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Unify Fights Against Austerity and Climate Change

By Asbjørn Wahl - Social Europe, December 18, 2015

The Climate Summit in Paris has once again reminded us of how vulnerable we are on planet earth. However, humanity is faced with a number of deep and challenging crises: economic, social, political, over food – and, of course, over climate change, which is threatening the very existence of millions of people. These crises have many of the same root causes, going to the core of our economic system.

Strong vested interests are involved. It is thus an interest-based struggle we are facing. All over the world, people are organizing and fighting against the effects of the crises. Trade unions are heavily involved in many of these struggles, and so are many other movements – single-issue as well as broader social movements. Increasingly, our entire social model, the way we produce and consume, is under question. The way out of these crises requires a system change and this can only be achieved if we are able considerably to shift the balance of power in society. This leaves us with the challenge of unifying movements and continuing struggles – particularly to bring anti-austerity together with the struggle against climate change.

Agreement, But No Solution

At the recent Paris Summit (COP21), the first ever truly global agreement to fight the climate crisis was concluded. Governments have been negotiating for more than 20 years (more or less since the Rio Summit in 1992) in order to achieve that. During this period, however, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have not been cut. Quite the opposite. Emissions have increased immensely, by more than 60 per cent. Transport emissions have increased 120 per cent over the last 30 years, and they are still rising all over the world – even at a rate that outweighs cuts in other economic sectors.

The stated aim of the Paris agreement is ambitious. The target of keeping global warming below 2oC was strengthened, so that governments should now “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. The weakness of the agreement is that there is a huge gap between this aim and the measures agreed upon to reach it. Based on the voluntary pledges (so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs) from all countries on how much they are prepared to cut their emissions, we are so far on course for a temperature increase of 3-4oC. This means climate catastrophe.

The Problem with Environmentalism in Appalachia

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, December 30, 2015

I tend get flak from both sides of the argument surrounding coal. Environmentalists distance themselves from me because I am often critical of them, and some even hate me these days. Pro-coal folks tend to dislike me for my stance against coal companies. It only goes to show that telling the truth has never been popular, or easy.

So let’s get to it.

Coal mining families are not very receptive to environmentalists—and that’s putting it lightly. Why should they be? In what way have environmentalists approached coal mining families over the past two decades? In what way have environmentalists presented themselves to the public?

Though most environmentalists have their hearts in the right place when it comes to helping other people, I’m afraid they’ve done a poor job of translating it to the public. So when the knee jerk reaction of coal miners and their families is to identify environmentalists as “out of touch,” I am not entirely surprised.

Decades of outside media infiltration has portrayed our people (Appalachians) in a negative way. The “War on Poverty” brought thousands of people from outside the mountains to tell us how to live (like we were to stupid or something). Let’s not forget that the first outsiders to come into the mountains were the land agents and coal companies who would lie, cheat, and steal to take our lands and mineral rights, and would then force us into a mono-economy making us dependent on mining coal to survive. Appalachian people have had enough of outsiders and for good reasons. That being said, I am very skeptical of many outsiders myself, and will gladly tell anyone who even remotely appears to be looking down their nose at us to go &#*^ themselves, no matter how “well intentioned” they think they are. But I digress.

For the longest time, unions helped us remind ourselves that coal companies were the outsiders, but when the unions were busted, the industry seized the opportunity to re-image themselves as part of our communities. Through industry public relations organizations, we were told that Appalachia was “coal” (see Bell & York, 2010) and that any threat against coal was a threat to our pride and heritage. They have even pointed to environmentalists as the new outside threat. Since the coal industry has the money to promote their message (see Friends of Coal), and they have the coal miner’s ear at work and through paychecks, they can paint a picture of environmentalists as being “out of touch tree hugging idiots” who support the “War on coal.” Many environmentalists have played right into this portrayal, sometimes so perfectly that I’ve wondered if it was intentional. Let me repeat that last statement. Many environmentalists have played right into the negative stereotypes, sometimes so perfectly that I’ve wondered if it was intentional. If the coal companies infiltrated the unions, you know they infiltrated the environmental movement.

Monkeywrenching the Misogynists in our Movements: A historical exploration of call-outs and anti-feminist backlash in Cascadia

By Kiera Loki Anderson - Earth First! Journal, December 20, 2015

There has been some attention paid within Earth First! circles about how to challenge white supremacy and patriarchy in recent years. I aim here to shed some light on the widespread misogyny present within overlapping anarchist and environmental communities. I am specifically looking at responses to interpersonal violence and misogyny in primarily white and male-dominated activist groups in Cascadia, but I also want to draw from and contribute to an understanding of how racism, classism, and ableism maintain oppression within the larger movement and society.

I spent the last two years doing interviews and archival research into feminist call-outs in the Pacific Northwest from 2000-‘05. During that period, eco-anarchist groups In Eugene, Portland, and Olympia had to expend huge amounts of energy if they wanted to keep activists safe from interpersonal abuse. These efforts were made infinitely harder by the lack of awareness straight, white activist men displayed about privilege and oppression.

I initially wanted to hear “all sides” of these call-outs. I interviewed a wide range of activists and put together a comprehensive archive of articles, zines, and web pages. I initially planned to create a healing, empowering space in which forest defenders and anarcha-feminists could hear differing experiences of that time – a calling-in of sorts – that could encourage healthier models of accountability in our movement to emerge.

However, my research challenged many of my assumptions. I’ve begun to understand the impact that widespread anti-feminist “counter-offensives” had on attempts to call out and organize against interlocking forms of oppression. The backlash also had impacts on individual survivors. In the last few years, debates about “call-out culture” have also become common in eco-anarchist circles. Although much of this writing from activist circles focuses on how call-outs are used to challenge oppressive language or actions more broadly, criticisms of “call-out culture” are often linked to criticisms of “punitive” approaches to accountability.[1]

In my own work, I’ve come across many examples of why direct action-style tactics like call-outs are necessary to challenge the entrenched and widespread oppression that marginalized activists face in supposedly “radical” activist communities. The activism of the early 2000’s, in places like Eugene or Portland, offers an exploration of how organizations and communities can either be complicit in misogyny and interpersonal abuse or actively try to challenge it. Misogyny underpins “cultures of abuse” that enable violence against marginalized women and trans people, and protects abusers and misogynists.[2]

Collapsing the levels, Consolidating Our efforts

By SN Nappalos - Recomposition, December 11, 2015

Recomposition Introduction: Approximately 5 years ago work began on something called the intermediate analysis. A few members of the Recomposition editorial group contributed pieces, worked in groups, and tried to shape their work around the issues raised in the analysis. Between 2010 and today stand a lot of changes and a different landscape for radical action. The maturing of the world financial crisis, series of popular protest movements, and conservative responses have shifted the field from where we stood just a short time ago. Today we present a piece by Scott Nicholas Nappalos exploring what was useful and harmful in the intermediate analysis, and what lessons can be drawn for revolutionary unionists in North America specifically and for the libertarian left more generally. 

The intermediate level first confronted me after the 2004 bicoastal wildcat strike where the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had attempted to organize a national coordination of the various autonomous local groups of truckers who have come together. That followed a series of debates within the Portland IWW branch, where I was a member, over the role of revolutionaries in building a union. I began a draft on the intermediate analysis during the period of 2004-2006, but returned to it more seriously a few years later in Miami when things had calmed down and in dialogue with other comrades there. In 2010-2011, I contributed to a series of pieces on the intermediate level as part of group discussions within Miami Autonomy & Solidarity, an anarchist communist political organization I was a member of. These reflections came out of years of rumblings, discussions, and experiments by anarchists trying to find ways to apply their ideas to workplace and community organizing in the North American . Nearly as soon as the words hit the page a series of struggles began to test our ideas; first the Madison protests, then Occupy, and later others.

The three or so years that followed the publishing of pieces on the intermediate level led to more discussion and distribution than anyone likely imagined. In a couple cases other groups consciously adopted the terminology and the debate spread outside North American circles through libertarian networks. In today’s environment of unstable quietness, many are looking around, taking stock, and picking up old debates to help sort out the events of the past years beginning with the crisis in 2008. It’s obvious that there’s been a spate of protests that set the decade apart from the past 30 years, though they’ve remained short-lived and largely localized so far. Vast changes are afoot with sections of the public more open to our politics than any time in recent history, though that hasn’t yet translated into any real sustained advances. Some years and modest experiments behind us, it is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the strategy and analysis.

There is no need to beat the drum and reiterate the arguments bit by bit here, but instead interested folks can look to pieces I wrote: Defining Practice: the intermediate level of organization and struggle[1], the three-part piece called Towards a Theory of Political Organization for our Time[2], and also somewhat related the co-authored article with Adam Weaver Fighting for the Future: The necessity and possibility of national political organization for our time.[3] The quick summary is that there are two frames to the analysis. The first, the intermediate level, is a tool for looking at the social world and categorizing different types of activity to understand them better. The mass level is an idealized space where all the struggles of all the social actors take place like giant unions or community organizations that encompass entire classes. The political level takes place where specific ideologies, strategies, and politics are coordinated in that larger field. The intermediate level is where people come together based on shared strategy and experiences to coordinate their activity within struggles; more broad than the ideological unity of the political level, and more narrow than the mass level it is working within.

The second framing of the analysis deals specifically with intermediate organizations, which is to say organizations that occupied the space roughly between unions and political parties/organizations. Intermediate organizations are ones constructed with distinct tasks from mass or political ones, and unlike the first aspect of the analysis are physically and actively separate. In the first we are talking about activities that can co-exist alongside others in a variety of formats, the second is specific organizations that imperfectly reflect those activities.

The simplest examples of intermediate organizations are tendencies within social movements. These groups organize militants around a shared platform of various sorts to take action within an organization such as a union or community group. This spans from relatively ideologically broad such as Soldiers of Solidarity[4] in the UAW, to groups for action with broader political orientation such as the communist party’s Trade Union Education League and later Trade Union Unity League’s unions[5] or the Unemployed Councils of the Great Depression[6], and overtly political tendencies such as the Federacion Estudiantil Libertaria[7] in Chile today which organizes anarchists on specific proposals for action and demands within the student unions. Many organizing projects however tend to act as intermediate organizations of militants without having another overarching social organization they work within.

Controversially I’d argue that projects of the anarcho-syndicalist variety in fact act like intermediate organizations. Really there’s two ways to look at it: our concept of unions is too narrow, or revolutionary unions/projects represent something altogether different from parties and unions. One way to come at the intermediate level is to question all of this, and say the idea of non-political mass organizations is utopian, they’re inherently involving all levels of activity: political, mass, and intermediate. In one sense the dominant idea of what unions and organizing projects are (for left thinkers anyway) has become incredibly narrow; essentially apolitical groups that try to win demands for the whole of the class or some section of the class.

This scenario is far from universal in fact, because historically it was rarely if ever the case. It has been common for unions to fight around a range of issues from housing, immigration, and the oppression of ethnicities and women with examples in the IWW, FORA, CNT, and FAU but also reformist unions.[8] The meaning of union is interpreted as about the workplace narrowly defined. However in South America, to take an example, unions came out of resistance societies which were unions of workers and proletarians organized around a variety of different collective needs and projects. Resistance societies were a militant off shoot of mutual aid networks that included things like women’s issues, housing, workplace, and political issues that affected the class like militarism, anti-clericalism, immigration, and health. [9][10] This was perhaps always the norm for revolutionary unions, but not unheard of for reformist unions growing out of the environment of working class communities of past generations. Lately SEIU and other recuperative unions have started funding non-workplace organizing with non-members often with the goal of electoral victories, begging the question.

The focus of unions only narrowed in the US with their institutionalization after the NLRA when they became more fully integrated into capitalism. Political and social struggles overlapped with workplace activities, and unions were often grouped around political outlook. Outside the US, most of the world has a parliamentary system for unions where workers choose between them based on their political ideology. Moreover American unions and non-profits are largely ideological organs of the Democratic Party in terms of their activity, funding, and vision. So even today the idea of neutral mass organizations is a bit utopian.

Another way to think about these projects is that certain groups play a special role. They are different from run-of-the-mill unions, community groups, etc. While it’s true all groups are political in some sense, anarcho-syndicalist unions, revolutionary community groups, and solidarity networks have a unique relationship between their ideas and practices. They all use activity to build movement and have a connection between their goals, ideals, and actions in a way that political organizations and more broad unions don’t. In this way maybe they don’t fit neatly into any of the levels and occupy space between them all. Whether we widen the concept of mass organization, or we alter how we understand groups like the IWW, CNT, Solidarity Networks, or other such projects, the outcome is the same in practice. Intermediate organization tried to capture some of that nuance.

Towards a New Anti-Capitalist Politics

By Jerome Roos - ROARMag, December 15, 2015

Humanity finds itself at an inflexion point. On the one hand, global capitalism is producing and aggravating a series of existential crises that may well undermine the very preconditions for a dignified human life—or any form of human life—on this planet. On the other, the only political force that could possibly do something to counter this inexorable drive towards catastrophe—the international left—has long since been run into the ground by a four-decade neoliberal offensive, leaving its social base fragmented and atomized, its organizational structures in tatters.

In the wake of this world-historic defeat, we are confronted on a daily basis with the devastating consequences of our contemporary powerlessness. Far from retreating in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008-‘09, neoliberalism has intensified its war on democracy and doubled down on the structural violence of austerity and dispossession. Meanwhile, we look on helplessly as wealth and power continue to be concentrated in ever fewer hands, while common goods and public services are mercilessly sacrificed at the altar of the marketplace.

We stand defenseless as high finance and big business mount an all-out offensive against the last-remaining vestiges of the welfare state, while mass surveillance and state control are expanded across the board. We are powerless as barriers to capital are knocked down in secretive trade deals while national borders are militarized and new walls erected everywhere to keep out the unwanted other. We feel paralyzed as families are evicted from their homes, protesters brutalized by police, and the bodies of refugees continue to wash up on our shores.

Amidst the growing uncertainty of a hyper-competitive 24/7 information economy, in which indebtedness, unemployment and precarity are rapidly becoming the generalized conditions of life for the majority, we are overcome by exhaustion, depression and anxiety. At the same time, a sense of existential gloom is settling in as global temperatures and sea levels continue their seemingly unstoppable rise, while planetary life-support systems are being destroyed at a truly terrifying pace.

From Hollywood blockbusters to best-selling books, late-capitalist culture knows all too well how to wax poetics about the collapse of civilization—yet its critics seem to have lost all capacity to imagine even the most moderate reforms to prevent this dystopian fiction from becoming reality.

We may continue to speak of a crisis of capital, but what really confronts us is a crisis of the left.

For all its tragedies and failures, at least the old left was once driven by hopes and visions of a better future. Today, all such aspirations seem to have been abandoned. As Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi has astutely put it, the future has been cancelled—and the left, unmoored from its post-capitalist imaginary, has been cast hopelessly adrift in the process. In this conjuncture, we may continue to speak of a crisis of capital, but what really confronts us is a crisis of the left.

COPing out: what will it take to overcome the environmental movement’s impasse?

By Nicholas Beuret - Novara Media, December 4, 2015

The activist part of me is pissed off at the French government for banning the protest marches that planned to target the UN Climate Change conference (known as the COP21) in Paris this December. It would have been amazing to see thousands of people taking to the streets demanding climate justice and breaking the stale grey commentary surrounding international climate change politics. That bit of me hopes the protests still go ahead.

But another part of me hopes no one turns up at all, and is actually glad the marches won’t happen. Not out of despair, or in some sneering ultra-left sense, but because the environmental movement is stuck and protests like the ones planned for the COP are part of the reason for the current impasse. I hope people don’t turn up because, in the end, spectacular protests such as these are making things worse.

Despite 20 years of activism…

We are heading towards a 3-4C global temperature rise. Despite creative actions, grassroots climate movements and committed NGO campaigns (and even some government action) climate change hasn’t been stopped. Sure enough, we shouldn’t dismiss what has been achieved. That climate change might be limited to 3-4C is actually an achievement, which has happened largely due to the campaigns of environmentalists and the emergence of a strong public belief that climate change has to be tackled by governments. But it’s not enough, not by a long shot. It is not enough according to the standards governments, scientists and activists hold themselves to. A 3-4C rise in global temperatures is actually disastrously bad.

The red line many in the climate movement have been pushing is a maximum increase of no more than 2C – a rise which is possibly too dangerous already. The maths of staying below 2C relies on global emissions peaking this year. What is becoming increasingly clear is that it is probably too late to stay below a 2C rise in global temperatures.

Despite 20 years of activism climate politics is stuck. Climate change is a problem so big, so complicated (everything has to change) and so urgent (it has to happen now, now, now) that for the most part the environmental movement finds itself with few options for action. Because climate change means changing everything, any progress on a small, local or even regional scale feels inadequate. Because it’s so complicated it seems resistant to democratic politics – just imagine what it is going to take to get everyone to agree on how we are going to solve the problem, even on a local scale. Because it’s so urgent there is no time for negotiating with people, a third of whom don’t think climate change is all that serious anyway. It is for all these messy, difficult reasons that climate change protests take the form of mass spectacular actions like the ones planned for the Paris COP21.

The COP21 protest isn’t so different to the actions that happened at COP15 in 2009, or any of the ones before that. It’s also not so different from Climate Camp or, going further back, most of the summit protests of the anti-globalisation movement. In each case you had a symbol of a global problem around which people could mobilise, and in each case you had no real opportunity to affect the thing being protested against. What happened in each case – and what will continue to happen – is what we could call ‘militant lobbying’. These actions were/are stunts intending to put pressure on governments to act, even when carried out in the name of anti-state politics or anti-authoritarian practice. They can’t be anything else.

While they are almost always billed as direct actions, what makes an action ‘direct’ is its capacity to disrupt or stop something without recourse to some other power. A useful example would be the anti-roads movement in the UK. The government of the day had scheduled a massive programme of road construction, often through existing neighbourhoods or woods. People banded together to form local campaigns against the specific roads, and created a number of action camps which physically blocked road construction. One by one the camps fell, but not before costing the government large sums of money and slowing the project down immensely. In the end the disruption became too much and the government cancelled most of the programme.

We can contrast the anti-roads movement with the planned actions at COP21. In Paris, at best they will block some delegates from leaving a meeting that will have concluded, the content of which will have largely been decided over the prior months of negotiations. Which means the planned protests won’t affect the outcome, and won’t affect climate change in any way directly either. The action is and can only be intended to put pressure on governments to make a stronger agreement. But then, given the scale, complexity and urgency of climate change, who else could possibly deal with it as an issue?

Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice

By Ahmad Gaya - CounterPunch, November 30, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

In the past two years, the way the climate movement talks about itself has changed dramatically. Seemingly overnight, there are no more ‘climate activists’, and everyone is a ‘Climate Justice’ campaigner. Mainstream environmental groups issued statements of solidarity with Ferguson and Baltimore and the blogosphere is filled with articles patiently explaining how global warming connects to struggles for racial, economic and migrant justice.

As a South Asian organizer who has called the environmental movement home for a decade, I’m happy to see this shift. Fifteen years ago the idea of Climate Justice was posed as a challenge to the corporate solutions pushed by ‘big green’ groups in international negotiations. The fact that those same groups are adopting our language and analysis shows real progress.

But rhetoric and analysis is not enough. While the speakers and rally photo-ops have changed, I still find myself and other people of color in the movement speaking to nearly all-white crowds. Big green groups that have “Climate Justice” campaigns can be found pushing cap and trade and other corporate policies that the Climate Justice movement was birthed to oppose. I still find myself in meetings where people go around in circles asking “how do we make this movement/event/group more diverse” or “where are all the brown people?”

The answer to that question is simple if you look around. People of color in the United States are engaged in some of the boldest, most aggressive movements for survival and liberation in recent memory. Black people are rising up against systemic oppression and a violent police state in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere; Indigenous peoples are blocking trains and freeways under the banner of Idle No More; low-income people of color are leading the fight for a just economy; and undocumented people are putting themselves at extreme risk blocking deportation buses, occupying offices and even publicly crossing the border.

More than ever we need a thriving climate justice movement. But it can’t be committed to justice in name only. Enough statements of solidarity have been written. It’s time for us to get into the streets, take action and make real sacrifices for these struggles.

Last May, Rising Tide North America issued a challenge to the movement. We called for people to ‘Flood the System’ with blockades, occupations and mass civil disobedience. We challenged groups to move beyond the narrow frame of organizing against fossil fuel infrastructure, and engage in direct action at police stations, prisons, I.C.E. offices, detention centers and banks. We asked climate activists to find the intersections of our struggles–focusing on the logic of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy and extractive economies that creates all our crises–instead of merely inviting our allies into the climate fight.

It’s our belief that one of the best ways to show our commitment to the intersection of struggles is by putting our bodies into the gears that drive oppression.

Paths Beyond Paris: Movements, Action and Solidarity Towards Climate Justice

By various - Carbon Trade Watch, December 2015

Over twenty years have passed since governments within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began to discuss the impending climate crisis. Year after year, we witness the talks moving further away from identifying the root causes of climate change while the increasing impacts affect even more peoples and regions. Every meeting has given more space for corporate involvement and less to the voices of those directly affected by these climate policies. Despite the promoters’ fancy “green” campaigns and videos, the main focus at the climate negotiations continues to be about saving the free-market economy for those who are holding the cards – the biggest transnational corporations and financial institutions. The same corporations that are largely behind the destruction of forests, rivers, diversity, territories – as well as the violation of human and collective rights and so on – are also the main polluters and plunderers of the Earth.

The climate crisis poses a real threat to the current economic model which is based on the continuous extraction and production of fossil fuels, hydrocarbons and “natural resources” such as land, minerals, wood and agriculture. If talks were to seriously address climate change, there would need to be a discussion on the many ways to support the hundreds of thousand of small-scale farmers, fishers, Indigenous Peoples, forest-dwelling communities and others whose territories and livelihoods are at risk from capital expansion, and how to transition to different economic systems where fossil fuels could be kept underground; where the consumption “mantra” would shift towards more local, diverse and collective discourses and practices. However, the hegemonic and colonial powers are once more violently closing doors, creating more “structural adjustments” and, ultimately, harming the people who are the least responsible for current and historical pollution levels suffering the most from the impacts.

The fallacy that we can continue with the same economic model is irremediably flawed, bankrolled by big polluters, and intrinsically linked to land and livelihoods grabbing, especially in the Global South. Nonetheless, mechanisms like carbon markets, which expand the extractivist and free-market logic, continue to be promoted as unilateral, program- matic “solutions” to mitigate climate change and address deforestation and biodiversity loss. From carbon trading to forests and biodiversity offsets, the climate crisis has been turned into a business opportunity, worsening the already felt impacts, especially for those who are the least responsible. Debates over molecules of carbon being accounted for and “moved” or “stored” from one location to the other detracts from the necessary debates on shifting away from extraction, unjust power structures and oppression. While being fully informed of the causes of climate change, international climate negotiations strive to ensure that the hegemonic economic model expands and rewards polluters.

The consequence is that “climate policies” (aka economic policies) finance the most destructive industries and polluters, often destroying genuinely effective actions that support community livelihoods and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Moreover, these policies further the “financialization of nature” process, which presupposes the separation and quantification of the Earth’s cycles and functions – such as carbon, water and biodiversity – in or-der to turn them into “units” or “titles” that can be sold in financial and speculative markets. With governments establishing legal frameworks to set these markets in place, they also have provided the financial “infrastructure” for negotiating financial “instruments”, by using derivatives, hedge funds and others. While financial markets have a growing influence over economic policies, the “financialization of nature” hands over the management to the financial markets, whose sole concern is to further accumulate capital.

Read the report (PDF).

Unions to lobby for "energy democracy" at Paris climate talks

By Teresa Albano - People's World, November 27, 2015

Everybody likes to talk about the weather but nobody can do a damn thing about it. Or can they?

Severe weather events that have caused deaths and destruction are linked to climate change - like 2012's Hurricane Sandy that pummeled New York and New Jersey, or the drought in Syria that forced people off their lands and into the cities, helping to create, according to reports, conditions that caused the devastating civil war.

And there is something people can do about climate change.

Despite the billions that Big Oil companies like Exxon Mobil have poured into spreading all kinds of climate change denial narratives, the world's scientists agree overwhelmingly that the planet is warming and it's due to the unprecedented release of human-created greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

And this warming has a cascading effect that even scientists cannot forecast. For one thing, glaciers and gigantic ice floes are melting into the oceans causing sea levels to rise, which in turn, threatens island nations like Fiji or low-lying regions of the United States, like the Florida Everglades. It's changing ocean currents and atmospheric patterns, leading to extreme weather events of all kinds - yes, including more severe blizzards too.

And who are the biggest victims of climate change? Working people around the world - the poor, the underpaid, the jobless, the exploited.

Now, unions worldwide are preparing to make sure the voices and needs of working people are included in the final United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris, Nov. 30 - Dec. 11. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) plans to lobby negotiators and leaders of some 190 countries during the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference on three issues:

Raise the level of "ambition" in the emission targets and by doing so "realize" job creation potential in the greening of economies;

Guarantee the most vulnerable people and nations get the maximum financial help;

Commit to a "just transition" for workers and their communities involved in industries that rely on fossil fuels.

Among the U.S. union delegates will be Sean Sweeney, PhD, who is the coordinator of a global network called Trade Unions for Energy Democracy. He is also the director of the International Program for Labor, Climate and Environment, which is part of the City University of New York's Murphy Institute. Sweeney told People's World that there will be official union participation that focuses on the formal talks in Paris, but unions will also collaborate with other social movements in hosting discussions, debates and networking events outside of the official UN summit.

On Dec. 8, TUED and other union groups will host Naomi Klein, author of "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate," and British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a conversation entitled, "Now Is Not the Time for Small Steps: Solutions to the Climate Crisis and the Role of Trade Unions."

Ambition and Smoke, Love and Courage: What to Expect from the Climate Treaty Negotiations in Paris

By John Foran - System Change not Climate Change, November 26, 2015

The most important question raised by the climate summit may be: Does the power to change the world belong to the people in the conference rooms of Le Bourget or to the people in the streets of Paris?” – Rebecca Solnit, “Power in Paris

The Paris COP 21 UN climate summit is upon us, now, starting on Monday, November 30.  I have spent the last year, ever since the dust of Lima was wiped from my shoes, trying my best to get a grasp on what was going to happen and communicating what I found out to all interested parties.  This has led to two long pieces, “Just Say ‘No’ to the Paris COP:  A Possible Way to Win Something for Climate Justice” and “A History of the Climate Negotiations in Six Videos.”

In the last two months, the world’s attention has really started to focus on climate, the COP, and the possibilities and probabilities of “success” and (gasp!) “failure.”  The murder of 129 people in the streets of Paris on Friday, November 13, has only trained hearts and minds more on this ground zero in the interlaced struggles for peace on Earth with justice.

Within twenty-four hours, the French government and the UNFCCC had reassured us that the COP would proceed exactly as planned, with added layers of security.  The incredible and creative plans of civil society for making sure that the world’s demand for climate justice will be heard in Paris hung in the balance until the government of François Hollande made it known that the twin bookends of our strategy – the massive march on Sunday, November 29 and the nonviolent civil disobedience and other acts of protest scheduled for the outcome of the COP on Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12 – would be prohibited from occurring.

A COP without the full-throated participation of global civil society, however, has a less than zero chance of succeeding, whatever that nebulous term connotes.  Just as the COP must go on, so, too, will we, the countless members of the global climate justice movement, whether marching under that banner in Paris or simply showing up in our hearts and heads.

But the carefully prepared script that global elites have been busy writing for Paris may not end up to end the way they think, and here’s why.


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