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just recovery

A Roadmap to an Equitable Low-Carbon Future: Four Pillars for a Just Transition

By J. Mijin Cha, JD, PhD - Climate Equity Network, April 2019

The signs that the climate crisis is already happening are clear. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report detailed the evidence from more than 6,000 studies that found that over the past decade, a series of record-breaking storms, forest fires, droughts, coral bleaching, heat waves, and floods have taken place around the world in response to the 1.0 °C of global warming that has taken place since the pre-industrial era. These events, and the losses associated with them, are expected to become substantially worse with 1.5 °C of warming currently targeted by global climate agreements, and far worse if these agreements are not effective. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, this warming threshold could be reached in as little as 11 years, and almost certainly within 20 years. Even if such cuts were to begin immediately, reaching this threshold would not be prevented, only delayed.

Any chance of staving off even worst impacts from climate change depends on significant reductions in GHG emissions and a move from a fossil fuel- based economy to a low-carbon economic future. While this transition is fundamentally necessary, the challenges it poses are great. Every aspect of our economy and our society is dependent upon fossil fuel use – from the reliance on electricity provided by fossil fuel power plants to the tax revenue local communities receive from fossil fuel extraction and facilities to the jobs held by those working in an industry that may keep their incomes high but often puts their communities at risk. The imprint of fossil fuels is so deeply embedded within our way of life that ceasing its use will require a fundamental shift in how we procure and use energy.

The good news is that this shift is possible—and California is already on a path to a low-carbon future. In addition to several ambitious climate targets, in September 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order pledging the state to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045. As the world’s fifth largest economy, the commitment California made to reduce greenhouse gases can provide a pathway to a low-carbon future that could lay the groundwork for others to follow. But to get there, we need to aim even higher than California’s already ambitious goals.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels must be done more quickly and also in a manner that protects workers and communities economically dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Transitioning is also an opportunity to include those who have historically been excluded from the jobs and economic benefits of the extractive economy and expand the populations who have access to future jobs and economic opportunities. As we move to a low-carbon future, environmental justice communities should be prioritized for job creation and renewable energy generation. Without protecting displaced workers and expanding opportunities to other workers, transitioning to a low-carbon future will replicate the mistakes and inequalities of the extractive past and present.

Read the report (PDF).

Trading Up Equipping Ontario Trades With the Skills of the Future

By staff - Canada Green Building Council, April 2019

Equipping Canada’s labour force with the skills required for designing, constructing and maintaining low-carbon building infrastructure is critical to achieving a greener economy and to reducing Canada’s emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We are pleased to support Canada’s green building industry with a new report, Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future, aimed at facilitating a low carbon workforce transition.

This report provides an action plan to close the low-carbon building skills gap in the Ontario construction industry. Green infrastructure investments are expected to create an estimated 147,000 job openings for skilled tradespeople over the next 15 years in the Toronto region alone. The inability to close the skills gap in Ontario is estimated to have an impact of $24.3 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in foregone company revenues, with an additional $3.7 billion lost in foregone taxation.

The report identifies where shortages in low-carbon skills training currently exist, and highlights the risks to the quality of low-carbon buildings being constructed. It defines specific actions that labour, governments, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations can take to optimize green building skills training.

The “Trading Up” report was compiled by CaGBC with Mohawk College, McCallumSather, The Cora Group, the City of Toronto and the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA). The project was funded, in part, by the Government of Ontario. While the report examines the Ontario construction industry, its recommendations can be applied throughout Canada.

Read the text (PDF).

Navigating Hope Through Crisis: Disaster and a Politics of Possibility

By Raven Cretney - Resilience, March 14, 2019

It has been over eight years since the devastating earthquakes that affected the city of Ōtautahi Christchurch in Aotearoa New Zealand. Initially triggered by a 7.1 magnitude quake in September 2010 and followed by the fatal 6.3 magnitude earthquake on the 22nd of February 2011, the disaster wrought large scale destruction on residential and urban areas.

Yet as the old and damaged has been dismantled, the new has slowly and hesitantly emerged. Over these years the physical and political landscape has continued to shift and change throughout the amorphous phases of response and recovery.

Since the earthquakes I have been involved in research on the community level response and recovery to disaster and the potential for social and environmental change to emerge from these times of crisis. As we face an increasingly uncertain future we can learn much from the long-term recovery efforts at the grassroots scale.

Every year the frequency and scale of so called ‘natural disasters’ grow as the climate shifts and an increasing number of people populate urban areas in geologically active regions. In September 2018, a terrifying satellite image emerged of seven ‘super storms’ lining the equator. This stark representation of our changing climate is becoming more common as we continue to increase emissions and avoid the necessary changes to our society and economy.

We can, and should, theorise the broader politics of disaster. However, everyday stories of post-disaster action and resistance shed light on the small-scale, experimental grassroots interventions that bring forward hope in the midst of crisis. With the growing phenomenon of climate grief and despair, it would seem crucial to maintain some hopeful sense of the alternatives we can still create for ourselves. Either that, or we become paralysed into despondency.

Doing Away With Private Utilities Is a Matter of Life and Death

By Ryan Smith - Broke Ass Stuart, January 16, 2019

The toll of this year’s wildfires is the second in as many years to break entirely too many state records, increasing the call to hold private utility companies like Pacific Gas & Electric to the flames of their own making. When the last embers cooled there was no question that the Camp Fire that ravaged Butte County, along with the devastating fires that tore through Malibu and Ventura, were among the most destructive in California history inflicting an estimated $10 billion in property damage. This was only topped, in dollar value, by last year’s devastation where the state suffered an unprecedented $12 billion in direct property damage. From a purely economic standpoint these figures don’t consider the secondary impacts such as loss of tourism, rebuilding and the opportunity cost of once thriving communities no longer capable of any sort of economic activity.

These numbers, already adding up to a truly staggering cost, don’t even touch on the immeasurable human cost. 2017 set a grim toll of 43 confirmed dead, a total that was already greater than all loss of life from the previous decade of California wildfires combined. This past season is on track to double that with a confirmed 89 dead so far. One can only imagine how many more will join them in the coming months and years thanks to the long-term damage from noxious fumes released by this year’s fires. The sheer quantity of toxic particulates in the air during the height of the blaze made Butte County’s air the most hazardous on the planet.

There is little doubt who is responsible for this blaze. The most recent investigations have all but concluded the cause of the fires was due to improperly maintained wiring, property of PG&E, setting a deadly inferno ablaze. In the face of an estimated $30 billion in liability for the Camp Fire, PG&E, earlier this week, filed bankruptcy. They are not alone in such negligence, with SoCal Edison suspected of similarly irresponsible practices in Southern California. Such a failure to perform such basic, fundamental tasks – maintenance of consistent power flow and safety of California’s communities – is astonishing all by itself. Unfortunately this is far from the first time PG&E has screwed up this badly.

In the wake of the 2017 wildfires investigators concluded the most likely cause of an already horrific disaster was PG&E’s inability to do their jobs. Gerald Singleton, an attorney specializing in wildfire cases, argued PG&E’s history shows this was no surprise as the privately-owned utility company has a history of disregarding basic maintenance necessary both for community safety and delivering power. In 2010 PG&E’s lax management piled up until one of their natural gas pipelines exploded, snuffing out the lives of eight San Bruno residents. Their cost-cutting is so extreme that, only two years after the San Bruno disaster, PG&E found they didn’t have enough staff to properly mark all of their gas lines so the company hid the mistake by filing false claims stating they had. This reckless culture even extends to data management as shown by reports from earlier this year where PG&E managed to lose 30,000 people’s personal information in a single data breach.

Puerto Rico’s Power Union Denounces Governor’s Decision to “Sell the Assets” of the Public Power Utility (PREPA)

By Angel Figueroa Jaramillo - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, January 23, 2018

UTIER DENOUNCES GOVERNOR’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PRIVATIZATION OF THE PUBLIC POWER UTILITY (AEE, OR PREPA)*

San Juan, Puerto Rico, January 23rd, 2018

The Union of Workers of the Electric and Irrigation Industry (UTIER) denounces Governor Ricardo Rossellá’s announcement to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). The announcement demonstrates the insensitivity of this government and leaves clear that the welfare of the people is not among the interests of the current Governor.

UTIER has been consistent in denouncing the privatization plans of various government administrations and also the recent intentional slowness in the process of restoring the electrical system.

The Governor is taking advantage of the pain of thousands of people who are currently without electric power. Given the insensitivity of Governor Ricardo Rosellá of announcing the privatization of PREPA in the midst of the suffering of almost half a million Puerto Ricans who still do not have electricity, UTIER once again raises its voice in favor of the people. We have tried through our brigades to restore electric power as soon as possible, despite all the obstacles that the government, the Engineers brigade, the Board of Fiscal Control, and the upper management of PREPA have erected to try to prevent us achieving that goal.

For decades we have warned how various administrations have undermined workers and intentionally damaged the infrastructure of PREPA. This was intended to provoke the people’s discontent with the service in order to privatize our first industry, “the jewel in the crown”, to strip us—the people—of what is ours. “Because PREPA is a public good that belongs to the people and not to the politicians,” said the president of the UTIER, Angel Figueroa Jaramillo.

Figueroa Jaramillo explained how, since the 1970s, governments of the two main parties have tried to privatize PREPA. In each of these attempts, UTIER has reacted immediately, warning the people what this would mean for the country.

“We asked, how come it was possible that, facing so much devastation left by the hurricanes, that we would prioritize hiring a company such as Whitefish, which did not have the staff or experience to handle an emergency like the one we had gone through? Then we met the endless irregularities in the awarding of the contract that was signed with Whitefish and the powerful political links it has with the current US administration. Everything we said was proven to be correct and has been so in every complaint we have made over decades”, said Figueroa Jaramillo.

The President of UTIER insisted, “The position of UTIER is that electricity is a human right and not a commodity. That is what our people have realized after the ravages of hurricanes Irma and Maria, after having run out of electricity and suffering so many hardships and the loss of family members, either because they have died or had to leave the country. That is why we strongly oppose privatization in any of its expressions, whether through the transfer of assets or the transfer of management to private companies. We ask the people the following question so that they think clearly about it: If PREPA was not profitable and able to generate profits, would there be a company that wanted to acquire it?”

The president of the UTIER urged people to also remember the declarations of the Board of Fiscal Control (JCF) a year ago in which it presented the privatization of PREPA as one of its goals. “We cannot leave the heritage that belongs to us–-the people—in private hands. And one of them is PREPA. Because if at some point we face another atmospheric phenomenon such as the ones to which we are exposed every year during hurricane season, we already know how the private generators AES and Ecoelectrica will react: turning off their machinery in order not to lose their investment. That’s what they did on this occasion. They are not worried about the suffering of the people. That situation cannot be repeated and if PREPA is privatized, that is what’s in store for us. Furthermore, we must not be deceived: privatization increases the electric bill and makes us more vulnerable as the people. Let’s not allow the main industry for the development of our country to be stolen from us. Let’s not wait for it to happen”, added Figueroa Jaramillo.

Puerto Rico Braces for Wave of School Privatization

By Jeff Bryant - Common Dreams, February 8, 2018

The warnings came right after the storm: Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico would be used as an opportunity to transfer management of the island’s schools to private operators of charter schools, and introduce voucher programs that would redirect public education funds to private schools.

Sure enough, with nearly a third of Puerto Rico’s 1,100 schools still without power and hundreds more plagued with crumbling walls, leaky rooves, and spotty Internet, Governor Ricardo Rosselló recently announced he will propose to create charter schools and voucher programs as a recovery strategy for the island’s education system.

That announcement followed shortly after a new fiscal plan from Rosselló that included closing over 300 of schools.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Marks End of Convergence Center

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, February 4, 2018

This following report from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief marks the closing of their autonomous space in Florida. To hear more about the community center and free clinic that they organized in the wake of hurricane Irma, check out our podcast interview with them here.

Last week marked the end of our Tampa Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Post-Irma Convergence Center, the space was generously offered to us by St. Paul Lutheran Church. This space was artful, accessible, warm and creative. Like larger social experiments where collectives have free reign to create, projects zipped in and out, ideas flourished and plans were encouraged to fruition.

From prisoner letter writing nights, to documentary screenings, to food prep, to the hundreds of care packages sent out from on site, to reportbacks, to workshops, to skillshares, to group meetings, to open mics, to radical caroling practice, and of course, the launching of relief teams doing disaster mutual aid to Puerto Rico, Immokalee, the Keys, Apopka, Jacksonville, and even refugee solidarity work in Belgium and France. We used those four walls to break down other walls and it worked. The space was opened for houseless friends to shower, do laundry and even for a houseless couple to have a romantic anniversary dinner.

We shared the space with Tampa Food Not Bombs, Love Has No Borders, Tampa Bay DSA, Restorative Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter Tampa, Tampa Anarchist Black Cross and other liberatory movements. The space held a free clinic, a free library, a children’s playroom, a community kitchen, and an open space for people to share art and literature. The walls held revolutionary Zapatista quotes, portrait-stories, other messages of support and solidarity, and photos in memory of Andrew Joseph III, Meg Perry and Alonso Guillen – people we have lost along the way. The clinic treated emotional and physical trauma, provided acupuncture, reiki, massage, herbal teas and tinctures, diabetes care, treated dehydration and launched many, many mobile clinics.

Hakim Bey, the originator of the term temporary autonomous zone says they are “like an uprising which does not engage directly with the state, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself, to re-form elsewhere/else when, before the state can crush it.” The goal of these zones is not permanence or confrontation, and its lapse is not defeat, but a seed planted that will be carried to another time and place to be recreated again.

The aim is to spread these autonomous zones far and wide, so that everywhere and every-when, not just in disasters, people share goods and services freely, connect deeply and authentically with one another, have agency, self-determination and meaning in their chosen work, live in the moment, and are free to imagine with minds, but also with hands and feet, the better world we know is possible. These moments, when our bodies are sung electric by the possibilities taking wing inside and all around us, need not be fleeting. Most of human history has been spent in communities whose foundation was mutual aid, and our future can be likewise if we have the strength and courage to follow our vision through to where it leads.

Another example of temporary autonomous zones are the 12 Centros de Apoyo Mutuo (CAMs) located throughout Puerto Rico. These constitute an intricate web of people-powered, locally rooted recovery efforts that are proving revolutionary self-governance is not a utopian dream, but can actually be a natural response to the absence of authoritarian, statist means of control. We are currently raising funds to get the CAM in Caguas its own micro-grid solar photovoltaic system – an autonomous alternative to the bankrupt and perhaps, soon to be privatized, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. You can donate to this project here.

Some of us are still in Puerto Rico assisting with projects whenever and wherever we are needed and plan to continue doing so for the forseeable future. Some of us are busy preparing for a multi-state tour. And look forward to seeing many of you in person over the coming weeks and months and strategizing on how to build the movement for mutual aid together. To check out locations, visit our website. If we aren’t making it to your town yet, we apologize and thank you in advance for your patience. We have had far too many requests to meet them all at once, but we will continue booking spots for the Fall.

Dandelions lose their minds in the wind, and spread their seeds in a thousand directions. We are a result of one of those seeds. And we know that every end is a beginning. Wherever you go, may you carry a piece of a liberated zone with you. Wherever you stand, may you be the heart and soul of that place.

Until next time.

Don't privatize Puerto Rico's electric power

By MST - Socialist Worker, January 30, 2018

In late January, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced plans to privatize the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA, by its initials in English; AEE by its Spanish initials). It is a terrible, but not unexpected, stage in a still-disastrous situation, where as many as one-third of residents remain without power four months after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Rosselló, whose promise to have 95 percent of power restored by Christmas went by the board, said his government "will sell shares in AEE to firms that will transform the power generation system." His televised address was filled with the well-worn buzzwords used to justify previous schemes for privatizing other public services, like health care, telecommunications and the island's main airport. The new system, Rosselló said, will be "modernized and less costly" and "consumer-centered...where you will have choices."

At a press conference after Rosselló's January 23 address, Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of the electrical workers union (UTIER, in its Spanish initials), brushed off the governor's claims, saying "We will never fall for the government' game of using the people's suffering [to push through its agenda]."

In the face of these developments, the socialist newspaper Bandera Roja, published by the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (MST, or Socialist Workers Movement), published the following statement denouncing the long history of corruption and mismanagement of the power authority under the island's two main parties, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and Rosselló's New Progressive Party (PNP). The statement also notes how the years of austerity under PREPA's restructuring officer, the corporate "turnaround" specialist Lisa Donahue, weakened the power grid further.

Puerto Rico’s Decision to Privatize Power Coupled with Trump’s Alarming Infrastructure Plan Spells Out Devastation for Vulnerable Communities

By Wenonah Hauter - Common Dreams, January 23, 2018

“In Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people are still reeling from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. In a time of such dire need, the Trump administration has failed to provide the support needed to restore water to 7 percent of Puerto Rican residents and power to the nearly one in three residents going without, paving the way for today’s catastrophic announcement. The decision to privatize Puerto Rico’s state-owned power company follows the same dangerous path mapped out in the Trump administration’s draft infrastructure plan.

“Whether it’s water or energy, privatization helps Wall Street at the expense of the wellbeing and health of communities, particularly low-income families and people of color. The leaked infrastructure plan from the Trump administration similarly provides a blueprint for handing over our public land and public water to Wall Street. It seeks to privatize our local water systems and other critical public services, prioritizing limited federal dollars to Wall Street and corporate investors. This scheme would also sell off federal assets and create a new infrastructure fund by opening up federal lands and waters to mineral and energy development benefiting the oil and gas industry.

“A just and equitable infrastructure plan would dedicate funding for water systems, have a progressive revenue stream, and prioritize vulnerable communities with the greatest affordability and public health needs like Puerto Rico. This plan does none of this.

“Federal funding for water infrastructure is at its lowest point in decades. Instead of reversing the decline, Trump’s plan provides zero dollars to the highly successful State Revolving Fund programs, which are the main source of federal support for our local water and sewer systems. Meanwhile, it seeks to open up the clean water fund to private entities. This amounts to taking away existing federal money from our local governments to give to big water corporations.

“From Flint to Puerto Rico, our communities deserve better from our leaders. Our public water systems need dedicated, annual federal support to make sure that every person in our country has safe and affordable water.”

Building the Movement for Mutual Aid: Spring Tour 2018

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, January 18, 2018

The following statement comes from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and announces their spring tour in 2018 across parts of the US. 

Friends,

I am so excited and grateful for this opportunity to organize our first “Building the Movement for Mutual Aid” Training Tour!  This is a critical moment for developing a skilled and empowered standing network of organizers and volunteers who can help communities respond to climate chaos as well as “unnatural disasters” brought about by exploitation, violence, and extreme resource extraction.

We are still confirming dates on this far-ranging Spring Tour, but we can tell you now that we will be on the road March-May in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

In each of the 30 locations on our route, we will explain how natural storms turn into unnatural disasters through dangerous new forms of disaster capitalism and how everyday people are using principles of “Solidarity, Not Charity” to engage in d.i.y. disaster recovery.  A two-day workshop will include both an easy introduction accessible to the general public, and a deeper participatory training for those who are ready to get involved.

Check out the schedule!  It just went live, moments ago, on our shiny new website!  If you have not seen it yet, please check out the front page and read some of the many excellent articles written by members who are bringing direct action humanitarian aid to communities in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

This tour is the first step in a strategic capacity-building training campaign. Due to an outpouring of requests (over 100 so far!), plans are developing for a Fall 2018 Tour in the West, additional regional tours in 2019-2020, and a variety of follow-up trainings that will strategically and progressively build necessary skills and shared knowledge in local groups that are a part of the rapidly-growing MADRelief network. If you would like to invite us to your community, please place a request.

MADRelief envisions a new, participatory and empowering form of humanitarian aid that can become a big tent under which many diverse movements can find common ground and shared experience.  One that can overcome natural and unnatural disasters – from hurricanes to hate rallies, from mudslides to mine waste spills – and transform tragedies into opportunities for collective liberation.  One that we build in collaboration with all of you.  This tour seeks to strengthen our network, diversify our base, and increase our skills and knowledge, together. Please join us!

 

 

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