Blockadia: the climate fight’s new front

The fight against global warming consists of many local struggles that, at first glance, don’t have anything to do with climate change.

These struggles include resistance to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, to the Alberta tar sands industry and the Keystone XL pipeline, to deep ocean oil drilling and to other destructive practices by oil, gas and coal companies.

Such destructive practices are necessary to keep the fossil fuel companies in business because all the easy-to-get oil, gas and coal has been used up.  And greenhouse gas emissions will decrease only when oil and gas drilling and coal mining decrease.

naomi-klein.book0coverNaomi Klein in her book, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs The Climate, reported on how these scattered local resistance movements are coming to realize they are part of a common cause.

In just one chapter, she touched on protests in Greece, Rumania, Canada’s New Brunswick, England’s Sussex, Inner Mongolia, Australia, Texas, France, Ecuador, Nigeria, West Virginia, South Dakota, North America’s Pacific Northwest and Quebec—all related directly or indirectly to stopping fossil fuel operations that would produce greenhouse gasses.

She and others call this alliance “Blockadia”.   Unlike some of the big, established environmental organizations, the grass-roots protesters do not limit themselves to lawsuits and political lobbying.  They engage in nonviolent direct action, the kind of mass defiance that Gene Sharp advocated.   These movements, more than the lobbying and lawsuits of the Big Green environmental organizations, will determine the future climate, she wrote.

Top10EnviroGroupGridInsideClimateNews1000pxfinalIn the past, important victories have been won through lawsuits and lobbying.  But this changed during the Reagan-Thatcher era.  The courts and the government regulators are no longer on the environmentalists’ side.  President Obama supports an “all of the above” energy strategy, which in practice means full speed ahead on oil drilling, hydraulic fracking and nuclear power and token investment on solar energy and other sustainable sources.

Some of the Big Green environmental organizations have tried to adapt to the new era by forming partnership with corporations, and trying to substitute incentives for regulation.  What that means in practice is that they will forever be making progress and never reach their goal.

Unlike the professional environmentalists, the people in communities threatened by surface mining, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline can’t be bought off because their drinking water, their air and their survival as communities are what is at stake.

The protesters have won important victories.  France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Quebec and Newfoundland have banned fracking.  A strong anti-fracking movement here in New York state has brought about a moratorium, at least for now.   Costa Rica has banned open pit mining.

Historically the battles over mining and drilling have taken place in out-of-the-way places—what Naomi Klein calls “sacrifice zones”—far from the centers of civilization.  But now companies want to do hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in pristine places where the upper crust live—fox-hunting counties in England, the south of France, the vicinity of college towns such as Ithaca, N.Y.—and this brings powerful new allies to the anti-fracking movement.

Something similar is happening in China.  Recently the Chinese government has become serious about air pollution, which is a long-standing health problem in China.  Klein speculated that this is because the Chinese elite, who have private sources of pure water and organic food, cannot provide themselves with clean air protecting everyone else.

Portland.protesters6_nOne of the most powerful weapons against drilling and mining are the treaty rights of American and Canadian Indian tribes.  The descendents of the original inhabitants of North America are making common cause with the descendents of the pioneer settlers, as in the Cowboy and Indian Alliance against the Keystone XL Pipeline, and a similar alliance against the Northern Gateway oil pipeline in British Columbia.

Corporate and government officials fear grass-roots action.  Police and intelligence agencies in different countries, very much including the United States, treat environmental activists as a potential threat to the social order, and even as quasi-terrorists.  And, as a second line of defense, the energy companies turn to international trade treaties that allow corporations to appeal to overrule environmental and other laws.

Fighting fossil fuel development is an important first step, but it is not enough, Klein wrote.  The next step is to develop sustainable sources of energy that do not affect the climate.   The final step would to create an economic system that does not depend of burning up fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate—the kind of grass-roots economic democracy advocated by David Graeber, Richard D. Wolff and Gar Alperovitz.

Blockadia is an example of grass-roots democracy.  People come together as equals to work for the common good.  The example of Blockadia could be the seed of something more.

REVIEWS

Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? by Elizabeth Kolbert for the New York Review of Books.  [added 11/14/14}  Important.

Damn Right, This Changes Everything by D.R. Tucker for the Washington Monthly.

The Left vs. the Climate by Will Boisvert for the Breakthrough Institute.

The Observer Review: Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Robert Jensen for the Texas Observer.

Naomi Klein Changes Nothing With This Changes Everything by Ronald Bailey for Reason magazine

In ‘This Changes Everything,’ Naomi Klein sounds climate alarm by David L. Ulin for the Los Angeles Times

OTHER LINKS

The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate by Al Gore for Rolling Stone.

Global Warming Isn’t the Same for Everyone by Robert Hunziker for Counterpunch.

These Maps of California’s Water Shortage Are Truly Terrifying by Tom Philpott for Mother Jones.

U.S. Plunges the Cradle of Civilization into Disaster While Its Oil-Based Empire Destroys the Earth’s Climate by Noam Chomsky for Alternet.

Climate Treaty Follies: How Inaction Is Endangering the World by Tom Geisen for Informed Comment.

Why can Europe have climate targets, but not the US?  Corruption by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Will Climate Change Denialism Help the Russian Economy? by Mikhail Medveev for Inter Press Service.

Canada and Australia Go From Leaders to Climate Change Deniers by Rebecca Leber for The New Republic.

Chevron Greases Local Election With Gusher of Cash by Michael Winsip for Moyers & Company.

On Proposed Mega-Pipeline, Tar Sands Opponents Vow, ‘It’s Not Going to Happen’ by Dierdre Fulton for Common Dreams.

The Tar Sands Pipeline of Politics by Steve Brodner for The Nation.

Intergenerational Trauma and the Bakken Oil Fields by Winona Laduke for Popular Resistance.  [Hat tip to Julie Geissler]

Frac sand mine may have contaminated drinking water by Kyle Dimke of WKBT News in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Fracking Chemicals, Brought to You by Susan G. Komen by Julia Lurie for Mother Jones.

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