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ecosocialism

The Conflicts Between Ecology and Capitalism

By John Bellamy Foster - excerpt from Chapter 6 of The Vulnerable Planet - used by permission of the author

Four laws of ecology

In order to understand the ecological impact of these trends, it is useful to look at what Barry Commoner and others have referred to as the four informal laws of ecology:

Green and Red in the Frame

By Ewan Kerr - Scottish Left Review #77, July & August 2013 (used by permission of the author).

“Outside party politics new social movements, including environmental, anti-cuts and feminist groups, have not come together sufficiently with the old, defensive organisations of the working class to produce the coalition that might make them an effective political force” (S Hall, The Guardian 2 April 2013)

Capital Blight: Reflections on the August 3rd, 2013 Protest in Richmond, California

By x344543 - August 11, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I--along with approximately 3500 others--attended the Summer Heat: Together we Can Stop Climate Chaos rally, jointly organized by 350.org and a coalition of local environmental and social justice groups.

The coalescing of these forces reflected a confluence of several factors, including:

  • The struggle of a predominantly people of color community to wrangle some justice for the environmental and economic transgressions committed by the Chevron corporation, which has for all intents and purposes run Richmond like a company town (and this corporation's refinery--a piece of the once ubiquitous Standard Oil monopoly--actually existed before the town which we now call Richmond was established);
  • A massive explosion and fire that occurred at the refinery a year previously, which investigations later revealed was due to corroded pipes, which refinery workers complained about to management, but were allowed to let stand, lest the company's profits be lessened by so much as a penny;
  • Chevron's connection to the extraction of tar sands from Alberta and elsewhere which represent a form of "extreme energy" which endangers the environment, workers, and communities along the transport routes of this stuff (whether by train, truck, ship, or pipeline), and has already caused massive devastation and death in Kalamazoo, Minnesota; Lac Megantic, Quebec, and Mayflower, Arkansas, just to name a few places; and
  • The increasing realization that continued unabated use (and increased use) of fossil fuels (and for that matter, capitalism in general) has the human race on a collision course with doom, because (capitalist) human caused global warming--which has already progressed past the dangerous two degrees Celsius threshold that gives 350.org its name--will almost certainly condemn the human race, and quite likely all of the Earth, to a Venus like end, and must be stopped...yesterday.

Due to the participation of my fellow IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus members, Elliot and Ryan, an idea that they planted as a seed blossomed into a sizable labor contingent, composed of over thirty unions--including the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch--that endorsed the rally and participated as an organized force in one way or another. The idea became so popular within the coalition organizing this particular campaign, that 350.org hired an organizer, Brooke Anderson, to make it happen--which she did to great effect. Ultimately 208 participants, including all three of us, my wife, 350.org spokesman Bill McKibben, ILWU Local 6 president Fred Pecker, and Richmond's mayor, Gayle McLauglin.

The event began with a meet-up at the Richmond BART station--the Bay Area's principal public transit system--an electric heavy rail network, whose union workers--represented by various ATU and SEIU Locals were embroiled in a nasty labor dispute with the agency's management and had (before the date of the rally) engaged in a one-week strike. Due to my efforts, and in no small part because I am a transit worker myself, a ferryboat deckhand at another one of the Bay Area's public transit systems, I suggested to Anderson that she make overtures to the BART workers as workers who work as part of the solution to capitalist fossil-fuel driven climate change; she agreed. At the other end of the equation, as a member of the rank and file opposition caucus, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, to which several rank and file members from the various BART unions have since joined, I pushed for the committee to reciprocate; they did.

As one would expect, corporate media coverage of the event, while extensive, was overall mediocre to atrocious.

350.org compiled the coverage here.

None of the print media so much as mentioned the sizable labor contingent, though Brooke Anderson provided a fairly detailed account missed by the corporate media.

One of the worst offenders was the San Jose Mercury News who quoted San Jose State Political Science professor Larry Gerston (quite likely out of context) commenting about how people support projects like the Keystone XL pipeline because they're eager for "jobs" (in spite of the substantial proof that Keystone would provide almost no permanent jobs, and our own analysis that more permanent jobs than there are available workers in the US would be created if the full potential of renewable energy were deployed--environmental considerations and all).

Rather than provide yet another lengthy recounting of the march, rally, and planned civil disobedience that followed, I will keep this already lengthy article from becoming that much longer by offering a link a concise and to the point account by Richmond Progressive Alliance members (and rally co-organizers) Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon, published in Counterpunch. To round out the day's happenings, I have also included Ethan Buckner of Forest Ethic's report. Finally, 350.org's official press release (in which I'm quoted), published by EcoWatch gives a glowing account, as one would expect. Likewise, Susie Kagel--who was present at the arrest site, taking statements from the would-be arrestees--covered the demonstration quite thoroughly in Grist.org (of which, Bill McKibben is a board member).

Earth First!, by the way, also wrote glowingly of the event. They actually went as far as to give the IWW the majority of the credit for organizing the labor contingent, which is a refreshing change from the IWW's role in major uprisings being largely ignored. In this case, while Earth First!'s compliment is much appreciated, the IWW cannot accept that credit; we were merely one of thirty labor unions involved--though, of course, we were the only one who explicitly calls for the abolition of capitalism.

On the other hand, Fellow IWW member and rally participant, John Reimann offers this far more critical account.

My opinion of the demonstration falls somewhere between these two poles, and there are some very important lessons revolutionaries need to take from this struggle.

The Limits of Environmentalism Without Class: Lessons from the Ancient Forest Struggle of the Pacific Northwest

By John Bellamy Foster - 1993, Monthly Review Press - Capitalism, Nature, Socialism

John Bellamy Foster is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He was served as the editor for Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, which is a project of Monthly Review Press. He has written numerous books, including The Vulnerable Planet and The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism. He is also a regular contributor to The Monthly Review.

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