Saturday, December 28, 2013

Climate Justice-James Boyce, UMass

This article on Environmental Climate Justice has been sitting at Truth Out for a little while.  It presents the basic issue well enough, but I added a touch of greater depth including the likes of Occupy Wall St. and the 1%/99% divide after it.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Now joining us from Amherst, Massachusetts, is James Boyce. He's the director of the Program on Development, Peace Building, and the Environment at the PERI institute. He's also a professor of economics at Amherst.
Thanks very much for joining us, James.
JAY: So, James, you've written a new book titled Economics, the Environment and Our Common Wealth. Before we dig into some of the issues in the book, what was your kind of overriding objective in producing the book?
BOYCE: Well, what I wanted to do was bring out the fact that when we worry about environmental degradation, when we worry about pollution and depletion of natural resources, we should be thinking not only about the relationship between humans and the natural world, but also the relationships among human beings, because, basically, when we find problems of environmental degradation, we find problems where some people are benefiting at the expense of other people. If nobody was being harmed, it wouldn't be a problem, at least not from the standpoint of economics.
So what I wanted to do in the book, Paul, was lift up the notion that these environmental problems are also social and economic and political problems and point to the implications of starting from an ethical standpoint that every human being on the face of the earth, present and future generations, we all have an equal right to a clean and safe environment, and think through what it would mean to actually organize our environmental policies around that fundamental principle.
JAY: So the thing is that, if I get it correctly, we're—to a large extent here, the reason there's such environmental degradation and the reason there's such, I guess, opposition to dealing with issues like climate change—but it also includes issue of toxic poisoning of our environment—is that there's interests there, there's people that make money out of it, and that ethical concerns or the issue of human rights is not very paramount to those people.
BOYCE: Yeah, that's right, Paul. I mean, these things don't just happen by accident; they happen following various patterns, right? And we have to ask, whenever we see a problem of environmental degradation, who benefits from activities that are causing the problem (if nobody benefited, it wouldn't be happening), who gets harmed, and why is it that the beneficiaries, the winners, are able to impose these harms on other people. And that really is the starting point for the book.
JAY: So what should be done? In this sense: it seems that—I guess there's short term and long term. There has been some victory, you could say, reforms in mitigating some environmental degradation. But are we facing issues that are so profound, so deep, that in fact there needs to be a bigger social transformation before they can be dealt with?
BOYCE: Well, I think we need to build on the victories we've achieved in the past, which are not inconsequential or minor, and move forward. But it's clear that we do need some big changes down the road. We've still got big problems to address.
I think what we need to build on are not only the victories of the environmental movement which brought us the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and so on, but also the victories of the civil rights movement, of the voter rights movements, and so on which have helped to empower the people who tend to be on the losing end of environmental problems, the people who tend to be victimized most. Pollution, resource depletion, these don't affect everybody equally, Paul. Some people get hit harder than others, and it tends to be low-income communities and people of color who get hit the hardest here in the United States. It tends to be low-income people around the world who get hit the hardest.
And so if we want to address environmental problems, we also have to think about how to improve the ability of those who have the most to gain from addressing these problems to make their voices heard and to make their health and well-being and their children's well-being a central issue in the protection of the environment.
JAY: So what would you like to see? And concretely, what do you think needs to be done, given the current state of politics and such?
BOYCE: Well, I think we need to lift up the basic democratic and human rights principles that underlie environmental protection. We're not just interested in protecting the environment and nature for its own sake. It's not just about polar bears or spotted owls. It's about real people here and now, and it's about the well-being of future generations. And we need to think about those people when we're thinking about protecting the environment. We need to think about kids whose life opportunities are being affected by the pollution to which they're being exposed as infants and as small children. Air pollution, water pollution, these are human issues, human rights issues, and we need to be thinking about that and thinking about our commitment as a society to making sure that every child has an opportunity to live to their full potential and to have a productive and healthy and happy life. And I think if we broaden out our concerns with the environment to include our concerns with people, we can broaden the constituencies for doing something about the really serious environmental problems that we face today.
JAY: Because, like, I'm in Baltimore. In places—you know, some of the very poor areas of East Baltimore, West Baltimore, it's very hard for people to relate to, for example, climate change, which seems rather abstract when you're facing such, you know, difficulties getting through the day or very immediate issues of pollution. Like, there's a guy in East Baltimore that does a toxic tour, when they take you around east Baltimore, the amount of toxic dumps right next to where people are living, yet they sit there year after year.
BOYCE: Yeah, that's right. These are immediate environmental problems, and we ought to be paying attention to them. And there's no conflict between doing that and paying attention to climate change. After all, burning of fossil fuels, which is the main culprit in climate change, also releases lots of other nasty pollutants that impact local communities. And it is the kinds of communities you're talking about in Baltimore, in metropolitan areas across the country, that tend to be impacted worst by those emissions of pollutants from refineries, power plants, etc. It's also the case that as the climate changes, the people who are most vulnerable to those climate changes are low-income people who don't have the resources to adapt, don't have the air conditioners, don't have the ability to live in the leafy suburbs, don't have the ability to even get out of town when a hurricane like Katrina hits.
So I think that dealing with the environment is really a social justice issue, Paul, and I think, to move forward, that's how we need to increasingly frame it. We need to recognize that piece of the picture.

and my response-

This is a good start on an essential issue that Jay brings out from Boyce. Love Canal in 1978 in the US and Minimata in the 1950s in Japan were disasters that both contained these basic elements. However, the resistance of corporate executives in the Coal, Oil, Nuclear, and Financial industries, for example, goes beyond the lowest income and most discriminated communities. Since the 2008 crash, Occupy Wall St., and the 1%/99% slogan, some greater awareness was raised of economic problems. Beyond Coal, the Sierra Club's grassroots campaign against coal plants, has been able to stop more than a hundred plants already.
      Some utilities have promoted green power options, some non-profits like NYPIRG has helped those green power options, and best of all, some people have begun co-operative enterprises that are promoting household installations, like Co-op Power in Massachussets, solar power co-ops in Maryland, and others sprinkled across the US. The fact that modern wind power was developed in Denmark in the 1970s shows how their population was not dominated by a corporate culture at that time. They protested nuclear plans, and artisan mechanics started producing a new generation of micro turbines for starters. Germany then followed Denmark, and both implemented Grid Access Incentive payments, or Feed In Tariffs, which have proved their effectiveness. German farmers were the first to organize into partnerships there. A similar thing happened around the same time in the UK at a smaller scale. Spain has had some success, but has not benefited like Germany because of its corporate-based wind installations. The new business model, the new grassroots citizen model for any and all who can wake up. Americans and immigrants with the lowest incomes and the most discriminated against have good reasons to organize, but clearly face the greatest obstacles. Let those who have fewer obstacles be the focus of a turnaround, just as Ralph Nader, then Michael Moore have been able to as major activists.

Monday, December 9, 2013

From Occupy to Mondragon

After a lightweight article about Occupy, author Carl Davidson entered into a lively exchange with an obnoxious ideologue.

November 28, 2013

If Occupy Is a Battle, the First Round Was a Success

Understanding that the tides of social movements bring challenges and victories.
BY Carl Davidson
Matthew Richard’s essay on Occupy was, for me, a trip back in time, to my rebel youth, nearly 50 years ago. In his voice, I heard the full range of my own ideas and feelings from those “glory days.” In the 1,000 battles I’ve been through since then, I’ve tempered, reframed and even changed some of those views. It would be easy enough for me, in commenting on the essay, to slip into the role of wise old grio. But that’s not what I want. So I offer a few remarks from a different role, that of “co-conspirator.” I made it to Zuccotti Park and a dozen other encampments, too.
First, I don’t think Occupy failed, or has even disappeared. But to understand why, you first have to grasp what it was.
Occupy was largely an elemental rising of the “precariat,” today’s new working class, a distressed young generation burdened with debt and facing a precarious future of frequent joblessness in a wider order of savage inequalities. They had the audacity to choose the right target, Wall Street. They had the wisdom to seek allies, the 99% vs. the 1%. For at least a year, they changed the national conversation and spotlighted the main enemy.

lessthantolerant to                                                                                                                                                                      Carl Davidson
You should move to Cuba or maybe Spain, after all those two socialist countries are so successful, right?
Mondragon could not exist without subsidies from the government as I ca see from the research.
While I see nothing wrong with a Cooperative, silly ideas like yours and other union thugs just will not work.
Please let me know when you leave for Cuba.
  • Avatar
    Mondragon could not exist without subsidies from the Spanish government? Nope. Your research leaves a lot to be desired, to put it kindly. I've spent time studying at MCC in the Basque country, and 'government subsidies' has nothing to do with how they started or how they succeeded. Quite the contrary. They succeed because they create a quality product at competitive prices, and the workers control the entirety of the surplus value they create, relying on their own bank, research institutes and university. I've read a half-dozen books on the topic, and written one of my own as well. Now if you want to talk about the Bankster on Wall St, you have a good case.
      • Avatar
        Since our first New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) closing in 2004 we have recieved $704 million in NMTC allocation and invested in 78 projects in 24 states. These projects generated total investments of $1.4 billion and created 7,495 jobs. Our 78 projects are located in urban and rural communities, are large and small, and include for-profit and not-for-profit developers. From a community center in a severely distressed and densely populated area of the South Bronx, NY, to a manufacturer of truck parts in Council Bluffs, IA, our projects represent a cross section of our nation’s communities
        Like all delusional ideas, one can not see the forest for the trees. Your life blood is tax credits and public tax dollars channeled to you through sham corporations fed by government.
        You have to be able to turn a profit to exist once the feeding tube of government funds ceases.
        We shall see, I will follow this typical pipe dream venture for a couple of years, be prepared when I send you a "I told you so"
        • Avatar
          By means of “Subordinated Financial Contributions”, which is an instrument provided for by the Cooperatives Act of the Basque Country and paves the way for accessing the capitals market through the so-called secondary market or AIAF fixed-income market. Eroski was the first one to use this instrument in June 2002.

          It did so through the corresponding issue, which was approved beforehand by Eroski’s Congress and by Spain’s Securities and Investment Board (CNMV), initially amounting to 60 million euros, a figure that was subsequently raised to 90 million in view of the positive response made by investors.

          The main features of this extremely successful issue were: interest indexed to the Euribor +3 points, fixed interest not linked to results, instruments favouring liquidity, security and guarantee assured by Eroski and the fact that the issue and subsequent development were submitted to the approval of the CNMV.
          As one can see, they could not operate with out controlled market and special consideration of government regulations and financing.
          As I said Co-Ops are Ok but on a very limited scale and as long as they chase profit they are shams of your socialist dream.
          Also, feeding off low wage workers in Mexico and Turkey sort of make them hypocrites.
          But you keep your delusion going.
          One question though, where might one read this great socialist/communist manifest YOU wrote?
            • Avatar
              So MCC borrowed money, putting up solid collateral, to build a chain of over 200 supermarkets, which will be repaid, expanding employment and worker-consumer coops throughout Spain. They also lend money, at low interest, for people to buy cars and build homes....And you think this is parasitic subsidies? That's rather odd. Make me wonder what you would think of the federal government here giving land grants to railroads, the Morrell land grants and other support that built our system of state universities--and not even to mention huge military contracts from the Pentagon? But in any case, yes, as transitional measure and for immediate relief to the unemployed workers, I'm much in favor of a green energy industrial policy over a military industrial policy, for a variety of startups, not unlike the New Deal's TVA, whether they are coops or not. I'm interested in smart government, not the right wing fantasy of an anarcho-capitalism of no government. As for my book, you can buy it at

        Sunday, December 8, 2013

        Worker Rights- Germany's Co-Determination

        Germany's Co-Determination system came to my attention a few years ago, but somehow I wasn't able to grasp its significance.  However, as events have transpired over the years, my interest keeps returning to Spain's Mondragon Co-op complex, Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, the superior distribution of income in the Northern European countries, and the inequalities elsewhere, especially the US, well, now.  Oh, and then there's China, not to mention Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil, and elsewhere, each with their powerful role to play.
              I wanted to find a historical article on Germany's situation, and found an article in a UK journal article apparently from 1998 which claimed to have found scant details.  Then I turned up an article coming from Germany with some important specifics.  Hmm, US dog-eat-employees "free markets," or real social democracy and labor human rights.  Let me think a minute.  Well, yeah, that sounds about right.
             Finally, I found two EU sites, one about worker participation and the other about labor news.

        Co-determination: the secret history of workers' control?

        Christopher Winch

        One key aspect in Germany’s economic success is Mitbestimmung, or ‘co-determination’. This is a system of corporate governance and labour relations very similar to the one that the Bullock Report recommended, although without any explicit reference to Germany. At the time, the Bevin Society argued that the Bullock recommendations of one-third employer, one third employee and one third from nominees determined by the first two groups (the 2x + y’ formula), would lead to higher productivity and greater competitiveness and that this would result from the greater orientation towards production of a workforce holding a real stake in the company. ....

        Rebecca Page

        Co-determination in Germany –

        A Beginner’s Guide
        The word “co-determination”, or “Mitbestimmung” in German, is commonly heard outside of Germany but
        it’s actual meaning is often unclear. What it actually refers to, is a concept for employee consultation and
        participation (in certain cases) in company decisions at both establishment and company/group level within
        private sector companies in Germany. This co-determination concept has a long history – dating back
        originally to the 1920s – and is today regulated by a number of detailed laws.....
         Thanks to the Boeckler Foundation, I found this EU site-

        More than 1,000 active EWCs and counting – News from the EWC Database

        The ETUI’s database of EWCs currently records 1,039 active EWCs in 962 multinational companies. The highest number of EWCs has been established based on the German (351), French (260), British (186) and Belgian (179) law. Since the entry into force of the recast EWC Directive 2009/38/EC, the pace of establishment of new EWCs seems to be increasing steadily: at least 58 negotiations are known to be currently underway, and the sectoral European trade union federations report that more initiatives to open negotiations are in the pipeline.

        Interim report on 2013 bargaining round

        The Institute of Economic and Social Research has published an interim report on Germany’s 2013 round of collective bargaining. The study evaluates collective agreements concluded in the first half of 2013, affecting about 45% of all workers covered by such agreements – around 8.7 million employees, 1.2 million of them in eastern Germany. The average annual increase in collectively agreed wages and salaries will be 2.8% in 2013, slightly above the average of 2.7% in 2012.