huge protests force chinese government retreat over pollution

By Adam Ford

Shifang demonstrators squaring off against riot cops earlier in the week

Locals are celebrating in the Chinese city of Shifang today, following the government’s decision to scrap its plans for a copy alloy plant which many feared would poison them. This sensational policy reversal was apparently forced out of the Communist Party dictatorship by rioting, followed by a sit-in in support of those arrested. In making this concession, the regime has shown its vulnerability at a time when the national economy is being hit by the economic crisis in Europe and the US. Continue reading “huge protests force chinese government retreat over pollution”

waste disposal – towards zero waste by 2020

Dave Spencer writes on the failed Coventry incinerator project

A number of local Councils, including Coventry, have recently scrapped plans to build new giant £1 billion PFI waste incinerators.  These were being encouraged by the last New Labour government that believed in an “energy from waste” strategy – that is burn waste and turn the heat generated into energy for the National Grid. Obviously the prohibitive cost of PFI schemes has hit home with the local Councils.

To save money by scrapping these schemes is all very well but what is the alternative strategy for waste disposal?  The giant incinerator planned for Coventry, right in the city centre, a few hundred yards from my house, was due to take waste from leafy Warwickshire and snobby Solihull and from anywhere else that couldn’t be bothered to organise their own.  You can imagine the gleam in the eyes of the PFI private firms as more and more bin lorries came trundling down the M6 and the A45.  But Friends of the Earth backed by local residents’ groups campaigned against the plans and we won.  We are now left with the old incinerator about which our local councillor told us, “I’ve been assured by Council officers that the smoke coming out of the old incinerator chimney is cleaner than the air it’s going into.”  Ha, ha, ha. Continue reading “waste disposal – towards zero waste by 2020”

is ecological struggle class struggle?

Rob Kirby spoke at the London Commune forum in May on the question ‘is ecological struggle class struggle?’:

The short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is that practically, the consequences of ecological policies will be negative for the working class, and theoretically, that ecological ideology expresses the interests of groups other than the working class.

It’s worth saying at the outset that I’m not a climate change denier – I accept the fact that humanity is adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and that is probably causing warming, and that pollution is generally a bad thing. However, my critique is a political one; I think environmentalisms’ one-sided focus on the negative aspects of industrial civilisation won’t help us solve environmental problems, and won’t help us advocate working class politics. Continue reading “is ecological struggle class struggle?”

no answers from copenhagen climate summit

by Mark Ellingsen

Climate change rose to the top of the news agenda during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, only to be displaced by the cold weather spell now being experienced in the British Isles. No doubt climate sceptics will be pointing to this as proof that global warming is a myth, despite the fact that globally the last decade was the warmest since 1850. Furthermore, the upward trend is unmistakeable.

The consequences will have a significant adverse impact on human well-being and the ecology of the planet, which will be exacerbated by social, political and economic inequality. By 2050, increasing areas of the planet will be affected by drought, and water availability will decrease in those areas dependent on melt water from the major mountain ranges which includes one sixth of the world’s population. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that between 20-30% of plant and animal species will be in danger of extinction if the global temperature exceeds 1.5°C and 2.0°C. Given that the lowest best estimate is a rise of 1.8°C by 2100 this now seems inevitable. While the IPCC predict that there may be some possibility that crop yields may increase in higher latitudes at this temperature range, it is likely to decrease in lower latitudes which will exacerbate food shortages in these regions. Continue reading “no answers from copenhagen climate summit”

the green party and the left today

an anonymous contributor explores the inner workings and direction of the Greens

Over the last decade, the Green Party has both grown in size and influence, and moved leftwards. It has a membership of nearly 10,000, and realistic chances of winning Parliamentary representation in Brighton and Norwich at the next election (with Lewisham building its chances most likely for the election after next). Outside of these generalities, however, non-Green Party activists seem to be largely in the dark as to the internal politics and ideology of an organisation which boasts hundreds, if not thousands, of activist members. It is the aim of this piece, briefly, to attempt a remedy for this situation. Continue reading “the green party and the left today”

facing hopeless climate macropolitics, it’s time for direct action

a guest article for The Commune by Patrick Bond

In the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit from 7-18 December, the October-November Bangkok and Barcelona negotiations of Kyoto Protocol Conference of Parties functionaries confirmed that Northern states and their corporations won’t get their act together. Nor will Southern elites in high-emitting countries.

The top-down effort to get to 350 CO2 parts per million has conclusively failed. On the right, Barack Obama’s negotiators argue that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is excessively binding to the North, and leaves out several major polluters of the South, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Hence Obama’s early November promise that he would come to Copenhagen to ‘clinch a deal’ is as hollow as the White House’s support for democracy in Honduras. Continue reading “facing hopeless climate macropolitics, it’s time for direct action”

libertarian joie de vivre at climate camp cymru

Steve Ryan attended the Merthyr Tydfil climate camp

Climate camps are a new and innovative way of protesting. Set up outside of environmental problems, in this case Ffos -y Fran open cast mine at Merthyr.

The camps are run on the basis of participatory democracy. This is of interest to those interested in self management. There are no “leaders”. The camp is divided into neighbourhoods which meet each morning and elect a facilitator and spokesperson . All issues are discussed and decided by consensus, and hese are reported to the plenary. This is an excellent way of running a society in principle. There are problems however in that decisions, sometimes on relatively simple issues , can take a VERY long time. This is OK at  local level but has the potential to make a wider economy grind to a halt. Unfortunately the alternative would be a command economy, not something those interested in self management and communism groom below would at all desire! Continue reading “libertarian joie de vivre at climate camp cymru”

nuclear waste transport protests in germany: ‘we shall be in the way’

by Ella Seebacher

‘Castor kommt. Du auch?’ (Castor is coming. You too?) has been the uniting chant since April 1995, when the first cross country transport of radioactive waste from France has brought the rural farming village Gorleben in the region of Wendland in Lower Saxony in the north-east of Germany to controversial fame. It triggered an overwhelming movement of protest, such as Germany has not seen since the student revolution around Rudi Dutschke in the 1960s. Typically, the corporate newspapers had a field day with pointing out the millions of Deutschmarks the immense police operation to stop the ‘Atomchaoten’ (nuclear rioters) would cost the taxpayer and were quick to blame ‘den schwarzen Block’, the anarchists. But no, far from it, the anti-nuclear protesters taking part were coming from all ways of life: the guy who runs a gardening service, the carpenter, the supermarket cashier, farmers, grandmothers, small town politicians sitting in the constituency of Lüchow-Dannenberg, teachers and pupils. Doctors and punks and indeed, a complete army of vicars from every village and small town around expressed their opposition loudly.

Continue reading “nuclear waste transport protests in germany: ‘we shall be in the way’”

report of campaign against climate change trade union conference

by Steve Ryan

Held on 7th March this Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) trade union event was the second such conference of its kind.

The conference was structured in a similar way to the first one with an opening plenary, workshops, forums and a closing plenary. The turnout was however far lower than at the first conference: showing how easily such a subject falls away in recession, when it should, properly argued, be at the forefront. Continue reading “report of campaign against climate change trade union conference”

self-management and the environment

Tomorrow sees the second Trade Union Conference on Climate Change – held at King’s College in London.  Ahead of the conference, Steve Ryan looks at the relationship between the recession, workers’ self-management, and climate change.

The recession is an important topic and is certainly preoccupying the minds of all from bosses through government to the Left.  This has very much put the debate about climate change and peak oil out of the limelight.

No doubt bosses and governments will be pleased with this. Buried in the news recently have been a number of disturbing items as regards the speed at which the poles are warming and the fact that Labour have watered down their commitment to carbon reduction under pressure from big business. Worse that the average temperature is now looking to rise by 4 degrees in the next 20/30 years… oh, and oil runs out in 2020! Continue reading “self-management and the environment”

formula 1 millionaires seek state bailout

by David Broder

The Honda Formula 1 team may be set to receive a bailout from Lord Mandelson’s £2.3 billion fund for the car industry in a further example of state intervention to shore up the super-rich.

The team is currently owned by Honda, the world’s sixth-largest car manufacturer. Although the marque’s sales have suffered much less from the recession than its rival Toyota, in November it announced plans to sell off its Formula 1 team, which finished 9th out of 10  in the 2008 constructors’ championship on a budget of £180 million.  A 63% fall in Honda’s quarterly profits has also prompted the shutting-down of its Swindon road car factory.

Honda claim that closing the team entirely would cost it more than keeping it going, but wants to wash its hands of the operation. Therefore any state bailout would essentially amount to using taxpayers’ money to save an unprofitable part of Honda’s business which it wants to junk. Continue reading “formula 1 millionaires seek state bailout”

local energy and workers’ control

by Brian Rylance

Bio-diesel has presented an unusual opportunity over recent years as various local workers coops have taken a relatively simple technology to make a mostly carbon neutral diesel from local used cooking oil. Food and energy are the most important goods to any community and they are subject both to fluctuations in the global economy and fickle state control. The opportunity to take local worker control of any portion of the energy they consume, however little and however briefly, is important on a scale beyond the actual goods they produce as it trains co-operators in the knowledge of fuel making and fuel makers in the practicalities of cooperating.  Such local control has allowed genuinely ethical decisions to be taken for the community benefit rather than for purely economic reasons; all the coops associated with the Goodfuels Coop have freely chosen to use only waste cooking oil for feedstock rather than any unused food oils including dubious soy or environmentally damaging palm. Driven by profit alone it would have been far better for the balance sheets to import large amounts of palm oil from plantations that have been grown on slashed and burned rainforests. Continue reading “local energy and workers’ control”

photo-report of campaign against climate change demo

Around 10,000 people turned out in London today for the Campaign Against Climate Change demonstration held on the same weekend as the United Nations Climate Change Convention being held in Poznan, Poland.

Starting near the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, the march snaked its way through central London before a rally in Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Most far-left groups were present and there was a large contingent of radical and socialist-minded people. Most prominent however were the placards of the Green Party, calling for a “Green New Deal” of environmentally-friendly state economic intervention akin to that proposed by US President-elect Barack Obama. In the bottom-right photo below the statue of Nelson Mandela can be seen holding a placard to this effect. Speakers included the Green European Parliament member Caroline Lucas and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, continuing the apparent vogue for the Liberal Democrats to be given a platform and allowed to portray a “left face” at anti-war and environmental protests.

We did not produce a special leaflet for the event, but sales of our new paper were brisk. We only have a few copies left, so do write to us – – if you would like one.