Confronting the Whiteness of Environmentalism

People’s Climate March 2017

Climate justice means hard work.

It’s tempting to assign labels or catchphrases to movements. The concept of climate justice or environmental justice has gained massive traction in organizing groups, but as easy as it is to put “climate justice” on a banner, it’s even easier to lose sight of what it really means.

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Centering Frontline Communities in Portland’s Climate Movement

In previous years, environmental groups and social justice groups have operated independently. This has been to our detriment. We know from the many successes of coalition-building that we are stronger when we work together to achieve our goals. Together, we can achieve ecological justice, where our knowledge of how we manage community resources is applied to achieving environmental, economic, racial, and social justice.

This year, the frontline communities of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance (OJTA) are taking a central, leading role in the Portland People’s Climate Movement (PCM). We’re joining in solidarity, led by those who are most impacted by ecological injustice, to advance the Portland PCM Platform.

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The Roots and Shoots of Just Transition

JustTransition-610x390From 1974-1991 I worked on assembly lines at General Electric Appliance Park in Louisville, Kentucky. I hired in right at the end of the post WWII economic boom. In 1974 there were over 24,000 people working at Appliance Park. By 1991 that number had shrunk to about 6,000. Like many at the low end of the seniority list, I had a wild ride in and out of GE due to business cycle boom and bust, robots, outsourcing, and production shifts from one GE factory to another.

The last time I was called back from a layoff, I worked on a refrigerator compressor line, testing for leaks before they filled the system with Freon. This was in the late 1980s while the Montreal Protocol to Protect the Ozone Layer was being negotiated. Of course, Freon, an efficient and safe-to-handle refrigerant, was also the most prominent ozone-depleting chemical. It was disorienting to know this and to experience the nearly total silence on the issue at work. Once it was clear that Freon had to be replaced, GE claimed it had to redesign certain components and retool some of the manufacturing process. The company challenged the union to meet or beat what it would cost to make those parts somewhere else. The union kept the work but with a plan that used fewer workers. By that time, I had moved on to the washer/dryer building, been laid off yet again, moved back to Massachusetts where I grew up, and gone back to school. Read more

‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie

[by Jeremy Brecher, original posted at the Nation.com]

In an era in which our political system is dominated by plutocracy, grassroots social movements are essential for progressive change. But too often our movements find themselves at loggerheads over the seemingly conflicting need to preserve our environment and the need for jobs and economic development. How can we find common ground?

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