SHAKING THE TREE
The Budget & Ecological Crisis
Edward S. Herman
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Same-Sex Marriage And AIDS
The Road to Marriage Equality
Violence in Mexico
Beyond the Tea Party
Resisting Resource Colonialism
Housing and Health
Emerging Labor Responses
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The Budget Fight & the Ecological Crisis
In June, the nuclear power plant at
Extended drought and persistent wildfires saw the U.S. Department of Agriculture declare the entire state of
Globally, 2010 saw massive and unprecedented flooding in
Outside of the statistics, a despairing op-ed in the New York Times by midwestern farmer Jack Hedin, a man who can trace his family’s farming history back to before the Great Depression, commented on the desperate nature of his future, as well as identifying an aspect of the cause.
“Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life. A family farm like ours may simply not be able to adjust quickly enough to such unendingly volatile weather. We can’t charge enough for our crops in good years to cover losses in the ever-more-frequent bad ones. We can’t continue to move to better, drier ground. No new field drainage scheme will help us as atmospheric carbon concentrations edge up to 400 parts per million; hardware and technology alone can’t solve problems of this magnitude.
“To make things worse, I see fewer acres in our area now planted with erosion-preventing techniques, like perennial contour strips, than there were a decade ago. I believe that federal agriculture policy is largely responsible, because it rewards the quantity of acres planted rather than the quality of practices employed.”
At the remembrance service in
However, on another level, the trend of odd and extreme weather patterns, what has been dubbed “global weirding,” is hard to ignore and looks set to continue as once-in-a-lifetime extreme weather events become the “new normal.” And there is something that connects the spill in the Gulf to the litany of extreme weather events around the globe: the corporate hunt for fossil fuels and their subsequent combustion that earns the corporations so much money at our and the planet’s expense.
Observing the circus shenanigans of our elected representatives over the past few weeks, they seem to have found science, rationality, and the extreme weather events of the outside world all too easy to ignore.
While the planet-gone-wild weather perturbations of the last year devastated the lives and livelihoods of countless millions of people, Congress spent this summer debating the repeal of a bill that promoted energy efficient light bulbs. As if that wasn’t enough, the drive by the government to ban the more wasteful incandescent bulbs—bulbs which waste 90 percent of their energy as heat—was cast as an attack on “personal freedom” by Senator Joe Barton (TX-R).
In a sign of how disconnected Congress is from reality, the vote to repeal the bill, which was in fact signed into law in 2007 under Bush, received over 200 votes in the House of Representatives, though it failed to garner a sufficient majority to win enactment. Undaunted, House Republicans brought to a voice vote another measure cast as a defense of personal liberty that would remove all federal funding for energy efficiency measures. In support of the bill, Texas Republican Michael Burgess claimed that “the federal government has no right to tell me or any other citizen what type of light bulb to use at home. It is our right to choose.”
So, not being able to use ragingly inefficient light bulbs is an affront to personal liberty and another example of government overreach, however, in the topsy-turvy world inhabited by members of congress, President Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo, the continuation of unlimited detention without trial, the use of extra-judicial assassination squads, the continuation of warrantless wiretaps, his refusal to disavow the use of torture or investigate those in the Bush administration or a host of other curtailments of civil liberties are not in any way examples of government overreach worthy of congressional discussion.
As if the light bulb debate wasn’t ludicrous enough, another bill, passed by 239 votes to 184 with the help of 16 Democrats, sought to bar the EPA from overruling states’ decisions on water quality. If the bill became law it would hamstring the federal government’s ability to protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waters from pollution and move the country decades backwards to a time prior to the Clean Water Act.
Meanwhile, in a little noted aspect of the energetic competition over which party can claim to be cutting the most from social programs to funnel additional cash to corporations and banks, Energy and Environment Daily reported that in both Republican and Democrat bills billions more dollars are being lopped off the budgets of the EPA, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior for programs that deal with energy conservation and promotion of alternative energy systems: “Those long-term cuts refer to the panoply of domestic agency spending, from EPA air-pollution monitoring to DOE efficiency grants to many other non-energy or environmental programs. But on a more granular level, the 16 percent slice taken from EPA’s budget in the April shutdown deal [brokered by Democrats] could well be the shape of things to come for most non-defense federal programs, unless the final debt pact takes a turn toward the left.”
Furthermore, because it was a Democratic proposal in the Senate that stipulated no new revenue in any deal on raising the debt ceiling, thereby removing from debate the question of ending tax breaks for the oil industry—an extremely popular measure with the general public—liberal lawmakers and their environmental backers cannot publically criticize the deal that hands yet another major victory to the oil industry.
All of this is, of course, a far cry from what we were told to expect from President Obama when he gave his victory speech in
Given the realities of the last two and a half years, Obama’s speech appears to come from an alternate universe. If Republicans have run out of policy ideas and moved to the insane end of the legislative spectrum, there’s a simple reason: Barack Obama stole all their original policies and then enacted them into law.
The yawning gulf between rhetoric and reality that defines the Obama White House, alongside the visibly decaying nature of our world, is causing some previously unquestioning liberal beneficiaries of the two party system and stalwart backers of Obama to become more forthright in their criticism. Former vice president and presidential candidate Al Gore, in a long article for Rolling Stone, decried the entire U.S. two party political system as fundamentally corrupt: “Politicians have been racing to the bottom for some time, and are presently tunneling to new depths…Largely as a result, the concerns of the wealthiest individuals and corporations routinely trump the concerns of average Americans and small businesses.”
But Gore went further and assaulted Obama himself in strong (if ultimately equivocal) terms: “President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates—including one Republican—felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the
In a recent forum at Yale’s Environment360 website assessing Obama’s overall record on energy and the environment, climate blogger and former acting assistant secretary of energy Joseph Romm gave Obama an “F” on energy and climate issues: “Obama...let die our best chance to preserve a livable climate and restore U.S. leadership in clean energy—without a serious fight.”
Elizabeth Kolbert recently had this to say: “When Obama took office, he appointed some of the country’s most knowledgeable climate scientists to his Administration and it seemed for a time as if he might take his responsibility to lead on this issue seriously. That hope has faded. The President sat on the sidelines in 2009 and 2010 while congressional leaders tried to put together majorities in favor of climate legislation. Since the midterm elections, Obama has barely mentioned climate change, and just about every decision that his Administration has made on energy and the environment has been wrong.”
The LA Times joined in with a cutting editorial entitled “In the 2012 campaign, environmentalists don’t matter: That’s the message President Obama is sending as the administration caters to smokestack and other industries.”
In a further cynical example of how the Administration operates, even as President Obama is saying that he has yet to decide on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada to Texas and government environmental studies are ongoing, documents indicate that his Administration is gearing up to support it—even before those studies are complete.
Given all of this, anyone who wants to see the reigning in of corporate power and environmental sanity cannot vote for Barack Obama again. There is no time to fall once more into the trap of lesser-evilism. It’s not a question of worrying about whether the Republicans will win in 2012; their policies already have.
Whoever does win in 2012—and judging by recent campaign contributions the corporations and ruling class are backing an Obama second term—people and the planet will lose. The only hope for environmental and social activists in the United States is to work completely outside the Democratic Party and within the new social movements against nuclear power, against hydrofracking for natural gas and against mountain top removal for coal, to name only a few. The challenge is to build links between the movements, with the rank and file of the labor unions and internationally with other groups, and create a mass movement in the United States that campaigns for a redirection of government funds toward renewable energy jobs, energy conservation, public transportation, and the new infrastructure that is so obviously and desperately needed.
The only way we are going to achieve real ecological and social progress in the U.S. is to cut all ties to the Democrats and fashion our own independent movement that is organized, autonomous, and in the streets, not lobbying in the corridors of power. The evidence is so compelling and the time for action so short, that all equivocation must end, all ties to the Democrats severed, and a new, more effective movement will rise from the ashes of Obama’s false promises, one that can combat the inequities of the world and forge policies that will begin to heal the planet. This really is the last, best hope for the earth.
Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. His writings have appeared in International Socialist Review, The Indypendent, Truthout, and ZNet. He is a chemistry and physics professor at
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.