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The Secret History of Tree Spiking, Part 3

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 11, 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.

Note: The Secret History of Tree Spiking Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Judi Bari in 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of Earth First!ers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle held a press release in Samoa, California (a small town west of Eureka, in Humboldt County, northwestern California) at the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill and export dock. There, they issued the following statement:

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.

But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

For those not familiar with the tactic of "tree spiking", Earth First cofounder Dave Foreman describes the act in great detail in the book, EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. While that text is not official Earth First! literature--in the sense that Earth First!, as a loose ad hoc organization that prefers to think of itself as a movement, has long distanced themselves from the text, and Dave Foreman, due to the latter's borderline racist and classist perspectives, has long been associated with Earth First!, and Earth First! has long been associated (for better or worse) with Tree Spiking, and to this day, there are many Earth First!ers who continue to support the tactic, or--at least--choose not to renounce it.

This is What Energy Democracy Looks Like

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, February 25, 2015

With climate change looming, we are facing an energy emergency. How can unions fight for change?

(Working Paper #3) Energy Democracy in Greece: SYRIZA’s Program and the Transition to Renewable Power

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions For Energy Democracy, February 4, 2015

Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent “Great Recession,” governments have mostly scaled back or deemphasized their climate protection and “green” commitments. Lack of public funds and concerns about growth, competitiveness, and unemployment are frequently cited as explanations for this apparent loss of both ambition and urgency. The “green growth” narrative that colored various countercyclical “stimulus” spending packages from 2009-10 has been largely abandoned.

This has in turn slowed the deployment of renewable energy and thrown the UN climate negotiations into paralysis. During the recent talks in Lima (COP 20) it became clear that a global climate agreement seems very unlikely to emerge from the “deadline COP” in Paris in late 2015.

The goal of this paper is to show how economic crisis and austerity, which today serves as the perfect cover for inaction and reversals on climate protection and ecological sustainability, could actually spur a radical departure from the slow and stuttering progress of the recent past. The paper looks at the opportunities for such a departure in Greece, a country mired in debt, high unemployment, and on the receiving end of a full-blown austerity program. But Greece is also a country where the radical Left could soon be in power led by a party, SYRIZA, that’s committed to nothing less than the “ecological transformation of the economy.”

But how can such a transformation be carried out? How can a country like Greece—facing enormous challenges—be an ecological leader and perhaps an exemplar for a new course? Can a SYRIZA or SYRIZA-led government break new ground in terms of fusing a viable leftgreen project in the face of crushing odds?

Download (PDF).

(Working Paper #2) Climate Change and the Great Inaction: New Trade Union Perspectives

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions For Energy Democracy, September 2014

This paper has been written for unions and unionists who are perhaps in the early stages of their engagement with climate change and who feel they might benefit from knowing “the story so far” in terms of trade union involvement.

But it is also being written with an eye to the future, to generate discussion that may help unions develop the kind of compelling ideas and proposals that can lead to an increase in membership engagement and climate activism. A global movement demanding immediate and effective action on climate change is urgently needed, and unions can play an important and potentially decisive role. However, part of the process of building such a movement will require taking stock, in broad terms, of what has been learned with regard to past efforts both practically and at the level of ideas and core theoretical assumptions.

This paper focuses mainly on the UN level, where the level of union activity has been very significant and worthy of examination. It will be clear from what follows that the climate politics of the international trade union movement has reached an impasse–the same is also true of other movements who have fought for a global climate agreement and have seen their hopes shattered. But this is more than a problem of barking up the wrong tree, or of the wrong set of persons sitting in the seats of power at the wrong time. The “green economy” framework that has informed trade union policy on climate change and sustainability has also reached a political dead end. This is obvious at the UN level and increasingly obvious at the level of the nation state, one or two exceptions notwithstanding. Once regarded as inevitable, the green economic transition as imagined by the more far—sighted wing of the political and corporate establishment now borders on the impossible.

In following how unions have engaged the UN’s climate process, it is also possible to observe and reflect on how the trade union discussion has shifted from the days of the “triumph of the market” neoliberal globalist moment in the early 1990s to the present time, when the impacts of the Great Recession (and the need for jobs) are still all too evident in many parts of the world. In the early 1990s neoliberal capitalism was wiping the floor with unions. Unions of course remain under attack and very much on the defensive. But, in common with other social movements, unions have in recent years begun to engage in a deeper questioning of the political economy of capitalism from both a climate and environmental standpoint and from a socioeconomic perspective. Can politics significantly alter the systemic and profoundly unsustainable features of capitalism, particularly unlimited growth, accumulation, and consumption? In the light of the world leaders’ “great inaction” on climate change, this has to be the key question that lies at the heart of the trade union debate in the period ahead.

Download (PDF).

(Working Paper #1) Global Shale Gas and the Anti-Fracking Movement

By Sean Sweeney and Lara Skinner - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 2014

This paper has been prepared to assist unions and their close allies who wish to better understand the impacts of shale gas drilling, or “fracking,” and want to develop a position or approach to fracking that protects workers, communities, and the environment. It begins with a summary of the shale gas industry’s global expansion, and then looks at the opposition to fracking that has emerged in a number of key countries. A preliminary profile of the anti-fracking movement highlights the goals and characteristics of this movement as well as the issues that lie at the heart of the resistance.

The paper concludes by attempting to bring together the available information on unions’ perspectives and positions on this increasingly important issue. It also raises for discussion the prospect of unions giving support to a global moratorium on fracking based either on the precautionary principle (the health and environmental effects are not fully understood or have still to be adequately addressed) or on the more definitive assessment that fracking can never be sufficiently safe in terms of its impact on health and the environment and should therefore be stopped altogether.

Read the report (PDF).

The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy

By Kristen Sheeran, Noah Enelow, Jeremy Brecher, and Brendan Smith - Economics for Equity and the Environment and Labor Network for Sustainably, November 5, 2013

The Keystone XL pipeline has been touted as a means to address America's jobs crisis. But how does its job creation compare to other possible projects?

This study compares the jobs that would be created by the KXL pipeline to the jobs that could be created by water, sewer, and gas infrastructure projects in the five states the pipeline crosses.

It finds that meeting unmet water and gas infrastructure needs in the five relevant states along the KXL pipeline route will create:

  • More than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors;
  • Five times more jobs, and better jobs, than KXL;
  • 156% of the number of direct jobs created by Keystone XL per unit of investment.
  • President Barack Obama and others have criticized the KXL pipeline for its meager promise of 50 to 100 longer‐ term jobs. In contrast, water infrastructure operation and maintenance in the five relevant states alone will create 137 times as many direct long‐term jobs, and over 95 times more total long‐term jobs, than Keystone XL.

Proponents of KXL maintain it will be built by private investment without public subsidy. But the oil refineries that will use KXL oil, along with the rest of the oil industry, receive large government subsidies. All of the infrastructure work described in this study can be financed just by closing three Federal tax loopholes for fossil fuel companies. Indeed, taking just one tax subsidy now received by the refineries that would use KXL oil and using it instead for water infrastructure would create as many jobs as the KXL pipeline.

Download the complete report (PDF) here.

Jobs Beyond Coal

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, 2012

This manual is intended for anyone—communities, unions, environmentalists, native tribes, public officials, and others—involved with or affected by the retirement of coal-fired power plants. It is designed as a guide for those who wish to make the transition away from coal in a way that is most beneficial and least threatening to ordinary workers, consumers, and community members.

In the past decade, a broad-based campaign has formed to move America beyond coal and power the nation with clean energy. The movement includes people from all walks of life—medical professionals, faith leaders, environmentalists, business people, workers, decision makers, and local residents—who are working to address the serious pollution problems caused by coal and to seize the economic opportunity offered by clean, safe, renewable energy.

This campaign has been remarkably successful, preventing the construction of more than 165 new coal-fired power plants, and thereby keeping energy markets open for clean energy. In state after state, as newcoal proposals have stalled, advocates have launched campaigns to retire existing coal plants and replace them with clean energy, securing the retirement of more than 110 existing coal plants to date.The coal industry and their allies regularly claim that jobs, workers, and unions benefit from coal plants and that transitioning away from coal will harm them. Industry claims about creating or protecting jobs have often proved fallacious or hugely exaggerated. Still, this message resonates powerfully in tough economic times and presents a real challenge to coal retirement efforts.

Several recent campaigns have demonstrated that coal retirements can be structured in ways that take care of affected workers and the area economy, and even win the support of organized labor and local decision makers. As the case studies described in this manual show, addressing these economic challenges is most effective when the concerns of workers and the local economy are built into the campaign objectives, messaging, proposals, action, and interventions in policy arenas.

Read the report (PDF).

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL a report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute

By Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011

The purpose of this briefing paper is to examine claims made by TransCanada Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute that, if constructed, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline will generate enough employment to kick-start important sections of the US economy through the creation of tens of thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of good, well-paying jobs for American workers.

This briefing paper raises a number of questions regarding the jobs claims promoted by the industry, questions that are serious enough to generate a high level of skepticism regarding the value of KXL as an important source of American jobs. With national unemployment levels presently (September 2011) around 9%, and the real unemployment figures considerably higher, jobs are desperately needed both to sustain families and to help the broader economy. However, it is our assessment—based on the publicly available data—that the construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the US than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates.

The results presented below should also cast doubt on the recent claim made by American Petroleum Institute that the oil industry could create more than a million jobs over the next decade—if the US government would open public lands, beaches, oceans, to unlimited oil drilling. If the industry’s jobs estimates made in the context of KXL are any indication, then this broader claim should be scrutinized very carefully indeed.

Read the report (PDF).

Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

Dan Fortson Interviews Dave Chism and Bob Cramer - The Public Outlaw Show on November 27, 1997, KMUD 91.1 FM Southern Humboldt County, 88.3 FM Northern Humboldt County, and 88.9 FM Mendocino County

Dan Fortson: Good evening everyone. This is Dan Fortson, and we're gonna have a talk show here. I've a couple of guests in the studio with me; Dave Chism, former union representative, Dave, welcome.[1]

Dave Chism: Hi, how are you doing?

Dan Fortson: Just fine, and Bob Cramer, member of Taxpayers for Headwaters and outspoken advocate, welcome Bob.

Bob Cramer: Thank you.

Dan Fortson: Why don't we start off with a little bit of introductions. Dave you want to tell us something about yourself?

Dave Chism: Well, I'm a local boy

Dan Fortson: Okay

Dave Chism: --grew up in Trinidad, in that area. I went to work in the timber industry at the paper mill at Simpson. A lot of the members of my family have worked for various companies around here. I think we've worked for pretty much all of them. LP and Simpson primarily. I was pretty active in union politics out there and trying to build some working relationship with the environmental community. So it was kind of an interesting place to be in, especially when the mill went down, there was a lot of animosity about that.

Dan Fortson: And Bob, what have you been up to lately?

Bob Cramer: Well, I'm a native Californian, I've been living up here for five years. I came up here to go to school after I lost my job because of a corporate takeover and because I'm a Vietnam veteran, a disabled veteran. The V.A. offered to send me up to go to school here on vocational rehabilitation. My major was Environmental Science, and I had a little problem with [Calculus] II. So I decided to get into Environmental Ethics, and while I was in environmental ethics I started learning about what was actually going on up here. Of course, because of the lack of news about what was going on, I really didn't have any Idea. But when I found about what was going on in the Headwaters, I joined the protesters last September 15th [1996]. I noticed that all of the people that were at the [MAXXAM property] line who were waiting to cross over [to be arrested] were all about my age, which is 53 right now, by the way, and I was kind of stunned! It looked like members of the community were all around me. And we started talking.

So anyway, after that action a few of us formed Taxpayers for Headwaters. Because we felt that the people who were representing environmentalism in this area were not just Earth First! And EPIC and Trees [Foundation], but also people up in Eureka, Fortuna, and the other areas who were business people and professionals and regular taxpaying citizens, if you will, who are very concerned about overharvesting of our natural resources. Because we can see into the future a little bit. It doesn't take much to extrapolate what happens when you overharvest and not only that, there is a great History of overharvesting and how it has devastated other areas of the country. And we just didn't want to see it happen to this area. So we formed Taxpayers for Headwaters and now were about 800 members strong. And we've been involved in doing a lot of things. We've gone before the [Humboldt] County Board of Supervisors. We've talked to law enforcement, we've been to several hearings, senate hearing, natural resources hearings. We've called for grand jury investigations, we've just really been involved in the situation and basically that's what my background is and why I'm here today.

Anarcho-Syndicalism, Technology and Ecology

By Graham Purchase - Kick It Over, #35, Summer 1995 [PDF Available]

In an anarchist society, the absence of centralized state authority will permit a radically new integration of nature, labour and culture. As the social and ecological revolution progresses, national boundaries will become cartographical curiosities, and divisions based upon differences in geography, climate and species distribution will re-emerge. This essay addresses the question of what role unionism will play in these changes.

First, it seems obvious that telecommunications, transportation and postal networks all require organization which extends far beyond the individual ecological region, and activities like road building between communities require cooperation beyond that of individual locales. Thus, a return to a community-based lifestyle need not and cannot imply a return to the isolation of the walled medieval city or peasant village.

Anarcho-syndicalists (that is, anarchist unionists) argue that the best way to address such needs is for the "workers of the world" to cease producing for capitalist elites and their political allies. Instead, they should organize to serve humanity by creating not only communication and transportation networks, but industrial, service, and agricultural networks as well, in order to ensure the continued production and distribution of goods and services.

Yet there are many people in anarchist and radical environmental circles who regard anarcho-syndicalism with distrust, as they mistakenly identify it with industrialism. They argue that global industrialism has been responsible for centralized organization and environmental destruction. They view industrialism as necessarily based upon mass production, and the factory as inevitably involving high energy use and dehumanizing working conditions. In short, critics believe that providing six billion people with toilet paper and building materials (let alone TVs, VCRs and automobiles) necessarily involves large-scale, mass production techniques ill-suited to ecological health - regardless of whether capitalist leeches or "free" workers are running the show. Industrialism, it is argued, is an environmental evil in and of itself; it is only made slightly more destructive by the narrow, short-term interests of capital and state. Such critics argue that technology has likewise outgrown its capitalistic origins, and has taken on a sinister and destructive life of its own.

I am not unsympathetic to this argument. That children and adults alike spend hours on end surrounded by deafening noise and blinding lights in video arcades, in an utterly synthetic technological orgy, is ample evidence of our species' sick fetish for non-organic, superficial pleasures. The regimentation of the work day, and the consignment of leisure and play to half-hour television slots interrupted by nauseating commercials, is nothing short of the industrial robotification of human nature - an alarming process that has led many to argue that humanity should abandon the industrial and technological revolutions altogether. They further argue that we should return to small-scale, minimally industrial technologies that utilize simple devices such as the hand loom. Given the enormously destructive effects of today's industrial system, such a course may ultimately be the only path open to humanity. At this point, however, simply abandoning our cities and our technologies and hoping that our species will somehow return to a small-scale, pre-industrial existence appears both unlikely and reckless.

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