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Against Deep Green Resistance

By Michelle Renée Matisons and Alexander Reid Ross - Institute for Anarchist Studies, August 9, 2015

The Radical Turn?

For a book that advertises itself as a “shift in strategy and tactics,” Deep Green Resistance (DGR) has an overwhelmingly dispiriting tone, and is riddled with contradictions.[1] While DGR provocatively addresses many pressing social and ecological issues, its opportunistic, loose-cannon theoretical approach and highly controversial tactics leaves it emulating right-wing militia rhetoric, with the accompanying hierarchical vanguardism, personality cultism, and reactionary moralism. By providing a negative example, DGR does us the service of compounding issues into one book. Take it as a warning. As we grasp for solutions to multiple and compounding social and ecological crises, quick fixes, dogmatism, and power grabbing may grow as temptations. By reviewing DGR, we are also defending necessary minimal criteria for movements today: inclusivity, democracy, honesty, and (dare we suggest) even humility in the face of the complex problems we collectively face. None of these criteria can be found in DGR, and its own shortcomings are a telling lesson for us all.

It is instructive that the group based on DGR has become geared almost exclusively to outreach, not unlike a book club. At certain times, they claim to forbid their members from participating in illegal activity after having attempted a short-lived attempt to generate a grassroots, direct action network. At other times, DGR members claim to be involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. The ambiguity of their attempt at organization stems from the muddled ideas of two of the book’s authors, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, who forced out the main organizer, Premadasi Amada, as well as their other co-author, Aric McBay, over the question of inclusive gender policies.[2]

DGR’s organizational body (distinct from the book, but modeled after it) leads us to agree that they have been rightly accused by former members of acting like a cult rather than as part of a larger movement. They seem much more interested in lionizing their leadership than in taking direct action.[3]

DGR’s approach is purely ideological; they intend not to form their own groups or cells to carry out direct action, but to teach the need for direct action to the supposedly ignorant masses. Such an attitude of approaching from above, rather than joining in solidarity, is degrading to peoples’ ability to self-organize. We must equally lead and be led by engaging in struggle, not standing outside of it. Our ultimate conclusion is that DGR’s goal of “civilization’s” destruction through “underground” attacks against infrastructure manifests both an ideological and strategic misdirection, foreclosing the potential for participatory democracy and direct action as it veers into intellectual dishonesty and irreconcilable political contradictions.

Fighting the Trojan Horse of Hipster-Fascism in Portland

By Sascha Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, 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.

“No one surrounds themselves with Runes, totenkopfs and neofolk and REALLY likes the jews. They just pretend they do because they are cowards.”

– James Porrazzo, former leader of the American Front

At first, I didn’t think that I was going to the protest against the controversial neo-folk band Death in June, but the stars seemed to align. Having just finished reading that 3,500 page tome of Jewish scripture, the Babylonian Talmud, I felt like I had some extra time on my hands and needed to celebrate. As it happened, the protest took place the day before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the event that heralded the beginning of the Holocaust through the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses, and the sending of 30,000 Jews to concentration camps. The following day was Armistice Day (Veterans Day), celebrating the end of World War I. It seemed like a good day to fight fascism, and Death in June is famous for their openly fascist approach.

Some who join me in coming from an ecological background might wonder, why would you protest Death in June, a subcultural neo-folk band that doesn’t really make any ecological claims? Why act against a musical act unless their music sucks? Why not protest somebody more mainstream who is using fascist propaganda, like Nicki Minaj? Then again, why fight people who are literally hipster-fascists, instead of fighting hipsters who are perpetrating gentrification and forwarding state capitalism (which seems, with its prison industry complex, to be almost indistinguishable from fascism).

To be honest, I’ve never listened to Death in June, though I generally dislike what I know about the cultish aspects of neo-folk. It’s not that big of a deal, and I don’t intend to give the band more attention than they’re worth (not a lot). What I’m most worried about, in fact, is the mass politics of the ecology movement becoming fascistic, and DIJ’s politics provide one among many models through which the infiltration of fascist ideas becomes possible.

After researching the band, my concerns mounted, and after a discussion with the band’s promoter, I felt further validated. The promoter assured me that the music is supposed to make me uncomfortable. As someone who lost family to the Holocaust and whose grandfather helped liberate a concentration camp, I felt more enraged than uncomfortable with the perspective provided by DIJ and their attachment to “leftist” Nazi ideology. On the other side of my family, my father was shuttled out of Birmingham to the countryside by his mother and aunt at the age of four as the Nazi bombs fell. Uncomfortable is not the appropriate word for two generations of historic trauma, but I didn’t want to over-react (and I still don’t). The promoter apologized, but promptly reiterated her stance about intentionally making descendants of Holocaust victims and their families feel uncomfortable.

I reminded the promoter and the venue that the Alhambra Theater, where the event was planned to take place, is named after the historic scene of the Spanish Reconquista, where the Christians defeated the Muslims in that portentous year, 1492. The Alhambra is a symbol of Crusades, Islamophobia, and the ensuing expulsion of the Jews and Spanish Inquisition, and the music venue would be forever be associated with politically right-wing ideas by inviting a reactionary band to play when no other venue in Oregon would let them play (according to their own promoter). My post and the ensuing comment thread, which the band’s promoter assured me were very reasonable and levelheaded, have since been deleted by the page’s administrator.

This is not to say that I believe in excommunications; I have friends who like the neo-folk scene. Debate has significantly affected my community, but I believe that people in the ecology movement need to abandon sectarianism and allow for a degree of open and positive debate. Who doesn’t have Wiccan friends, neo-pagan associates who enjoy performing at Renaissance Fairs? At the same time, we must be ware of mass political positions that unite these ideas in some misguided “need to preserve European culture (from immigrants).”

After the Climate Movement: Ecology and Politics in the 21st Century (1/2)

By Javier Sethness Castro and Alexander Reid Ross - CounterPunch, September 15, 2014

This is part one of a two-part interview. The next part is forthcoming:

Edited by CounterPunch regular Alexander Reid Ross and newly published by AK Press, Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab assembles a formidable collection of articles and reports written by scholars and activists from North and South alike who are concerned with the distressing acceleration of massive land-expropriations executed by capitalist interests in recent years. Otherwise known as the “New Scramble for Africa,” the “New Great Game,” or the “Global Land Rush,” the global land grab has involved the acquisition by foreign power-groups of anywhere between 56 and 203 million hectares of lands belonging to Southern societies since the turn of the millennium. The corporations responsible for this massive privatization scheme hail from both wealthy and middle-income countries: India, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, and the U.S., among others.

In part, the global land grab can be explained by the progression of ecological degradation, particularly through climate change, as combined with the desire of the ruling classes of these countries to ensure food security for their populations—the fate of local populations in the countries whose lands are colonized for export-oriented production be damned. Another factor has to do with the vast concentration of wealth in the hands of the transnational financial aristocracy, who are lending out capital less readily now during the Great Recession than before, such that they have more capital on hand with which to invest in overseas land ventures. However, not all the territory which has been usurped by corporations and banks of late is to be dedicated exclusively to food production; much of it instead will be directed toward the cultivation of agrofuels (biofuels) that are slated to replace petroleum to a limited extent as a base or transitional fossil fuel, with this being a situation that can be expected greatly to exacerbate food insecurity and starvation in the countries whose governments welcome (re)colonization. The scale of investment in agrofuels is truly staggering, in light of plans to occupy almost 6 percent of the territory of Liberia and 10 percent of that of Sierra Leone with African palm plantations; a similar if more immediately acute dynamic is unfolding in Indonesia and Malaysia, whose vast swathes of tropical rainforests are being expeditiously torn down in favor of palm oil crops. Summarized briefly and correctly by Sasha and Helen Yost, this process is one whereby land-based communities are dispossessed in order to “feed the industrial nightmare of climate change.”

The focus of Grabbing Backas the title suggests, however, is not exclusively to analyze the machinations of global capital, but rather much more to investigate a multitude of forms of resistance to the land grab, from militant ecological direct actions to port strikes and land occupations (or decolonizations). Bringing together such dissident writers as Vandana Shiva, Silvia Federici, Benjamin Dangl,Andrej Grubačić, Noam Chomsky, Max Rameau, scott crow, and Grace Lee Boggs, Grabbing Back presents a number of critically important perspectives on resisting the land grab in particular and global capitalism in general. It is with great pleasure, then, that I have had the opportunity to interview Sasha on the magnificent volume he has edited.

Sasha, your editorial introduction to Grabbing Back frames the collection of essays within a tour de force overview of what you see as the most important factors driving the global land grab. You list these origins—quite rightly, in my view—as climate change, financial speculation, the “Great Recession” of 2008, resource scarcity and extractivist policies and orientations, as well as established imperialist history. Of these, I would like to examine the last of these concerns, in light of the clearly neo-colonial implications of mass-capitalist land expropriations today.

Given that empire is yet to be abolished, analyses of past experiments in European colonialism are quite germane to the present predicament, as you observe, like Hannah Arendt did before you in The Origins of Totalitarianism. The madman capitalist Cecil B. Rhodes, who sought to found a “Red” (or British) Africa from the Cape of Good Hope to the Nile Delta, is famous for his saying that he would “annex the planets if [he] could.” The domination and enslavement of peoples of color seen in formal colonialism, coupled with the mass-suffering, deprivation, and super-exploitation of said peoples for which neoliberalism and the “Mafia Doctrine” are responsible, has severely constrained the latitude which Southern societies have been able to exercise in terms of alternatives to capital in the modern and postcolonial periods.

Within the schools of political economy and critical development studies, this problematic is known as the “path dependence” imposed by historical circumstance:1 for humans “make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances already existing, given and transmitted from the past” (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon [1852]). Please discuss examples of resistance to the imposition of thanotic capital, as examined in Grabbing Back and beyond.

The three discursive positions of the Mafia Doctrine, Dependency Theory, and Marxism that you cite are extremely important in breaking down, or attempting to understand, the critical movements against land grabs around the world, and they each encircle one another in a growing overview of the processes at work. I think we can approach this triad with a claim that resistance to the Global Land Grab, and the capitalist process of accumulation outlined above, might counter the dominant paradigm with a three-part response.

1. From what I have observed, virtually every position against the current swathe of land grabs formulates itself as a small community-led movement, linked to one another by a generalized refusal of the schema of globalization. Not every movement has achieved the kind of generality necessary to comprise a mass rejection of the system, as with the People Power movements that swept through the Asia Pacific in the 1980s and the rise of Latin American populism in the late 1990s, but they all reject the position of North Atlantic hegemony.

2. Neocolonial dependency is at the heart of the Global Land Grab, which is essentially becoming a hegemonic struggle over resources between the growing BRICS sphere of influence and the NATO bloc. As has been shown in the Central Africa Republic, both during the Scramble for Africa and today, Imperialist countries are perfectly happy to watch a country implode, as long as their resources stay out of the hands of Imperialist rivals. Resistance to the Global Land Grab, therefore, can emerge within a developmentalist paradigm as a kind of radical synthesis of a movement that is antithetical to globalization. This is what we see in Bolivia and Ecuador today, where Indigenous peoples are rising up against the developmentalist model forwarded by governments who seek to remain independent from the North Atlantic, but cannot maintain their integrity as sovereign nations without making concessions to capital.

3. The problem with transforming the diplomatic relations of a nation state lies in the continuing failure of the model of the nation state, itself, which is what Marx points to in the 18th Brumaire. So the last position that I would say that many resistance movements take to the Global Land Grab is one of tacit refusal, not only of globalization and of developmentalism (or extractivism), but of the idea of diplomatic relations as they stand today. It is as impossible for the idea of the nation state to move “beyond capital” as it is for the modern field of geo-politics (developed at the turn of the 20th Century by German nationalists) to recognize alternative forms of power. For this reason, I would argue, many formations of resistance to the Global Land Grab share characteristics of what Maia Ramnath calls a kind of “decolonizing anarchism.”2

So this triad of (1) resistance to neoliberalism, (2) formulation of alternate diplomatic articulation, and (3) rejection of the geopolitical paradigm is somewhat interpenetrating, moving, it would appear, from generality to particularity in one perspective (generally against globalization, specifically towards the slogan “a new world is possible”) and then in the opposite direction from another perspective (specifically against globalization and generally in favor of what Chatterjee calls “timeless” liberation outside of historicity).3

Mobilizing for Justice in the Anthropocene: Autogestion, Radical Politics, and the Owl of Minerva (2/2)

By Javier Sethness Castro and Alexander Reid Ross - Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism, September 18, 2014

This is part II of an interview on Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press, 2014). Read part I here.

In the interviews you hold with Chomsky and Hardt in Grabbing Back, both thinkers point out the irony whereby the so-called “socialist” governments that have been elected throughout much of Latin America in recent years—Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Uruguay, for example—notoriously have in fact been engaged in a significant intensification of the extractivist trends which their neoliberal precedecessors oversaw. This developmentalism has inexorably brought these “Pink Tide” governments into conflict with indigenous peoples, and it certainly has not been auspicious for nature, however much posturing Rafael Correa and Evo Morales like to advance in terms of the “rights of nature.” The fate of Ecuador’s YasuníNational Park is emblematic in this sense. As editor of Upside-down World, Grabbing Back contributor Benjamin Dangl has written at length on these tensions. How do you see indigenous concepts like sumak kawsay (“living well”) as realistic alternatives to State-capitalist depredation?

I think the implications of Dangl’s analysis of extractivism is as important today as, say, Rosa Luxemburg’s work on the Accumulation of Capital in the 1910s or David Harvey’s work on the Limits to Capital in the 1980s, and it fits with some really important thinking going on by people like Silvia Rivera CusicanquiRaúl Zibechi, and Pablo Mamani Ramírez. The Pink Tide governments are interesting to me, because they show how rhetoric centered around land can lead to a kind of fixation on natural resources and infrastructure, which precludes the Prebisch-style development of the Third World. So I wonder, does the focus on “the land” come about through the export-based economies that were generated by the annihilation of industrial infrastructure vis-à-vis globalization, and does it also reflexively work to thrust into power a so-called populist leadership that makes gains in the social wage by simply speeding up the process?

It seems strange to me that so-called neo-Peronism (if there ever was a populist moniker, that was it) could dismantle and sell Mosconi’s YPF, a highly technical model of a nationalized energy industry, to the former colonial power, the Spanish oil giant Repsol, for pennies on the dollar while basically forfeiting huge gas fields despite the resistance of the Mapuche, whose land they are destroying in the process. Former Argentine President Carlos Menem became one of the most despised figures in the Latin American Left, but now Kirchner is selling off the Patagonia oil fields to North Atlantic powers and Malaysia while bringing in Monsanto. What if the “populist wave” has just ridden an exuberant surplus of popular political involvement, and is returning to the kind of elite populism expressed by people like Menem? We might say, “let us not be so hasty in condemning the governments of Latin America, because look at what happened with Manuel Zelaya and deposed Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, let alone the Central African Republic. They have to work with global hegemony, and that means either bringing in Chinese investors as in Ecuador, or US investors as in Argentina.” But we should not concede the reality and the basis of what made “¡Que se vayan todos! such an important global position.1

In contradistinction to these problems, there is the Indigenous idea of sumak kawsay, as you mentioned, which places spirit and land along the same axes, and is epistemologically less driven to accept the division and privatization of land. It will be interesting to see changes in the ways that this concept is used over the next decade or so. Mahmood shows how the Islamic concept of dawa changed over generations to become tools of more general liberation—both from neoliberalism and from strict gender norms. But signifiers can be hollowed out through capitalism as well, so I think that it’s also important not to separate concepts from the people who produce them; for example, the ayllus that form Indigenous “microgovernments,” as Pablo Ramírez calls them, are profound structures that provide an interesting example of popular representation as opposed to the general diplomatic-discursive field of “geopolitics.”

It is also important to take note of Simon Sedillo’s excellent work tracking the mapping projects underway by Geoffrey Demarest and the Department of Defense in Colombia and Oaxaca, which are defined by this bizarre concept of “geoproperty” that mixes old English and Jeffersonian ideals of private property with contemporary land-titling strategies developed by economists like De Soto.2 Geoproperty is the conceptual artifice of a rather brutal strategy that deploys paramilitaries in order to separate Indigenous peoples from their lands, and it works both on a level of what Mignolo calls “geography of reason3 and a level of pragmatic force (defoliation, paramilitaries, and militarization). Connecting neoliberalism to geography, James C. Scott notes how, during the commercialization of the ejidos in Michoacán, “the first task of the state has been to make legible a tenure landscape that the local autonomy achieved by the revolution had helped make opaque.”4

It’s here that Guillermo Delgado-P’s article in Grabbing Back becomes so crucial, because it takes back the notions of territory and land, and provides a kind of alter-anthropology that thinks Indigenous cultures with agrarian polyculturalism and a kind of negotiation between the popular concept of the commons and Indigenous practices of conservation. So the challenge for local activists is, perhaps, to create growth from within the “Pink Tide” by learning from those who have always existed in a kind of threshold of state practices, and to do this in such a way that is, perhaps, illegible to the “great powers” in order to dodge the military incursions and counterinsurgency strategies while protecting increasing amounts of land. I find the more autonomized urban structures that sparked the mass movements in Chile in 2012 to be very inspirational along these lines, and in conversation with some of their organizers, I was told that they do have a relatively high level of respect and solidarity with the Mapuche. At the same time, these movements are different on several fundamental levels, and solidarity also becomes a question of recognizing ones limits, keeping the borders open, but understanding that the urban organizer is not the savior of the Indigenous peoples or the rural campesinos. In a sense, this is an inversion of politics in the classical sense, which relies on the polis for its basic way of thinking in Plato and Aristotle, but that is why anarchism today manifests a fundamentally different method of thinking than is possible within a strict adherence to the tradition of Eurocentric thought.

It's here, and it's growing: the self-assembling Coalition of the Radical Left

By Alexander Reid Ross - The Ecologist, March 6, 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.

In January, I went to the Oregon coast to get away from the city, clear my mind, and have some fun. While walking down the beach, though, we noticed a horrible sight.

Thousands of dead young birds, called cassin's auklets, littered the sands, strewn amongst the bottles and random plastic like so many discarded dreams.

Scientists are baffled as to the reason for the die-off. National Geographic called it "unprecedented... one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded." Between 50-100,000 birds as of the end of January.

The most direct explanation is simply starvation. The natural food of the birds has gone away this season, and it fits in with a larger trend of mass die-offs on the Northwest coast. It could be that ocean acidification is creating an ecological collapse, a lack of oxygen in the water, perhaps, but the main theory places the blame on the warming oceans.

It is climate change that is causing this death, just as climate change induced drought have led to the wars in Syria and Mali. It is killing our young; the entire planet is in grave peril.

Something must be done. But what?

The political party in power in Greece is called Syriza, an acronym meaning Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás (Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς) or 'coalition of the radical left'. Their organization is not what one could possibly call a conventional political party: it is more of a work of rethinking politics and its relationship to the state.

They formed in 2004 as an anti-establishment party, and surfed into power on the waves of riotous discontent incumbent on austerity programs and police repression. Although they have found turbulent times amidst negotiations with global financial institutions, Syriza has shown the North Atlantic the possibility of taking hegemony from the core economic and political powers of neoliberalism.

Resist the Climate Coup d’Etat! Paris COP21 Protests Still On

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 19, 2015

Although Syrian refugees are still being blamed for the Paris attacks, the news that the attackers were all European nationals seems only to have created a growing sense of disquiet. It’s as if some sense of purpose has been lost with cavalier bravado that always obscures the chauvinism staring plainly back at the West through the mirror of “the Orient.”

Lost on many is the fact that NATO powers helped to fuel the conflict in Syria and ensuing growth of ISIS. Lost on many more is the accelerant that climate change has become, creating systems of drought and despair in Syria and throughout the world that feed the conditions of civil war. Solving climate change would provide an important key to liberate those struggling for global justice, because it would come from them.

At this point, domestic questions begin to arise, and answers do not come easily for the bomb-dropping President of the French Fifth Republic whose imperial policies are so clearly part of the problem. He has agreed to allow Syrian refugees into France regardless of the notorious ressentiment of the radical right. However, his government has also used the attacks as convenient leverage to attempt to preemptively disperse protests for the upcoming Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), slated to take place November 30 to December 11.

Naomi Klein: "If you can marry an economic justice agenda with climate action, people will fight for that future"

Interview by Agnès Rousseaux and Sophie Chapelle - Basta!, April 24, 2015

Given the massive inequalities generated by capitalism and the ecological urgency of climate change, "everything can change", Naomi Klein claims in a new book. Provided we do not "give in to despair", because "too many lives are at stake", and "fight for a more just economic system". The Canadian anti-globalization activist and essayist is famous for her inspired criticism of capitalism: No Logo denounced the tyranny of global brands, and The Shock Doctrine the brutality of neoliberal reforms. She now takes aim at the total impunity of major oil and gas corporations which have declared war on our planet. Interview and video.

21.000 signes

Basta! : We seem to be heading straight toward climate disaster. We know what will happen if we do nothing about climate change, yet nothing really changes. Why is it so?

Naomi Klein : It’s not that we’re doing nothing – we’re actually actively doing exactly the wrong things. We have an economic system that defines success and progress as infinite economic expansion. Any kind of expansion is deemed good. Our emissions are going up much faster than they were in the 1990s. In the past decade, we had very high oil prices, which has created huge economic incentives for fossil fuel companies to push into new, more expensive, higher-emitting forms of extraction, such as tar sands and fracking. We also have a system that allows multinationals to seek out the cheapest means of producing their products, with cheap labour and cheap energy – which has lead to the deregulated burning of coal. All this is making the problem much worse.

You say that transnational corporations such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell have declared war on the planet...

The business model of these companies is to find new fossil fuel reserves, which is the exact opposite of what we need to do in order to fight climate change. A research from the Carbon Tracker, three years ago, showed that the global fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon in their proven reserves than is compatible with keeping temperatures below two degrees warming… That’s the target our governments agreed to in Copenhagen, and that’s a target that is already a very dangerous one for many communities. But it provides us with a global carbon budget. We know how much carbon can be burned while still giving ourselves a fifty-fifty chance or better of meeting that target, and these companies have five times more carbon in their reserves than that amount. That explains why fossil fuel companies so actively fight the very dissemination of honest, climate science, why they fund politicians and organisations that deny the science of climate change, and why they fight every serious attempt to respond to climate change, whether it is a carbon tax or whether it is support for renewable energy.

Why such impunity?

Fossil fuel companies, particularly oil companies, are the most powerful companies in the world. Wars have been waged by our governments to protect their interests. It’s in the nature of fossil fuels that they’re concentrated in specific geographical locations, very expensive to get out of the ground, to transport, and to process. And so it lends itself to concentration of wealth and power, with a fairly small number of huge players , both state-run and privately owned, and that kind of concentration of power also lends itself to political corruption, both of the legal kind and the illegal kind. Hence the impunity.

Climate Insurgency After Paris

By Jeremy Brecher - CounterPunch, January 11, 2016

In December of 2015 – the earth’s hottest year since recordkeeping began — 195 nations met in Paris to forge an agreement to combat global warming. The governments of the world acknowledged their individual and collective duty to protect the earth’s climate — and then willfully refused to perform that duty. What did they agree to, and how should the people they govern respond?

The 195 nations meeting in Paris unanimously agreed to the goal of keeping global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to pursue efforts “to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Despite that goal, the Paris agreement also permits the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause global warming to continue rising.

Under the Paris agreement, governments put forward any targets they want – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – with “no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions.”[1] These voluntary commitments don’t come into effect until 2020 and generally end in 2025-2030.

Today there are 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere, far above the 350 ppm climate scientists regard as the safe upper limit. Even in the unlikely event that all nations fulfill their INDC pledges, carbon in the atmosphere is predicted to increase to 670 ppm by the end of this century.[2] The global temperature will rise an estimated 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.[3] For comparison, a 1-degree Celsius increase has been enough to cause all the effects of climate change we have seen so far, from Arctic melting to desertification. In short, the agreement authorizes the continued and even increased destruction of the earth’s climate.

US negotiators were adamant that the agreement must not include any binding restrictions on emissions. Secretary of State John Kerry told fellow negotiators that he “wished that we could include specific dates and figures for emissions cuts and financial aid” to developing countries, but “this could trigger a review by the US Senate that could scuttle the entire agreement.”[4] When US lawyers discovered a phrase declaring that wealthier countries “shall” set economy-wide targets for cutting their GHG pollution, Kerry said, “We cannot do this and we will not do this. And either it changes or President Obama and the United States will not be able to support this agreement.” “Shall” was changed to “should” without so much as a vote.[5]

The breathtaking gap between the Paris agreement’s aspiration to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and the agreement’s actual commitments is indicated by an analysis by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan. The current US pledge to drop GHG emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, along with the pledges of other countries, will lead to a global temperature increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. To reduce warming to 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) will require the US to increase its INDC from 26 percent below 2005 levels to 45 percent by 2030, and for other countries to make comparable reductions.[6]

Under the Paris agreement countries will monitor their emissions and reconvene every five years starting in 2023 to report on the results and perhaps ratchet up their INDCs. This has been characterized as creating a “name-and-shame” system of global peer pressure, “in hopes that countries will not want to be seen as international laggards.”[7]

On the last day of the Paris summit, a panel of leading scientists evaluated what would be necessary to achieve its targets. Prof. Hans Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that to reach the 2-degree target the world would have to get CO2 out of its system by 2070. To reach the 1.5-degree target it would have to eliminate CO2 emissions by 2050. Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Center said that for any chance of reaching 1.5 degrees, the richest nations need to reach zero fossil fuel use by 2030.[8]

Our Climate is a Public Trust

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 20, 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.

Can an ancient legal principle with roots in Roman law serve as a tool for the climate protection movement?

On October 23, Alec Johnson, aka “Climate Hawk,” is scheduled to go on trial for locking himself to a construction excavator in Tushka, Oklahoma as part of the Tar Sands Blockade campaign to block the route of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He intends to argue that resisting the pipeline was necessary in order to protect the public trust – the common property right of the people to essential natural resources. Johnson will be the first defendant anywhere to make a necessity defense based on the duty of government to protect the climate under the public trust doctrine.

In a speech in Nacogdoches, TX on the day of the 2014 Peoples Climate March, Johnson said, “When it comes to our commons, to our public property, we the people have rights in a public trust.” The public trust doctrine means “we have rights when it comes to how our public commons are administered.” He will argue that his blockade of Keystone XL pipeline construction was necessary because the pipeline threatens our atmospheric public trust and state and national governments are failing to protect us against that threat.

Meanwhile, last week a petition was filed with the US Supreme Court by five youth plaintiffs seeking a decision that the Federal government is obligated to protect public trust assets like the atmosphere and the climate that under the public trust doctrine belong to the people. Behind this case lies a unique organizing effort by the group Our Children’s Trust, which has brought together young people and their legal supporters to file suits and petitions not only in Federal court but in every state in the US and several other countries. Then-sixteen-year-old Alec Loorz, founder of Kids v. Global Warming and lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, explained its public trust claim: “The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.”

And at a Climate Justice Tribunal across the street from the UN climate summit last month a judicial panel, after hearing evidence of devastating impacts of climate change around the world, declared that governments have a duty under the public trust doctrine to halt climate destruction. Organized by the Climate Justice Alliance and inspired in part by the International War Crimes Tribunal organized during the Vietnam War by renowned philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, the Tribunal’s judicial panel found that “Based on the evidence we have heard here today, the nations of our world are in violation of their most fundamental legal and constitutional obligations.” It called on governments to honor their duty to protect the atmosphere, which belongs in common to the world’s people, and halt their contribution to climate destruction.

Some courts are already starting to apply the public trust doctrine to protecting the atmospheric commons. Last December the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a law that prevented local communities from blocking fracking. The plurality opinion held that public natural resources are owned in common by the people, including future generations. Because the state is the trustee of these resources, it has a fiduciary duty to “conserve and maintain” them. The state has “a duty to refrain from permitting or encouraging the degradation, diminution, or depletion of public natural resources.”

Will courts force governments to fulfill that duty? So far several state courts have accepted important parts of the youth plaintiffs’ argument, but none have ordered a government to act. But in the meantime, thousands of people are sitting-in and blockading to halt climate-destroying activities. The judicial panel of the Climate Justice Tribunal declared that “those who blockade coal-fired power plants or block tar sands oil pipelines are committing no crime.” Rather, they are exercising their right and responsibility to protect the atmospheric commons they own along with all of present and future humankind. They are acting to prevent a far greater harm — indeed, “a harm that by virtue of the public trust doctrine is itself a violation of law on a historic scale.”

Alec Johnson says that “we the people” are “armed” by the public trust doctrine to demand that governments “recognize their responsibilities as trustees and exercise their fiduciary responsibility to act with the highest duty of care” to sustain the resources necessary for society to endure. “Enforcing our children’s rights to climate justice is no crime.”

Jeremy Brecher is a historian of social movements, a founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and author of Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival (Paradigm Publishers, January 2015).

Social Self-Defense: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

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