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environmental justice

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.

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.

Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate

By Mark Potok - Southern Poverty Law Center, July 2010

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 quarter of a century ago, John Tanton, a white nationalist who would go on to almost single-handedly construct the contemporary, hard-line anti-immigration movement, wrote about his secret desire to bring the Sierra Club, the nation's largest environmental organization, into the nativist fold. He spelled out his motive clearly: Using an organization perceived by the public as part of the liberal left would insulate nativists from charges of racism — charges that, given the explicitly pro-"European-American" advocacy of Tanton and many of his allies over the years, would likely otherwise stick.

In the ensuing decades, nativist forces followed Tanton's script, making several attempts to win over the Sierra Club and its hundreds of thousands of members. That effort culminated in 2004, when nativists mounted a serious effort to take over the Sierra Club's board of directors, an attempt that was beaten back only after a strenuous campaign by Sierra Club members and groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center. The attempt was a classic case of "greenwashing" — a cynical effort by nativist activists to seduce environmentalists to join their cause for purely strategic reasons.

Now, the greenwashers are back. In the last few years, right-wing groups have paid to run expensive advertisements in liberal publications that explicitly call on environmentalists and other "progressives" to join their anti-immigration cause. They've created an organization called Progressives for Immigration Reform that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed in order to preserve the American environment. They've constructed websites accusing immigrants of being responsible for urban sprawl, traffic congestion, overconsumption and a host of other environmental evils. Time and again, they have suggested that immigration is the most important issue for conservationists.

TransCanada Faces United Front in South Dakota: Tribes and Landowners Say NO KXL

Staff Report - Native News Online, August 21, 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.

IHANKTONWAN, SOUTH DAKOTA – ­ TransCanada faces yet another hurdle in its effort to build the Keystone XL pipeline. A coalition of long­existing pipeline fighters in South Dakota have come together to extend their share division of protecting the land, the water and the peoples of the area. An alliance of Protect the Sacred Movement of the Ihanktonwan/Yankton; the Bridger Spiritual Camp, Pte Ospaye; the Lower Brule Spiritual Camp, Wiconi Un Tipi; the Rosebud Spiritual Camp, Oyate Wahacanka Woecun; Dakota Rural Action; and the Indigenous Environmental Network are launching No KXL Dakota, a united effort to fight the Keystone XL pipeline.

Before TransCanada can build within state borders, the company must certify its permit, proving it still meets the original permit conditions. The coalition is preparing to fight the permit certification at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and expects the company to file for certification this year.

“Oceti Rising,” says Faith Spotted Eagle, with Protect the Sacred, “is reaffirming our sovereignty as nations and strengthening our protection of Mother Earth. Water is life, Mni Wiconi. Oceti means fire and could also represent unity between non Native and Natives in protecting their homefires.”

What does environmental justice have to do with tenant organizing?

By John Tieu - Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, August 21, 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 Our Power National Convening kicked off on August 6th, 2014 in Richmond CA, a diverse city that houses the Chevron Richmond refinery. This refinery is also one of the larger greenhouse gas emitting factories in the nation. The city itself is an example of what happens when capitalism’s method of exploiting the working class, extracting their profit, and commodifying our environment reaches a peak. An alarming number of people in Richmond have suffered, and are currently suffering from breathing issues such as asthma due to the city’s harmful air. Crime has been consistently high, and disinvestment in the city is affecting urban space. The refinery itself, which provides jobs to a sizeable amount of the population in Richmond, is also a highly unstable and dangerous work environment.

At a community vigil on August 6th, participants of the convening learned about and paid tribute to the victims of an explosion that happened at the refinery two years ago in 2012, sending 15,000 to seek treatment.

The city’s population itself is constantly being reminded of their struggles with bombardments of smoke plumes and advertisements from Chevron citing modernization and expansion as positive changes. I’ve never seen or experienced any neighborhood like it on the east coast. A resident in the city of Richmond seems to have almost every aspect of their life permeated by the Chevron corporation, as it seems to always and constantly be in the collective conscience of the neighborhood. As an intern who did not have any background in environmental studies, did not focus on issues in my own neighborhood that dealt with clean air and energy issues, and did not ever have to live in the shadow of a massive refinery, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I became involved with CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities this past summer, and had dealt with multiple issues ranging from organizing tenants in Chinatown, to doorknocking in NYCHA owned complexes, to putting on a screening of Delano Manongs, a film about the Filipino Farm Workers movement. While all somewhat varied in its subject, the projects had no readily apparent connections to the themes of the convening, which were mostly based on environmental and climate justice. Throughout the event I struggled to understand my place, as well as CAAAV’s place in the fight for a just transition into a new economic system, when there hasn’t been a direct connection of organization’s work focused on these issues. It had taken the majority of the conference to understand why Grassroots Global Justice would want to send Jeff (a fellow member) and I here to Richmond…

Linking Degrowth to Environmental Justice

Joachim Spangenberg interviewed by Felicitas Sommer - EJOLT, July 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.

For “Scharf-links”, a German online newspaper, Dr. Joachim Spangenberg , co-chair of EJOLT’s steering committee, spoke about the activities of EJOLT and the link between Environmental Justice and Degrowth, looking forward to the Degrowth meeting in Leipzig in the first week in September 2014 where EJOLT will be present. In the interview he explains that justice is a core element of any Degrowth process. Without justice, Degrowth won’t work.

[?] Dr. Spangenberg, for many people at EJOLT the Degrowth movement of the global North largely corresponds to the environmental justice movement of the global South…

[!] On our EJOLT map of environmental conflicts (www.ejatlas.org) it is not only possible to identify which regions are affected and which industries are causing conflicts, but also where perpetrators are coming from. These companies are primarily mining companies or other manufacturing industries, private ones as well as state owned ones. Apart from very few exceptions these companies are based in industrial countries, especially in Europe and the U.S. The victims of conflicts, in contrast, are mostly from countries of the global South. In these countries each month 2-3 leaders of environmental movements are being murdered. For them protection of the environment in is not a matter of goodwill but it is a matter of life and death.

[?] Who allows or fosters such developments, governments or corporations?

[!] State-owned energy companies in OECD-countries contribute 200 billion per year to state revenues. Many states are financially dependent on these companies and also on the taxes from private resource companies.

Many of the private companies are stock exchange-listed companies. The goal of high share prices collides with ambitious environmental targets. For example, to reach the 2 degree Celsius target two-thirds of remaining fossil fuels would have to stay in the ground. If this target were actually enforced, stock prices of the world’s largest corporations would collapse–their market value is based on the amount of resources they own, as these are considered the basis of future profits. Anything that reduces expected profits will lower the companies’ market value and this applies to laws protecting the environment, labour rights or indigenous people’s rights as well.

Australia‘s largest mining company, for example, would lose 50% of its market value if it had to re-classify 2/3 of its fossil fuel reserves as „unburnable fuels“. Mining and oil companies, but also the waste industry, do everything in their power to avert more stringent laws, more ambitious political targets and more effective sanctioning. Yet, with the Renewable Energies Law (EEG) in Germany it became apparent that big companies do not necessarily have the upper hand – RWE has lost 80% of its market value. However, the tough fight over renewable energies continues, also with the aid of the German Federal Government, to safeguard as much of the market value as possible.

Blaming Migration for our Problems is Dangerous and Wrong

By Adam Ramsey - The Ecologist, June 21, 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.

Rupert Read finished his piece on why he hates immigration by saying that mainstream politicians love it for the same reason that Hitler does.

Usually, comparing your opponents to Hitler immediately means that, under Godwin's Law, you've lost the argument.

But Rupert had already lost his argument long before that.

To summarise, Rupert makes a case that migration is a tool of the powerful against the powerless, and is environmentally damaging. He therefore argues that we should 'love migrants, but hate migration'.

He gives a list of reasons for why he thinks migration is a bad thing. Let me go through each of his points and explain why I disagree.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All! - May 31, 2014

By Doug G - May 31, 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.

Comrades and Fellow Proles,

As many of you know, Elliot Hughes, member of the Industrial Workers of the World as well as the Stage Hands Union is involved in a variety of struggles and campaigns.

Elliot has thrown himself deep into organizing against the eviction of the Albany Bulb, in which many people have lived there for over 7 years. The push to 'cleanse' the Bulb is part and parcel to the ongoing attack on working, poor, and homeless people throughout the bay area. Elliot has organized events, brought out food and water, and faced down the police for several weeks now. I have personally been out to the Bulb and it is clear that the all of the police there are well aware of Elliot and his activism. Police Sergeant Chris Willis asked to take Elliot to coffee and talk about 'raising the minimum wage' and 'stopping the Keystone XL.' Elliot of course refused. Police have also attempted to ask young people involved in defending the Bulb if they know Elliot.

Yesterday, police raided the home of the last two remaining people on the Bulb with a large amount of police and weapons. They arrested one supporter and even put their name down as "Elliot Hughes." It is clear that they were eager to get Elliot - and do it quickly.

This morning, when Elliot was helping Amber and Phill move their belongings after the raid, police stopped Elliot and arrested him supposedly over an unpaid traffic ticket. They also booked him on two felonies. One, of having instruments that could be used for a jailbreak (?!) and also having stolen property (unclear as to what this is). While we do not expect these charges to stick, we need to raise money to get Elliot out of the clink.

Elliot comes from a working class family in the mid-west. His father is also in the stage hands union. In 2008, Eilliot was brutally arrested and beaten during the Republican National Convention by police, leading him to have residual trauma and damage. He's a tough kid and can hold his own, but we want to support our comrades - especially when we know the real reason why they've been arrested - their organizing!

Please, pitch in - help Elliot out!  

Presente Joins Growing Anti-KXL Movement

By Presente - April 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 nation’s largest online Latino organizing group, Presente.org, is joining the fight to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline today, on the grounds that the project would disproportionately impact Latino communities- both by exacerbating climate change and by poisoning the largely Latino communities that live near refineries for tar sands in Houston, TX.

“We are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. “Latino communities in America are concentrated in the areas most affected by climate change— from the drought stricken Southwest to coastal cities like Miami which are most threatened by rising sea levels. Additionally, refineries that would process Keystone XL’s tar sands are concentrated in Latino communities in Texas— sickening our children and families with their toxic pollution. We are not willing to sacrifice our health, climate, and safety for the sake of Big Oil profits. We urge the President to keep his promise to address climate change and start building a clean energy economy— and the first step to doing that is rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Presente.org recently polled their more than 300,000 members across the country and found that environmental justice and climate change were second only to immigration in importance to their members. Formal polls of the Latino community across the country also reflect that— and that they also are most supportive of using government funds to combat climate change. In addition, because fossil fuel infrastructure, like refineries for oil, are centered in largely low income communities of color, Latinos have disproportionately suffered from asthma, cancer, and other pollution related illnesses stemming from America’s dependence on fossil fuels. For these reasons, Presente.org has decided to make environmental justice and the fight against climate change a central priority in the coming year.

# # #

With more than 300,000 members, Presente is a major national organization dedicated to amplifying the political voices of Latino communities in the United States.

NRDC poll on Latino communities’ opinions on climate change: http://docs.nrdc.org/globalwarming/files/glo_14012301a.pdf

Apply the Brakes: Anti-Immigrant Co-Optation of the Environmental Movement

By Jenny Levison, Stephen Piggott, Rebecca Poswolsky, and Eric Ward - Center for New Community, 2010

From the Introduction: - This report is intended to explore how antiimmigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment, and will examine the anti-immigrant environmentalist network that has influenced the environmental movement for the last 14 years. In 2009, an article in the Population Special Issue of the Earth Island Journal1 mentioned a new organization and website named Apply the Brakes (ATB hereafter). A few months later, the Center for Immigration Studies2 — an anti-immigrant organization known to trade in racism — cited ATB in a memorandum denouncing Sierra Club leadership for not addressing the issue of immigration. At a time when more people of color, labor and human rights organizations are engaging in environmental concerns such as climate change and “green jobs,” ATB could very well threaten those fragile coalitions.

Read the entire report here (in PDF form).

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