Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter
July 23, 2016
This issue: Workers and Climate Change
Working people – and most of us are workers -- are affected by climate change in every aspect of our lives. As climate change worsens, our lives will worsen. If we are successful in bringing about the needed rapid change away from a fossil fuel based economy, working people are the ones who stand to bear most of the costs, including the cost, for millions of workers and their families, of losing their jobs.
Many elements of the environmental movement have been guilty of ignoring working people, while others actually blame ordinary working people for climate change and the injustices associated with it. Yet it is working people who are dying, in many places, even now, from excessive heat in factories, fields, construction sites, and homes. And million of working people stand to lose their jobs, homes, and communities in the transition to a low-carbon or no-carbon economy. It is rare for groups involved in the climate change movement to acknowledge this reality, let alone to develop plans for a just transition to a new economy, a transition that supports and helps those who will be most affected.
There is another, even more crucial reason, for putting the working class at the centre of a strategy for climate justice and economic transformation: the working class is the only social force with the potential power to bring about the radical changes we need to slow and stop accelerating climate change. A strategy that ignores the working class – the majority of the population – is a strategy for failure. In this issue of Other Voices, we present articles and resources which address the crucial role of the working class in halting climate change and transforming society.
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Working Class and Climate Change
The working class is the only social force with the potential power to bring about the radical changes we need to slow and stop accelerating climate change. Find articles and books about the working class and climate change in the Connexions Subject Index here
After Nice, Don't Give ISIS What It's Asking For
According to Murtaza Hussain, "from both a strategic and moral perspective, the worst thing that could be done in response to the horror of incidents like Nice would be to give ISIS what it says it wants: polarization and communal hatred. Proposals for ethnic cleansing or 'civilizational war' may satisfy a desire to project toughness, but in reality, they feed into the group’s narrative of a world irrevocably divided along religious lines. Western Europe has faced down greater waves of terrorism in the past without giving into the strategy of the terrorists or sacrificing its intrinsic values. The crisis of the Islamic State will require a similar degree of steadfastness. But only by recognizing the trap it has set can we avoid inflicting a defeat on ourselves far worse than a desperate, fanatical insurgent group could ever hope to achieve on its own." Read more
Getting Serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground means getting serious about a just transition
The urgency of the climate emergency makes it equally urgent to develop strategies for a just transition. What happens to the millions of working families who are currently depending on incomes from jobs in and related to the fossil fuel industry? And what happens to communities whose economies rely on income from the fossil fuel industry and the low income workers as revenue dries up and energy costs rise? Many climate justice organizations have adopted messaging about a ‘just transition’ but most have failed to develop any ideas about what that would actual mean. Read more
Making Green Jobs Good Jobs
Jobs versus the environment -- it's an old dilemma that pits unions seeking work for their members against activists rallying against projects like the Keystone XL. An expanding renewable energy sector might provide a way out of this quandary. Solar and wind energy projects can put people to work without imperiling the planet. But will these jobs be friendly to workers, as well as the environment? Read more
As Temperatures Climb Across the Country, Workers Will Suffer
Serious illness and death caused by extreme heat in the workplace are not new, but as the planet continues to heat up, the dangers are increasing and more workers are dying because of heat. Read more
Canada's Liberal Government Joins NATO's War Escalation
The recent NATO summit in Warsaw made clear the military alliance’s determination to pursue a course of confrontation with Russia. Deliberate provocations, and aggressive military measures, including the placement of missiles, warships, planes, and troops on Russia’s borders are under way. Canada’s Liberal government has made it clear that it is continuing the militaristic foreign policy of the Harper regime. Read more
Green Left Weekly
An independent Australian publication and Web site committed to human and civil rights, global peace and environmental sustainability, democracy and equality, providing local, national and international news, analysis, and discussion and debate to strengthen the anti-capitalist movements. Visit Green Left Weekly here
Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity
By Paul Hampton
Paul Hampton, a Marxist trade union researcher in Britain, addresses the role of workers in the climate justice movement. Hampton posits waged workers and organized labour as essential starting points for developing a climate counter-power, a working class based movement to fight for a "just transition" to an ecologically sustainable society.
He argues that the international working class has the social power to overthrow capitalism and to reorganize production under different imperatives -- such as to meet social needs and to respect ecological limits.
While recognizing the oppression and market coercion of exploited groups such as indigenous peoples, peasants and the self-employed, Paul's view is that the location of working class within capitalist relations of production makes it the agent with both the power and the interest to modify and stop capitalist production, ultimately to overthrow it. More info here
For a review of Hampton’s book, see here
Tony Mazzochi Lives: Blue-Green Organizer takes up the ‘just transition’ mantle
There is a urgent need for the environmental movement and the labour movement to work together. This requires seriously addressing the question of what happens to the working people whose jobs depend on the current economic system, the system we have to replace. Read more