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Environmentalism as if Winning Mattered: A Self-Organization Strategy

By Stephen D’Arcy - The Public Autonomy Project, September 17, 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.

[Note: This article was first published on the internet as a contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications in 2009, where it seems no longer to be available. This version is substantially revised.]

Many people doubt that the environmental movement can actually defeat its adversaries and achieve its key aims. After all, it seems clear that winning would mean introducing sweeping social change and a new kind of sustainable and socially just economy. But the forces arrayed against this kind of change – including corporations, governments, and many affluent consumers hoping to raise their consumption levels – seem to represent too powerful a force to be overcome by a relatively small and seemingly powerless group of environmental activists.

These doubts about the capacity of environmentalists to win are confined neither to the movement’s self-serving and greed-motivated adversaries in business and government, nor to the many indifferent bystanders who cast an equally skeptical eye on all attempts to transform society by means of popular mobilization from below. As it happens, many environmental activists themselves are no less convinced that failure is all but inevitable.

When this sort of pessimism overtakes environmentalists, they tend to adopt one of several familiar responses. First, there is the response of those who retreat from the movement altogether in favor of “lifestyle” environmentalism, replacing their former activism with “conscious” shopping. Second, there are those who reject activism as naïve compared to their own approach of apocalyptic “survivalism” which leads them to prepare for the day when “civilization” collapses, such as by stockpiling food or learning how to hunt and gather. A third group responds to the apparently bleak outlook for environmental activism not by leaving the movement, but by remaining active while seeking to cultivate “friends in high places,” linking arms with Big Business or the capitalist state in a mode of “mainstream” environmentalism that tries to promote “environmentally friendly” capitalism and “socially responsible” corporations. A fourth group also remains active, but replaces the aim of winning with the more readily attainable aim of making a moral statement, by serving as a “moral witness” or by “speaking truth to power.” Finally, a fifth group also accepts the inevitability of failure but tries to seize every opportunity to put on public display the purity of their own uncompromising and self-righteous (albeit relentlessly impotent) radicalism, as a form of self-congratulatory “posturing.”

There is nothing to be gained by adopting a judgmental or holier-than-thou attitude toward people who adopt such responses. Why condemn such choices, which are all more or less understandable adaptations to the admittedly distressing predicament of contemporary environmentalism?

Nevertheless, we do need to see these stances for what they undoubtedly are: failures (in some cases) or refusals (in others) to develop a strategy for winning. Yet a strategy for winning is precisely what we need. The scale of the general environmental crisis is well known, and needs no special emphasis here: we are only too well-informed about the potentially catastrophic impact of plutogenic (caused-by-the-rich) climate change, the degradation of air quality, the erosion and poisoning of soil, the disappearance of forests and spreading of deserts, the despoliation of both fresh water sources and oceans, the historically unprecedented rates of species extinction, and so on. If nothing is done about any of this, it is not because there is any uncertainty about the gravity of these threats (notwithstanding cynical attempts by Big Business to fund “denial” research from “free market think tanks,” as a transparent ploy to muddy the waters of public discussion).

Something must be done, clearly. And most people certainly want more to be done. Globally, according to a survey of world opinion in 2010, “84 percent of those polled globally said the problem was serious, with 52 percent saying it was very serious. The number of people saying that it was not a problem averaged just 4 percent.” Even in the United States, where public awareness about environmental issues is lower than anywhere else on earth, “in 2010, 70 percent of US respondents described the problem as serious and 37 percent described it as very serious.” According to Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org (which conducted the poll), “most people around the world appear to be impatient that their government is not doing enough to address the problem of climate change.” Indeed, “on average across all nations polled, 60 percent want climate change to get a higher priority, 12 percent want a lower priority.”

Evidently, inaction on the part of governments does not reflect any pressing need to “change attitudes” or “educate the public.” If governments and corporations were even modestly responsive to public opinion, the prospects for implementing real change would be much more favorable for our side than they actually are at present.

The widespread pessimism about the movement’s prospects for success is impossible to explain without relating it to a widely understood insight registered in another recent opinion poll. According to a 2012 Harris Poll, 86% of Americans believe that “Big companies” have “too much power and influence in Washington.” An even higher percentage, 88% of Americans, believe that “political action committees that give money to political candidates” also have too much power and influence. Conversely, a full 78% of Americans believe that “public opinion” has “too little power and influence in Washington.” Americans, it seems, understand the workings of their political process rather better than many people give them credit for.

It should be clear, therefore, that we need a strategy for winning, and we need to develop it sooner rather than later. The approach that I pursue in this article will be to identify strategic objectives for weakening and ultimately defeating the adversaries that stand in the way of doing what science, morality, and good sense dictate must be done: transforming our destructive, unjust and unsustainable social order into a democratic, egalitarian and sustainable one.

Jobs and the Planet: is it Really Either/or?

By Jean Parrey and Carole Ramsden - Socialist Worker, September 18, 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.

WHO HAS the power to stop climate change?

Demonstrations like the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21 are important in showing the determined and growing opposition to a system that is driving the planet toward ecological devastation. But protests--while they can bring together and galvanize a growing movement--aren't enough by themselves.

One group in society with more potential leverage is workers in the energy and transportation industries, and those employed in sectors (like health care, for instance) directly impacted by climate change. Especially if they are members of unions, these workers can affect the operations of the fossil fuel industry by taking actions related to their work.

If this power were utilized, even if only partially, such actions could dramatically increase the pressure on the political and business establishment to do something to stop the carbon industry.

Yet organized labor has a notorious reputation for opposing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Union leaders insist these initiatives will cost union jobs--that it is a zero-sum game between jobs and the environment.

Therefore, the role of labor in the People's Climate March is a particularly important question.

The Problem Is Capitalism

By Fred Magdoff - NYC Climate Convergence, September 20, 2014

A. The Environmental Crisis

The "environmental crisis" is actually a number of crises, including the following:

  1. climate change;
  2. acidification of the oceans (related to elevated atmospheric CO2 levels);
  3. pollution of air, water, soil, and organisms with harmful substances;
  4. degradation of agricultural soils;
  5. destruction of wetlands and tropical forests; and
  6. accelerated extinction of species.

These crises have generally adversely affected the poor more so than the wealthy and will probably continue to do so.  This makes it even more important to advance the fight for environmental justice as an integral part of the struggle for environmental health.

B. Proposed "Solutions" Are Based on Hypotheses as to Cause(s)

C. Suggested Causes for the Crisis

The famous Walt Kelly "Pogo" cartoon -- "WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US" -- explains most of the "causes" that have been suggested to account for the horrendous environmental crises.  Some of these are outlined below.

The cartoon's implication when used in the context of an environmental discussion (and I witnessed its use in that way by a leading environmental educator) is that each of us personally or all humans together are responsible for what ails the environment and us.

Here are a number of the common explanations for the environmental crises:

  • There are too many people in the world and we need to rapidly lower the population -- usually this is reflected in a call for birth control in the poor countries of the world, especially in Africa.  But as an article headline in the Guardian from just a few days ago states, "It's not overpopulation that causes climate change, it's overconsumption."  The article goes on to state, "Africa's population growth is often linked to ecological risk -- yet the real danger lies in the west's infinite appetite for resources."1  If you look into this issue a little more, you will find that World Bank economists estimate that the wealthiest ten percent of people in the world consume almost sixty percent of the resources.  Thus, you might conclude that there actually is a population problem: there are too many rich people living too high off the hog.  The problem is certainly not the poor of the world who consume so little and contribute infinitesimally to the use of resources and pollution.  Birth control among poor people -- access to which should be a human right -- does not help solve the environmental crises.
  • It's just human nature -- we're too darn greedy and don't care about the future.  For those taking that position, there is clearly nothing that can be done.
  • Some say that humans have developed a "domination ethic" and need a new set of ethics that somehow we can create and inculcate in the people in the absence of a change in the social and economic system.
  • It's our philosophy that's the problem -- we are following a "perpetual growth philosophy" or "paradigm" and we need a new non-growth philosophy (I presume that we should study philosophy and come up with a new one).
  • People aren't purchasing the right kinds of products -- if we all bought "green" products we could solve the problem = green capitalism.  This includes purchasing more efficient cars and green household gadgets, clothes, food, etc.  So continue shopping as before, just buy better products.
  • The problem is focus of economists and pundits on growth of GDP.  If only economists would focus their attention on something else . . . like Gross National Happiness . . . then we could be guided in a better direction.  The whole concept that economic growth in a capitalist economy is somehow a result of people focusing on GDP is rather strange, to say the least.
  • Industrial society is the problem -- we need to return to a pre-industrial society.  This will necessitate a lot fewer people (billions).  This is a variation of the theme that there are just too many people, but this approach has a different constituency than those who believe that there are just-too-many-people.
  • The next suggested "cause" doesn't blame people and begins to see that perhaps the workings of the economy might be the problem.  This approach considers that the "externalities" of capitalism are the problem -- not the system itself.  These "by-products" of doing business as far as companies are concerned (that they do not pay for) become social costs that affect us all, that we all pay for.  Those who maintain that the externalities are the problem (instead of symptoms) feel that we should use market-based approaches, laws, and regulations to resolve the system's "externalities."  These includes a) campaign finance reform (to take away the power of money in politics); b) new business models; c) making products that will be more durable, versatile, and easy to repair, with components that can be reused or recycled; d) privatizing and marketing or trading "ecosystem services"; e) tradable carbon credits; f) carbon-offset schemes; g) using the "precautionary" principle in all economic activities, etc.

Rank-and-File Rail Workers Rebel Against Single-Person Crews

By Kari Lyderson - In These Times, September 15, 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.

Railroad workers scored a victory last week in a years-long battle over the introduction of single-person crews on freight trains, a move that railroad workers say is a recipe for disaster. On September 10, a unit of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air and Rail Transportation Workers (SMART) union announced that members had voted down a proposed contract which would have allowed the railroad company BNSF to run more than half its trains with just one worker on board.

BNSF and other railroad companies assert that automation and modern controls on tracks mean freight trains can be safely and efficiently operated by only one engineer, a change that would essentially eliminate the position of the conductor.

Railroad workers, however, say that having only one person on trains that are often more than a mile long is a safety risk for workers and communities alike, especially as more and more trains are involved in carrying explosive crude oil cross-country. The introduction of single-person crews would further a longstanding push by industry to reduce the number of workers needed to operate trains; currently most freight trains have a conductor and an engineer, but in decades past crews of three to five people were common. An industry shift to single-person crews would likely mean significant job losses, and significant savings for railroads on labor costs.

Currently the major railroads like BNSF are not using single-person crews, but smaller railroads are. The July 2013 Lac-Megantic disaster in Quebec, in which a train derailed and caused a deadly explosion, brought increased scrutiny of single-person crews. 

The contract between the union and BNSF had been negotiated by a union leadership body known as the district committee, SMART GO-001, representing about 3,000 conductors, brakemen and switchmen in multiple states. Leaders of Railroad Workers United (RWU), a national organization that includes members from the country’s 13 different railroad labor unions, said that SMART GO-001 leadership had pushed for approval of the single-person crew provision, apparently as a way to gain other concessions from BNSF.

SMART’s national leadership opposes single-person crews, and supports proposed federal legislation on the issue. The Rail Safety Improvement Act (S. 2784) just introduced in the Senate on September 10, and the Safe Freight Act (HR 3040), introduced in August 2013 in the House, would require two workers on any freight train.

In a statement on SMART’s website, SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich says: “No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different.”

In an email notifying union members that the proposed contract had been voted down, SMART GO-001 committee general chairperson Randall Knutson said, “Moving forward, this office will notify BNSF Labor Relations that we remain open to informal conversation regarding these matters, but will oppose any formal attempt by BNSF to serve notice to change our existing crew consist agreements prior to the attrition of all protected employees.”

In other words, the leadership indicated that it would not cooperate with the company in pushing single-person crews any longer. Knutson’s email also said the leadership would be in touch with more details about the contract fight in coming weeks.

SMART GO-001 district committee leaders did not return a phone message or emails for this story.

At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!

By Abby Scher - Truthout, September 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.

New York City and key national unions like the Service Employees International Union and Communication Workers of America are stepping up to support the People's Climate March in NYC September 21, in a broad coalition. But some green radicals from labor groups say unions need to create their own climate protection strategy that democratizes the energy sector.

There is a grinding nature to labor solidarity. Having never been active in a union before, I never experienced it until becoming the National Writers Union rep to organizing meetings for the Sept 21 Climate March happening in New York City right before a UN summit. Now I'm feeling it. It's not enough to get your union on board; has your president signed a statement? It's not enough to get your local; how about your international? And of course, words are cheap, so how many members are you mobilizing, and how are you doing it? Everyone in the room knows that grunt work feeds whatever power labor has. Astonishing for people who haven't been watching the labor movement in the last few years, New York's unions are digging deep to support the march that calls on world leaders to take action to avert catastrophic climate change.  

The march takes place just two days before President Obama and world leaders gather for an emergency Climate Summit at the United Nations called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Moon wants to ensure they sign a new international climate treaty when they gather again in Paris in December 2015.

The unions are among 1,000 endorsers of the People's Climate March challenging the big corporations and governments that have stymied any real agreement. It's been 26 years since the UN launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and then the treaty process two years later, but we're stuck - even as scientists educate us on the urgency to act.

Will unions be part of the problem or part of the solution? The International Trade Union Federation endorsed the march, as has the Canadian Labour Congress and the Connecticut and Vermont labor federations. But in New York, local and state unions are the ones stepping up - including some of the building trades, which, on a national level, help block the AFL-CIO from showing any climate leadership.

Bakken Bomb Trains: Hell on Rails

By x356039 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 1, 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.

Over the past two years the volume of bakken crude oil, extracted from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, has skyrocketed by an astonishing 900%. Thanks in part to the work of many brave communities in the line of fire and the logistical difficulties of building a continent-spanning pipeline the companies extracting this toxic material have sought out other methods for moving the volume of material they desire for export overseas to China and points beyond. The solution they have settled on is to move the bakken crude by oil trains, some stretching over a mile, owned by high-powered corporate captains of industry like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates from the point of extraction to the points of refinement and distribution.

They argue the materials being ripped from the Earth's crust are vitally necessary for energy independence and economic growth. What these self-interested short-sighted tycoons overlook is the truly massive cost in far more real terms than a mere bottom line such decisions are inflicting on people, communities, and the biosphere. In spite of the measured, massaged tones they use to assuage the fully-justified fears of the public there is little doubt the extraction, refinement, and movement of bakken crude by rail is a clear and present danger to all life in the path of these deadly horsemen.

The first and surest sign of the threat these bomb trains pose is the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. A small community located on Lake Megantic it is the sort of place, prior to the summer of 2013, one would never have expected to become associated with the worst rail disaster in Canadian history and one of the worst ever in North America. One fateful evening a bakken crude train was pulled off to a siding by its lone crew member so they could take a break from an extremely long shift and catch up on much needed sleep. During the night the brakes securing the train came loose and the train rolled off the track, tipping over and rupturing the tanks containing the highly volatile bakken crude. Thanks to the incredibly low flash point of bakken crude, due to the nature of the refining process, the entire train load went up in a flash obliterating a huge swath of Lac-Megantic. In the rushing inferno that followed 47 people's lives were mercilessly snuffed out, from young children to the elderly, without warning or any possibility of escape.

In the immediate wake firefighters from across Quebec and neighboring Maine were called in to bring the fires under control, do whatever they could for the survivors, and bury the dead. So great was the ferocity of the blaze following the disaster that nothing less than such a massive mobilization of emergency personnel would stand a chance. All were left stunned, shocked, and wondering how such a catastrophe could be visited on their homes with no warning of any kind. In the words of Tim Pellerin, fire chief for Rangeley, Maine, “It was like a World War II bombing zone. There was just block after block of everything incinerated. All that was left were foundations and chimneys. Everything burned. The buildings, the asphalt, the grass, the trees, the telephone poles. Just about everything was incinerated.” In the investigations following Lac-Megantic many facts came to light as to how so much harm could be caused, proving without question the devastation was no fluke but a very real, predictable possibility.

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.”

SMART Railroad Workers Rejection of Single Employee Crews is a Victory for Workers AND the Environment

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 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.

On Tuesday, September 10, 2014, the rank and file union members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 overwhelmingly voted down a concessionary proposal to reduce train crew size from 2 to 1 by a margin of 2 to 1 against the proposal.

The proposed change would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S. According to Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank and file union members from various railroad workers' unions, this was part of a campaign by the major rail carriers to weaken the already weak and divided rail unions further. Over the past half-century, the railroad bosses have taken advantage of the craft divisions among their workers to reduce crew sizes from a standard of 5 to 2. Now they're pushing to reduce that number to 1. The fact that BNSF was able to convince the leadership of one local to go along shows just how beaten down these unions are.

Fortunately, rank and file militants--some of them dues paying members of the IWW--formed RWU to beat back just such an offensive by the bosses, and--perhaps--turn the tide in what has hitherto been a one-sided class war waged against the workers by the bosses.

The RWU strategy mixed a whole variety of tactics, both old (including "silent agitators" and graffiti) and new (social media), many of them pioneered by the IWW:

Upon learning of the BNSF TA, RWU convened an “emergency meeting” of the Steering Committee and instantly mobilized the network. Thousands of buttons and sticker, flyers and leaflets, “Talking Points” and more were disseminated to BNSF railroad workers in the following weeks. A press release was issued that was picked up by a number of newspapers. RWU members spoke out on radio and TV stations, and organized rallies, pickets and demonstrations at numerous terminals, from large cities like Chicago and Seattle to small towns like Creston, Iowa. RWU members intervened in the debate at the SMART Convention in August, and held a series of telephone conference calls open to all railroad workers to voice their concerns, ask questions, and devise strategies and tactics. A regular e-newsletter with the latest flyers, leaflets, stickers, articles, songs, graffiti and cartoons were issued weekly.

In the end, the workers beat back the bosses attack, and this campaign should provide (the beginnings, at least, of) a model for rank and file workers in business unions to overcome entrenched bureaucratic interests that serve the bosses and not the workers. It can also serve as a model for the IWW's "dual card" strategy.

The vote was also a small victory for the environment and efforts to build bridges between environmental activists and workers. As has been widely reported, the accident that blew up Lac Magentic was the result of a single employee train, and while derailments involving two employee crude-by-rail trains have occurred, the chances of them happening are substantially greater if the crew size were to be reduced to one. Further, the push to reduce crew sizes is part of the ongoing efforts by the rail carriers to maximize their profits by cutting corners on labor costs, safety procedures, and best practices. The workers' victory will likely embolden them to take stronger stands against other initiatives by the bosses that would increase the risk of accident or derailment, and should the workers gain sufficient momentum, they can actually go on the offensive and force the carriers to increase safety, which will reduce environmental impacts significantly.

The BNSF Single Crew Initiative Defeated!

By J.P. Wright - Railroad Workers United Blog, September 11, 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.

The members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 have spoken. In a loud and clear mandate, they have told the BNSF railway, their union leaders, and the world, that they do not support single employee train crews. By 2-to-1, the rank and file voted down a tentative agreement, that – had it been ratified – would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S.

The major rail carriers have been seeking to run trains with a single employee for nearly a decade now. This latest attempt was by far the most blatant and confrontational effort to date. Railroad workers know that there are grave dangers and inefficiencies should such practice be implemented. According to Railroad Workers United General Secretary Ron Kaminkow, “Single employee train operations – with or without Positive Train Control (PTC) – would compromise the safety and security of train crews, motorists, pedestrians, trackside communities, the environment and the general public. Railroad workers are ready, willing and able to fight this concept with everything we have.”

In voting down this contract, the SMART GO-001 rank and file have won a decisive victory, not just for the trainmen and engineers on the BNSF, but for every railroad worker in North America. While the victory belongs to them, it is of course shared by all those who assisted – engineers (both UTU and BLET); union brothers and sisters from other crafts and carriers who rose to the occasion and helped out; family members who took part in pickets, rallies and demonstrations; fellow unionists and citizens who grasped the importance of the struggle and pitched in to help.

Global Labour’s Challenge to Climate Change

By Alex White - alexwhite.org, September 5, 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.

I originally published this on The Guardian.

At the end November 2013, Philip Jennings, the general secretary for the global union federation UNI Global Union spoke at a climate conference in Toronto. His message was simple: “there is nothing more important facing humanity than the dangers of a warming planet. We have no time to lose.”

For Jennings, who is from Welsh mining stock, the threat of global warming amounts to a “class war”, with the world’s poorest people paying the highest price for the carbon production of the richest. “While billionaires prepare safe havens for themselves and their money,” he said, “workers will bear the cost of climate change.”

For global unions like UNI Global, the climate struggle is starting to merge with the struggle for workers rights, especially in the third world. “For unions, employment and decent work is core business and climate change is not employment friendly,” said Jennings.

Bangladesh is a country where climate action is at the forefront of significant struggles by organised labour. As a nation, it is facing enormous risk from extreme weather and sea level rise, both exacerbated by global warming. In fact, Bangladesh is considered the country most vulnerable to climate change, according to Maplecroft’s 2013 Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas:

“With global brands investing heavily in vulnerable growth markets to take advantage of the spending power of rising middle class populations, we are seeing increasing business exposure to extreme climate related events on multiple levels, including their operations, supply chains and consumer base,” said James Allan, one of the authors.

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