Ecology

Articles that are relevant to the issue of ecology.

Explaining a Few Things to Neruda

You will ask why my poetry

speaks of leaves and green rivers

and that family of goosanders

spinning and diving and drifting downstream

on the ebb-tide this rainy morning.

 

Where are the unemployed? You ask,

the litter, the broken windows,

graffiti curse-words and allegations,

the lost generation, the hope of revolution?

 

You will ask why my portrait is so pretty,

all those woodlands and winter skies,

when jobs are scarce and art is strangled

and freedom is bought and sold with oil.

 

In those fields we have no lapwings,

no hares, a stillness of yellow rape,

and wheat after barley after wheat.

The Skylark song is quenched in rain.

The moon rises over green absence.

 

Once there were bitterns in these woods --

salmon, kingfisher, tufted duck,

children at the village school -- all gone.

We wash the guilt of extinction off our hands.

Oh see the blood of extinction on our hands!

 

From Dark Mountain, Issue 4, summer 2013

Also see, www.dark-mountain.net

 

Comment by HealthWrithts

This article suggests that "Currently our machines, our industry, and our technology are not only eclipsing our souls, they are killing nature. Because we are not machines, because we are of the earth, and because we are also nature, our machine-based way of life is also killing us." Perhaps it is time to pull back and take a radically different perspective on what is happening to us both individually and collectively. I am not entirely clear on what, with regard to political action, the perspective presented in this article might lead to. But if we don't understand our disease we are unlikely to find a cure. That much seems clear. So read the article, and if you think the author has a point, take a look at his book.

The article

Alternet

book cover for Eros of LogosBook CoverThe following is an excerpt from Eros Over Logos: A Revolt of the Instinctual Mind Amidst the Madness of Modern Life.

We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about. —Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

As human beings living in the modern world, we must ask ourselves, “How does our beingcoexist with all our going?” It‘s an important question because every day we are constantly and simultaneously moving in multiple directions so rapidly that we rarely have the opportunity to connect with the beingof our human nature. Beingis not the same as doing, and we live in a culture of non-stop acceleration, of continual, frenzied, anxiety and competition-driven, on the goaction.

Even our foremost pastimes, the movies, television shows, and sporting events we view—things we do to recover from all our work and busyness—exemplify this glorification of non-stop, nerve-riveting action, of violence, crime, sexual exploits, and destruction.

In this world, there is very little time for rest and relaxation, and when there is time we virtually recoil from it in horror, somehow believing that the moment we cease to act, we also cease to exist. Thus, our most revered and apparent sense of self is identified with anxiety and accomplishment. Many of us tend to resolve this predicament, albeit temporarily, by sedating ourselves with drugs and/or alcohol. When the work day is done the only way many people can change gearsor get relaxed is to crack open the bottle or load up the pipe. Our use of mind-altering substances also displays our need to return to the beingof our human nature; so why does our normal modern mode of living have to operate in antithesis to it?

By losing regular contact with our underlying non-anxiety driven, non-neurotic, but intrinsically stable, calm, and reflective inner nature, we have ceased to function as, or find fulfillment in, the inherent human beingthat we are. Indeed, we are becoming increasingly like the programmed devices with which our technological society inundates us, giving the outer impression of vast and dynamic possibilities, but moreover removed from the human heart. Because we lack a true connection with our inner being,we are terrified of being alone or of being at rest; and, paradoxically, through our compulsive obsessions with the frenetic, technology-driven pace of life: we have alienated ourselves from ourselves.

The more we aspire to be in touchwith each other via technological devices such as the cell phone, internet, and webcam, the further we stray from the simple human capacity to share space: to talk in person face to face, to be silent, to listen, to breath the same air, to break bread, to live closely together, and to feel the true embodied companionship of those we love, of family, friends, and even strangers. Having quantifiably more contactsin our cell phone, MySpace, or Facebook account is not the same as having more quality relationships that incorporate depth and richness. Sometimes “less is more,” but that‘s something our capitalistic, money-driven society does not easily grasp.

In the modern Western world, powerful personalities are not usually measured as such by their magnitude of loving-kindness or their propensity to inspire the imagination and the human spirit—although figures such as John Lennon and Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly were—but moreover by their capacity to control others, to manipulate the markets and accumulate wealth. In the world of capitalism, the way powerful people relate to things, such as time, or even other people, is not in any way contemplative, reflective or appreciative; it is almost completely manipulative, aimed at molding things to fit in with their goals of how they want the world to be—for them, “time is money.”

Many of us, especially powerful people, actually value our manipulations of machines over our human relationships, and over activities or engagements that do not involve machines, like reading a book, taking a walk, or watching a sunset. The living spirit inside us was not made by a machine, neither was the sun, nor the sky, nor the earth. But the way we live denotes that machines are more significant than any of these things, and such a way of life neglects our opportunities for truly beinghuman.

Why, in our modern world, is goingvalued so utterly and completely over being? Why, indeed, is beingso profoundly devalued, held in high suspicion, and looked upon as idleness and laziness? Perhaps because if one is simply being, simply enjoying beingalive, beinghuman, beingin time and space, beinga human being; then one is not contributing to the slavish wheel of commerce, one is not feeding the grand capitalist system with one's time and energy, with one's blood, sweat, and tears, or with one's very life.

In the state of being, we cannot be accounted for by the measuring sticks of materialism.

Goingmakes money, beinghas no need for it. Goingneeds to be fueled by saleable items like gasoline and coffee, doughnuts and cell phones, CDs and computers; beingneeds no fuel, its fuel is the acceptance and appreciation of whatever exists in this moment. Goinghas many goals and agendas that require much effort and activity to accomplish. Beinghas only one goal: to be. In a state of being, just beingis enough.

“What the hell are you talking about!?!” you exclaim, jumping out of your seat. “What is this beingof which you speak?!?” In the modern world, there is an unacknowledged social consensus that we should always be preoccupied with some form of outside stimulation, that we are forever in need of something we don't have—we've become chronic “channel-surfers" of life. That's why we're always going. We can't relax. Most of us can't just sit with ourselves for five seconds.

In a state of being, however, we have the opportunity to notice what we are experiencing without reactively and automatically pursing our attachments, cravings, or desires. In a state of being, we are able to notice what our minds are thinking, and what our bodies are feeling. We are able to notice, or sense internally, the sensations inside our own skin and our perceptions of the world around us, as well as how it feels to simply bein the world. Attunement to your beingis the same thing as becoming aware of your presence:the spirit, force, energy, or whatever you would call the essenceof who and what you are as a living, sentient human being.

Although beingis shared by all humans of all cultures and all eras, and by all living creatures, in truth, beingas an aspect of our human condition and potential is not a reinforced or celebrated capacity in modern Western culture. Because we focus so exclusively on goingand on becoming, you could say that beingis not an innately modern Western phenomenon or faculty. Therefore, it is somewhat strange for us to consider. In fact, beingis more well known to pre-Western, indigenous, and Eastern cultural paradigms in which humans co-existed more directly with the planet and with one another. Beingimplies a sense of profound interconnection and interrelationship with the social and natural world, involving not only one's mental processes but also one's body awareness, sensations, energies, instincts, and intuitions.

***

According to historical accounts, it is reported that when European colonialists came to the American continent, they tended to view the Native Americans as lazy and lacking in ambition. In his recent book, Tree Of Rivers: The Story Of The Amazon, John Hemming quotes the French scientist La Condamine, from 1743, as having described Amazonian natives as “Enemies of work, indifferent to all motives of glory, honour or gratitude; solely concerned with the immediate object … with no care for the future; and incapable of foresight or reflection.”

Obviously, time enlarges perspective, and we know today that during the brutal conquest of the Americas, the European mind-set differed so radically from the Native American‘s that gross misjudgments and racial prejudices were made. Commenting on this situation from the other side of the looking glass, the Native American medicine man Lame Deer states in his autobiography:

Because we refuse to step out of our reality into this frog-skin illusion, [his term for capitalism] we are called dumb, lazy, improvident, immature, other-worldly. It makes me happy to be called 'other-worldly,' and it should make you so. It's a good thing our reality is different from theirs.

Both these accounts, the first discriminatory and the second revelatory, imply another way of relating to time within the Native American culture in which—unlike our modern Western model which is bound to the clock—it appears that beingis as equally valued as going. Denoting this other kind of time, the poet Juan Ramon Jimenez wrote, “More time is not more eternity.” Thus, from the poet‘s perspective time is a subjective experience, closely related to one's particular state of being.

Similarly, from The Labyrinth of Solitude,the Mexican poet Octavio Paz states, “the conception of time as a fixed present and as pure actuality is more ancient than that of chronometric time, which is not an immediate apprehension of the flow of reality but is instead a rationalization of its passing.” He goes on to describe “original time” which “coincides with our inner, subjective time,” in which one's “subjective life becomes identical with exterior time, because this has ceased to be a spacial measurement and has changed into a source, a spring, in the absolute present, endlessly recreating itself.”

These descriptions of time are certainly different from the ways in which we are conditioned to conceptualize, and thus experience, time in modern Western society. Time as “pure actuality,” and as “a source…in the absolute present” connotes time as beingand as presence, as the flowing of life, and as the flow through which we encounter existence. Experiencing time in this manner relates to the context and process of our lives, as well as the contents. In this mode of reality, by virtue of containing and underlying our experience, time becomes the ocean and ground of our being, and—through having been returned to its a priori or transcendent function—loses exclusive identification with going.

One way to illustrate the experience of being,not in chronological or linear time, but in this other, magical or eternal time, is to recall a time when you were in love. For love has always been an experience that somehow takes us out of the ordinary mode of mundane time as experienced by mortals, and into the realm of angels who live in mythological time. At such a time, and in such a state of being, the love you shared with the other person felt like the truest, most profound fulfillment of your life, of your entire being. What you did or where you were goingdidn't matter, because you were in love, and in that state of beingall your pressing concerns with the world faded away … for awhile.

It could be that something other than being in lovetakes you to a state of being,wherein you are completely absorbed and fulfilled without having to goanywhere else or accomplish anything. Simple everyday rituals like having a cup of coffee and gazing out the window at a beautiful landscape can induce our appreciation for being. There are also a variety of awareness disciplines, such as meditation, that provide practical techniques for developing one‘s reflective awareness and appreciation of being. Being as a quality of experience can be cultivated in many activities, even washing the dishes.

Creative activities—like painting, dancing, playing music, or writing—induce states of being in actionthat, once engaged, seem to take us over, to transport us effortlessly into another state of beingin which our capacity to experience and express our human identity and potential is profoundly intensified, expanded, and illuminated. Though we may end up with some kind of a finished product, such as a book, poem, song, or performance piece, the essential aspect of the activity involves a creative, or otherwise unnamable, transformation in the interior quality of our state of being, which then becomes manifest as an external accomplishment.

***

The point here is not that modern technology and its advancements are implicitly wrong or bad for us—though that may ultimately prove to be true—but that becoming entranced with them to the exclusion of our true human nature, our inherent humanness, is a problem. It is both ignorant and dangerous to focus only on the outer world we have created and not the inner worlds that compose who we are. And yet how can we remain connected to the inner world of our essential selves when our very civilization is based on the domination and manipulation of human beings, as well as nature itself.

Our current thrust of technology and perpetual states of rapid social activity—in the name of progress—has a two-fold effect: the first is the internal eclipsing of our capacity for being, the second is the external eradication of nature—the native environment in which we are most truly human. Through social engineering—gradually eliminating both our internal and external reference points for who we instinctually are as human beings—society remakes us into creatures who think, feel, and behave in the ways they want us to.

How do we address such insidious problems that are so deeply embedded in the function, structure, and foundations of our society that they compose the basis and overall effect of how we live? For most of us, it is nearly impossible to conceive of another perspective or way of living that does not entail the continual subjugation of nature, alongside the never-ending build-up and harnessing of technological forms of human preoccupation that guide us away from our inner selves. How can we live simultaneously in a machine-based world and on a nature-based planet? Isn't such a way of life an inherent contradiction forecasting an imminent demise?

Currently our machines, our industry, and our technology are not only eclipsing our souls, they are killing nature. Because we are not machines, because we are of the earth, and because we are also nature, our machine-based way of life is also killing us.

If we are to find solutions other than an unconscious global suicide and apocalypse, we will find them not through a crescendo of our current maniacal mode of reactive action, but through a more reflective attuning of our human beingto the being of the world. Perhaps in tending to the world—through our own conscious beingsas opposed to our unconscious goings—we can effect a healing in which we will discover the reality of the anima mundi, the soul of the world that, like us, is also alive. Through this deeper connection based on spiritual recognition, we can initiate more sensitive, aware, and unifying interactions within ourselves, with one another, and with the planet whose beingis also essentially part of ours.

 

 

Factory Farms Breed Dangerous Flu Viruses

Pat Kenschaft 

Note by HealthWrights staff

 

factory-farmingOne of the major threats to global health is the probability of a lethal flue pandemic that will kill millions if not billions of human beings. There are two human activities that create this threat: the deliberate creation of a lethal form of the flue that could be released accidentally or intensionally into the environment, and factory farming.

 

Regarding the first activity, apparently a lethal variety of the flue that would be highly contagious by air-born pathogens has already been created. See this article . With regard to the global health ramifications of factory farming, see the article below. It is also highly recommenced that you take an hour to see a well researched and very clearly presented video by Dr. Gregor that reveals just why factory farming is so dangerous to the health not just of animals that are raised in brutal and filthy conditions, but to human beings as well.

 

As we explores the probability of a lethal global flu epidemic, we see once again the same three modern horsemen of the unfolding apocalypse:

 

  1. Unregulated capitalism that puts greed and profit before the health and welfare of humanity.
  2. A disregard for the ecological integrity of the biosphere.
  3. National imperialism – primarily as practiced by the United States – which is fueling the production of conventional, nuclear and biological weapons that are likely to be unleashed on humanity through accident, miscalculation or design.

 

These three horsemen re-enforce each other, and in doing so they create a dangerous synergy. The articles and the video linked to above provide us with an informative case study in which one can clearly see the dynamics of this lethal synergy at work.


The Main Article

 

The impression I had from the promos for “Flu Factories,” that the movie wasn’t relevant to my selfish concerns because I am a vegetarian, turned out to be totally wrong. The thesis of the movie is that factory farms provide an incubator for new flu viruses that endanger the lives of
all of us, and possibly even our species.

In nature there is a limit that deadly mutations can do because “a dead bird doesn’t fly very far.” But in a factory farm a dead bird doesn’t have to fly at all to infect other birds with the same new mutant of a disease germ. This is especially true if chicken and pig factory farms are close together because our three species seem to have a special propensity to share influenza.

The film first related the modern history of flu. There were horrifying images of the 1918 epidemic when tens of millions died worldwide. That is the frightening example of what might happen again. In 1957 and 1968 new mutants caused much milder outbreaks of flu that were serious at the time but nothing comparable to 1918. Then flu worries died down until 1997, with the emergence of a new bird flu virus killing children in Hong Kong, and 1998 when a new human-pig mutant arose in a North Carolina factory farm of over 6000 pigs. A triple-species human-bird-pig virus soon spread rapidly to pig herds throughout around the country, transferred by humans who had been in contact with infected chickens or pigs. In 1989 North Carolina had only three million pigs in factory farms, but by 1998 there were over ten million. Now 95% of the egg-laying chickens in the country live in factory farms, where the living conditions are appalling, causing disease and making it easy to spread.

There was a quote that the transition from “Old MacDonald’s Farm” to the “new McDonald’s farming practices” was the biggest change in the human-animal interface in 10,000 years.

The World Health Organization made strong statements opposing factory farms as a source of disease. Only thirty percent of United States’ antibiotics are now administered direction to people; the others are given to animals in close proximity to each other in an attempt to prevent disease. This mass feeding of antibiotics to farm animals fosters the emergence of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” People who eat the resulting meat get accustomed to having antibiotics in their bodies and they lose their effect to counter disease. Experts have called such practices “a death warrant for future patients.”

Nearly every health organization in our country, including the American Medical Association and many other health organizations around the world have condemned the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock just to fatten them faster. At the same time many poultry-farming, pig-farming,and other professional farm organizations took a strong stand in favor of factory farming. We saw a quote from “National Hog Farmer” magazine saying that intense living conditions for pigs “pays.”

The film listed ten reasons that factory farms foster disease, including overcrowding, stress, lack of fresh air, lack of sunlight, cesspools of waste, flies and other vectors that take the diseases far afield, and long distance live animal transport. The great quantity means they are not all eaten locally. Red meat travels an average of 1000 miles “on the hoof” before it makes its way to consumers.

The stress of pigs is greatly helped by giving them straw in their tiny units, so they don’t have to lie directly on cement or metal and their waste. It can cut disease in half, but is not widely used, nevertheless.

The EU and six states have taken steps to phase out factory farm practices. “Flu Factories” makes repeated eloquent pleas for restoring family farms, which provide much safer meat for omnivores and also lower the chance of widespread disaster for all of us. One scientist is quoted saying that if we continue to breed dangerous viruses, we may have a worldwide disaster reminiscent of the European disaster caused by the Black Plague, when a third of Europe’s population died.

Except for one 30-second spot of renowned flu scientist, Dr. Robert Webster, the film is narrated by Dr. Michael Greger, a graduate of Cornell’s School of Agriculture and Tufts School of Medicine. He is a good teacher, and his narration is remarkably absorbing. He invites us to get more information by emailing him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Dr. Greger’s book Bird Flu is available at no cost online at birdflubook.org. He strongly urges us to eat as little meat as we can, and that sparked animated conversation after the film ended.

“Flu Factory” was the November feature in the Montclair Green Film Series. It is available here..

Monsanto's Roundup Ravaging Butterfly Populations

monarchAnother Monsanto CasualtyFriday 9 March 2012

Note by Politics of Health Staff:

Technology, understood as the replacement of the natural ecological order with a humanly engineered one, is the central dream of Western Civilization. It is the vision that inspires us, the project that organizes our energies, and the god that gives us hope. Like our political goal of multi-spectrum dominance, it is a dream of conquering and controlling. This dream has led to the defacement of the earth's beauty and to the poisoning of our environment. We do not know how much damage the delicate and complex fabric of life can tolerate before it totally unravels. The unraveling will very likely mean the end of the human species. Certainly it will mean the end of a life the is free and beautiful. The dream has become a nightmare.


Another model of technology is open to us -- one based on accommodation, symbiosis, and mutuality. This model would respect the integrity of other life forms -- other cultures, other creatures, and other ecological networks. It would seek the enhancement of our relationship with the rest of creation, not our dominion over it. But we do not yet seem ready to give serious consideration to this model.  


We know that the ecological sphere is unraveling. We have seen it in the deformed amphibians that now so sparsely inhabit our lakes, in the decay of the coral reefs, in the list of endangered species, and in the loss of the rain forests. Not long ago we began hearing about the demise of the bees.
Monsanto is both a way of thinking, and a way of crushing all living systems that stand it its way. It is the embodiment of the full-spectrum dominance ideology in the ecological sphere. It is a disaster in the making.

And now it's the butterflies.

How many canaries must we see die before we understand that it's not healthy in this mine shaft that we have dug for ourselves.  When will it be too late?

The Article by Mike Barrett:

(Source of article -- Truth Out)

Monsanto’s Roundup, containing the active ingredient glyphosate, has been tied to more health and environmental problems than you could imagine. Similar to how pesticides have been contributing to the bee decline, Monsanto’s Roundup has been tied to the decrease in the population of monarch butterflies by killing the very plants that the butterflies rely on for habitat and food. What’s been shown to be an even greater threat to the population, though, is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soybeans.

Roundup Ready Crops and Glyphosate Leading to Downfall of Insect Populations

A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.

“This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops,” said Dr. Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and director of the research and conservation program Monarch Watch. “Your milkweed is virtually gone…this [glyphosate use on RR crops] is the one main factor that has happened…you look at parts of the Midwest where there is a tremendous use of these crops and you see monarch populations dropping. It’s hard to deny the conclusion.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2011 94 percent of soybeans and 72 percent of corn grown in the United States were herbicide-tolerant. Due to this increase, the amount of Roundup used on crops in 2007 was 5 times higher than in 1997, only one year after Roundup Ready crops were available.

Another study published int he journal Crop Protection and conducted by Robert G Hartzler, an agronomist at Iowa State, found that milkweed on farms in Iowa declined 90 percent from 1999 to 2009. Additionally, his study found milkweed only on 8 percent of corn and soybean fields surveyed in 2009, which is 51 percent lower than in 1999.

Although the butterfly population may be suffering, humans are taking heat from Monsanto’s creations as well. Past research has shown that Monsanto’s Roundup ready crops are leading to mental illness and obesity, primarily by destroying the amount of good bacteria found in the gut. The corporation’s Roundup, containing glyphosate, has also been shown to cause infertility and birth defects.

Glyphosate is so present today that it has been found to be polluting the world’s drinking water through the widespread contamination of aquifers, wells, and springs. What may be most shocking is that very high concentrations of glyphosate have been found in 100 percent of urine samples tested in a recent study.

Perspectives on the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States

s al pueblo

Introduction from HealthWrights staff

HealthWrights believes that the health of the world’s peoples must be seen as inseparable from the movement to turn the tide against environmental planetary degradation. The struggle for a safe and healthy environment in poor and oppressed communities is the basis of the United States Environmental Justice movement.

In his challenging article, Bill Gallegos explains that the Environmental Justice (EJ) movement has no stake in altering its relationship to Earth Mother. Its vision is that of a world freed from the poisons that turn oppressed communities, such as in Los Ángeles, into toxic wastelands.

In the United States, the environmental movement is not a movement. Indeed, there are two environmental movements. Better expressed, there are two currents of environmental activism. One current is the collection of name-recognizable organizations. The other current is the Environmental Justice movement. This movement is rooted in working-class communities and communities of color in cities and rural areas throughout the country.

Gallegos explains that mainstream environmental organizations operate within the structure and ideology of capitalism, and that the history of racist oppression and the power of wealth effectively places the leaders of these overwhelmingly white organizations at odds with the Environmental Justice movement. The EJ movement has rarely had the funding and the political connections that mainstream organizations have. The lack of access of support from major funding organizations is one feature of this divide particularly, as Gallegos expresses, in this period of economic crisis.

Main article

As the world careens towards an uncertain future, this much is certain: if a genuine revolutionary alternative to capitalism is not realized, we may witness the emergence and dominance of a global regime of horrendous barbarism, the end-of-days festival heralding the death of Mother Earth.

We are already witness to portents of the ecological barbarism which an unrestrained capitalism inevitably produces: in unprecedented series of droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes -- all the inevitable result of an atmosphere choking on a geometrically-increasing carbon burden, of a systemic pollution and toxification of lakes, rivers, aquifers, waterways, and oceans destroying both the food and water supply necessary for the sustenance of all life, the erosion and pestilential chemical destruction of arable lands, or their conversion (a la China) into gated and militarized playgrounds for a hedonistic bourgeoisie; the apocalyptic species loss, greater than anything witnesses by our Earth Mother in 65 million years (most of the planet’s fisheries have been depleted by over-fishing or destroyed by pollution), the polar icecaps and other massive frozen water supplies are melting at a rate even the most highly-advanced computer systems have failed to predict.

This unprecedented and interconnected series of environmental events constitute what is referred to as the global ecological crisis, or what we might call the death throes of Mother Earth. The ecological crisis is itself intertwined with the global economic crisis, whose Marxist terms “stagnation due to the declining rate of profit” fails completely to capture the horror of a system that causes 24,000 children to die each day due to hunger or completely avoidable illness.

The United States is capitalism-central/headquarters for both the economic crisis and the ecological crisis. The United States is the hegemonic conductor for the global imperialist triad constituting Japan, Europe, and the US itself. This triad represents the vanguard of the Global North recognized as the principal oppressor and exploiter of the Global South (what we have called the Third World of the nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America). The US is the conductor for the triadic orchestra. It consumes one quarter of the world’s resources, although only accounts for 5% of the global population. It is the largest producer of Greenhouse gases in the world. Don’t bring up China. China has nothing like the empire of US imperialism, which analysts always fail to include in their accounting of US contributions to global warming. When the empire and all of its economic and military networks are taken into account, no other nation comes close to the US leadership of destroying the world’s ecology.

And, as the 2008 economic meltdown proved once again, it is the US capitalist economy which drives the planetary economic crisis. Again, the reach of US imperialism makes this inevitable.

As such, revolutionaries living in the United States have a special responsibility to organize and challenge our own ruling class, our own bourgeoisie (if we prefer the French terminology), to provide at least a coherent source of support for those who are on the frontlines of the anti-imperialist struggle – the peoples, movements, and nations of the Third World.

The Environmental Justice Movement in the US

It is within this context that we must assess the US environmental justice movement. The US environmental justice movement (EJ Movement) is one of the most important social movements in the country for meeting the challenge of the US-inspired ecological crisis, most clearly reflected in the terrifying increase in global warming. The US EJ Movement is a vital movement, a diverse movement, a highly successful movement, in at least holding the line against the predatory offensive of the fossil fuel industries. But like all social movements in the US, the EJ Movement is still trying to develop a vision, a program, and a strategy to guide its future work.

The US EJ Movement is made up mostly of small, usually non-profit organizations, mainly rooted in working class oppressed nationality communities. These organizations are scattered from the oppressed nation of Hawaii, to the Native communities of Alaska, and throughout the continental US. They are rooted primarily in people of color communities, but in poor white communities, such as Appalachia, as well. Nearly all of their work is local, and collectively the EJ Movement represents a significant base among the most oppressed sectors of the working class and oppressed peoples. Women make up the largest percentage of the base of most EJ organizations.

I would like to share a couple of examples of local campaigns from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)’s experience.

In 2007, CBE began a campaign against the Chevron Oil refinery in Richmond, California. Richmond is a city of 100,000, overwhelmingly working class and people of color. City politics and economy are dominated by Chevron and its 300-acre refinery, which is the largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter in the state, and which spews tons of more immediately toxic pollutants on the nearby mostly African American, Latino, and Laotian residents. When Chevron decided to expand its plant in 2008, CBE discovered that the company intended to start refining dirtier grades of crude oil. The refining process would not only release huge amounts of toxics, but nearly 1 million tons of GHGs annually. CBE and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) began a campaign to stop the project (which was approved by the City Council on a very close vote). CBE and APEN were ultimately successful in stopping Chevron’s project. One of the most important victories along the way was helping to elect a pro-environmental justice majority to the Richmond City Council, despite Chevron spending more than $1 million to elect their slate of candidates. Richmond has been a company town for more than a century, so this victory was huge.

CBE led a similar campaign in 2008-2010 in Southeast Los Angeles, preventing the construction of a 943 megawatt fossil fuel power plant in the most densely populated and highly polluted area of the LA Basin. The plant would have emitted more than 1.5 pounds of pollutants annually, as well as 2.5 million tons of GHGs. This campaign was spearheaded mostly by Latina working class immigrant women, and Latino/a high school youth. Similar local campaigns have been organized by EJ organizations throughout the United States.

There are also a few relatively large EJ organizations with bigger and more diverse staffs (scientists/researchers, attorneys, as well as organizers) who are able to pursue regional, statewide, and sometimes even national campaigns. These include CBE, the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), and the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) in California, the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in New Mexico, and WEACT in New York. The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) is the only larger EJ organization focused on organizing among API communities (primarily in Oakland and Richmond, California). The EJ Movement also includes the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) a highly-respected network of local tribal organizations from throughout the US, and with a very direct link to Indigenous organizations and networks in the Global South, especially in Latin America.

The EJ Movement also includes important intellectuals like Robert Bullard, Winona LaDuke, Cecilia Martinez, Beverly Wright, Michael Dorsey, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Manuel Pastor, and, more recently, Movement Generation, an environmental think tank in San Francisco. Politically, we can characterize the EJ Movement as a Left movement in the sense that many of its leaders are guided by an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist framework, and it is often self-identified with the larger liberation struggles of the oppressed nationality communities.

The EJ Movement is involved in an impressively broad range of struggles: against mountaintop removal, coal-fired power plants, diesel and rail traffic, pollution from shipping ports, airports, oil refineries, nuclear plants. More recently, many EJ organizations have become involved in alternative economic development issues, food justice, and electoral politics. The EJ movement has long taken up the issue of global warming and climate justice. Like all other social movements, the work of the EJ Movement is framed and impacted by the current economic crisis, which has not only devastated the already fragile economic infrastructures (loss of wealth, unemployment, and draconian cuts to funding for education, health care, and social services); but also created a pretext for the worst polluting industries to aggressively build infrastructure, while attempting to weaken or even eliminate environmental legislation.

One of the most important contradictions facing the US EJ movement (framed by the overarching contradiction with white racist monopoly capitalism) is with the larger, mostly white and petit-bourgeois “green groups” such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others. These green groups emerged mainly out of the conservation movement, a movement of privileged and wealthy elites focused primarily on maintaining pristine nature preserves. These groups prioritize their DC-focused lobbying efforts, and most recently devoted hundreds of millions of dollars and years of time and tremendous human resources to an unsuccessful effort to pass federal climate and energy legislation.

The centerpiece of the green group climate and energy program is pollution trading, called cap and trade, which would allow industrial polluters to buy and sell permits giving them the “right” to pollute, or to buy their way out of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by buying “offset” projects, mainly in the Global South. Cap and trade is a market-based program that has been a major failure nearly everywhere it has been tried – including local programs like the RECLAIM program in Los Angeles, or the European Union’s disastrous cap and trade program that embraced nearly all of Europe. Of course, as a market-driven program, cap and trade schemes have been plagued by fraud, market manipulation, and huge speculative profits. It has also been characterized by increased greenhouse gas emissions, the creation of toxic “hotspots” in the Global South, and higher energy rates for ordinary consumers.

The underlying reason for the backward positions of the green groups is a complete acceptance of the capitalist framework, that is, a belief that the focus of environmentalism should be on reaching an accommodation with capitalism and never fundamentally challenging its imperative of endless accumulation (or its white supremacy for that matter). The green groups pin all of their hopes for solving the global ecological crisis on the emergence of a “green capitalism” which will somehow, (through what Van Jones refers to as “Ideas and Inventions”), achieve a technological fix for the problem.

The EJ Movement has had to confront the green groups on a local level, at regional levels, and at the national level (where the EJ Leadership Forum attempted to win support for a regulatory and tax alternative to cap and trade in the climate and energy legislation), and at the international level, where the green groups have been nearly unanimous in promoting cap and trade as the centerpiece of any international treaty on global warming.

These recent conflicts between a mostly working class and oppressed nationality EJ movement and a white and mostly middle and upper class mainstream environmental movement have a fairly long and depressingly-consistent history of betrayal and sell-outs to corporate power. This was all called out more than twenty years ago, at The First National Environmental Justice Summit, when the EJ Movement exposed the environmental racism of the green groups (as well as US society in general) and called for a radical transformation in the perspectives, leadership, and programmatic focus of the green groups. This call was largely ignored. The EJ-Green Groups contradiction is has been further exacerbated by competition for funding. EJ groups get no more than 1% of all foundation grant monies allocated for environmental causes. The Green Groups grab most of the funding, since funders are comfortable with the pro-capitalist ideology of the green groups, and with their focus on acceptable policy change, using the more docile channels of lobbying, mainstream media campaigns, and electoral politics.

The conflict between the EJ Groups and the Green Groups around the issue of climate justice is mostly centered around the struggle over cap-and-trade programs, at the local level, such as Los Angeles, at the statewide level in California and New Jersey, and at the national level in US capitalism’s Babylonian political headquarters. Except for rare exceptions, such as Friends of the Earth, the green groups are nearly unanimous in their willingness to ignore the concerns and evidence of the EJ Movement around cap-and-trade, as well as that movement’s genuine solutions to rapidly, directly, and transparently reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the toxic co-pollutants that accompany them and which are most immediately harmful to the health of so-called “fence line communities”.

The Current State of the EJ Movement

The EJ movement has taken a tremendous hit because of the recession. As a mostly non-profit based movement, it has lost significant funding, forcing some organizations to close down or merge with others, or to cut staff and programs. This economic crisis has compelled many EJ groups to devote more time and effort to fundraising, making it extremely difficult to take on new work and struggles, even as the fossil fuel industry mounts its horrifying offensive.

The economic crisis has also made it difficult to sustain larger EJ networks. The Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ) has had to close its doors, and the African American Environmental Network also no longer exists. The New Jersey Environmental Justice Network is desperately searching for funds for its one staff person and may be unable to keep that person on board. In California, the broad EJ movement that briefly united around an effort to develop an effective implementation plan for that state’s pioneering greenhouse gas legislation, scattered to the winds after the Air Resources Board rejected virtually all of their recommendations, and after the recession hit in 2008. California had one of the more united and effective EJ movements, but it was recently unable to come together around an opportunity to get rid of the state’s cap-and-trade program (an opportunity created by a legal victory led by Communities for a Better Environment and the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment), or to defeat statewide legislation that seriously weakens the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Things are also challenging at the national level for the EJ Movement. Four years ago, WE ACT convened a national meeting of EJ organizations and academics from throughout the US to form the EJ Leadership Forum on Climate Change (EJ Forum). The Forum was the first serious and viable effort to re-group and re-build a national EJ Movement since the disastrous second EJ National Summit in 2005. The focus of the Forum was on federal climate and energy policy, a focus affirmed by the election of Barack Obama, which created political space for such legislation. The Forum was successful in articulating a strong program of proposals around climate, energy and green economic development policy, as well as in developing a powerful critique of bogus climate solutions like carbon coal sequestration. The Forum also played an active role in building a unified North American EJ delegation that participated in both the Copenhagen and Cancun international climate treaty conferences.

Unfortunately, the Forum has fallen on hard times, and has barely functioned for the last two years. This is primarily due to the fact that the Forum never developed a truly collective leadership and its initiative was largely driven solely by WE ACT, which had raised all the money for the Forum. When that money dried up and WE ACT could dedicate no full-time staff to the Forum it stopped communicating, meeting or advancing any work (with the exception of a somewhat autonomous project called the EJ and Science Initiative, formed to provide scientific and research support to the EJ community). The Forum never played to its real strength, which was in significant local bases of power to try and advance its federal efforts. Given its weak lobbying capacity at the national level, its voice was largely ignored or overwhelmed by the shameless sell-out to cap and trade by the green groups. WE ACT is now attempting to revive the Forum, calling for a national meeting on November 17-18 in DC. But it remains sadly uncertain whether this effort will be successful. It certainly will not be successful unless a true collective leadership is formed, that represents the diversity of the EJ community, and if the Forum is unable to raise the money necessary to create an effective infrastructure.

Fortunately, there is a more recent effort to regroup a national EJ Movement, around the focus of climate justice which seems to have some legs. This emerging North American climate justice network is composed of a loose network of mostly EJ organizations convened by the IEN and Movement Generation in 2010 to create a Left pole that could advocate effectively for genuine solutions to climate change, and seriously challenge false solutions such as pollution trading or the REDD program. There were nearly twenty organizations at the initial convening, including IEN, ACE from Boston, The Black Mesa Water Coalition, APEN, SWOP, CBE, the Labor Community Strategy Center and others. This loose network is also in communication and attempting to coordinate efforts with the Global Well-Being Working Group of Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ), the network that has organized the last two US Social Forums. The GGJ network consists of around 15-20 EJ organizations, most of whom are also affiliated with the Climate Justice Network. The Climate Justice Network has adopted a very progressive, mostly left manifesto that expresses its views on the global ecology crisis, while the recent GGJ Congress has developed a national campaign around the slogan of No Wars, No Warming, Build an Economy for the People and the Planet. This new national EJ network holds considerable promise, but it is still in the process of formation and lacks sufficient resources. It remains to be seen whether it can actually mount an effective grassroots campaign around its perspectives and developing climate and energy program. It is important to note that members of the Road are active and respected leaders in both the EJ Forum and the Climate Justice Network.

Where is the EJ Movement Headed?

The US EJ Movement has some important strengths, including a deep reservoir of mass support at the local level throughout the country, as well as significant networks of allies. Another strength is fairly strong left leadership, at the local level in many parts of the country (Chicago, New Mexico, IEN, California), and at the national level in both the EJ Forum and the Climate Justice Network. It is beginning to develop a strong and comprehensive program around climate justice, including important perspectives on the development of green economies. The movement is also building stronger ties with states and movements in the Global South, such as the government of Bolivia, and La Via Campesina.

The Movement also faces significant challenges, including a lack of funding (and greater competition for decreasing foundation resources), a strong regional or national infrastructure (one important exception being the California Environment Justice Alliance in California, composed of six of the major base building EJ organizations, located in important urban and rural centers throughout the state), and I would say a failure to appreciate the importance of addressing the current economic crisis, especially around concrete demands for jobs or income now. It will likely continue to face seemingly intransigent resistance from the Green Groups many of whom -- in the face of their catastrophic failure to achieve federal climate legislation – claim to have “gotten religion” and are promising the foundation world that they now see the importance of community organizing. It would be horribly ironic if these groups, rather than EJ organizations, begin to garner most of the meager funds still available for organizing.

Despite all of these challenges, the EJ Movement will continue to be at the forefront of important local struggles and on the frontline of the struggle for climate justice. As long as oppressed peoples are being poisoned and killed by polluters, people will resist them, and increasingly connect their local struggles to their larger efforts to achieve equality and self-determination.

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