You are here

environmental justice

Climate Justice in Collision with Revenue-Neutral Carbon Policies?

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, November 25, 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.

Plotting options for carbon policy in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce just issued its recommendations.  The report sets up a political collision between advocates for neutral carbon pricing systems and climate justice proponents.

The CERT sagely concluded that carbon reduction goals are not going be met by market-based solutions alone.It is not enough to put a price on carbon, or set a legal cap.It will take a “harmonized, comprehensive policy approach. ”By increasing the price of fossil fuel energy, market mechanisms provide an “economic infrastructure” that sends “a common price signal across all emissions sources and emissions reductions opportunities.” This signal must be accompanied by “a well harmonized set of complementary policies” and “targeted use” of carbon revenues.

“Particular attention needs to be given to the transportation sector as the largest source of carbon emissions in the state,” CERT noted. Complementary policies are needed to promote transit and transit-oriented development, and alternative fuels such as electricity.

This emphasis on transportation alternatives is spot on.  It is partly aimed at reducing the impact of increased fuel costs on economically stressed populations.  That’s smart because it is exactly among those populations where fossil fuel interests will seek to drive a political wedge into the unified progressive coalition needed to pass carbon policy. 

While 350.org Wins, Houston Continues To Be Sacrificed

By Perry Graham - Free Press Houston, November 14, 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.

“Today is an achievement,” announced 350.org founder Bill McKibben in an email Wednesday, refering to an agreement reached this week between the U.S. and China on reducing carbon emissions. McKibben took the opportunity to congratulate himself, his organization, and the participants of the march they organized seven weeks ago. He might as well have posed in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

This agreement likely has little to do with anything 350.org has done. It comes amidst intense jockeying by the two governments in promoting their different proposals for a Pacific-area free trade agreement, as well as a relaxation of tariffs between the two countries. Increasing the number of goods that are shipped halfway around the world before consumption is antithetical to reducing carbon emissions, and free trade agreements are notorious for limiting a country’s capacity to enforce environmental regulations. Taking a look at their track record, the last time 350.org tried to pressure Obama on climate — by showing up at the White House with 40,000 people — Obama spent the weekend golfing with oil executives.

There’s also the disappointing content of the agreement. The U.S. pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025. Five years ago, in the lead up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen, the proposal being discussed called for reductions of 25-45% by 2020, and the scientific predictions of the impacts of climate change have only gotten worse since then. Celebrating the reductions the U.S. has agreed to is major backpedaling on McKibben’s part, who has long been an advocate for reduction targets based on climate science. He also calls the agreement “historic” because it is “the first time a developing nation has agreed to eventually limit its emissions.” China has pledged to stop their emissions from growing by 2030; if it actually takes them that long, we’ll likely be locked into runaway climate change (chaos, catastrophe) for the rest of the century.

Uranium Mining: Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry

By Bruno Chareyron, et. al. - Ejolt, November 15, 2014

Uranium mining and milling comprise the first phase of the nuclear fuel cycle, and is one of the most polluting ones. The aim of this report is to give workers and communities basic information about radioprotection. The document deals with the radiological characteristics of materials and waste from the mines, principles of radiation protection, and methods of dose evaluation.

The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies performed by CRIIRAD in France and Africa over the last twenty years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations for limiting these impacts.

This report aims to contribute towards the development of the critical capacities of communities, so that they might have more information with which to face conflicts with states or companies in relation to uranium mining projects.

Read the report (PDF).

We pay inmates $3 a day to fight California wildfires

By Brenton Mock - Grist, November 3, 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.

I recently heard a story told by the actor/activist Harry Belafonte about meeting with Martin Luther King back in the ’60s, shortly after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were signed. King was not in a celebratory mood, said Belafonte, and seemed to be rethinking his stance on racial integration. They were both contemplating the question asked by James Baldwin from The Fire Next Time: What if we just helped integrate black people into a burning house? Belafonte said King thought long on this before responding, “I guess we’ll just have to be firefighters.”

Demetrius Barr, the central character of Amanda Chicago Lewis’s incredible new BuzzFeed article, “The Prisoners Fighting California’s Wildfires,” is an accidental firefighter. He’s an African-American man from Los Angeles serving time in California for selling crack, and he has enlisted in a “fire camp,” a program created to train inmates to fight the state’s growing wildfire problem. The fire crisis is almost certainly a consequence of climate change, and faced with quickly dwindling funds for handling it, the state has turned to prison labor as a cheap way to meet the need. Here’s the math from Lewis’ story:

About half of the people fighting wildland fires on the ground for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are incarcerated: over 4,400 prisoners, housed at 42 inmate fire camps, including three for women. Together, says Capt. Jorge Santana, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) liaison who supervises the camps, they save the state over $1 billion a year. This year, California has had over 5,300 wildfires, which is about 700 more than had occurred by this time in 2013, and a thousand more than the five-year average. Now, as the West is coming to the end of one of the driest, hottest years in recorded history, the work of inmate firefighters has become essential to California’s financial and environmental health.

Problems abound in this Prison Environmental Complex, but one I want to pick at is the idea expressed throughout the story that programs like this help “rehabilitate” men who are presumably otherwise unsalvageable.

Are U.S. Taxpayer Dollars Supporting Coal Industry Human Rights Violations Overseas?

By Justin Guay and Nicole Ghio; image by Nicole Ghio - The Energy Collective, October 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.

A fact finding team of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Pacific Environment -- released a scathing report, The U.S. Export-Import Bank's Dirty Dollars, on the rampant human rights abuses at the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) financed Sasan coal-fired power plant and mine in Singrauli, India.

For years, reports of human rights, indigenous rights, labor, and environmental violations have plagued Sasan and its owner, Indian company Reliance Power, and the U.S. government are partly to blame. The 3,960-megawatt project has received over $900 million in taxpayer finance from Ex-Im, and when allegations against the project are raised, Ex-Im prefers to look the other way.

When Indian groups and NGOs alerted Ex-Im to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers, the Bank did nothing. When reports emerged of irregularities with the coal allotments for Sasan, foreshadowing the coal-gate scandal that would envelop then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ex-Im said nothing. Eventually the outrage prompted the Bank to conduct a visit to the project, but while they met with Reliance, the Bank refused to meet in the communities. Instead, they insisted that the affected people who had faced violence at the hands of Reliance -- people without access to reliable transportation -- meet them at a hotel that catered to industrial interests. Shockingly, people were afraid to speak out in such an unsafe venue. But even so, they refused to stay silent for long.

Today's fact finding report contains first-hand accounts from the front line communities Ex-Im attempted to ignore.

What we uncovered in our trips to Sasan was heartbreaking. We heard from villagers whose homes were destroyed in the middle of the night while they were still living in them. We met with indigenous residents whose children were denied entry into schools. And we learned how Reliance covers up injuries -- and even deaths -- at the project.

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…

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.