Category Archives: Ecology

BP’s oil spill on the backs of the working class and planet earth

The collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico continues to tear through both working class lives, and the ability of the Gulf’s ecosystem to create and sustain life.

Eleven workers lost their lives in the accident, and now the livelihood of more working class families are threatened.

A mechanism that should have sealed the well in the event of a blowout failed, and now hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are spilling out, threatening to create another dead zone in the Gulf.

A device, known as an acoustic switch, could have prevented this massive spill. But despite earning almost $6 billion in profits, BP resisted regulation that would have required these devices to be installed on deep sea oil rigs.

While the entire coastal region is threatened, a state of emergency has been declared in Louisiana.  Wetlands and marshes along the coast, already under stress due to capitalist land use planning, are now being threatened with collapse.

In addition, hundreds of families who make a living in the fishing industry are losing work due to the contamination.  BP is recruiting them for “paid volunteer work” to assist in the cleanup, but are denying them basic safety equipment and compensation for either injury or damage to their equipment.

The extant of the devastation is being described as a Hurricane Katrina redux.  There is a general sense of helplessness and malaise, as some held signs demanding help from Obama along the road as he drove through Louisiana.

Capital’s global crisis, thought to be slowing down, is not hovering; it’s dropping like a hammer on both the working class and planet earth.  The profit demands of the current energy infrastructure based overwhelmingly on coal and oil have proved to be an obstacle to transition towards an ecologically sustainable energy production.  Obama’s expansion of offshore drilling, the maintenance of a coal-centered energy production via Copenhagen, and the expansion of nuclear energy production in the US in over 30 years are just the most recent examples.

But as the spill in the Gulf demonstrates, this energy economy is inextricably bound up with the ability of capital to attack and exploit the working class and ecological systems.  Complex life requires more complex ecosystems to survive, but capital has long demanded that we forfeit the very conditions of life for it to grow.  The future of free life on this planet will depend on the working class’s ability organize itself against these attacks.

Below are two articles on the catastrophe.

Continue reading BP’s oil spill on the backs of the working class and planet earth

Avatar: A Contradictory Movie for Contradictory Times

by Mamos

**Spoiler Alert**

Avatar reenvisioned (from the Kasama blog)
Avatar Reenvisioned - From the Kasama blog

There has been a lot of debate about James Cameron’s movie Avatar. This film describes a private mercenary force like Blackwater colonizing a forest planet named Pandora sometime during the 22nd century. The indigenous people of this planet, the Navi’i, rise up and drive them out; in the process some of the colonizers switch sides and join the rebellion. Some see this story as a “noble savage” myth that perpetuates racist stereotypes of indigenous people. Others see it as a criticism of ecological destruction and a warning of what will happen if we don’t learn how to live in harmony with the natural world. Some see it as a white guilt fantasy and an example of liberal racism because it involves a white man leading a revolt of oppressed people.  Others see it as an inspiring story of anti-colonial armed struggle; (an Anti-War activist friend of mine said that Cameron was able to do what the anti-war movement has not been able to do: to encourage millions of Americans to root for the defeat of the US military.) In any case, this movie has been seen by millions of people and has broken records as a holiday blockbuster, so it is clearly striking a chord with everyday people  in this time of economic crisis, ecological fear, and colonization efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and elsewhere. For that reason, it is important for activists to carry on these debates because if we misunderstand the appeal of this movie we could be misunderstanding where our coworkers, friends, and neighbors are at right now.

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The Ecology Movement, Climate Change & US Empire

There has been a lot of excitement by the left and the ecology movement lately, particularly around the G20 protests in Pittsburgh, the climate bill proposed by the House and recently amended by the Senate, and finally around the upcoming UN climate talks in Copenhagen.  But it’s worth noting how the broader political terrain today forms the hot topics of the ecology movement if we’re to effectively plan our campaigns and strategies.

This past spring, despite the hopes of environmentalists that lined up behind Obama’s presidential campaign, the EPA okayed over 40 mountain-top removal coal-mining projects without scrutiny. This form of coal mining is one of the more the ecologically destructive methods of coal mining.  The process dumps tons of chemicals and unwanted material down the sides of the mountain. burying wildlife and vegetation on the sides, and contaminating local water supplies.  It also allows mining companies to lay-off workers and cut labor costs because less people are needed than traditional forms of mining.

But just before labor day the EPA released a letter that indicates that the Obama administration and the EPA are seeking to block one of the largest mountain top mining permits issued, citing violations of the Clean Water Act.

Around the same time, the NYTimes began a series on water pollution noting violations of the Clean Water Act by coal mining companies.  The piece sites the lack of oversight and enforcement as a major problem, with companies dumping as much as 1000% of the allowed chemical concentration into local water systems in W Virginia.

So why the about-face?  Is Obama finally fulfilling his campaign promises to the environmental movement?

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