Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Great Progressive Divide

Listen as the wind blows, from across the great progressive divide....
Sarah McLachlan (with a little tweaking)

It is hard for people and organizations alike to find some common ground; an idea they can work together on--even when those people and organizations have relatively similar perspectives. The "anarchists" scoff at socialists, because the socialists believe in giving the government more economic regulation "control", and the socialists scoff at the "anarchists", because in their view, the "anarchist" model tends to have little to no structure.

But they are both aiming for the same end result, and they have very similar beliefs as to what "social justice" is--social freedom without enforced "morals" (i.e. abortion or gay marriage bans), and a classless system that does not have any unchecked powers or authorities. The end goal of socialism is anarchism! Their means to those ends are just different.

The "Progressive Movement", as I like to call it, is so busy tearing itself apart, arguing over petty differences, that it cannot hold itself together to be strong enough to fight against anything but itself. Conservative Christians from the middle all the way to the far right of the political spectrum come together for the common causes of abolishing abortion, criminalizing gays, making prayer in the classroom mandatory, and forcing creationism into biology classrooms. Meanwhile, we "progressives" spit acid and labels at each other, such as "tree-huggers," "feminazis," and "New-Age hippies", thus not earning our title of "progressive".

Governments that seek more power and the corporations that fund them work together, out of greed, despite petty differences, to gain the highest profits. Why can't we work together, out of altruism, and sort out our petty differences? Is greed really a stronger motivator?

A perfect example of the divide in progressive politics is environmentalism and class.

Once Again: Environmentalism is a Class Issue

The environmentalist movement tends to be composed mainly of middle-class people who do not fully understand the plight and mindset of a blue-collar worker. In fact, there are many environmentalists who are so embarrassed by this, that they do not consider themselves part of the environmentalist movement--instead, they call themselves part of the "environmental justice" movement. This split within the environmental movement is very sad.

When environmentalists demand that people stop logging old-growth tress, but then fail to offer an alternative to the working-class lumberjacks, that is the environmentalist movement. When an organization preserves land in the Amazon rainforest and kicks the native people off that land, that's the environmentalist movement. On the other hand, when environmental lobbyists got together with the steelworkers union to sue the CEO of a steel factory (because of his dessomation of the environment, and because of poor labor conditions), that was the environmental justice movement.

Environmentalists, above everyone else, are supposed to understand how everything and everyone is interconnected to everything and everyone else. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the consequences of "environmental protection" when the consequences fall on human beings, because part of environmental protection is helping those human beings.

Why is Environmentalism a Class Issue?

When you are working two to three full-time jobs to pay for food for your children, the health of the environment is the last thing that's on your mind. Some environmentalists may say that this is selfish behavior, and "can't that working-class person see that we are all connected to the earth, and therefore, environmental health means his/her own health?" The simple, and quite obvious answer, is no. And why should you, when you have been offered no environmentally sustainable alternative to your job as a lumberjack, or buying clothes at Wal-Mart, or buying the cheapest car you can (regardless of how much gas it guzzles)? Can I really expect you to buy organic food and cotton and fair-trade coffe, when I know full well how much that shit costs? Can I expect you to become an activist with me when you barely have time to sleep?

That is another thing that environmentalists, of all people, should understand: the human survival instinct. Regardless of how inefficient or impractical a solution is in the long run, as long as it gets food on your table, you'll take it.

Of course, another problem in this country is that people in general are poorly-educated about various issues and current events, including environmental issues. We've been brainwashed to put our "economy" ahead of the environment, creating a completely false dichotomy. Like everyone else, on top of the above mentioned problems, the lower-classes generally have virtually no education regarding environmental issues.

The other problem is that the lower classes are the first ones affected by our destructive behavior toward the environment. a) Where do nuclear power plants and chemical plants and factories set up shop, where they can dump all their toxic chemicals into the neighbor's lawn? b) Which countries are having the worst environmental records (due to the outsourcing of jobs and environmental regulations)? c) Who wasn't able to escape the worst destruction of hurricane Katrina, and d) why were the hurrican's effects so severe? The answer, in case you didn't figure it out, is a) poor neighborhoods; b) the poorest countries; c) the poor and d) the city was too poor (and so was the infrastructure). Seeing a pattern?

An experiment for vegetarians and organic-product buyers (although I have to figure out the right numbers): Go on a food-and-grocery budget of about $50 (?)/month, and see how long it takes you--not only to stop buying organic food--but to start buying meat. Meat is cheap, and it fills you up. Regardless of your more abstract philosophies, when you're not sure when your next meal is, all your long-term goals and ideals go out the window, and only your short-term goals remain. This is one of the ways that the cycles of social and environmental injustice continue: keep enough of the people desperate enough, and they won't look at, let alone care about, ecological destruction, even if it directly effects them.

However, that is slowly beginning to change. The environmental justice movement sprung out of the early 1990s as an anti-toxics revolution: people from poor areas were fed up with how they were being treated. For more information on environmental justice, please visit the website Environmental Justice Resources on the World Wide Web

Friday, January 13, 2006

For the Love of Common Sense

I wrote this letter in response to an article entitled, Energy: A Potent Political Weapon, written (guess where?) on the Fox News website. You guessed right, didn't you? And you're saying right now, "Why did she bother writing to this man?" Well, my answer will be Ad Hominem: "You're stupid! Leave me alone." See? Now you know why, and you know I'm right.

Dear Mr. Steven Milloy:

Understand that I don't usually write to reporters; in fact, I believe this is my first time. I would like to point out a couple flaws in your article, that stood out to me.

1) In your article, "Energy, A Potent Political Weapon", you said, "Environmentalists are doing everything in their power to ensure that whatever energy is available will be more expensive."
As a very active environmentalist who speaks to other environmentalists on a day-to-day basis, I can assure you this isn't true.

That argument is called an Ad Hominem fallacy:
Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A's claim is false.

Here is Person A's defense: The purpose of environmentalism is to protect the environment, and make sure that humans aren't negatively affected by the environment. We do not try to undermine attempts to boost our economy, especially when it comes to energy resources, since they are vital to the entire global economy. If we tried to undermine attempts to access energy and succeeded, the global economy would be in ruins.

This is exactly why, instead of undermining attempts to find energy resources, we offer scientifically-proven, very effective energy resources that would provide us with a lot of the energy we usually extract from fossil fuels. I'm sure you've heard of them; they're called alternative energy sources: wind power, solar power, and hydroelectric power are the most popular. As an environmentalist, I would like to show people that we have the opportunity to invest in some extremely reliable, economically, and environmentally sustainable energy sources. This would help us move from our dependency on petroleum, which is "unsustainable". This means that, regardless of when (certainly within the next century), we will hit a peak in oil extraction efficiency, and prices will rise exponentially from then on. Alternative energy sources don't have this problem. Therefore, if we were dependent on them, we would not have to worry about a sudden economic depression when oil extraction becomes next to impossible. This is not to say, "stop extracting oil now!" This is a gradual concept, to wean us off our dependency on an economically unsustainable resource. Therefore, we wouldn't have to pay higher prices for natural gas, as you said in your article, because there would be other energy sources available. (Yes, that was long-winded, I know.)

2) When you speak of the ANWR oil and gas drilling, you have to be willing to do a cost-benefit analysis. The economically recoverable oil in ANWR is about 152 days of supply. That's less than half a year's supply of oil. Drilling in that part of the Refuge would disrupt the balance of a very fragile ecosystem. Before you come to any conclusions, I suggest you learn exactly what an ecosystem is and how interconnected it is with each species it houses. Drilling will likely put the caribou species on the endangered species list. You may not share the same sentiments as I about deer. That's fine. How about people? The two large herds of caribou in ANWR are major food sources for the Gwich'in Indians in that area. They have lived off the caribou for the past 12,000 years, and are strongly opposed to drilling. To learn about more reasons that drilling in ANWR is a terrible idea, contact Senate Republicans, Lincoln Chafee (RI) and Mike DeWine (OH), and ask them why they voted against the drilling.

3) I will not go into the large amounts of evidence that global warming not only exists, but is exacerbated by humans. But I do suggest that, before you read more about how climate change is "junk science", you read this one pdf article, or you can go to the website and get it there.

Thank you very much for reading through this long email. I hope you at least found it interesting.


Sitakali (I actually used my real name here)