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Bad Call: PA Governor Wolf Pursues Drilling on 700,000 Acres of State Land

By Allison Petryk, Lee Clark, and  Ray Kemble - Energy Justice Network, January 29, 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.

“Keeping 700,000 acres of our public lands on the table for the drillers is like letting quarterback Tom Brady keep his deflated footballs for the Super Bowl. This is the Big Game and Tom Wolf is blowing it. I have a front row seat.” – Ray Kemble, Dimock PA.

“The compendium of scientific studies that convinced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking shows that it cannot be done safely. Without further action to reclaim already damaged lands, transition to clean energy, and ban shale development across Pennsylvania, Wolf’s words lack substance.” – Allison Petryk, Energy Justice Network

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – On Thursday, Governor Tom Wolf will announce a moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state lands, but will leave nearly 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania’s state forests on the table for drilling.

The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states that 385,400 acres have already been leased for Marcellus Shale drilling and 290,000 acres could be developed through private leases.

Thursday’s order does not stop the Department of Environmental Protection from permitting wells, pipelines, or compressor stations on existing leases, where there is room for as many as 6,000 wells, according to PA DCNR. If all of those wells are drilled and developed, approximately 25,000 forested acres would be converted for roads, pipeline right of ways, and well pads. As of October, PA DCNR had approved more than 1,000 Marcellus wells on state forests and nearly 600 of them — clustered on about 230 well pads — had been drilled.

According to the PA DEP online permit report, the Wolf administration permitted 22 shale gas wells for five counties in just three days from January 21-23. One of those well permits, Chief Oil’s Teel 4H, is within a mile of a cluster of 19 water wells in Dimock, PA that were spoiled by gas drilling in 2008.

When History Knocks

By Sam Gindin - Jacobin, December 30, 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.

Naomi Klein is a longtime movement and media icon, a gifted synthesizer and popularizer who, over the past two decades, has been a leading chronicler of anti-corporate, anti-globalization, and anti-capitalist social movements (a series of “anti”s that undeniably needs some unpacking).

Who else on the Left gets a sympathetic interview on the evening news of Canada’s publicly owned television broadcaster before the release of her latest book? And who else, as a preview of that book, is immediately given a chance to explain to a national audience why, from the perspective of the environment, capitalism is “the main enemy?”

Klein’s writings and talks have provided “the movement” with needed context and coherence, and served as a conduit and catalyst for discussions, contributing to its recruitment and growth. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, is the climax of her highly influential trilogy and also registers how much her perspective has changed over the last fifteen years.

This shift centers on both her assessment of the movement — more than ever before, Klein expresses frustrations with the movement she is part of and still sees as fundamental to social change — and her deeper appreciation of capitalism “as the main enemy.” On this latter point, her earlier criticisms of particular aspects of capitalism have now expanded into suggesting — or at least coming very close to suggesting — that capitalism has become the central barrier to human survival and progress.

Klein’s trilogy began with No Logo, which came out in 1999 and exposed the manipulative and exploitative underbelly of consumer culture. Fortuitously published amid the Battle of Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization and later branded the “bible of the anti-globalization movement,” No Logo built on the moral crusade across university campuses against the corporate use of sweatshop labor for that culture. But it mistakenly separated supposedly “good” and “bad” corporations, obscuring the larger social system in which these companies lived and acted.

Klein’s second major book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism also arrived at a propitious moment: in 2007, just before the financial implosion and the most dramatic economic crisis since the Great Depression. This time Klein chronicled how corporations and capitalist states pounce on the opportunities provided by man-made or natural crises to “ram through policies that enrich a small elite.” In this case, though, the focus on crises underplayed what capitalism does between crises.

Again displaying a penchant for well-timed releases, Klein’s This Changes Everything reached bookstores two days before October’s massive Climate March in New York City. Here it is no longer capitalism’s bad apples that are the focus, nor capitalism’s ability to use crises against us, but the organizing principles of the system itself — and the environmental consequences that follow. “[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein writes, “and it’s not the laws of nature that can be changed.”

In characteristically accessible language, Klein summarizes the alarming scientific consensus on climate change. But the significance of This Changes Everything doesn’t lie in Klein’s detailed and passionate description of the urgency of the environmental crisis. Rather, its importance lies in Klein’s determination to demonstrate that changing our relationship to nature is inseparable from changing our relationship to each other — by “transforming our economic system” (I’ll return later to ambiguities in how this is interpreted).

The immediate threat to the earth “changes everything” in the sense that just adding “the environment” to our list of concerns is not good enough.

The sheer scale of the problem necessitates a politics that can take on capitalism. We must do away with any notions, Klein asserts, that the environmental crisis can be contained and eventually rolled back through policy tinkering (though addressing symptoms is necessary); technical fixes (though sensible technological advances should be vigorously pursued); or market-based solutions (no qualification necessary — it’s silly to expect the market to solve problems it was instrumental in creating). Something far more comprehensive is required.

EcoUnionist News #14

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Walton Family, Owners of Walmart, Using Their Billions To Attack Rooftop Solar

By Mike Gaworecki - DeSmog Blog, November 16, 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.

A recent trend has seen utilities deciding that since they haven't been able to beat back the rise of rooftop solar companies, they might as well join them (or at least steal their business model). But the Walton Family, owners of Walmart as well as a stake in a manufacturer of solar arrays for utilties, aren't ready to give up the fight.

A new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has found that, through their Walton Family Foundation, the Waltons have given $4.5 million dollars to groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Americans for Prosperity—groups that are attacking renewable energy policies at the state level and, specifically, pushing for fees on rooftop solar installations. The head of ALEC has even gone so far as to denigrate owners of rooftop solar installations as “freeriders.”

But support for groups seeking to halt the rise of clean energy is only half the story. According to Vice News, the Waltons own a 30% stake in First Solar, a company that makes solar arrays for power plants as “an economically attractive alternative or complement to fossil fuel electricity generation,” per its 2013 annual report, which also identifies “competitors who may gain in profitability and financial strength over time by successfully participating in the global rooftop PV solar market” as a threat to First Solar's future profitability.

The Problem Is Capitalism

By Fred Magdoff - NYC Climate Convergence, September 20, 2014

A. The Environmental Crisis

The "environmental crisis" is actually a number of crises, including the following:

Corporations Are Not Going to Save Us From Climate Disruption

By Rachel Smolker; image by South Bend Voice - Truthout, 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.

This past week in New York saw some remarkable actions around climate change. The massive People's Climate March was perhaps the main media spectacle, but it was not the only, or necessarily the most important event. Another important one: the Climate Justice Summit, which featured the voices and testimonials of people all around the country and the globe who are on the frontlines, bearing the brunt of both ruthless extraction and destruction of their lands and livelihoods, and also experiencing most directly the impacts of climate change itself. Many were tearful as they described lives and lands laid to ruin by tar sands, fracking, coal, uranium mining and more. The brutal, relentless and rapacious greed of corporate profiteers in the fossil fuel industries, big agribusiness and forestry and financial sectors seems almost unfathomable.

Clearly, the United Nations is not going to do what is necessary to change the path we are on, but rather is mired in blame and conflict, relegated to endlessly reenacting and rehashing the history of colonialism, apparently utterly incapable of taking any steps that could be construed as challenging to the economic status quo much less calling out capitalism. Why? Because the UN itself is beholden to corporate puppet masters.

The UN insists on taking its cue from the very corporations who are responsible for degrading the planet, destroying lives and creating the crisis in the first place.

With apparent naïveté, the UN insists on taking its cue from the very corporations who are responsible for degrading the planet, destroying lives and creating the crisis in the first place. This is pervasive throughout institutions and governments across the globe, not only the UN. The reason is money. With a handful of corporations owning and controlling most of the world's wealth, little can be funded and executed on a large scale without the funding, involvement and decision making of the handful of ultra wealthy. Which means ceding control to those corporate interests and doing their bidding. Money is power - but not the only kind!

Big Oil Brown Greenwashes his Legacy at U.N. Climate Summit

By Dan Bacher - Indybay.Org, September 23, 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.

Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California target="_blank" history, spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City today in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.

During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted California’s controversial carbon trading policies as an example of "innovative climate strategies."

“The California story is a very hopeful one,” Brown gushed. “It’s a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It’s not been easy, it’s not without contest, but we’re making real progress."

“I believe that from the bottom up, we can make real impact and we need to join together,” added Governor Brown. “We’re signing MOUs with Quebec and British Columbia, with Mexico, with states in China and wherever we can find partners, because we know we have to do it all.”

Brown's remarks at the summit are available at: http://cert1.mail-west.com/oUyjbH/myuzjanmc7rm/21oUgt/r8kgy/vnqoU2xx1jy8d/uqc5hy21oUq/043i8kyepg?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C12lu5pdhlx8v340&_ce=1411519461.60b50da8597e418eaeff8b1b85e25029)

In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, "We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it’s an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California.”

Yes, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely “the place to look” for one example after another of environmental destruction.

Once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown.”

Climate, Coal and Confrontation

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin - The Portland Radicle, May 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In a previous essay (Capital and Climate Catastrophe, November, 2012), I outlined how capitalism is responsible for the current climate crisis and how it is not capable of solving it. Here I talk about the local effects of climate change, the effort to export coal through the Pacific Northwest, and about bringing an anti-capitalist perspective to organizing against climate catastrophe.

More Rain, But Less Water

Over the last century, the average annual temperature has increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with increases in some areas up to 4 degrees. Changes in forest cover, stream flows, and snowpack are already occurring in our region and will continue. The average annual temperature is expected to increase up to 10 degrees by the time today’s infants enter old age. The winters here are likely to get wetter and the summers drier. Insultingly, people living in the Pacific Northwest are being asked to help further facilitate these devastating changes to our environment by allowing coal trains to export coal to Asia to accelerate global warming.

Much of the region’s water supply is stored in snowpack in the mountains. Snowpack melts in the late spring and summer, running into streams and rivers throughout the year, providing drinking water, a healthy environment for fish, and water for agriculture, and driving energy production through dams. Higher winter temperatures will cause more precipitation to fall as rain, rather than snow. The decreased snowpack, estimated to decline by 40% in only the next 30 years, would increase the incidence of drought in increasingly drier, hotter summers. Increased rain (rather than snow) at higher elevations in the winter would also increase the probability of winter flooding. Overall we’ll experience less availability of drinkable water.

Decreasing water availability would strain existing social relations, as people compete to use dwindling supplies for agricultural irrigation, hydropower, municipal drinking water, industrial uses, and the protection of endangered and threatened animal species. Seventy percent of electric power in the Northwest is supplied by hydropower. At the same time that rising temperatures will increase the demands for air conditioning and refrigeration, decreased summer water supplies will limit hydroelectricity. Salmon, already threatened, will become increasingly vulnerable, with at least a third of their habitat destroyed by century’s end.

Additionally, the impact on the region’s forests will be immense. We can expect increased damage due to proliferating insect attacks from the mountain pine beetle and others, slowed tree growth, and a bloom of forest fires.1

This will all be exasperated by the increased population demands, as people from regions even worse off come to the Pacific Northwest. In the next fifty years, the Portland metro area could grow to as many as 4 – 6 million, from the current level of just under a million. Increasing numbers of ‘climate refugees’ in the region will likely lead to more authoritarian police enforcement. Police play a role of ensuring race and class divisions, often through brutality and murder. This will likely increase with more desperate people.

On the coasts, ocean acidification accompanying climate change is already impacting oyster and other sea life populations and will continue to affect all marine life, as coastal erosion and sea levels increase.

North Portland is most vulnerable to flooding, as the Columbia River floods natural areas such as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the airport, and potentially up to two miles of North Portland in the decades and centuries to come.2

As much as climate change will affect the ecological integrity of our region, it will continue to be much more devastating to people living in parts of the world not responsible for producing greenhouse gases. The largely white, European people of the so-called global North dominate and exploit the people of the South. It is primarily poor people of color, not contributing to global warming, who will endure its most devastating effects. It is mostly they who will continue to suffer and die. That’s the racist nature of climate change.

Capital and Climate Catastrophe

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin - The Portland Radicle, November 21, 2012

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.

Capitalism is changing the weather.  More fundamentally, it is changing the climate.  This is the byproduct of an economic system that relies primarily on burning oil and coal to fuel production and enable the transportation of people and goods.  In looking at capitalists’ responsibility for the climate crisis, a central question is whether capitalism must impact the environment in this way, or if it is capable of changing its mode of production so its continued operation does not change the climate.
A new report estimates that before the year 2030, 100 million people will die as a result of the changing climate.  Ninety percent of these deaths will occur in poor countries.   The ‘climate crisis’ should now be spoken of as the climate catastrophe, because this is what it is for the majority of the peoples of the earth.  The droughts, melting icecaps, tropical storms, and bizarre weather we have been experiencing is just the beginning.

The dominant economic system is the driving force of climate change.  It is based upon the exploitation of oil and coal, which contributes greenhouse gases to the environment, resulting in increasing global temperatures.   The innermost logic of this economic system is the accumulation of capital.  Whatever serves profit thrives.  Currently a large part of the capitalist machine is fueled by oil and coal.  The vast majority of scientific investigation points directly to the burning of oil and coal as having already raised the temperature of the Earth by 1.5 degree Fahrenheit, with the possibility of raising it over ten degrees by the end of this century.  To do this would make life on earth unrecognizable, like something out of a science fiction movie. This may happen by the time today’s infants enter old age.

At one time reformists called for a Green Capitalism, for developing Green technologies and the like.  Major unions, who have reconciled themselves with capital, call for Green Jobs. Reformists and unions suggest that capitalism could be ecological, that it does not have to do things like pollute the air and water and change the climate.  This may be true.  It may be possible to have an exploitative economic system like capitalism, based upon renewable, alternative energy.  After all, the slave trade and early colonial conquest were based upon wind-powered ships and mills.  A central question then is whether the logic of capitalism is inherently ecologically destructive; will capitalism continue to play chicken with our future, or will it revolutionize its mode of production to not change the nature of the environment so much that the future of civilization is put into question?

There is a debate amongst members of the ruling class, the so-called 1%, about which way to go.  Some argue for the development of “carbon markets,” in which the right to put carbon into the environment is bought and sold, thus continuing to profit from the emission of greenhouse gases, while slowly decreasing them.  They argue for developing alternative energy, such as wind and solar, to replace coal and gas.  They promote ‘lifestyle changes’ and taxing coal and oil companies for their emissions.  Right now, this section of the ruling class is losing.  No real change is coming from above to respond to climate catastrophe.

It seems that if the fundamental driving force of capitalism is the further accumulation of capital, it would make sense not to change the ecology so much that you severely reduce the number of producers and consumers, threaten food production, and endanger the future of humanity.  Without civilization, how can capitalism continue?  Right now, the most potent anti-civilizational force on the planet is capitalism.

"Sharing economy" companies like Uber shift risk from corporations to workers, weaken labor protections, and drive down wages.

By Avi Asher-Schapiro - Jacobin, September 19, 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.

Kazi drives a Toyota Prius for Uber in Los Angeles. He hates it. He barely makes minimum wage, and his back hurts after long shifts. But every time a passenger asks what it’s like working for Uber, he lies: “It’s like owning my own business; I love it.”

Kazi lies because his job depends on it. After passengers finish a ride, Uber asks them to rate their driver on a scale from one to five stars. Drivers with an average below 4.7 can be deactivated — tech-speak for fired.

Gabriele Lopez, an LA Uber driver, also lies. “We just sit there and smile, and tell everyone that the job’s awesome, because that’s what they want to hear,” said Lopez, who’s been driving for UberX, the company’s low-end car service, since it launched last summer.

In fact, if you ask Uber drivers off the clock what they think of the company, it often gets ugly fast. “Uber’s like an exploiting pimp,” said Arman, an Uber driver in LA who asked me to withhold his last name out of fear of retribution. “Uber takes 20 percent of my earnings, and they treat me like shit — they cut prices whenever they want. They can deactivate me whenever they feel like it, and if I complain, they tell me to fuck off.”

In LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, tension between drivers and management has bubbled over in recent months. And even though Uber’s business model discourages collective action (each worker is technically in competition with each other), some drivers are banding together.

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