Bill Onasch

Week In Review March 27

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Mar 272019
 

KC Labor—

Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000

Week In Review March 27—Part 3 Green New Deal

by Bill Onasch

Greetings From the Land of Drought and Flood

Most of the Midwest has suffered at least near drought conditions over the past several years. This past winter did bring a number of major snow events. The early snow melt run-off has already produced the biggest Missouri River floods in decades. But an AP dispatch warns,

Even as floodwaters receded in hard-hit places in in the Midwest, experts warned Saturday that with plenty of snow still left to melt in northern states, the relief may only be temporary.”

The most disastrous flood in Kansas City history came in July, 1951. It was an event I will never forget. Dozens of people, along with thousands of livestock perished. My family lost our modest house in Armourdale and except for a couple of suitcases of clothes, photo albums, and the canary, lost all the contents of our home.

Damage losses in that flood were estimated at a billion dollars—about 97 billion in today’s dollars. After the ’51 Flood there was a flurry of new flood control infrastructure, mainly managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. But there have always been tensions of conflicting demands for water for agriculture, power plants, recreation, barge traffic—and, of course, safe drinking water.

A New York Times article quotes predictions that 25 states are still likely to experience serious flooding. An earlier Times story–Fight to Tame a Swelling River With Dams Outmatched by Climate Change * –is also useful.

In most cases, farmers will be hit harder than workers. Trump’s xenophobia has cut off availability of migrant labor at crucial times of the seasons and his trade war has hurt American farmers much more than global competitors. But more devastating is continued denial of global warming and scrapping any projects advocated in the Green New Deal.

The GND

Sean Sweeney, director of the International Program for Labor, Climate and the Environment, gives a good description of how the current Green New Deal came to be. Introduced last month by Senator Ed Markey D-Mass, and in the lower House by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who thrifty publishers trying to conserve soy ink have rechristened AOC—a newly elected Democrat from the Bronx, it’s shaken up a lot of things.

It is certainly the most comprehensive statement about climate change ever offered on Capitol Hill. GND affirms the goal of the Paris climate accord to cap global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To accomplish this It advocates a crash program to slash greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next ten years—and down to virtual zero in thirty.

More than that, the measure recognizes the need for a massive restructuring of the economy—rapid replacement of fossil fuels in electricity generation with clean renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro; electrification of most transportation; genuine energy efficiency in new and renovated housing.

Most importantly, the GND acknowledges this restructuring will eliminate millions of current jobs–including union ones with good pay and benefits. But they pledge no worker will be left behind.

Just Transition

The concept of Just Transition has a long history in the American labor movement. JT was a prominent part of the program of the Labor Party project (1996-2012) It was also adopted by the Green Party in 2000 at the suggestion of their presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader brought along his long time collaborator the late Tony Mazzocchi of the Labor Party to the Green convention to explain JT.

Basically it means that when workers lose their jobs for the good of society as a whole society has an obligation to continue their pay and benefits, and offer retraining and relocation funds, until they find suitable new jobs. The new congressional GND resolution continues Just Transition.

Today, it is no longer a matter of applying JT to a mine closing here, a chemical plant there, or a toxic dump on the edge of town. Similar to World War II, the biggest industries in the world’s biggest economy will have to be retooled—not for war but to save our biosphere.

The principle of Just Transition is further expanded in the GND to guarantee health care (Medicare for All); education; race, gender, immigrant, and LGBT equality—and labor rights.

Excellent, If Incomplete, Talking Points

I was only disappointed about the lack of direct commentary concerning Urban Sprawl—especially a crisis in the USA. We need to halt and reverse this blight on every metropolitan area by rebuilding a vertical urban core while reclaiming and restoring the forests, wetlands, and farm lands that once surrounded and nurtured our towns.

Of course, you can’t say all that needs saying about a crisis that could mean the end of humanity in a single piece—I know because I used to try. The authors of the GND have done a good job in beginning to put climate change at the top of the agenda. It drew the attention of the editorial board of the New York Times. MSNBC has a special show Friday evening with AOC commenting on GND. GND has been endorsed by the Labor Network for Sustainability. And the Green New Deal was a powerful motivator for the recent world-wide climate marches by hundreds of thousands of students.

But Whats Next?

Feeling cocky after the Trump family avoided indictments, the Senate GOP leadership decided to force the donkeys to fish or cut bait on the GND. The Dems evaded the fight.

Trump curses the dead for foiling his pledge to repeal and replace what he calls ObamaCare. He is now pinning his hopes of taking a Texas Judge ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution through the Supreme Court.

This concludes the promised 3-part look at the Green New Deal. Next time I will make some suggestions of how we can move from its valuable talking points to substantive action.

That’s all for this week.


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KC Labor— Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000 Week In Review March 11—Part 2 Green New Deal by Bill Onasch

 Week In Review  Comments Off on KC Labor— Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000 Week In Review March 11—Part 2 Green New Deal by Bill Onasch
Mar 162019
 

by Bill Onasch

Eight Years Later, Still Stands Up

In June-July, 2011 I gave a two-part presentation at the old monthly KC Labor Forum entitled What Can We Do To Stop Climate Change? In taking the first fresh look at it for years I was surprised, but far from pleased, how few revisions would be needed today.

But one is pretty big. In 2011 there was still a lot of talk about “peak oil” leading to shortages and wars. Fracking was just emerging but, of course, today has made the USA the world’s biggest producer of oil, natural gas, and soon petrochemicals.

I concluded my remarks:

Our destiny depends on energizing a class-conscious, fighting labor movement and utilizing our unions and other worker organizations to launch a Labor Party to contest the bosses for political power by any and all means necessary.

That statement has been valid since before any of us in this room was born. But now, the threat of climate change has raised the stakes higher than ever. I am convinced that if we fail to mobilize the strength of our class in battle soon the future of humanity will be bleak indeed. But, conversely, if we do get our act together for class and climate justice no force on Earth can stop us.”

Winter Of Our Discontent

I imagine we all have a relative or neighbor who is a global warming denier. During particularly harsh cold spells, such as the one that began in North America in October, they can become insufferable.

They gleefully point to more than 200 inches of snow in northern California; once in a generation big snows in normally rainy Seattle; an Amtrak train bogged down for forty hours in Oregon snow drifts; bizarre snow in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Malibu; the Russian River that carries mountain snow melt in to the Pacific peaked at its highest level in a quarter-century, flooding more than 2,000 homes and businesses. The cheerful deniers are fond of saying—“sounds like global cooling to me.”

A tweet from the twit in the White House ended with “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” Trump’s latest Science Advisor appointment—a physicist at Princeton—calls climate science a “cult.” He also has a peculiar fetish about carbon dioxide.

Of course, these recent examples I’ve cited are mainly weather episodes, not climate. The NASA website explains, “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.”

Most would agree that 24 years is a relatively long period. The planet-wide average temperature has risen in 22 of the last 24 years.

Local television meteorologists usually report on weather disasters—but are discouraged by their employers from mentioning any possible connection with climate change.

Many local cable TV systems offer BBC news where viewers would have learned that the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution has enjoyed 70F temperatures this winter–but are also being punished by the same kind of wildfires that have plagued California for years.

Acting Your Age

Though younger than Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, at age 76 I’m not likely to see the decisive battles that will determine the future of human civilization. But I’m encouraged by a group of elementary and high school students who have filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government for destroying the biosphere needed to sustain our species. CBS Sixty Minutes recently covered Juliana V United States.

But many young persons have chosen the venue of the streets rather than the courts in pursuit of climate justice. An AFP dispatch from Oslo begins,

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school girl climate campaigner who has inspired worldwide protests, should be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace prize, Norwegian lawmakers said Thursday. ‘We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees,’ Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy Andre Ovstegard told AFP.”

Greta just turned 16. Yesterday (Friday 3/15) hundreds of thousands of students on every inhabited continent responded to Greta’s call to boycott classes and instead join in climate demonstrations.

A New New Deal?

A Chicago friend whose opinions I respect, and suggestions I usually accept, urged me not to get in to a historical polemic against FDR’s 1930s “New Deal” while evaluating the most recent incarnation of a Green New Deal.

I raise the question only because the authors of the GND congressional resolution give equal credit for recovery from the Great Depression to the earlier New Deal as well as armament production for World War II. The truth is that mass unemployment persisted throughout the New Deal and ended only when the government essentially took charge of the war economy.

The editorial board of the New York Times published a piece titled“The Green New Deal Is Better Than Our Climate Nightmare.” But better than a nightmare seems faint praise indeed. The Times liked many of the climate-specific proposals but seemed to resent inclusion of what some call “extraneous” issues like health care, housing, employment, education, minimum wage, taxes, etc.

For nearly thirty years there have been multinational efforts to integrate climate measures in to the capitalist marketplace—carbon price; carbon tax; carbon offsets. Sister Greta has a greater sense of alarm and urges that we treat the Earth “like a house on fire—because it is.”

To achieve massive reductions in greenhouse emissions by 2030—a no nonsense deadline for avoiding irreversible climate catastrophe down the road—means more than switching to zero emission fuel.

Actually that enormous task is the easy part. Clean renewable energy is available free of charge wherever the sun shines, winds blow, water flows. Breakthroughs in batteries make it possible to store electricity offline, adding it to the grid as needed.

Not By Energy Alone

A 100 percent clean renewable grid is achievable now. More of a challenge is replacing the cars, trucks, planes, boats, buses and trains currently relying on fossil fuels. We need to supplant chemical agriculture with organic farming. And perhaps the most difficult adjustment—halt and reverse Urban Sprawl.

I had projected two articles on the Green New Deal but I feel it is necessary to add a third—at no Extra charge.

In Brief…

  • New Boss Couldn’t Railroad Take-Backs–A union I was proud to belong in the 70-80s—the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers—has apparently fought their last battle with General Electric. GE is in the process of getting out of manufacturing in the USA. The last plant covered by the GE-UE national contract—the big locomotive works in Erie, Pennsylvania—has “merged” in to Wabtec. The new management demanded a new give-back contract. The union responded with strong strike which led to a ninety-day back to work agreement under current conditions while negotiations continue.

  • Keeping Public Service Public—I don’t know how many readers live in North Kansas City Ward 1. I generally don’t endorse candidates in local elections with no party designation but I’m making an exception for Anthony Saper. We’ve been friends for over a half-century but we’ve also collaborated on union activity in ATU 1287 and Labor Party efforts. Tony is focusing on the fight against privatization and has been endorsed by FireFighters Local 42.

That’s all for this week


Receive notification when a new WIR is posted:

send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]kclabor.org

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people Monday-Friday by 9AM Central.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.