Saturday, December 9, 2017

2769. "The First Ecosocialist International" Is Announced in Venezuela

By Quincy Saul, Telesur, December 8, 2017
In March 2015, President Maduro announced the creation of the Ministry of Ecosocialism and Water. 
The “Combined Strategy and Plan of Action,” a document of twenty pages, was collectively constructed in groups, then read and approved by consensus in assembly. This remarkable accord represents an unprecedented alliance of revolutionary subjects – indigenous, afro-descendant, ecologist, anti-colonial, Marxist, Bolivarian and beyond. The plan of action is not uniform, but unified: It ranges from the most immediate and intimate to the most far-reaching and universal. From saving seeds to the transformation of labor unions; from natural birth to solar communism; and from confronting coal mines in South America to decolonizing Palestine and Puerto Rico, it is a 500 year plan for peace on earth.

This plan makes few demands or denunciations. Based on the premise that “only the people can save the people,” it is a plan for the peoples of the world to take their destiny into our own hands.

How is it organized? The First Ecosocialist International has no central committee. It reads in the preamble to the plan of action: “Neither is the First Ecosocialist International a single organization with a seal, or with the omnipresent danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It is simply a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join by committing themselves to fulfilling one or more of the various actions agreed upon in order to relieve our Mother Earth.”

How can we join the First Ecosocialist International? At the end of the plan of action, it reads: “we believe along with Jose Marti that “the best way to say is to do.” The best way to be part of the First Ecosocialist International is to commit yourself to fulfilling one or more of the actions in this collective strategy and plan of action. In this way, your collectives, organizations, and movements will be “part of the First Ecosocialist International.” No individual or group is the First Ecosocialist International alone; it is only when we are.”

The International was organized from below by its own participants. But it was neither unnoticed nor unsupported by the Venezuelan government. Indeed this was the Bolivarian process at its finest; with local communities and grassroots movements in the lead, backed up with support from a revolutionary state – from local militias to government ministries.

The plan of action was approved and the Ecosocialist International constituted on the evening of November third in Agua Negra, and early the next morning the international delegates traveled back to Caracas for a press conference. There, at the La Casa de las Primeras Letras (the first public school in South America) they were greeted by representatives from the Ministry of Women, the Ministry of Ecosocialism, and the National Constituent Assembly. It was no accident that the two ministries which supported this grassroots initiative were those of women and ecosocialism.

Julio Escalona, a member of the National Constituent Assembly, connected the dots between patriarchy and capitalism: “Aggression against nature is aggression against women. We must establish fraternity between human beings and nature.”

Ramon Velasquez, minister of ecosocialism, said that “today begins a breakthrough with the old model of conservation of the land,” and indicated that the Venezuelan government would interpret the program of action of the First Ecosocialist International as orders. (A week later, at COP23 in Bonn, he announced the formation of the International, indicating that solutions to climate change would be found not in elite conference room but in “an ecosocialist movement which is rising up on a global scale.”)

In a time when a media war has much of the world convinced that the elected Bolivarian government in Venezuela is a dictatorship, the contact of international delegates from around the world with grassroots communities in Venezuela paints a different picture. Renowned activist and former Black Panther leader Dhoruba bin Wahad said in an interview with the ministry of women: “I'm impressed by the welcome of the people of Veroes in the state of Yaracuy, for their attention, their humility and their beauty, with whom we stayed for several days discussing the problems which affect our Mother Earth. I'm very proud to belong to the First Ecosocialist International, and I hope we can continue with this social movement... We concluded that we must build an international movement, made up of progressive governments, activists and ordinary people, to save the planet from the devastation of the imperialist capitalist system which destroys the environment.” 

Bin Wahad was joined by another former Black Panther leader, Charlotte O'Neal, who has lived and worked in Tanzania for the past forty years with the United African Alliance Community Center. In the weeks previous to the convocation of the International, O'Neal and her community made a music video “inspired by the convocation of Ecosocialist activists who met last year up in the hills of Monte Carmelo.” In an interview with the ministry of women, O'Neal reported: “This was a historic gathering. We all had an objective; to do everything possible to preserve life on this planet. We must teach our children to protect Mother Earth.” 

Another delegate, Wahu Kaara, expressed her gratitude to the Venezuelan revolutionary process for being a beacon of hope for the world: “We send greetings and great recognition to the people of Venezuela, for having invited us to such an important organization... The spirit of protecting Mother Earth is very strong here in Venezuela. Commander and comrade Chavez had the vision and the commitment of unity, of a world for everyone. Even though I am from Kenya, from Africa, I am Chavista! Viva Venezuela!”

As the saying goes, bad news travels fast and good news travels slow. This may be especially the case for Venezuela, where an ongoing media embargo works around the clock to ensure that only bad news gets out of the country.

But the good news of the foundation of the First Ecosocialist International – on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution no less – promises to reach the rest of the world. A “route of struggle,” outlined in the plan of action, maps out a commitment to organize regional convergences in 2018, and to convoke pan-African and pan-Asian congresses in years ahead. 

The “salvation of the human species,” as outlined in the Plan of the Homeland, may be an audacious goal. But the plan of the planet, which goes even further, still departs from humble beginnings: The preamble reads, “we recognize that we are only a small part of a spiral of spirals, which has the profound intention to expand and include others, until all of us are rewoven with Mother Earth; to restore harmony within ourselves, between us, and between all the other sister beings of nature.”

The land of Guaicaipuro and Andresote, of Maria Lionza and Manuela Saenz, of Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez, has done it again. “If life is important to you,” as Wahu Kaara concluded, “unite yourselves with this movement.”

2768. The "Living Forest" Proposal to Fight Climate Change

By Miriam Anne Frank, Amazon Watch, December 7, 2017

On November 6-17, 2017, a delegation of Indigenous Kichwa leaders from the community of Sarayaku, deep in Ecuadorian Amazon, accompanied by Amazon Watch, traveled to the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, to promote their Kawsak Sacha ("Living Forest") proposal – a comprehensive vision for living in harmony with the natural world based upon their ancestral practices.
The Kawsak Sacha "Living Forests" vision is vital for many reasons, most fundamentally that maintaining the ecological balance of the Amazon is essential to Earth's health and capacity to mitigate climate change. The Amazon has long played the critical role of sequestering carbon but rapidly on its way to losing this sink function and become a carbon source due to deforestation. Consequently, protecting the Amazon rainforest, the largest of the world's tropical forests, must be central to climate change discussions and policies.
"My message here at COP 23 for the people, for allies of the world, is that we need to fight together, unite forces, because the states that are here speaking in our name are at a negotiating table where supposedly they are looking for solutions, but these solutions are for them, not for Indigenous peoples. Our people are in our communities, while they are here making decisions for us. They are putting prices on our natural resources, they are putting prices on us, without fully comprehending that within our territories we exist as communities with huge wisdom, knowledge, science, technology. So we are asking allied peoples to keep resisting, because this fight is how we must maintain life, and to have the freedom to express ourselves, " said Mirian Cisneros, president of Sarayaku.
The Kichwa from Sarayaku are gaining ground in alliance with Indigenous and frontline communities around the world working to defend the sacred and keep oil in the ground, including a strong bond with indigenous peoples of the Standing Rock community. As Franco Viteri, a historic Kichwa leader remarked during his visit to Standing Rock in September 2016, "My people are very conscious, because of our history and our tradition, just like the tribes here, of our connection with nature, with Mother Earth; we know that this is what gives balance to life here on earth. The transnational corporations, like those trying to build this oil pipeline, are blind because they don't understand the language of nature.”
Two years after COP 21 in Paris, elected leaders around the globe have proven their unwillingness to take the bold, urgent action needed to respond to the climate chaos beginning to wreak havoc on the planet. At COP23 Indigenous peoples continue to actively advocate their positions largely outside of the formal meetings they have limited access to. The Kichwa delegation took part in a range of actions to deliver their message – the Climate March, the Rights of Nature Tribunal – and multiple press opportunities, highlighting their truly sustainable solutions for advancing climate justice.
Inside the negotiations, the Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) – the Indigenous representative body focused directly on impacting the COP – realized what they consider a small victory in regards to the operalization of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform created at COP21 in Paris. This Platform was designed to create a space where they can exchange lessons learned and share their unique perspectives on reducing emissions, adapting, and building resilience. During the course of the two weeks the Parties at COP23 debated how much decision-making power they could concede to these nonparty "stakeholders.” In the final decision, a shared chairmanship by state and local communities and Indigenous Peoples' representatives was agreed to. While Indigenous Peoples clearly consider themselves rights holders (not stakeholders) in the UNFCCC negotiations the hope of the IIPFCC is that they - on the frontlines climate change - can increase their role in these intergovernmental talks and contribute to deciding their own future via mechanisms such as the Platform.
When Patricia Gualinga, a former Kichwa leader represented the global climate justice movement at the High-Level Segment at COP23 her impassioned speech contrasted sharply to those by heads of governments, reminding everyone that "Climate change is not a business.... We, the grassroots communities and Indigenous Peoples of the world, we have the real solutions. From the people of Sarayaku to Standing Rock, from the Ogoniland to Lancashire to the Ende Gelände movement here in Germany - we are all fighting against destruction and for a decent life. We are fighting for Climate Justice! ...Our struggle is for life, for justice, for Mother Earth. For women, youth, our children and their children. For our future!”
For the world to stay within the rise in temperatures per the Paris Climate Agreement, new fossil fuel production must be halted. Potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal present in the worlds currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius of warming as per that agreement.
"Considering that global climate chaos is here and global experts are warning that three-quarters of the world's fossil fuels must be kept in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, protecting the Amazon is a greater priority than ever. We stand with Indigenous peoples and allies to stop Amazon destruction, advance Indigenous solutions, and support climate justice," said Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2767. The Women of 1917

By Megan Trudell, Jacobin, May 2017 
Women textile workers march in Petrograd on the International Women's Day (Feb. 23 old calendar) in 1917
On International Women’s Day in 1917, women textile workers in the Vyborg district of Petrograd went on strike, left the mills, and moved in their hundreds from factory to factory, calling out other workers on strike and engaging in violent clashes with police and troops.
Unskilled, low paid, working twelve- or thirteen-hour days in dirty, unhealthy conditions, the women demanded solidarity and insisted on action from men, especially those working in skilled engineering and metal factories who were regarded as the most politically conscious and socially powerful of the city’s workforce. Women threw sticks, stones, and snowballs at factory windows and forced their way into the workplaces, calling for an end to war and the return of their men from the front.
According to many contemporaries and historians, these women rioting for bread — using time-honoured and “primitive” methods of protest in pursuit of purely economic demands, acting from emotion rather than theoretical preparation — inadvertently set in motion the storm that swept tsarism aside, before they disappeared behind the big battalions of male workers and male-dominated political parties.
Yet from the beginning of the February strikes, political slogans against the war were woven into the protests. Women’s audacity, determination, and methods made clear that they understood the root of their problems, the need for workers’ unity, and for winning soldiers away from protecting the tsarist state to support the revolt. Trotsky later recorded:
A great role is played by women workers in relationship between workers and soldiers. They go up to the cordons more boldly than men, take hold of the rifles, beseech, almost command: “Put down your bayonets – join us.” The soldiers are excited, ashamed, exchange anxious glances, waver; someone makes up his mind first, and the bayonets rise guiltily above the shoulders of the advancing crowd.
By the end of February 23, soldiers who had been guarding tram depots had been convinced by women tram workers to join them inside, and trams were overturned to be used as barricades against police. Winning over soldiers was not simply a result of the growing burden of the war on troops or of the infectious “spontaneity” of the protests. Women textile workers had related to the large numbers of mainly peasant soldiers in Petrograd since 1914. Men in barracks and women in factories who had come to the city from the same areas talked and formed relationships, blurring the lines between worker and soldier and giving women workers a clear grasp of the necessity of armed support.
Women workers were firmly in the forefront of the February Revolution that culminated in the destruction of tsarism. They were not merely its “spark,” but the motor that drove it forward — despite the initial misgivings of many male workers and revolutionaries.
The February Revolution is commonly described as “spontaneous,” and in a sense this is true: it was not planned and executed by revolutionaries. But spontaneity did not equate to a lack of political consciousness. The experiences of the women who stormed Petrograd’s factories as both workers and the head of households forced to queue for hours to feed their families collapsed the distinction between the “economic” demand for bread and the political demand to end the war. Material circumstances led to the blame for hunger and poverty being directed where it belonged — on the war and the politicians conducting it. Such demands could not be met without seismic political change.
In addition, Bolshevik women were central to the strike, having worked hard to organize unskilled women workers for years, despite attitudes among men in their own party that organizing women was at the least a distraction from the fight against tsarism and at worst playing into the hands of upper-class feminists who would lead women away from class struggle.
Many men in the revolutionary movement felt that the International Women’s Day protests were premature and that women workers should be restrained until skilled workers were ready to take decisive action. It was women members, a minority in the party, who argued for a meeting in the Vyborg district for women workers to discuss the war and inflation and women activists who called for an antiwar demonstration for International Women’s Day. One of these was Anastasia Deviatkina, a Bolshevik and factory worker who set up a union for soldiers’ wives after the February Revolution.
After February, in most accounts women largely disappear as part of the revolution’s development over the course of 1917 — apart from a few outstanding women revolutionaries like Alexandra Kollontai, Nadezhda Krupskaia, and Inessa Armand, who are often discussed as much for their private lives as wives and lovers as for their practical activity and theoretical contributions.
Women were mainly absent from administrative bodies that emerged from the ashes of tsarism. Few were represented on village councils, as delegates for the Constituent Assembly, or as soviet deputies.­ Elections to factory committees were dominated by men, who were even deputized in industries where women workers were in the majority. The reasons for this were twofold and related: women still had the task of feeding their families in straitened circumstances and lacked the confidence and education, as well as the time, to put themselves forward or to sustain high levels of political activity. The ways in which working women had lived in Russia for centuries, the material reality of their oppression, conditioned their ability to match the unquestionable rise in political consciousness with political engagement.
Russia before 1917 was a predominantly peasant society; the tsar’s total authority was enshrined and reinforced by the church and was reflected in the institution of the family. Marriage and divorce were under religious control; women were legally subordinate, considered as property and less than human. Common Russian proverbs included sentiments like: “I thought I saw two people but it was just a man and his wife.”
Male power in the household was total and women were expected to be passive in brutal conditions, passed from father to husband and frequently the recipients of sanctioned violence. Peasant and working women faced punishing, arduous work in the fields and factories with the considerable added burden of child care and domestic responsibilities at a time when childbirth was difficult and dangerous, contraception nonexistent, and infant mortality high.
Yet women’s political involvement in 1917 did not come out of nowhere. Russia was a contradiction: alongside the profound poverty, oppression, and tyranny endured by most of its people, the Russian economy boomed in the decades before 1905. Enormous modern factories produced weapons and cloth, railways connected fast-growing towns, and investment and techniques from Europe led to huge increases in iron and oil output.
These dramatic economic changes generated immense social transformation in the years before World War I: increasing numbers of peasant women were drawn into urban factories, impelled by poverty and encouraged by employers whose use of mechanization generated more unskilled jobs and whose preference for “compliant” workers led to a huge growth in women working in linen, silk, cotton, wool, ceramics, and paper production.
Women had been involved in the textile factory strikes in 1896, in protests against conscription before the Russo-Japanese war and — crucially — in the 1905 revolution, during which unskilled women workers in textile, tobacco, and sweet factories, along with domestic workers and laundry workers, struck and tried to form their own unions as part of the massive revolt.
The impact of World War I was decisive in increasing women’s economic and political weight. The war shattered families and upended women’s lives. Millions of men were absent at the front, wounded or killed, forcing women to work the land by themselves, head households, and enter the urban workforce. Women were 26.6 percent of the workforce in 1914, but nearly half (43.4 percent) by 1917. Even in skilled areas, women’s participation increased dramatically. In 1914 women had made up only 3 percent of metal workers; by 1917 the number had risen to 18 percent.
In the dual power situation following the February Revolution, women’s protests did not disappear but became part of the process that saw workers’ support flow from the government to the Soviet and, within the Soviet, from the moderate socialist Menshevik-Social Revolutionary leadership to the Bolsheviks by September.
The expectations of working women and men that their lives would improve with the fall of the tsar were dashed by the government and Soviet leadership’s continued prosecution of the war. By May, antiwar protests had forced the dissolution of the first Provisional Government and Menshevik-SR Soviet leaders had formed a coalition government with liberals — still dedicated to the war. Workers’ disillusionment led to further strikes, again led by women. Some forty thousand women laundry workers, members of a union led by the Bolshevik Sofia Goncharskaia, struck for more pay, an eight-hour day, and improved working conditions: better hygiene at work, maternity benefits (it was common for women workers to hide pregnancies until they gave birth on the factory floor), and an end to sexual harassment. As historians Jane McDermid and Anna Hillyer describe:
With other female activists from the union, Goncharskaia had gone from one laundry to another persuading the women to join the strike. They would fill buckets with cold water to douse the ovens. In one laundry, the owner attacked Goncharskaia with a crowbar; she was saved by the laundresses grabbing him from behind.
In August, faced with General Kornilov’s attempts to crush the revolution, women rallied to the defense of Petrograd, building barricades and organizing medical aid; in October, women in the Bolshevik party were involved in the provision of medical aid and crucial communications between localities, some had responsibility for coordinating the rising in different areas of Petrograd, and there were women members of the Red Guard. McDermid and Hillyer describe another Bolshevik woman’s involvement in October:
The tram conductor, A.E. Rodionova, had hidden 42 rifles and other weapons in her depot when the Provisional government had tried to disarm the workers after the July days. In October, she was responsible for making sure that two trams with machine guns left the depot for the storming of the Winter Palace. She had to ensure that the tram service operated during the night of 25 to 26 October, to assist the seizure of power, and to check the Red Guard posts throughout the city.
The trajectory of the revolution widened the gap between working women for whom the war was the cause of their hardship, whose calls for peace grew louder as the year went on, and the feminists who continued to support the bloodshed. For most liberal upper-class feminists who advocated equality in law and education and for social reform, those gains would be won through proving themselves loyal to the new government and to the war effort. Proving patriotism was part of winning a seat at the table.
The February Revolution had led to renewed campaigning by feminists for universal suffrage, a significant step forward when it was granted in July. But for most women, voting rights made little difference to their lives, which were still dominated by shortages, long working hours, and battling to keep their families together. As Kollontai had written in 1908:
However apparently radical the demands of the feminists, one must not lose sight of the fact that the feminists cannot, on account of their class position, fight for that fundamental transformation of the contemporary economic and social structure of society without which the liberation of women cannot be complete.For most working-class and peasant women, questions of oppression and equality were not posed in the abstract, but emerged concretely from the process of fighting to improve their lives and those of their men and children. Those who became overtly political and more confident, often as members of the Bolshevik Party, did so as a result of their own collective action against the war and politicians — action that centered on opposition to hunger, war, and for land ownership. Robert Service argues:
The Bolshevik political programme proved steadily more appealing to the mass of workers, soldiers and peasants as social turmoil and economic ruin reached a climax in late autumn. But for that there could have been no October revolution.
This was experienced as fully for women workers, peasants, and soldiers’ wives as for their male counterparts. Without the support of the mass of unskilled working people in Petrograd, most of them women, the October insurrection would not have succeeded.
Support for the Bolsheviks was not blind but the result of, in Trotsky’s words, “a cautious and painful development of consciousness” by millions of workers, men and women. By October, everything else had been tried: the Provisional Government and the Mensheviks had betrayed them, demonstrations had brought repression or limited gains which no longer satisfied their hopes for a better life, and, crucially, the Kornilov coup attempt had made the stakes clear — go forward or be smashed. One worker put it like this: “The Bolsheviks have always said, ‘It is not we who will persuade you, but life itself.’ And now the Bolsheviks have triumphed because life has proved their tactics right.”
It was to the Bolsheviks’ credit that they took the woman question as seriously as they did. Although from today’s standpoint women were sorely underrepresented, serious effort went into organizing and developing women workers. The fact that the Bolsheviks did more than other socialist parties to relate to women workers was not necessarily because of a greater commitment to women’s rights.
Mensheviks and Bolsheviks both understood the need to engage with women as part of the working class, but the Bolsheviks could integrate the fight for equality between men and women into a strategy based on class activity against the government and the war, while the parties that were implicated in the continuation of war and deals with the privileged and employers could do little more than report on women’s strikes and talk about political rights, with no concrete solution for the material pressures of women’s lives.
The Bolsheviks increasingly took on the organization and politicization of women — in part learning from February’s explosive beginnings and in part because of the tenacity of their own women members.
Leading Bolshevik women such as Kollontai, Krupskaia, Armand, Konkordiia Samoilova, and Vera Slutskaia, among others, had long argued that the party should make special efforts to organize women workers and develop their political education. They fought to convince their male comrades that unskilled women workers were centrally important and not a passive, conservative, “backward” obstacle to revolution. The Bolshevik paper Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker), first issued in 1914 and relaunched in May 1917, carried articles on the importance of crèches, nurseries, and protective workplace legislation for women, and repeatedly underlined the need for equality and for “women’s issues” to be taken up by all workers.
The role of women workers in February and their continued importance as part of the Petrograd working class helped to change the view among many Bolshevik men that concentrating on women’s issues gave ground to feminism and that revolution would be led by the most skilled and politically conscious (male) workers. Nonetheless, it was an uphill battle; when Kollontai proposed a women’s department for the party in April she was largely isolated, although she had support from Lenin, whose April Theses weren’t received with much more enthusiasm by the Bolshevik leadership — similarly, Kollontai was Lenin’s only supporter on the central committee.
In following months, however, it became clear that both Lenin’s argument about carrying the revolution through to Soviet power and Kollontai’s grasp of the importance of women workers flowed from the dynamic of the revolution and could propel it forwards. Bolshevik papers beyond Rabotnitsanow argued that entrenched sexist attitudes endangered class unity, and the party worked to get women represented on factory committees, challenging attitudes among men who regarded women workers as a threat and arguing with male workers to vote for women — especially in industries where the latter were a majority — and to show them respect as fellow workers, representatives, and comrades.
Six weeks after the October Revolution, marriage was replaced with civil registration and divorce became available at the request of either partner. These measures were elaborated a year later in the Family Code, which made women equal before the law. Religious control was abolished, removing centuries of institutionalized oppression at a stroke; divorce could be obtained by either partner with no reason given; women had the right to their own money and neither partner had rights over the other’s property. The concept of illegitimacy was eradicated — if a woman did not know who the father was, all her previous sexual partners were given collective responsibility for the child. In 1920, Russia became the first country to legalize abortion on request.
The 1917 revolution was initiated and shaped by women and over the course of the year, many ancient conceptions of women as inferior, as property, as passive, backward, conservative, unconfident, and weak were challenged, if not obliterated, by women’s actions and political commitment.
But the Russian Revolution did not abolish male domination or liberate women — the catastrophic privations of the civil war and the subsequent distortions of the Soviet government made that an impossibility. Inequalities remained. Few women occupied positions of authority, few were elected to administrative bodies, and sexist ideas could not simply disappear in the extreme adversity that followed October.
During the revolution, women did not participate equally with men or contribute as significantly to the higher levels of the political process, but within the constraints of their lives they defied expectations and shaped the course of the revolution. As McDermid and Hillyer say:
True, the division of labour between women and men remained, but rather than conclude that women had failed to challenge male domination, we might consider how they manoeuvred within their traditional sphere and what that meant for the revolutionary process.
Women were integral to the 1917 revolution, making history alongside men — not as passive spectators or apolitical ciphers but as courageous participants whose engagement was more meaningful for the rejection of entrenched oppression it represented. Seeing the revolution through the eyes of women gives us a richer reading of what remains the most transformative historical moment for women’s lives.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2762. A Report: The Big Bad Fix – The Case Against Climate Geoengineering

By Biofuelwatch, November 2017

The Big Bad Fix – The Case Against Climate Geoengineering,” a report released today by ETC GroupBiofuelwatch and Heinrich Böll Foundation, warns that geoengineering (the large-scale manipulation of the climate) is gaining acceptance as a would-be technological fix for climate change in key emitting countries, as these countries refuse to break away from their fossil-fueled economies. Geoengineering research programs and projects planned by industry and state-funded and private research institutions are proliferating, primarily in high-emitting countries such as the US, the UK and China. “The Big Bad Fix” analyses the context and risks of geoengineering, and reveals the actors, vested interests and political developments underway to advance the large-scale technological schemes to manipulate the Earth’s natural systems.
Although considered reckless and unacceptable by many scientific and political experts, geoengineering is now increasingly being pushed into the mainstream of climate policy debates, where it creates the illusion of a technological shortcut to manage the symptoms of climate change without addressing its root causes.
However, as the report details, geoengineering poses many risks for people, ecosystems and security. It relies on excessive land, water and resource consumption, threatens food security, and undermines democratic control over the world’s commons because its untested technologies are also developed by patent-holders for profit. Therefore, the report states, irreversible harm to biodiversity and ecosystem integrity is highly probable. There are also serious concerns about geoengineering governance, including the potential for unilateral deployment, the risk of conflict in the event of adverse regional impacts and side effects, and the risk of weaponization of geoengineering technologies.
“Geoengineering is a dangerous defence of the failed status quo, not a technical or scientific necessity. In fact, the technologies put forward for geoengineering will most likely worsen rather than solve the multifaceted problems created by climate change. Claiming that we ‘must’ deploy geoengineering is saying that we would sooner do irreparable harm to our planet than alter our economic system that benefits only the very few at the top,” says Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch.
The “Big Bad Fix” is being launched today in Nairobi during the 3rd United Nations Environmental Assembly and in the run-up to a meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal. Geoengineering is subject to a de facto moratorium under the CBD, and marine geoengineering is prohibited by the London Protocol of the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution. The authors of the report argue that these decisions must be upheld and must be the starting point of any legitimate, international and democratic discussion of geoengineering governance.
“Geoengineering would exacerbate the global power imbalance, creating winners and losers. It would be foolish to allow a group of countries to take control of the global thermostat,” states Silvia RibeiroLatin America Director of ETC Group. “Governance must not be mistaken to mean establishing regulations to legalize and permit the development of such technologies. Banning exceedingly risky and dangerous technologies is a legitimate and prudent approach to governance, as put in practice with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the UN’s adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017,” adds Ribeiro.
Instead of resorting to unproven, risky technofixes, the report calls for the rapid implementation of a climate-just vision for limiting global warming to under 1.5°C.
“Proponents of geoengineering are feeding the illusion that we can escape our climate crises without having to adjust our emission-heavy lifestyles. But reality is not that simple. Not only do geoengineering technologies come with new risks and side effects, they also distract from the only proven solution for climate change: a radical reduction of climate changing emissions. Before geoengineering is put into action, we need clear and binding regulations for these technologies. An international framework of regulation must be grounded in the precautionary principle, and technologies with associated risks that are not predictable, justifiable or manageable must be prohibited outright,” says Barbara Unmüßig, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
The report concludes that the numerous high-impact risks of geoengineering, and the political, social, cultural, economic, ethical, moral, intergenerational and rights-based problems it implies, render geoengineering unacceptable. Further, the authors argue that it is a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to support viable alternatives: making deep emission cuts in the near-term and rapidly transforming our economies to allow for a socially and ecologically sustainable and just future, rather than locking the world into a long-term dependence on non-existent, high-risk technologies.

2766. Dismantling the Nuclear Beast

By Kay Matthews, La Jicarita, December 5, 2017
Verna Teller, former governor of Isleta Pueblo, who gave the keynote speech on Friday night. Photo by Robin Collier.
To see what “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are in action you should have attended the “Dismantling the Nuclear Beast Symposium” at the University of New Mexico last weekend. When I walked into the conference room on Saturday the attendees introducing themselves ranged from the Navajo Nation, Jemez Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, Alaska, Utah, Arizona, Española, California, Tularosa, Albuquerque, White Mountain (Ute Mountain Utes), Santa Clara Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, and Taos. They represent organizations that are fighting to dismantle the nuclear beast from uranium mining and enrichment to weapons production and nuclear waste storage: The Nuclear Issues Study Group; Diné No Nukes; Citizen Action New Mexico; Laguna/Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment; Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety; Nuclear Watch New Mexico; Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment; Tewa Women United; Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium; Alliance for Environmental Strategies; Haul No!; and Southwest Research and Information Center.
The mining and milling of uranium has hit New Mexico particularly hard. Along what is referred to as the Grants mineral belt and on the Navajo Reservation are the remnants of underground such as La Jara Mesa, Roca Honda Mine, Mount Taylor Mine, Marquez Canyon Mine, four proposed surface mines in the Churchrock/Crown Point area, and 13 abandoned mines within a five mile radius of Churchrock. The open pit Jackpile Mine at Paguate, on Laguna Pueblo, sends radioactive dust into the air, and the former mill sites of Ambrosia Lake, Kerrmac, and Homestake near Milan have contaminated the groundwater and plumes are heading towards Grants and Bluewater. On July 16, 1979, 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island radiation release, the Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam and 1,100 tons of radioactive mill waste and approximately 93 million gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Rio Puerco, through the town of Gallup, and into Arizona. The contaminated water left residues of radioactive uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium, as well as traces of metals such as cadmium, aluminum, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, sodium, vanadium, zinc, iron, lead and high concentrations of sulfates.
A precipitous drop in uranium prices in the 1980s squelched the mining and milling boom that created this development, but the panelists at the Saturday morning symposium are still dealing with its residue and anticipating its possible rebirth if the price of uranium once again increases. Klee Benally, a Diné activist who lives in Flagstaff, told the audience that 10 million people live in close proximity to abandoned uranium mines that have yet to be cleaned up; 3,272 of those mines are located in five western states. Because uranium is classified a “hard rock” mineral, it falls under the auspices of the 1872 General Mining Act that allows mining companies to avoid responsibility for clean-up (several bills to reform the Mining Act were introduced in the 2000s but were defeated by the mining lobby).
Chris Shuey of the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) explained that the Superfund program is the only law with oversight over these clean-up sites and it’s sorely inadequate; only the Environmental Protection Agency and the corporations responsible for the contamination have a seat at the table to determine the clean-up operation. The billion dollars that has been spent on settlement negotiations has addressed only 40 percent of identified mines.
Yolanda Badback, of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe of Utah, lives in a community called White Mesa that lies five miles north of the White Mesa uranium mill, the only conventional uranium mill operating in the United States today. While the mill is currently undergoing a licensing renewal, there are plans to ship clean-up waste from mines and mills that are no longer in operation to the White Mesa mill. Badback wants the mine closed: her community has to drink bottled water because of aquifer contamination.
. . . . .
The afternoon panel consisted of activists who are engaged in the second phase of the nuclear beast: the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear waste storage. Beata Tsosie-Peña and Kathy Sanchez of Tewa Women United spoke about the impacts of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which sits on the Pajarito Plateau directly above their pueblos, on the environment, on their cultural connections, their art, and their personal lives. Myrriah Gomez, who is a UNM professor in the Honors College, spoke of her grandparents, who were part of the homesteaders community on the Pajarito Plateau forcibly removed when the Army took over the area to establish the Lab during World War II. Born and raised in El Rancho, where her family relocated, Gomez now works with both Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), and the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.
These two groups are led by powerful New Mexico women, Joni Arends and Tina Córdova. Córdova, born and raised in the small Hispano village of Tularosa, founded the Consortium in 2005 to force the U.S. government to acknowledge the impact on downwinders of the first nuclear blast test detonation at the Trinity Site near Tularosa in 1945. These “unknowing, unwilling, uncompensated, innocent victims” have suffered debilitating health defects from the radioactivity released during the bomb test. Her group has been pushing for a bill in Congress to include the Tularosa Downwinders in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) that covers uranium miners and workers exposed to atmospheric nuclear testing (according to Córdova, $2 billion has thus far been paid in compensation). The bill has been held up in Congress for seven years, and a recent hearing on the bill was postponed.

Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.  Photo by Robin Collier

Joni Arends has been demanding accountability at LANL for 30 years as an opponent of the Waste Isolation Pilot Program and director of CCNS. More than 21 million cubic feet of toxic waste has been buried at LANL since 1943. Joni has done the due diligence necessary to monitor the Lab’s adherence to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that deals with the disposal of hazardous waste at LANL. Numerous violations have occurred over the years: monitoring wells designed to measure underground contamination were inadequately designed and built; chromium plumes extend from the Lab’s boundaries towards the Rio Grande. Since 2010 Joni has been working with Tina Córdova and the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium to prepare a Health Impact Assessment on the downwinders.
While the moderators of the symposium, Leona Morgan (Diné) and Eileen Shaughnessy (UNM professor), co-founders of the Nuclear Issues Study Group, stressed throughout the day that the gathering was not only a report on the history of the nuclear industry and the battles currently being waged to dismantle it, but also a pledge of resistance with innovative ideas on how to proceed. But the last panelist on Saturday’s schedule, Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, acknowledged the difficulties of this fight in his discussion of current political realities. LANL currently spends $1.7 billion dollars a year on nuclear weapons production; Sandia Laboratory in Albuquerque spends $1.8 billion. Kirtland Air Force Base stores 2,500 warheads on the outskirts of Albuquerque. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages all things nuclear under the Department of Energy, has requested a $10.2 billion budge for 2018. Our congressional delegation continues to support pit production (the plutonium core of a nuclear weapon) at LANL, development of the so-called smart weapons, the stockpile stewardship program—in other words, all things nuclear. In the meantime, poverty listings by state (including Washington D.C.) rank New anywhere from 47th to 51st.

Eileen Shaughnessy and Leona Morgan.  Photo by Robin Collier

Politically, our resistance has to debunk their rationale that these nuclear industries are the engines that drive the economy of New Mexico; all nuclear conductors should be fired and replaced with alternative energy drivers. A billion dollars spent on clean-up at both Labs and at Kirtland could provide thousands of jobs and perhaps save us from the chromium plume headed towards the Rio Grande, contamination from Sandia’s mixed waste landfill, and Kirtland’s jet fuel plume flowing beneath the streets of Albuquerque.
Signing the U.N Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be a huge step towards this goal. The indigenous people of the world, those who “have been most negatively impacted by nuclear colonialism,” are taking a leading role in the work necessary to dismantle this nuclear beast. They are the resistance.

Monday, December 4, 2017

2765. Remembering James Richard O’Connor (Apr 20, 1930 – Nov 12, 2017)

By Center for Political Ecology, November 2017
James Richard O'Connor
Michael Goldman
Jim was an intensely driven, passionate, and creative human, friend, scholar-activist, and intellectual who lived each day based on deeply held principles of social justice and revolution.  His contributions to the understanding of the workings of capitalism and the state have been monumental. His work has been translated and debated in dozens of languages all over the world, and remain essential for social movement activists and teachers fighting against the catastrophe called capitalism.  Before retiring as professor of Sociology at UCSC due to severe chronic back pain, he started an international journal, published a series of books, and kicked off an international discussion on capitalism and the environment in ways that still thrive in universities and public spaces everywhere.   His ideas live on and remain sustenance for young students everywhere navigating their way into the world of scholar-activism.
Besides the idea of revolution, his greatest love was his companion for many decades, the lovely Barbara Laurence, who kept Jim grounded in love, in the world, and with friends and music and good cooking.  Barbara gave her all to Jim, giving angelic care, especially in his last years, when Jim’s illness overtook him.  Jim will be missed sorely by family, friends, and comrades the world over. (Michael Goldman)
Giovanna Ricoveri
James O’Connor’s intellectual and political contribution to social sciences has been important, although not enough recognized. His formulation of the second contradiction of capitalism – that between capital and nature– has been crucial to understand the crisis of mature capitalism in the last decades of the XX century and that of the European social democracy to deal with it. For me, he has been a long time loyal friend and “a master”.(Giovanna Ricoveri)
John Gulick
John Gulick Facebook Post
Stuart Rosewarne
Vale James O’Connor
The passing of James O’Connor marks a significant moment in the history of Marxist scholarship and politics. Born in 1930 and growing up in Boston, a short stint in the merchant marine introduced him to a world beyond the oppressive cultural and political environment of Cold War America. This aroused his interest in a more critical engagement in understanding the world beyond capitalist America. He completed studies in economics and sociology before working on a doctoral thesis exploring the forces that had resulted in the Cuban revolution, a study, which was subsequently published under the title of The Origin of Socialism in Cuba in 1970
This set him on the path as a warrior, along with others such as Joel Kovel, as a radical in the face of the cultural wars that were unfolding with the civil rights movement, feminism and student movements. He joined an emerging group of young intellectuals interested in drawing on the writings of Marx and other radicals intent on critiquing capitalist hegemony. He was intent on reinvigorating debate within Marxism and investigating established interpretations of this tradition to forge an invigorated Marxist analysis of capitalism, first publishing a series of reflections that contributed to exposing the nature of American imperialism and the unfolding contradictions with global capitalism.
After some teaching positions on the east coast, Jim took up academic positions in San Francisco where he joined a cohort of other radical thinkers in the early 1970s, and where he began to really make his mark on radical thinking and politics and particularly Marxist discourse. His particular focus concentrated on interrogating the role of the state in contemporary capitalism, and he drew together similar thinking colleagues to debate and develop critique. He led the way in setting up the journal Kapitalistate in 1973. The journal brought together comrades from the San Francisco Bay Area and from across North America and the world, including Italy, Germany and the U.K. His own thinking was developed in The Fiscal Crisis of the State, a pathbreaking analysis of the fundamental contradictions inherent in the role of the state’s inability to reconcile all of the claims for resources being made on the state. The Fiscal Crisis firmly established his standing as one of the foremost Marxist critics of the era.
The originality of The Fiscal Crisis lay in the innovative approach to drawing on Marxian categories to rethink how we should analyse the state. This capacity to revisit Marx’s concerns was also demonstrated in subsequent publications that concentrated on the multiple crises of capitalism, with the publication of Accumulation Crisis in 1986, followed by The Meaning of Crisis in 1987.
Settled in Santa Cruz at UCSC, and drawing on Barbara Laurence’s enthusiasm for protecting the red wood forests on the Californian coast, Jim turned his attention to the environmental destruction being wrought by the capitalist system. Indicative of his longstanding efforts to encourage others to join in and develop critiques of contemporary capitalism, he, Barbara and others, fostered a coterie of graduate students to contribute to this developing critique. He reconnected many of his old comrades to focus on the environmental question and established the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism as a global enterprise and the Center for Political Ecology.
Once again, Jim returned to exploring ways of creatively building on Marxian categories to reformulate how we might go about interrogating capitalism’s destructive force.  Incorporating insights from Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, Jim posited the notion of ‘the Second Contradiction’ of capitalism, the inherent tendency for the process of capital accumulation to undermine the natural (environmental) conditions of its existence.  This concept contributed, if not spearheaded, a dramatic engagement of Marxists and other radicals in recasting their critical focus on the environment.
The formulation of ‘the Second Contradiction’ was posed in opposition to the shift in radical discourse that had been influenced by post-structuralist thought and which had jettisoned Marxist theory to privilege the place of social forces, other than class. Jim was determined to re-establish the import of the working class in the forging of a progressive politics, and this prompted some intense and often acrimonious debate, not always confined to the battle for intellectual primacy in understanding the force of social struggle. But the significance of the notion of ‘the Second Contradiction’ lies in the extent to which it has become a foundation, or reference point, for the extraordinary growth in radical analysis of the array of environmental problems across the global.
Jim will be remembered by friends and foes alike, as well as those who he encouraged to join the cause, as an iconic figure in our efforts over the last fifty or so years to rebuild the force radical discourse and to take control of our political future. Over the last decade or more, he was working on extending this project by developing a critique of the many contradictions embedded in the processes of globalisation and neoliberalism, a project that remained frustrated by ill-health. However, he leaves behind a remarkable legacy that will continue to frame and inform radical analyses of capitalism’s many contributions well into the future. (Stuart Rosewarne)