Richard Nixon's agriculture secretary in the early to mid-1970s was Earl Butz, a man best known for advising the nation's farmers to “get big or get out.” And rural America has been following that advice ever since. Across most of the country, farms continue to grow in acreage and dwindle in number. Every state in the vast agricultural region stretching from Michigan to Kansas and Ohio to North Dakota has seen more than a doubling of average farm size since 1982.
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Labor / Economics
Stories about Labor and Economics.
For two weeks this May, organizers across 12 countries will participate in Break Free 2016, an open-source invitation to encourage "more action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and an acceleration in the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy." Many of the month's events -- pulled together by 350.org and a slew of groups around the world -- are set to take place within ongoing campaigns to shut down energy infrastructure, targeting "some of the most iconic and dangerous fossil fuel projects all over the world" with civil disobedience.
The Break Free site's opening page invites viewers to "join a global wave of resistance to keep coal, oil and natural gas in the ground." And that's where some unions have taken issue.
This past Earth Day at the United Nations, leaders from around the world signed what is being called a "landmark agreement" to address the climate crisis. Without a doubt, it is a positive step forward and can help create the political momentum to address what is arguably the defining issue of this century. But as Coral Davenport noted in the New York Times when the accord was hammered out in Paris in December, "The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming."
Scientists say the greenhouse emission targets that the parties agree to will only count for about half of what is needed to stop atmospheric temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). That's the point where many studies say the world becomes locked into a future of rising sea levels, drought, flooding, more destructive weather patterns, and shortages of food and water.
Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?
I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.
Fortunately, history is rife with examples of this kind of green-red synthesis — labor environmentalism is as old as the trade union movement.
Scientists have for decades recognized climate change as an existential crisis facing mankind, but the US media, hamstrung by a self-inflicted obsession with presenting “both sides” of every story even when there is only one, have only begun recognizing its gravity. And a huge barrier still prevents climate change from being honestly reported.
That barrier is a mainstream journalistic inability to address the central role global capitalism plays in propelling climate change, and to expose the determined, collaborative and usually carefully hidden, role it plays in stymying the profound government actions needed to prevent or at least fend off catastrophe.
A review of Paul Hampton, Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity: Tackling Climate Change in a Neoliberal World (Routledge Studies in Climate, Work and Society, 2015), £90
The complete and utter failure of the world’s governments to take meaningful action on climate change was once again apparent at the COP21 talks in Paris in December 2015. In Britain, the Conservative government was barely into its new term before it announced policies that undermined even the minimal commitments its predecessors had made. Their policies favoured fracking and other fossil fuels over renewable energy, airport and road expansion over public transport, and introduced reductions in funding that should have helped insulate homes.
The undermining of the African economy and society by minerals tycoons never ceases. When times were good and the commodity super-cycle raised prices to all-time highs from 2002-11, the natural resources boom could have been channelled into benefits for the citizenry, perhaps through a sovereign wealth fund or nationalised mines.
But pro-corporate policy prevailed and instead of circulating the wealth, most major mining houses are headquartered overseas and export their profits. The continent suffered a net negative outflow of wealth (‘adjusted net saving’), according to even the pro-extraction-and-export World Bank. Depletion of so-called ‘natural capital’ (i.e. ripping minerals from the soil) left the continent’s producers poorer, especially during the 2000s boom that was misnamed ‘Africa Rising’.
It is slowly becoming evident that today’s extractivism [economy based upon the extraction and export of natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals] is advancing in a context of increasing violence. This is not an exaggeration: distinct forms of violence are being employed to impose and protect extractivism, a situation in which popular mobilization also and ever more frequently finds itself entrapped.
This outcome should not be surprising. We know that the advance of extractivism through industries such as open air mining megaprojects, oil exploration in the Amazon, or single crop cultivation, has had enormous social, economic, territorial and environmental impacts.