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Laid-off Sierra Club Staffers: ‘We Can’t Give Up on United Fronts’

By Brooke Anderson, Hop Hopkins, and, Michelle Mascarenhas - Convergence, August 8, 2023

For the last decade, climate justice organizers have seen the Sierra Club as a critical lever for moving a climate agenda that centers equity and just transition. It has the largest grassroots base outside of labor, the most substantial infrastructure of any national green group in the US, and roots in a movement that at times was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with large corporations or development-oriented pro-business government entities.

But beginning in May, the organization accelerated a restructuring process that included layoffs of the entire equity and environmental justice teams and of senior staffers, several Black women and other women of color among them. At the same time, numerous new executive-level staff with high salaries were brought on to usher in a new organizational direction. This move, led by new BIPOC executive leadership, pulls back years of steady progress towards aligning the organization with the more progressive climate agenda. It is a harbinger of a shift away from equity and towards green capital just as the 2024 election nears—and reflects an anti-woke backlash occurring in liberal organizations across many sectors of the movement.

To better understand these shifts, movement journalist Brooke Anderson interviewed two longtime climate justice organizers and veteran social movement strategists, Michelle Mascarenhas and Hop Hopkins. Prior to being laid off from the Sierra Club this spring, Mascarenhas was its national director of campaigns, and Hopkins resigned as its director of organizational transformation.

Hopkins and Mascarenhas had been working to align the Sierra Club with the frontline-led climate justice movement, as part of an intentional effort to shift the organization from its racist roots and practice. Founded in 1892, the organization led the creation of the National Park Service, expanding on a legacy of dispossession and genocide of Indigenous peoples by insisting that protecting land meant removing it from Indigenous stewardship. “The Population Bomb,” which the Sierra Club published in 1968, was weaponized against poor people and people of color. It placed blame for the global ecological crisis on those least responsible: poor women of color and immigrants. This contributed to the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-single mother attacks that continue to this day. 

The sophisticated analysis Mascarenhas and Hopkins offer of “what time it is on the clock of the world” (to borrow from the late, great Grace Lee Boggs) doesn’t just speak to happenings inside the Sierra Club. Rather, it holds deep-rooted and durable wisdom for left organizers attempting to make critical interventions in larger, liberal or centrist spaces in the non-profit industrial complex—and clarifies the sides and the stakes in today’s debates over climate policy. 

How Do Community Benefits Agreements Work?

What is Anaculture?

By collective - Sabot Media, July 18, 2023

Anaculture is a method by which we can abolish the State and implement a gift economy based on self-determination, horizontality, mutual aid, and solidarity. One where people contribute what work they can, doing what they are passionate about, and share in the more mundane responsibilities of the community. As anarchist our understanding of freedom is that it is a process that people engage in together. We believe that rigid laws actually undermine our freedom, and therefore don’t aspire to the creation or worship of canonical texts.

The anarchist analysis of capitalism, reformism, patriarchy, colonialism, and the State have already proven useful to many social movements over the past several decades. Now we must offer a critique of the environmental movement in order to help it become what it could be. These movements always leave their mark on Anarchism as well, informing and influencing anarchist theory and life.

The Green New Deal in the Cities, Part 1: Boston

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 16, 2023

While the Green New Deal started as a proposed national program, some of the most impressive implementations of its principles and policies are occurring at a municipal level. Part 1 of “The Green New Deal in the Cities” provides an extended account of the Boston Green New Deal, perhaps the most comprehensive effort so far to apply Green New Deal principles in a major city. Part 2 presents Green New Deal-style programs developing in Los Angeles and Seattle, and reviews the programs and policies being adapted in cities around the country to use climate protection as a vehicle for creating jobs and challenging injustice.

Urban politics often seem to produce not so much benefit for the people as inequality, exclusion, and private gain for the wealthiest. Does it have to be that way? In cities throughout the US, new political formations, often under the banner of the Green New Deal, are creating a new form of urban politics. They pursue the Green New Deal’s core objectives of fighting climate change in ways that produce good jobs and increase equality. They are based on coalitions of impoverished urban neighborhoods, disempowered racial and ethnic groups, organized labor, and advocates for climate and the environment. They involved widespread democratic mobilization. A case in point is the Boston Green New Deal.

Break Gender Stereotypes in Workplaces!; Fight for Gender and Climate Justice!

White Energy Workers of the North, Unite? A Review of Huber's Climate Change as Class War

By Michael Levien - Historical Materialism, March 2023

Review of Matthew Huber, (2022) Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet, London: Verso.

The year-long American saga that culminated in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) underscored the difference between two ways of mitigating climate change at the national level. The first is elite climate policy in which wonks and technocrats come up with the smartest policies to incentivise private capital to invest in the right technologies. This is, ultimately, what we got with the IRA, which has been accurately characterised as the triumph of ‘green industrial policy’.1 The second is popular climate politics which seeks to build a broad political coalition for decarbonisation by tying it to social programmes that directly improve people’s lives. This is the idea behind the Green New Deal, which to a surprising extent made its way into the initial Build Back Better bill before Joe Manchin got his hands on it. Matthew Huber’s book Climate Change as Class War provides a powerful critique of the first while advancing a labour-centred version of the second.

Huber lands many good punches against what he calls professional-class climate politics. Building on the Ehrenreichs’ concept of the professional managerial class (PMC),2 Huber argues that PMC climate politics characteristically over-emphasises that class’ stock-in-trade: education and credentials. In their hands, climate politics thus becomes a matter of knowledge (communicating the science) more than one of power (tackling the class power of the fossil-fuel industry). PMC policy technocrats further internalise neoliberal logic with their obsession with pricing carbon – a policy that ultimately balances the carbon budget on the backs of working-class consumers. In its more radical manifestations, PMC environmentalism – degrowth being the main target here – espouses an ascetic ‘politics of less’ that has no resonance with working-class people who already do not have enough. This type of environmental politics, Huber argues, explains why the right has been able to mobilise the working class against the environment.

By way of alternative, Huber advances a theory of working-class climate politics which he dubs ‘proletarian ecology’. The starting point, developed over Chapters 1 and 2, is to recognise that industrial fossil capital is responsible for the vast majority of emissions. As Huber sketches with discussions of the cement and fertiliser industries – for the latter, Huber draws on some interviews with managers of a fertiliser plant in Louisiana – their carbon intensity is not a matter of greed but of the structural imperative to produce surplus value, and therefore will not be halted (as opposed to greenwashed) by any amount of shaming. Thus, ‘Climate change requires an antagonistic approach towards owners of capital in the “hidden abode” of production’ (p. 106). The problem is that ‘the climate movement today – made up of professional class activists and the most marginalized victims of climate change – is too narrowly constructed to constitute a real threat to the power of industrial capital’ (p. 69).

This brings us to the bold and controversial claim of Climate Change as Class War: it is the working class (and organised labour in particular) that must be the main agent of radical climate politics, not the diverse coalitions of ‘marginalised groups’ – which includes Indigenous movements against pipelines and Black-led environmental justice organisations – who are currently the vanguard of the climate justice movement. What Huber calls ‘livelihood environmentalism’ only sees the working class as having environmental interests when their communities’ land, water or health are directly threatened (p. 195). Huber’s theory of proletarian ecology, by contrast, proceeds from the broader recognition that ‘a defining feature of working-class life under capitalism is profound alienation from the ecological conditions of life itself’ (p. 188). Thus ‘a working-class interest in ecology will emerge not from the experience of environmental threats, but from a profound separation from nature and the means of subsistence’ (pp. 181–2). Rather than defending bodies or landscapes, it will focus on the working class’s material interest in decommodifying the means of subsistence (p. 196).

Sustainable Water, Energy, and Economic Transition in Alabama (SWEET Alabama)

Liberatory Points of Unity Template (2023 Remix)

By Usufruct Collective - Usufruct Collective, January 14, 2023

The following is a DIY template for a liberatory Points of Unity for social movement groups and popular organizations. The following “Points of Unity Template” is designed to be tweaked and adapted to relevant conditions and variables of groups (including but not limited to the specific kind and functions of a group you are trying to form or assist). It is not a “one size fits all” kind of document, but something designed to critically engage with and reflect upon when starting or participating within a social movement group or popular organization. 

The following “Points of Unity Template” refers to various shared practices of a group– shared practices that relate to process and goal orientation as well as form and content of a group. Such shared practices do NOT require a shared ideology among participants for participants to sufficiently agree with them in the context of group form and functions. Accepting shared qualities of a group that some ideology (or ideologies) would approve of is distinct from a group being an ideologically specific group– a group that espouses a specific ideology and that requires shared ideology among members. Additionally, such “Points of Unity for shared practices” can exist within decision making processes and bylaws of organizations in tandem with or distinct from being present in a document titled as such. Groups can structurally include the following points of unity for shared practices in varying ways. And such points of unity for shared practices, if they are to exist overtime as qualities of a group, must be sufficiently present within (and developed by) a living content and culture made by participants. 

One crucial reason for including the following points of unity is the overall coherence of the multiple points when they are combined; for they round each other out to defend against various detrimental qualities (to the extent they are actuated in form and content of course). And yet, there is significant redundancy between the following points– and there are ways to combine the various points together to make them more succinct and less numerous. And there are ways to simplify points, elaborate points, or change wording for the sake of communication as well as needs and preferences of various groups. More numerically and descriptively skeletal and simple versions of points of unity often make more sense initially until if and when more coherent practical unity has been developed within a given group (or between various groups). For example, a group that is just starting could just have the points of direct democracy and direct action for a direct action group, or direct democracy and mutual aid for a mutual aid group, or all of the above for a group that does all such functions. It is possible for “free association” to be combined with “direct democracy” in one point through a holistic notion of participatory democracy or self-management– which can even be descriptively combined with the essential features of “horizontality”! Such a way of framing those points can be very useful, as it creates a way to take in what would otherwise be multiple points of unity within a single point. Such a simplification can be important, as the points are supposed to potentially unite lots of people. However, such a lumping of qualities together into one can have a downside as well; if such a combining of qualities into one is not done well, then it is possible for the substance of one or more of the multiple points being lumped together to be obscured in the process.

The following points of unity were made with community assembly groups in the mode of struggle against hierarchical power in mind. However, the first six points can be adapted and applied to other kinds of groups such as radical unions, issue-specific movement groups, direct action collectives, and mutual aid collectives, and the like.

Stopping Cop City and Reconnecting with Abundance: Interview with Abundia Alvarado of Mariposas Rebeldes

By Abundia Alvarado and Dan Fischer - New Politics, January 14, 2023

Abundia Alvarado is a community organizer and a co-founder of Mariposas Rebeldes, a member of the movement to protect Weelaunee Forest and Stop Cop City, and a founder of FaunAcción, and El Molcajete. A Nahuatl and Apache trans femme migrant, she is currently based between Atlanta and Tennessee. In Atlanta, she helped launch an annual money-free gift-economy festival called the Dandelion Fest and is working on projects around the idea of the universe as a “Sacred Web of Abundance.” We spoke about Abundia’s life’s philosophy, its roots, and how it has shaped the trajectory of her organizing.

Since the interview was conducted last month, there have been some developments in Atlanta’s grassroots campaign to stop construction of a highly militarized police training facility, nicknamed “Cop City,” on 85 acres of the Weelaunee forest. On December 13 and 14, SWAT teams and police arrested twelve land defenders and six of them were given bogus “domestic terrorism” charges. All six have been bonded out of jail, but readers can contribute to their legal expenses through the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, follow the movement at Scenes from the Atlanta Forest, and organize solidarity events.

You’ve described your childhood surroundings near Monterrey, Mexico, as a “web of abundance”. Could you elaborate on some of the values you picked up in this environment – including from your Nahuatl and Apache family and from the local community as well as the broader ecosystem – which continue to inform your organizing?

I grew up in a neighborhood called Canteras in the outskirts of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, the third largest city and center of the Mexican business and economy, located in the desert land, surrounded by a beautiful web of abundance that saved me from the daily horrible reality of extreme poverty. Canteras was full of different cacti—many of them edible like the nopales which have tunas (prickly pears)—that I collected almost all year round. There were different varieties of chiles, my favorites being the tiny yet potent piquin. For my sweet tooth, there were blackberries, mulberries, and many other desert foods and flowers. So even though we were food insecure at my household, I still ate so well and plentifully. Canteras’s web of abundance (or WoA, for short) was everything to me. I played in it all day, befriended animals and plants, and imagined other worlds outside the neighborhood and its physical and mental constraints. I relentlessly explored every inch of that land and learned something new every day from all the plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc, that were part of that particular WoA. There were a lot of waterways, little waterfalls, and pools to bathe in. It was heaven for a curious and very active little girl (although I didn’t yet identify as a girl outwardly).

This particular land where I was born and grew up was owned by a very rich landowner, but my mother helped organize 120 families to occupy it and settle there. The occupation was successful and the Canteras neighborhood was born.These 120 families were mostly Indigenous people from different parts of Mexico but mainly Nahuatl people like my father’s family. I learned about their cultures and traditions by paying attention to the staples they grew (such as corn, tomatoes, chilis (especially chile piquin), blackberries, mangoes, oranges, peanuts, bananas, and avocados), the way they cooked them and the dishes they made. My neighbors helped each other to grow food and shared the harvests. One value that was instilled in me during these early years was respect for all the plants, ecosystems, and animals, and always being aware of other species’ jurisdictions or territories. Canteras was also the home of many kinds of snakes like the rattlesnakes, copperhead, coralillo and the mysterious (mythical) Alicante snakes. My family was so lucky we never got bitten by a snake even though I encountered them every day in the mountains. I knew where they lived and hung out and was careful not to intrude then. That respect and awareness is something that I carry on with me and that informs my activism around animal rights. Regarding human jurisdictions, I was never good and always transgressed their boundaries.

'Groundbreaking' Report Shows Promise of Greener Jobs for Former Fossil Fuel Workers

By Julia Conley - Common Dreams, January 3, 2023

New analysis shows how California "can achieve a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels for oil and gas workers."

A new analysis out Tuesday shows how a just transition towards a green economy in California—one in which workers in the state's fossil fuel industry would be able to find new employment and receive assistance if they're displaced from their jobs—will be "both affordable and achievable," contrary to claims from oil and gas giants and anti-climate lawmakers.

The study published by the Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI) notes that a majority of workers in the oil and gas sectors will have numerous new job opportunities as California pushes to become carbon neutral by 2045 with a vow to construct a 100% clean electricity grid and massively reduce oil consumption and production.

"The state will need to modernize its electrical grid and build storage capacity to meet increased demand for electricity," reads the report. "Carbon management techniques, plugging orphan wells, and the development of new energy sources such as geothermal will all come into play, providing economic opportunities to workers and businesses alike."

GEPI analyzed the most recent public labor data, showing that the oil and gas industries in California employed approximately 59,200 people as of 2021 across jobs in production, sales, transportation, legal, and executive departments, among others.

The group examined potential job opportunities for fossil fuel workers "in all growing occupations, not solely in clean energy or green jobs," and found that about two-thirds of employees are likely to find promising opportunities outside of fossil fuel-related work.

"Our findings show that a sizable majority (56%) of current oil and gas workers are highly likely to find jobs in California in another industry in their current occupation, given demand in the broader California economy for workers with their existing skills," the report says.

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