by Bill Onasch
Call For a Wartime Effort
Peter Moskowitz on Al Jazeera reported,
“Climate change is real and has the potential to catastrophically affect every aspect of American life, Barack Obama’s administration said Tuesday in a report, prompting immediate calls for a national response akin to a ‘wartime effort.’….Its findings are expected to be a launching pad for Obama’s climate change policy in the last two years of his presidency.”
A color-coded map of the Lower Forty-eight States on the front page of the New York Times contrasted the 1991-2012 average temperature with the 1901-1960 average. Like most Midwest cities, my home town was in the + 1-2 degrees F range. There were ominous looking red swaths here and there indicating an increase of more than 2F. That these included southern California and a Boston-Philadelphia corridor was to be expected but I was surprised to see much of Colorado and the Minnesota Iron Range shaded in scarlet as well. The two hottest spots in the contiguous 48 were Grand Junction, up 3.2, and Hibbing 3.1.
But the biggest impact of all was off that map–Alaska. This oil-rich state that still inspires many to chant Drill Baby Drill is described in the Times article,
“Alaska in particular is hard hit. Glaciers and frozen ground in that state are melting, storms are eating away at fragile coastlines no longer protected by winter sea ice, and entire communities are having to flee inland — a precursor of the large-scale changes the report foresees for the rest of the United States.”
There is no new science in the National Climate Assessment released Tuesday. It’s methods rest on the able work of UN climate scientists. But it graphically demonstrates the impact that global warming has already had on every part of the country and warns what we can expect here in the homeland if we don’t soon change our ways on a global scale. In that respect it does an excellent, needed job.
But it could wind up as an autopsy report explaining the cause of death of civilization as we know it. There can be no acceptable long-term adaption to the human created malignancy aggressively spreading throughout our biosphere. Like the global UN assessment it regionalizes, the NCA falls far short of the mark in championing effective countermeasures it mentions–while we still have a chance.
A typical bullet about mitigation from the NCA power-point style online executive summary: “To be effective, decision support processes need to take account of the values and goals of the key stakeholders, evolving scientific information, and the perceptions of risk.”
Hardly the crisp marching orders for a “war-time response.” It is the language of endless dither, a dialect of, by, and for bureaucrats and politicians covering their backsides until retirement.
This is not the first grand-standing rodeo for the commander-in-chief. Early on in his first term he had an energy bill that promoted ethanol, new nukes, along with the already discredited cap-and-trade scam. When it got in the way of his battle for compulsory private health insurance he dropped that climate measure like it was a hot isotope.
In a fleeting visit to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, the new Nobel Peace Prize winner used a superpower veto to nix a promising international agreement. Mimicking Rockefeller who used to amuse himself by watching the poor scramble for dimes he tossed on the sidewalk, the leader of the Free World promised hush money to impoverished nations who agreed not to squawk–promises mostly unkept.
So far, the President has taken three bounds off this new “launching pad” for his climate agenda.
He took an interview with metrologist laureate Al Roker that caused quite a stir among weatherpersons across the land.
He also returned solar power to the White House. Jimmy Carter had installed solar panels there in 1979 but President Reagan ordered them removed when he replaced Carter. The current occupant has flipped the switch on an array matching a typical family home installation.
On Friday Hail to the Chief was played at a Walmart in Mountain View, California as the President gave a little speech praising the world’s biggest private employer for expanding use of solar power in their facilities. He also announced a blockbuster new regulation–improved energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers.
Some ungrateful environmentalists saw this as “greenwashing” a retailer heavily dependent on contracting production in sweatshops in the dirtiest carbon polluters in Asia, transported across the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, Walmart runs their own sweatshops here in North America and are a target of labor campaigns. Unionists were furious about their “friend’s” promotional visit. An AP article quotes former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, “What numbskull in the White House arranged this?”
Offending his allies didn’t gain the President any credit with the Republicans who denounced the Climate Assessment as “alarmist.” And the AP reported on Thursday,
“Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state, is the first to reject new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups mainly because of global warming components.”
The “stakeholders” in charge of the fossilized global economy are not going to be part of the solution–they are the problem. Part of the “war-time response” to the challenge of climate change has to include taking political power away from the class that rules. Science has given us all the ammunition we need for this conflict. Our job is to mobilize the working class majority as an unstoppable infantry that can secure a sustainable future for humanity . When there’s no safe place for flight we have to fight.
New CLC Leadership
There was a big shake up in the top leadership of the Canadian Labor Congress at its recent Montreal convention. Hassan Yussuff, who had been Secretary Treasurer, defeated incumbent President Ken Georgetti who had held the post for fifteen years by 40 votes —2,318 to 2,278 for Georgetti.
Yussuff, an immigrant from Guyana who had held various union positions since hiring on as a diesel mechanic in a CAW shop, becomes the first person of color to hold the federation’s top spot. Barb Byers, who was previously one of the CLC’s two executive vice-presidents, was elected to replace Yussuff as Secretary Treasurer.
The nearly fifty-fifty split among delegates undoubtedly registers widespread dissatisfaction with the state and prospects of organized labor. A Globe & Mail article quotes Yussuff, “They feel the [labour] movement has to pull itself together and start to push back. There’s a sense among the whole membership, including the private sector, that you’ve got to collectively start pushing back to change the direction, otherwise this movement is going to be in peril.”
But little was put forward in terms of a concrete program fundamentally different than Georgetti’s. As an observer removed from the scene, I see similarities to John Sweeney’s victory in the only contested election for top office in the AFL-CIO. The Sweeney camp projected more energy but in office didn’t do much different to change course.
Unions affiliated to the CLC represent 3.3 million workers. Considering the difference in population ratio that is the equivalent to about thirty-two million in the USA–double the actual U.S. union rolls.
RESPECT In Seattle
An excerpt from a message from Lee Sustar to the Center for Labor Renewal list,
“In union elections that concluded May 8, the opposition RESPECT slate came within a whisker of capturing the top position in the Seattle Education Association, with MAP test boycott leader Jesse Hagopian coming just 45 votes behind incumbent president Jonathan Knapp. RESPECT candidate Dan Troccoli will now advance to a runoff election after placing second in a three-way race for union treasurer. Further, RESPECT—which was initiated by the Social Equality Educators (SEE) caucus—captured six of the 20 executive board seats that were voted upon in this election, ensuring a strong voice for union activism and opposition to the growing attacks on teachers, their unions, and public education. The election shows widespread union support for SEE’s strategy for both defending the teaching profession and fighting for fully funded—and equitable—public schools.”
The Passing of Nat Weinstein
I just learned that Nat Weinstein died Saturday at Veterans Hospital in San Francisco after a long illness at the age of 88. Nat played a prominent role in trade union and socialist struggles for more than seven decades. He was introduced to both movements as a teenager doing his military service as a merchant seaman during World War II. I will pass along information about a memorial meeting as it becomes available. Messages can be sent to his daughter, Bonnie Weinstein at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Paul Bigman has an excellent on the scene update of the 15 Now struggle in Seattle on the Labor Notes site.
* The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) has called for emergency anti-war actions against U.S. Intervention in Ukraine, May 9 – May 26.
* An AP story reports, “Labor organizers say they’re planning another day of fast-food protests next week, with coordinated actions expected in the U.S. and more than 30 countries this time around. Union representatives from countries including Argentina, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand and Panama gathered in New York this week to share tips and strategize for the demonstrations slated to take place on May 15. Organizers plan to announce the global actions at a news conference outside a McDonald’s in New York on Wednesday afternoon. The protests calling for pay of $15 an hour in the U.S. have gained national media attention since they began in New York in late 2012.” There will be several events in Kansas City this Thursday. Unfortunately, the organizers have chosen to list them only on a proprietary network rather than a proper open web page. You can, however, view their Face Book schedule without registering here.
In my spare time I have started working to move the Week In Review e-mail list from Yahoo to Mail Chimp. If you receive a message from me in the not too distant future inviting you to opt in to the new list please do so and put us in your address book to keep it out of your spam box. As Yahoo subscribers sign up they will be dropped from the Yahoo list and that list will eventually go away.
That’s all for this week.
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