To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
April 22, 2016
RE:  Reflecting on the state of the environmental movement

Earth Day, 2016

(This is an expanded form of an article in Detroit Workers' Voice #120, April 11, 2016. This DWV was devoted to support for the demonstration of April 16 against the planned ten-fold expansion of the dumping of toxic and frack waste in Detroit.)

This year Earth Day, April 22, takes place as we face one environmental disaster after another, from global warming to the poisoning of our drinking water. The big corporations are still making tons of money from destroying our environment. What is the path forward for defending the environment?

The movement is divided. Some of the big environmental groups have promoted natural gas, which is being opposed by militant rank-and-file activists all over the country. Militant environmental activists have carried out direct action against the big energy polluters, while the politicians and the establishment environmental groups have tried to work hand-in-hand with the polluters. Many environmentalists support the carbon tax, yet the carbon tax is the method embraced by many opponents of the regulation and control of energy production. The differences concern not just the carbon tax, but carbon offsets, cap and trade, biofuels, various joint programs with large polluting corporations, and "self-regulation" by polluters.

Below is a list of several works which bear on these issues:

Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming (2004)
by Gar Lipow

This is an oldie, but goodie. Lipow shows that, with only presently-existing technology, it is possible to drastically cut the use of carbon fuels, protect the environment, and still maintain the standard of living. The obstacle is conservative and reactionary politics and economics, not technology. Natural gas is not part of the solution; it is part of the problem. A link for downloading the book with the author's permission is at

Green Gone Wrong: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Eco-Capitalism (2010)
by Heather Rogers

Rogers documents the failure of market measures to live up to the claims made for them. She visited Paraguay and Borneo and found out what really happens to small peasants and the environment when carbon offsets and fair trade programs are put into effect.

Under the Dome (2015)
by Chai Jing

This is a documentary film by a brave Chinese journalist, not a book. She documents the incredible smog disaster that is harming the health of workers all over China. You know things are bad when in comparison Los Angeles looks good to her. The video can be found on youtube.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)
by the well-known social activist, Naomi Klein

Klein writes that climate change isn't just another issue, but will affect everything: "The challenge is not simply that we need to spend a lot of money ... Right now, the triumph of market logic, with its ethos of domination and fierce competition, is paralyzing almost all serious efforts to respond to climate change."

Her book provides a lot of information about the environmental movement that is hard to find elsewhere. It describes the evolution of the environmental movement and the different standpoints within it. It contains material on the militant environmentalists who confront the polluters. And she also talks about the establishment environmental groups which she calls "Big Green"; a chapter of her book is entitled "the disastrous merger of Big Business and Big Green".

A number of groups have emerged across the country fighting against fracking, which is poisoning the land as well as the atmosphere. But at the same time, Klein points out how some of the "Big Green" groups have backed natural gas as a step forward. Indeed, she writes: "The big, corporate-affiliated green groups don't deny the reality of climate change, of course - many work hard to raise the alarm. And yet several of these groups have consistently, and aggressively, pushed responses to climate change that are the least burdensome, and often directly beneficial, to the largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet - even when the policies come at the direct expense of communities fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground. ... The 'market-based' climate solutions favored by so many large foundations and adopted by many greens have provided an invaluable service to the fossil fuel sector as a whole." (pp. 198, 199)

But unfortunately Klein still hasn't broken completely with the market standpoint, and she defends the carbon tax. Yet the carbon tax is part of the old thinking, the "market logic", that her book shows has to be thrown aside to deal effectively with climate change.

Our Choice (2009)
by Al Gore

In this book, as in his earlier book, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore sounds an alarm about global warming. He is quite right about the dangers, but wrong about the solutions. He advocates working hand-in-hand with the capitalist corporations through market measures; but this has lead to one ecological disaster after another in recent years. A number of left-wing environmentalists don't want to admit that their program is close to that of Gore, but at the same time they can't distinguish their program from Gore's. So they just fall silent about Gore.

Durban's Climate Gamble: Trading Carbon, Betting the Earth (2011),
edited by the prominent activist South African activist Patrick Bond, and
  Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below (2012),
written by Bond

These books give a valuable picture of the climate justice movement, provide a lot of ammunition against a number of market measures, such as cap and trade, and show the growing importance of the movement from below in South Africa. They describe the militant environmental movement in South Africa, which is opposed by the ANC government.

Bond says the UN climate conferences, like the one in Durban, have just been "deckchair shifting on the climate Titanic". More recently, he has written about the UN global climate summit in Paris in 2015. His assessment is that "Paris witnessed both explicit terrorism by religious extremists on November 13 and a month later, implicit terrorism by carbon addicts negotiating a world treaty that guarantees catastrophic climate change. The first incident left more than 130 people dead in just one evening's mayhem; the second lasted a fortnight but over the next century can be expected to kill hundreds of millions, especially in Africa." (See the articles on the Paris climate summit in the Feb. 2016 issue of Communist Voice at

Articles about “the free market vs the environment”

These articles cover theoretical issues in the movement as well as dealing with some of the protests around the country. They cover such matters as the type measures that will effective against climate change; discussion of the flawed and sometimes catastrophic measures put forward by the bourgeoisie in the name of the environment; and examination of the carbon tax. They call for the building of a working-class wing of the environmental movement. This means continuing the militant protests but adopting a more consistent opposition to market fundamentalism in environmental matters. It means developing an environmental movement that uses the methods of the class struggle rather than hoping that the corporations can be bribed to accept environmental goals.

See such works as

Say NO to fracking!

James Hansen says sea levels could rise faster than expected

Environmental actions in August --
nuclear waste, Arctic drilling, and tar sands oil transport

For a working-class environmental movement

The carbon tax, another failed free-market method
o avoid environmental planning

Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and the fiascoes of corporate environmentalism

The coming of the environmental crisis <>

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Posted on May 6, 2016