the Paris deal would need to meet in order to be effective and fair. This ‘People’s Test’ is based on climate science and the needs of communities affected by climate change and other injustices across the globe.

To meet the People’s Test, the Paris deal would need to do the following four things:

  • 1. Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions;
  • 2. Provide adequate support for transformation;
  • 3. Deliver justice for impacted people;
  • 4. Focus on genuine, effective action rather than false solutions;

Does the deal pass the test? The 15,000 people who took to the Paris streets today to condemn the agreement clearly didn’t think so. Here’s New Internationalist’s (NI) assessment.

What kind of "just transition"?

By Michael Ware - Socialist Worker, December 1, 2015

The climate justice movement knows what it is against, but what are we fighting for? Michael Ware, of System Change Not Climate Change, has some answers:

EVERYONE BUT a few Republican crackpots now acknowledge that the planet faces a climate emergency. But the bosses at ExxonMobil had a bit of a head start.

A company memo was unearthed this year showing that the oil giant knew since 1977 from its own scientists that burning fossil fuels contributed to global warming. But the findings were hidden, and Exxon continued to be climate change deniers for decades to come.

This revelation speaks volumes about how short-term profits trump everything under capitalism, even human survival. Exxon's research pointed toward what we are living through today: increased temperatures globally, drought, mass flooding, more intense hurricanes, crop failures, extinctions, melting polar regions, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, water scarcity, and on and on.

Already, climate change causes 300,000 to 400,000 deaths per year, mostly in the Global South, according to a study conducted on behalf of the UN several years ago.

In order to keep the increase in global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century and avoid catastrophic environmental changes, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 5-10 percent each year. Already, the global temperature increase has been almost 1 degree Celsius.

The emergence of a green capitalism sector, increased energy efficiencies and limited expansion of renewable energy have done little to bring down the estimates of average temperature increases. Without a radical change of course, the increase will be between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Clearly, just educating politicians and business leaders about the threat isn't enough. We need movements and protests strong enough to force big changes in the way humans produce and consume energy.

The urgency around halting climate change creates a unique political dynamic. The need for social change is always urgently felt by the oppressed, but for the first time, we have an environmental timer showing that the huge task of transitioning to a sustainable world must take place in this century, or humanity will face the consequences of an inhospitable planet.

Fighting for this kind of change will necessarily threaten capitalism. Yet it's hard for most people to envision a world without corporations, car culture, oil wars, oppression and a market for everything, including pollution.

Join us in the Anti-Capitalist Contingent at the "Rally for 100% Renewable Energy for 100% of the People"

By Climate - Capitalism vs the Climate, November 16, 2015

There’s going to be a climate rally at the state Capitol soon about replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. That all sounds good, but we want to form a contingent that’s loud and clear about the need for systemic social change. We hope you’ll join.

Look for us with the banner that says ‘End capitalism’ at the bottom.

“100% renewable energy” isn’t enough.

We need community control and a rejection of false solutions. Putting a wind turbine on top of a genocidal system doesn’t make it green. Did you know Solar City has been installing solar panels made by prisoners paid pennies to the dollar? That Malloy’s been counting renewable mega-hydro power as green despite its infringement on indigenous Innu land in Quebec? That Bridgeport takes trash from surrounding suburbs and burns it in a low-income neighborhood in order to produce so-called renewable energy? Sometimes renewable energy is just as socially and environmentally destructive as fossil fuels.

Rallies and lobbying aren’t enough

We need direct action. We don’t think the Keystone XL would have been (partially) stopped if it hadn’t been for the countless actions and arrests of the Texas tree-sitters, the Lakota spiritual campers, the White House protesters and others. We’d like to see climate campaigners in CT learn from the (partial) KXL victory and step it up a little bit.

Get Spectra out of Connecticut

Spectra Energy’s fracked gas pipeline expansion could endanger tens of millions of lives, due to its dangerous location near the Indian Point nuclear power plant and its contribution to global climate change. We see Spectra’s expansion as a symptom of the deadly grow-or-die system that’s squeezing the Earth and its inhabitants to extinction. Isn’t stopping Spectra one of the things we can unite around, or is naming it being too specific and divisive for those trying to play nice with Malloy?

The Not-So Golden Age: a Radical and Eco-Socialist Take on Post-WW II America and “the Anthropocene”

By Paul Street - Counter Punch, October 16, 2015

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.

Some Darkness Behind the “Sun-Washed Days”

There is a tendency among senior and middle-aged liberal and progressive United States intellectuals to sentimentalize the post-World War II “golden age” of American and Western capitalism between 1945 and the early to middle 1970s.   The inclination is understandable. During those “sun-washed days” (liberal author and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert), economic inequality declined, significant Civil Rights victories were achieved, jobs were plentiful, the endlessly invoked middle class swelled, wages and consumption rose, the welfare state expanded, college was open and affordable for an unprecedented number of working class young adults, a new youth counterculture flourished, popular music reached new creative heights, the sexual revolution took off, and U.S. astronauts walked on the moon. American society was riding high, it seemed, underpinned by a relatively “high-functioning” and “reasonably egalitarian” (Herbert) capitalism operating at its regulated, “Fordist,” and Keynesian best, prior to the neoliberal “globalized capitalism” that has brought us over four decades to a savagely unequal and arch-plutocratic New Gilded Age – a time when the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90% of the U.S. populace along with a wildly disproportionate share of the nation’s not-so “democratically elected” officials.

The nostalgia of many for post-WWII America is less than surprising. I share it to no small degree, thanks to my many fond grade-school memories of growing up on the streets of 1960s Chicago. Still, there’s a host of reasons to temper one’s progressive nostalgia for the “golden” post-WWII era. The downwardly redistributive trend of American and Western capitalism during the period was remarkably contingent, temporary, qualified, and – in retrospect – short lived The “reasonably egalitarian” direction of the “thirty glorious years” (the French phrase for “the golden age”) reflected an anomalous moment in the history of a rapacious profits system that was never removed from its position atop U.S. society and reverted to its default long-term inegalitarian and authoritarian tendencies once the moment passed. Between 1930s and the 1970s, it is true, a significant reduction in overall economic inequality (though not of racial inequality) and an increase in the living standards of millions of working-class Americans occurred in the U.S. This “Great Compression” occurred thanks to the rise and expansion of the industrial workers’ movement (sparked to no small extent by communists and other leftist militants); the spread of collective bargaining; the rise of a corporate-liberal New Deal (later “Fair Deal” and “Great Society”) welfare state; and the democratic domestic pressures imposed by World War II and subsequent U.S. social movements. Still, core capitalist prerogatives and assets were never dislodged, consistent with New Deal champion Franklin Roosevelt’s boast that he had “saved the profits system” from radical change. U.S. capital never lost its way or its dominant role in American society. U.S. politics remained “the shadow cast on society by big business,” as Dewey prophesized it would so long as power rested with “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda” (Dewey, “The Need for a New Party,” New Republic, March 18, 1931).

The gains enjoyed by ordinary working Americans were made possible to no small extent by the uniquely favored and powerful position of the U.S. economy (and empire) and the historically extraordinary profit rates enjoyed by U.S. corporations after the war, when the U.S. was briefly home to more than half the world’s industrial production. When that remarkable position and those profits were inevitably challenged and rolled back by resurgent Western European and Japanese economic competition in the 1970s and 1980s, egalitarian “golden” time trends were naturally reversed by capitalist elites who had never lost their critical command of the nation’s core economic and political institutions. They undertook a Great U-Turn (Bennett Harrison and Barry Bluestone) from the top down – a change of direction that was really U.S. capitalism returning to its historical wealth- and power-concentrating norm. Middle and working class Americans have paid the price ever since and Democratic presidential candidates now try to outdo each other in claiming to feel, and present progressive solutions to, their pain (though overwhelmingly preferring the phrase “middle class” to “working class”).

California Gov. Jerry Brown Appoints Big Oil Executive as Industry Regulator

By Dan Bacher - IndyBay, October 12, 2015

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.

As advocates of Senate Bill 350 were celebrating the signing of the amended renewable energy bill by Governor Jerry Brown, a major appointment to a regulatory post in the Brown administration went largely unnoticed.

In a classic example of how Big Oil has captured the regulatory apparatus in California, Governor Jerry Brown announced the appointment of Bill Bartling, 61, of Bakersfield, who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy in the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources at the embattled California Department of Conservation. 

What are Bartling's qualifications? According to a statement from the Governor's Office:

Bartling has been president at Aspectus Energy Consulting since 2015, where he was president from 2005 to 2008. He was general manager at OptaSense Borehole Imaging Services from 2014 to 2015, president and chief executive officer at SR2020 Inc. from 2008 to 2014 and founder and chief technology officer at Ambrose Oil and Gas from 2007 to 2010.

Bartling was senior director of market strategy at Silicon Graphics Inc. from 2000 to 2005, manager of technical computing at the Occidental Petroleum Corporation from 1998 to 2000 and senior vice president of software engineering at CogniSeis Development from 1996 to 1998.

He held several positions at the Chevron Corporation from 1981 to 1996, including supervisor for exploration, supervisor for production and research, geologist and geophysicist.

Bartling earned a Master of Science degree in geology from San Diego State University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $180,000. Bartling is a Republican.

The Center for Biological Diversity's Hollin Kretzmann criticized the appointment, stating, "Governor Brown's administration has shown a blatant disregard for the law, and time after time it has sacrificed California's water and public health in favor of oil industry profits. Hiring an oil executive to run one of the state's most captured agencies is completely inappropriate and only adds insult to injury."

Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

By Stephanie McMillan - Skewed News, October 15, 2015

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.

About 20 years ago, in a conversation with a Bangladeshi organizer, the topic of NGOs* came up. He spat in disgust: “I hate NGOs.” At the time, I didn’t really get why he was so vehement about it. I knew NGOs had negative aspects, like siphoning off some revolutionary energy from the masses, but I also still half-believed their claims that their work was more helpful than not. Didn’t you have to be kind of a dogmatic asshole to denounce free health care and anti-poverty programs? But I didn’t yet fully appreciate how terrible they really are.

Since that conversation, NGOs have proliferated like mushrooms all over the world. First deployed in social formations dominated by imperialism, they’ve now taken over the political scene in capital’s base countries as well. They’ve become the hot new form of capital accumulation, with global reach and billions in revenue. So while ostensibly “non-profit,” they serve as a pretty sweet income stream for those at the top, while fattening up large layers of the petite bourgeoisie and draping them like a warm wet blanket over the working class, muffling their demands.

After much observation and experience both direct and indirect, I now understand and share that long-ago organizer’s hatred of NGOs. Just how terrible are they? Let us count the ways:

VW Chose Profit Over the Planet

By Tyler Zimmer - Socialist Worker, October 1, 2015

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.

IT'S ONLY been a week, but it's already being dubbed one of the biggest-ever corporate scandals.

Volkswagen, the world's largest auto manufacturer, was recently caught rigging millions of its cars to cheat on emissions tests. Software known as "defeat devices" was installed in more than 11 million cars that enabled the vehicles to pass emissions tests they would otherwise have failed. The illicit devices detect when a car is being tested and direct the engine to pump out far less pollutants--98 percent less--into the air than they ordinarily do when on the road.

The fallout has been swift and profoundly damaging for the company. In a single week, more than a quarter of the company's total value of shares has been completely wiped out. Governments in Germany and the U.S. are already promising to impose heavy fines--some sources say the total amount could add up to as much as $10 billion to $20 billion. Executives have resigned, sales have been suspended, and a massive recall of rigged cars looms large.

Of course, if you were to take the VW brand's self-image at face value, these revelations would come as something of a severe shock. Volkswagen has spent the last several years cultivating a public image that evokes precision, efficiency and ecological sensitivity--VW's are "clean, quiet and powerful" as a recent advertisement put it.

The company has courted millennials with talk of "clean diesel technology." Indeed, before the scandal broke, VW was held up by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the "greenest," most environmentally conscious carmaker in the world. This is only one of many awards that the company has racked up over the years for its supposed commitment to ecological sustainability.

No doubt much of the public outrage directed at VW owes to the contradiction between the company's "green" reputation, on the one hand, and its systematic engagement in fraudulent polluting, on the other. As more and more information about the company's decision-making comes to light, the easier it becomes to see the matter in purely ethical terms, as a case where greed blinded those at the top.

The public will be encouraged to conclude that this scandal is the result of cynical, deceptive actions on the part of a few corporate executives--"a few bad apples"--at the top of Volkswagen. But thinking about the issue in this way would be a mistake, since it would lead us to overlook the larger, systemic problems with capitalism that this scandal reveals.