By Rapid Response Network
Today, Haitian garment workers are going on strike to demand 500 gourdes ($7.94 for 8 hour work day)!
This follows last Thursday’s (5/11) work stoppage and shut down of the SONAPI Industrial Park in Port Au Prince.
From that action, union organizer, Telemarque Pierre, was fired without reason from his position at Premium Apparel factory, which produces for Gildan, and owned by Clifford Apaid.
In a statement shared with the RRN, organized workers said:
“The Fight for social justice will continue!… The firing of our comrade is an act of repression, intimidation and interference in the fundamental rights of workers to organize concerted activities to defend their economic and social interests.”
So now workers are striking for a decent wage, and also for the re-hiring of Telemarque Pierre!
Reports from Haiti say that police presence is high, and workers will brave strong repression for the strike.
(More background info).
Please stand with these workers TODAY.
Ways to take action:
1) Use the following contacts to Voice Workers’ Demands (Talking Pts Below)
a. Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST), Haiti: email@example.com
b. AGA Corporation (Parent corp of Premium Apparel factory): 305-592-1860
c. Gildan (international clothing brand that contracts with Premium Apparel factory):
Jason M. Greene, Director of Supply Chain: 843-606-3750
Corporate office (Montreal): 866-755-2023
Customer Service (Charleston, SC): 843-606-3600
Twitter: @GildanOnline; facebook.com/GildanOnline/
– I’m calling/emailing in support of Haitian garment workers’ demands for a minimum wage of 500 gourdes ($7.94).
– I also support union organizer, Telemarque Pierre, who was unjustly fired from Premium Apparel for exercising his right to union organizing. Rehire Telemarque Pierre!
– I disagree with the minimum wage of 265 gourdes ($4.21) that the Association of Haitian Industrialists is pushing for.
– Pay workers 500 gourdes ($7.94)!
2) Send solidarity statements directly to the garment workers. Let them know you took action: firstname.lastname@example.org
3) Share, Post, Tweet. Tag RRN
#RehirePierre #SolidarityForever #500Gourdes
Twitter – @RRNsolidarity
Facebook – @Rapid Response Networ
On Thursday, May 11, garment workers shut down the SONAPI Industrial Park in Port au Prince to demand increased wages. These efforts were organized by the Port Au Prince trade union, SOTA-BO (Union of Textile & Apparel Workers), along with PLASIT-BO, an association of autonomous textile trade unions in Haiti, affiliated with Batay Ouvriye (Workers Fight).
The mobilization started in the morning with a work stoppage, followed by a sit in. The national police were called as more workers joined the mobilization, demanding 500 gourd ($7.94 for an eight-hour workday).
In response to this action, on Saturday, May 14th, Premium Apparel factory owner, Clifford Apaid, fired Telemarque Pierre, the General Coordinator of SOTA-BO and spokesperson for PLASIT. Further, ADIH (Haitian Industrialists Association), Better Work Haiti (a labor practices monitoring agency), and the USDOL (U.S. Department of Labor) have denounced “acts of violence” they claim were committed against property and people during the day of the mobilization.
What about the daily violence of wage theft, harassment, and threats for organizing for your rights? What about the violence of not being paid enough to eat? This is repression in the interest of profit.
Haitian garment workers live in crushing poverty and are paid the lowest wages in the Western Hemisphere. These wages are mostly absorbed by workers’ transportation costs, to and from work, pushing them into debt to afford the basics – food, water, rent.
Wage theft, harassment, and unwarranted firings for organizing are the norm in factories.
In 2013, Workers Rights Consortium found that the majority of workers in Haiti’s garment industry are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally owed due to widespread wage theft. A previous report found that every single one of Haiti’s export garment factories was illegally shortchanging workers.
The demand for 500 gourdes is absolutely necessary for Haitian garment workers to exist. Please support their fight.
In solidarity and struggle,
The Rapid Response Network
By Norris Thomlinson / Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i
The situation in many third world countries could actually improve because of the global economic collapse. First world countries would no longer enforce crushing debt repayment and structural adjustment programs, nor would CIA goons be able to prop up “friendly” dictatorships. The decline of export-based economies would have serious consequences, yes, but it would also allow land now used for cash crops to return to subsistence farms.
–from the Deep Green Resistance Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy
David Holmgren, co-originator of permaculture, has a long history of thoughtful and thought-provoking publications, including design books from the original Permaculture One to his 2002 Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. He’s written numerous essays over 35 years, ranging from the specifics of agricultural vs forestry biomass for fuel, to the future of energy decline.
I’ve long admired and respected Holmgren’s thinking, so I was looking forward to reading his new “Crash on Demand” (PDF), an update of his 2007 “Future Scenarios” projections for global developments. I felt especially intrigued that he has arrived at conclusions similar to my own, regarding not just the inevitability, but the desirability of a crash of the financial system as soon as possible. But the article disappointed me; I think Holmgren is soft-selling his realizations to make them palatable to a hoped-for mass movement. Interestingly, even this soft-sell is being rejected by the permaculture blogging community.
“For many decades I have felt that a collapse of the global economic system might save humanity and many of our fellow species great suffering by happening sooner rather than later because the stakes keep rising and scale of the impacts are always worse by being postponed.” (p 9)
“It seems obvious to me that it is easier to convince a minority that they will be better off disengaging from the system than any efforts to build mass movements demanding impossible outcomes or convincing elites to turn off the system that is currently keeping them in power.” (p 14)
“Mass movements to get governments to institute change have been losing efficacy for decades, while a mass movement calling for less seems like a hopeless case. Similarly boycotts of particular governments, companies and products simply change the consumption problems into new forms.” (p 22)
Holmgren proposes a possible solution:
“Given the current fragilities of global finance, I believe a radical change in the behaviour of a relatively small proportion of the global middle class could precipitate such a crash. For example a 50% reduction of consumption and 50% conversion of assets into building household and local community resilience by say 10% of the population in affluent countries would show up as 5% reduction in demand in a system built on perpetual growth and a 5% reduction in savings capital available for banks to lend.” (p 13)
Where I Agree
Holmgren couches his proposal almost rhetorically, apologetically, as if proactively halting the ecocidal system is crazy talk. He need not be so shy about advocating for collapsing the system! It follows very logically if you agree that:
- Industrial civilization is degrading our landbases every day it continues, far faster than we’re healing them
- Industrial civilization will collapse sooner or later regardless of what we do
- Industrial civilization will not divert its resources into healing our landbases before it collapses
The facts back up Holmgren’s assessment of our dire situation, including imminent climate catastrophe if we continue with anything like business as usual. Industrial civilization is driving 200 species extinct each day and threatening humans with extinction or at best a very miserable future on a burning planet. It is deforesting, desertifying, polluting, and acidifying forests, croplands, landbases, and oceans orders of magnitude faster than nature and all the hard-working permaculturists can heal the damage. The industrial economy consists of turning living ecosystems into dead commodities, and it won’t stop voluntarily. It’s headed for an endgame of total planetary destruction before itself collapsing.
So I fully agree with crashing the system as soon as possible, and I fully agree with getting as many people as possible to withdraw their dependence on and allegiance to the systems and structures of industrial civilization. We desperately need people preparing for crash and building resiliency, in human and in broader ecological communities.
Where I Disagree
We also need a viable strategy to stop the dominant culture in its tracks. We are, and will remain, a tiny minority fighting a system of massive power. Individual lifestyle changes do not affect the larger political systems. People “dropping out” is not enough, is not a solution, is not an effective, leveraged way to crash the system.
I worry about Holmgren’s speculative numbers. I assume the elite, who control a hugely disproportionate percentage of income and wealth, will be even harder to convince of voluntary simplicity than the average citizen. The poor generally don’t have the option to cut spending by 50%, and have few or no assets to divest from global corporate investments. My rough calculations (based on data here) suggest that in the US, 15% of earners between the 40th and 80th percentile (more or less the middle class) must adopt this economic boycott to slow consumption by 5%, and nearly 50% of the middle class must divest their savings to reduce nationwide investment in the global financial system by 5%.
Even hoping for just 15% of the US middle class, 18 million people would have to embrace substantial short-term sacrifice. (While decreasing consumption 50% and building gardens and other resiliency infrastructure, people must still work the same hours at their jobs. Otherwise they’ll simply be replaced by those who want to live the consumptive dream.) This lofty goal seems inconsistent with Holmgren’s recognition of the infeasibility of a mass movement.
History throws up more red flags. Again and again, when growth economies have encountered sustainable cultures, people from the growth economies have forced the others off their land, requiring them to integrate into the cash economy. The dominant culture will not gently relinquish access to resources or to consumer markets. It will retaliate with weapons honed over centuries, from taxes and outlawing sustainability to displacement and blatant conquest. On a less dramatic scale, banks can, if divestments sufficiently diminish the cash they’ve been hoarding for years, adjust fractional reserve rates to compensate. (Though precipitating a fast “run” on the banks could work very nicely to crash the financial system and wipe out faith in fiat money.)
Permaculture activists and thousands of other individuals and groups have for years urged people to consume less. Many good people have adopted voluntary simplicity, dropped out of the global economy, and built regenerative local systems. While this has immense value for the adopting individuals, and often ripples out to benefit the wider community, it hasn’t put a dent in the destruction by the larger financial system. New people are born or assimilated into the culture of consumption faster than people are dropping out.
Holmgren advocates more of the same permaculture activism, with little explanation of why it would now convince people in numbers thousands of times greater than in the past. He hopes the ever-more-obvious signs of imminent collapse will prompt a more rapid shift, but given our fleeting window of opportunity to act, we can’t bank on that hope.
Deep Green Resistance is a design book of what makes a good resistance movement, a permaculture analysis of influencing power and political systems. It arrives at the same conclusion as does Holmgren: we need to prepare for crash by building local resiliency, but the sooner industrial civilization comes down, the better. Its crash will leave the majority of humans better off short-term, as their landbases will no longer be plundered by the rich for resources. Crashing the system now will benefit all humans long-term, giving future generations better odds of enjoying liveable landbases on a liveable planet. And crashing the system now will obviously benefit the vast majority of non-humans, currently being poisoned, displaced, and exterminated.
If we truly hold as our goals halting ecocide and slashing greenhouse gas emissions as dramatically as Holmgren suggests, we must devise a realistic plan, based on a realistic assessment of our numbers and strengths, the vulnerabilities of industrial civilization, and how much longer the planet can absorb its blows. Recognizing our tiny numbers and relative weakness compared to the global system, and limited time before our planet is beaten into full ecosystem collapse, we must apply the permaculture principle of making the least change to achieve maximum effect.
The Deep Green Resistance book, as part of its strategy of implementing Decisive Ecological Warfare, examines more than a dozen historic and contemporary militant resistance movements. It concludes that “a small group of intelligent, dedicated, and daring people can be extremely effective, even if they only number one in 1,000, or one in 10,000, or even one in 100,000. But they are effective in large part through an ability to mobilize larger forces, whether those forces are social movements […] or industrial bottlenecks.”
Holmgren notes that it’s easier to convince a minority to disengage from the system than to spark a majority mass movement for true sustainability, but his plan relies on 10% of the population making dramatic change. DGR’s analysis suggests it’s easier yet to convince a tiny minority to take strategic direct action. The rest of the sympathetic population, whether 10% or just 1% of the general public, can provide material support and loyalty with much less immediate sacrifice than in Holmgren’s proposal.
The Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND), with small numbers of people and meager resources, has used militant tactics against oil companies to routinely reduce oil output in Nigeria by 10-30%.
In April 2013, saboteurs in San Jose CA shot out transformers in an electrical substation, causing damage that took weeks to repair. The New York Times explains some of the difficulties involved in replacing transformers, especially if many were to fail in a short period of time.
We have more promising strategies available than hoping we can persuade 10% of the population to adopt voluntary simplicity, and hoping that will crash the financial system.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Holmgren’s analysis of our global predicament, and the desirability of crashing the system, his proposal for doing so seems ineffective. Certainly, we should work to disengage ourselves and neighbors from the global system, but we must combine building alternative structures with actively resisting and strategically sabotaging the dominant system.
Many people will disagree with the necessity of crashing the system, because they don’t think conditions are that bad, because they hold vague hopes that God or technology or permaculture will save us, because they fear that fighting back will increase the anger of our abusers, or because they value their own comfort more than the life of the planet. That’s fine; we can agree to disagree, though I encourage those people to further explore these ideas with their minds and with their hearts.
Many people do see the destructiveness of this culture, the inevitability of its crash, and the desirability of it crashing sooner than later; but won’t want to participate directly in bringing it down for any of many perfectly legitimate reasons. That’s fine, too. There’s lots of work to do, and a role for everyone. You can work on restoration of your landbase or crash preparation for your community while providing material and ideological support to those on the front lines. We can join together as “terra-ists”, with our hands not just in the soil as Holmgren defines the term, but also working with wrenches upon the wheels, the levers, and all the apparatus of industrial civilization.
- Endgame by Derrick Jensen, two volume analysis of the problems of civilization and the solution. Many excerpts available at the website.
- Deep Green Resistance book, laying out a realistic strategy to save the planet
- Liberal vs Radical video presentation by Lierre Keith, explaining the different approaches of these two different frameworks for perceiving the world
From Permaculture, Perennial Polycultures, and Resistance: Demand Crash! — A response to Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand”
By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin
People laugh at anything and everything these days, and they expect you to laugh along. In this age of utter cynicism, little is sacred, little is off-limits from humor, little is safe from the cultural tide of callous abuse. What’s worse: you laugh along. You may not want to, but you do.
Laughter is a beautiful thing—until it meets abuse. Like a spoonful of sugar with a stab in the back, it attempts to cover for abuse. Or like pouring salt in the wound, it can be the abuse itself. “Come on, it’s just a joke,” say abusers, as they mock you to the core, as they target any trace of sensitivity—read: humanity—for utter ridicule.
As a friend says, “cruel humor is the humor of sociopaths.” Any boundary set by another, any boundary placed on humor, will be broken. And to them, that’s what makes it funny.
Far from “just jokes,” this is a serious social problem. As psychologist Lundy Bancroft writes, “[H]umor is . . . . one of the powerful ways a culture passes on its values.” What does this say about a culture in which, from the most personal level to the mass one, abuse is merited funny; in which there exists so-called “gay jokes” and “rape jokes” and “race jokes”; in which humor is rated congruently with the scale of oppression or atrocity it invokes?
Not laughing is an act of protest. Some things are funny, of course, and some things are absolutely not. Boundaries do exist and they must be respected. Abusers live to breach them, using humor as one vehicle, one excuse. They want us to laugh along. With most everyone else joining in, it can be hard not to. But we mustn’t; we can’t give in. We may feel alone as the tide washes over us, but we’re not: we share the turbulence with all those whom the jokes are made at the expense of, the ones whose boundaries are under siege.
I can hear the chorus of apologists now, red-faced and shouting their mantra: “politically correct, politically correct, politically correct.”
This sentiment is not new to me. For my first group of so-called radical friends, “P.C.” was enemy number one. They were against the state, the authorities, and, above all, anyone who put a damper on their fun.
These friends just wanted a laugh. So they called African-Americans “niggers” and tattooed swastikas on their arms. So they called women “sluts” and watched torture porn. So they called lesbians and gays “faggots” and formed a punk band specifically to mock the suicide of a local 15-year-old gay boy.
All this was done in the name of irony and shock value, which is, as one of these friends put it, the point of being radical.
If it makes me politically correct to say out loud that this is just wrong, that this is in fact fucking sick, so be it. But I’m not concerned with being “correct.” I care about stopping injustice, whatever form it comes in. I am politically opposed, never mind correct, to these heartless attacks on the physical and emotional boundaries of others.
Those so quick to make accusations of “P.C.” rarely bother to learn what it is they’re saying. It has a history, notes Sheila Jeffreys: In the 1980s and ‘90s, “the feminist and anti-racist policies that had been adopted by education authorities and universities in the UK and the USA were being denounced as ‘political correctness’. The term ‘politically correct’ was a term of abuse used automatically and unthinkingly by many, whenever challenges were raised to practices which entrenched the rights and interests of rich white men.”
That’s the point, isn’t it? All pretenses of joke aside, abusers have one basic aim: to preserve the existing hierarchy which allows them to abuse in the first place. With iron boots already pressing down on the necks of the oppressed, humor serves as but one tool to that end.
The pursuit of irony makes for sad, miserable, ugly lives. Those who grasp for it do so in the absence of any real human emotion and human relationship. This is the ultimate irony: their hearts and minds are too dull to participate in the world without pretending it is one long joke.
“Lighten up,” they say. We all want to think of ourselves as good people, even if we have to convince ourselves that being abusive is not a disqualifier. As social beings, it hurts to be told we’ve done wrong, that we’ve acted unacceptably, even though we may know deep in our bones that it is true: the joke went too far.
In his book, The Heart of Whiteness, Robert Jensen recounts the story of a friend looking for some sympathy after being called out for a racist joke. The friend is wary to accept responsibility and seems to ask for advice only in the hope of strokes to his bruised ego. Writes Jensen: “Before he even tells me the joke, the answer is obvious: of course the joke is racist. He understands that because he knows enough to form the question. Though he is struggling to understand why, his gut tells him it is a racist joke. At some level he knows that he told a racist joke to a group of white people. Why is he asking me? Is it the hope that I’ll tell him it wasn’t so bad after all? Or does he need someone to confirm what he knows in his gut and tell him that he is still a good person?”
Humor is worthless without an audience. Like children testing their parents, one person can crack jokes all day long, but unless there others around, and unless these others are willing to laugh, he’ll soon bore of talking to himself.
There would be no audience to abusive humor if our culture as a whole wasn’t based on abuse. But it is; it manufactures and encourages sociopathy. To protect the boundaries of individuals, we need to dismantle the dominant culture. We need to dismantle the oppressions that become the fare of laughter.
Let us now deprive the cruel of an audience and deprive the culture that supports them of its capacity to exist. Let us insist that, yes, it is so bad after all and, no, they are not good people. Let us laugh when it is right to do so and stand firmly when it is wrong.
When abuse is eradicated, when the sacred is defended, when boundaries are protected absolutely, when justice is wrought, we can look to the abusers writhing in their lack of joke material and ask: Who’s laughing now?
Beautiful Justice is a monthly column by Ben Barker, a writer and community organizer from West Bend, Wisconsin. Ben is a member of Deep Green Resistance and is currently writing a book about toxic qualities of radical subcultures and the need to build a vibrant culture of resistance. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
By Colombia Informa; translation by Molly Fohn
After two weeks of peaceful protesting against oil exploitation in Arauca, on February 12 that department’s social organizations began a strike announced a few days earlier as a response to the repeated broken promises by the national government and transnational companies.
The last attempt at dialogue took place on Monday, February 11, between the Commission’s spokespeople (composed of a delegation of indigenous people, peasants, youth, women, workers and community members) and representatives of the Minister of the Interior, as well as oil companies that operate in the region, with the goal of establishing the conditions that would allow the fulfillment of those promises that they’ve been making since May 2012.
The repeated lack of follow-through by the government and businesses, and the delay in the negotiation process caused the fracture in the space for dialogue, followed by the use of state force: approximately 1,200 members of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (the ESMAD in Spanish) arrived to violently evict the communities at the protest sites.
The first act occurred on the walkway San Isidro, over the de Tame road toward the Arauca capital, at the gate to the petroleum complex Caricare, which is used by the transnational company OXY, where ESMAD, the Police, and the Army assaulted the mobilized communities by setting fires to the surrounding pastures, discharging their weapons, destroying common buildings (a school), taking away the food supplies to the protestors, and beating and retaining four people.
As a result of the violence, a pregnant indigenous woman who was passing through lost her baby because of the effects of the tear gas, and had to receive emergency attention at a medical center.
The police had kept local and national reporters from contacting CM&, RCN, and other local media that moved to Caricare; the national army set up a checkpoint in the sector of Lipa that prohibited the passage of reporters “for security reasons.” It should be noted that in the Quimbo (Huila) events the police also restricted the presence of the media and acted out a series of violations of basic human rights and International Humanitarian Rights (DIH).
In the face of the this situation, the Human Rights Foundation Joel Sierra posted an Urgent Action which stated its concern for the detention of people, aggression and brutal violence exercised against the peasants and indigenous peoples, the infractions of the International Humanitarian Rights committed by the police to violate and destroy civil installations, and the removal of supplies for feeding those protesting. The Foundation also insisted that the Colombian State respect human rights and the International Humanitarian Rights norms.
In similar form, Urgent Action denounced a series of violations to the protestors’ rights by the police, whose members have dedicated themselves to constantly photograph those that participate in the protests, have retained, interrogated, and reported some of them, and have appeared in civilian clothing and armed in the middle of the night at the edges of the protest sites, among other cases.
In the rest of the protest sites, like the gate to the petroleum complex of Caño Limón in the municipality of Arauca, the town of Caricare in Arauquita, the bicentennial pipeline in Tamacay and el Tigre (Tame) and in Villamaga (Saravena) and the fire substation of Banadías (Saravena), the authorities have sent contingents from the army, the national police, and the ESMAD, because they fear the same will happen in those places that happened in Caricare.
It’s important to note that at this time people and vehicles cannot travel by land to get outside of the department of Arauca by the only two major roads (Casanare and Norte de Santander), and all commerce and activity is completely paralyzed in that region of the country.
From Upside Down World: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4140-colombia-riot-police-attack-communities-protesting-oil-exploitation-in-arauca-
In our last bulletin, Time is Short presented an overview of the need for strategic target selection. With the industrial economy barreling ever onwards, dragging the world towards biotic collapse, the importance of targeting our efforts cannot be overstated. Identifying and striking at key targets is necessary for any social change movement to be successful, and this is all the more true for radical movements that seek to fundamentally change systems of oppressive power.
Yet for all our earnestness and urgency, our movements have (for the most part) failed to target the key nodes of capitalist and industrial systems.
With so many terrible things happening, we slide into a mode of reflexive defensiveness, shifting haphazardly from one manifestation of civilization’s destructiveness to another, without any coherent plan to stop the machine responsible for all the carnage.
Devoid of a way to make tangible progress towards that goal, we are doomed to ineffectiveness: we become fixated by symbolism and direct our efforts towards symbols of that which we oppose, rather than material structures of power.
Take for instance, this communique from Indonesia, published at 325.nostate.net:
Covered by the night, we burned a private car in Tomohon (small city in North Sulawesi), owned by an unknown person. It was a car located near the local TV station in that town. A car as a symbol of slavery, eco-disaster and the meaninglessness of life.
Yes, cars are terrible. Countless people and animals are killed every day by vehicles. And car culture has become emblematic of industrial society and the lack of meaning and connection available in modern capitalist society.
But how does this advance the cause of revolution? How does this change the structures (industrial society and capitalism) that are to blame for “slavery, eco-disaster and the meaninglessness of life”?
Or this communique from Greece, published on the same site:
We claim the responsibility for the incendiary attack at the house of ex-minister of Economy and National Defence, Giannos Papandoniou. We arrived outside the door of his mansion on Olympias street in Kifissia and torched the two cars used by him and his “wife” Roula Kourakou for their meaningless movements….Far from a populist rhetoric we identify in the face of Giannos Papandoniou an officer of authority. We are not interested in listing the dodgy things he has done, although he surely has done many. Either way, corrupted or not corrupted, state officers, irrelevantly if they hold their positions in the state mechanism, are a permanent target for the insurrectionist dignities.
None of us like politicians, nor the riches and rewards they receive for presiding over oppressive and destructive systems of power. In exchange for their proactive allegiance to and proliferation of the status quo, they’re afforded power and privilege, which lasts long after their terms in office end.
But again, how does burning the car of an ex-politician move us tangibly closer to achieving our goals, towards dismantling the system of which politicians are a single component? How does such an attack effect change on the systems which preserve and enable injustice and oppression?
This isn’t meant to be a hostile attack on the courage or conviction of those who take action like this; neither their commitment nor their readiness to take action is at question. This is simply to pose the question “is this really the most effective way to accomplish our goals?”
And needless to say, this cuts both ways. Most of the more mainstream groups and initiatives fall just as flat. Currently, one of the most prominent progressive campaigns is 350.org’s ‘Fossil Free’ campaign, which seeks to target universities and religious institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies. This strategy is definitely an improvement on past efforts, which consisted of pleading to politicians; this new initiative identifies a structural problem and aims to address it. Yet there are some obvious and immediate problems with the strategic viability of this plan, and whether university investments in fossil fuels present a worthwhile target.
The foremost issue is that industrial society is entirely dependent upon fossil fuels in order to function and without an abundant & available supply would quickly collapse (which would be a very good thing!). Fossil fuel companies already receive tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies; if their viability was in serious jeopardy, we can safely assume that governments the world over would rush to their aid. Indeed it would be dangerous to assume otherwise. The extraction and use of fossil fuels can’t be effectively challenged or stopped working through the industrial capitalist system, because fossil fuels are an integral structural support of industrial capitalism and it could not exist without them.
And beyond this, it’s entirely un-established whether divestments by universities would even have a meaningful impact of the economic viability of fossil fuel companies. How much such investments constitute is unknown.
This isn’t to say that such a campaign is a waste of efforts or that it’s a bad thing. Anything that brings people together around structural problems inherent to this way of life is a good thing. And economic pressure, as we saw in South Africa, can contribute to a larger campaign that includes other tactics, such as forceful nonviolence, international political pressure, and strategic sabotage. This is just to say that if the goal is to shut down fossil fuel production or corporations, universities’ investments in the industry don’t present a very important target.
A quick evaluation of these actions through the lenses of the CARVER Matrix gives us a more critical analysis of the value of these targets.
In the last bulletin on target selection, we presented an overview of the CARVER Matrix, a tool used asses the strategic value of attacking a target. Obviously, this is not an end-all-be-all; how a target appears through CARVER is not the final and absolute determination as to whether it presents a worthwhile target. But it is undeniably a strong analytical tool from whose use we can benefit and learn much.
Criticality: will the destruction, damage or disruption of the target have significant impact on the operation of an entity?
The personal cars of one or two individuals are irrelevant to the functioning of industrialism or capitalism—consider all the thousands of cars wrecked every year in collisions. This goes for the cars of political figures, such as Giannos Papandoniou, as well.
As for university investment portfolios, they aren’t critical to the function of industrialism or the fossil fuel industry either. Such corporations don’t have much trouble finding capital (as the vitality of the entire economy rests upon an available supply of fossil fuels), and they already receive massive subsidies from governments.
Accessibility: how feasible it is to reach the target with sufficient people and resources to accomplish the goal?
Cars are very accessible; people park them all over the place and they are almost never guarded or protected, as was the case in both of the actions mentioned above.
Investments are not very accessible at all as targets, with decision making power resting within the complex structures of university administrations. Additionally, people with access to these systems (e.g. students or faculty) are necessary for each distinct university, requiring engagement on a massive scale. Furthermore, it is entirely unknown how much such investments even amount to.
Recuperability: how quickly will the damage done to a target be repaired, replaced or bypassed?
Personal cars are widely available and can easily be replaced, provided one can afford them. For powerful institutions and individuals, vehicles are easily replaced, but for the average person randomly targeted by insurrectionary arson, not so much. And a political figure who can afford two luxury cars and bodyguards is unlikely to declare bankruptcy for the loss of one (or two, or a dozen) of their personal cars.
Again, fossil fuel corporations are not starved for funds, and continue to post record profits. And being that the ‘goods’ they produce are fundamental to industrial society, they can pass on any losses they sustain to consumers at the pump, who have little choice but to pay the price. Fossil fuel companies are incredibly profitable (because our way of life is dependent upon the products they supply), and that makes them desirable investments—that will continue to be true whether or not universities and churches hold stock in them. Thus these investments can be considered very recuperable.
Vulnerability: Are there sufficient means to successfully damage, disable, or destroy the target?
Destroying a car doesn’t require many people, many resources, or hardly any technical knowledge, so they are definitely vulnerable targets.
To change the investment behaviors of educational institutions requires a massive number of people working from within their universities to lobby their administrations to change. Because many universities are private institutions, there are few ways to agitate and force change (private institutions can kick out students and aren’t obligated to listen to them), and the only option left is to lobby the administration to enact policy change. Due to these factors, it’s doubtful whether such university investments can be considered vulnerable.
Effect: What are the secondary and tertiary impacts of successfully attacking the target?
The destruction of a single random car (or even the car of a former government official) is unlikely to have significant political or social effects—except for the person the car belonged to. If cars were repeatedly attacked, it’s possible there would be a response by local police. But it won’t have much of any impact on any major effects other than creating one more pedestrian.
Similarly, there are unlikely to be any serious second-hand ramifications of university divestment campaigns, simply because it is a relatively minor facet of the fossil fuel industry. However, the success of this campaign would certainly be a way to broaden the conversation about climate change and fossil fuels, as well as broaching on a conversation about the structural determinants of capitalism itself.
Recognizability: will the attack be recognized as such, or might it be attributed to other factors?
I can’t imagine anyone attributing the burning of a random car to revolutionary groups, and if so, I doubt they would do so in a positive light. The attack of a specific political figure’s car may be different, but again, it’s unclear without further explanation that such an attack was carried out with revolutionary intent, as opposed to pyrotechnic hedonism.
In regards to 350.org’s campaign, if activists were to successfully move scholastic endowment funds out of fossil fuel stocks and investments, they would undoubtedly be recognized for doing so, primarily because there’s simply no way it would happen otherwise.
Clearly, none of these present especially desirable targets—neither individual cars nor university endowment investments in fossil fuels are particularly critical to the function of the systems of power we seek to dismantle, and that must be our foremost criteria.
One could argue that these targets are primarily symbolic, that they were chosen in hopes of raising awareness about the problems of capitalism and industrial society. This however, is precisely the problem. For decades we’ve been crusading against symbolic targets, attacking microcosm-manifestations of the larger structures which are actually dismembering the planet, instead of focusing our efforts on those structures themselves. Earth is not being strip-mined, clear-cut and plowed to death by symbols or metaphors; physical infrastructure is required to do that. Our work needs to reflect that materialism; like the machines doing the damage to the biosphere, our targets need to be material, critical components of industrial infrastructure.
This is a strategic rut of disastrous proportions into which we’ve collectively gotten ourselves stuck, and we’re in desperate need of a strong push if we’re to get out of it, and move onto successfully dismantling the destruction perpetrated by industrial society.
As so many have so rightly said, political change requires the application of force. But that force needs to be precise, aimed at the correct targets—vital nodes within the dominant structures of power. Unless we select and strike at the right targets—the ones that are critical to system function, accessible, minimally recuperable, and are vulnerable given our resources—we’ll be ineffectually burning random objects and pleading hopelessly with the powerful until the cows come home, or until they too pass from Earth.
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By Agence France-Presse
Surging demand for palm oil in India for cooking and everyday grocery items is driving tropical forest destruction in Indonesia, Greenpeace said Tuesday.
In its report “Frying the Forest” the group called on Indians to boycott products by brands Britannia, ITC, Parle and Godrej, such as biscuits and soap, until the companies commit to sustainable palm oil supply chains.
“Palm oil plantations in Indonesia are expanding rapidly every year to meet India’s demands,” Greenpeace forest campaigner Mohammed Iqbal Abisaputra said in Jakarta.
“We are asking Indian consumers now to stop buying products made from unsustainable Indonesian palm oil.”
Booming India is the world’s hungriest nation for palm oil, consuming almost 7.4 million tonnes last year, or 15 percent of global production, almost all of it imported, US Foreign Agricultural Service data show.
Of that amount, 5.8 million tonnes is imported from Indonesian companies, many of which Greenpeace claims are illegally clearing carbon-rich peatland.
One company targeted by the group is Duta Palma, which owns 155,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in Indonesia, the report says.
The company is deforesting peatland up to eight metres deep on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, the report says, despite a law banning the clearance of peatland more than three metres deep.
Greenpeace also claims fires continue to burn on peatland within the company’s concession, even though the slash-and-burn technique for forest clearance is illegal.
The report comes after a string of successful consumer-targeted Greenpeace campaigns, in which brands like Barbie-maker Mattel and food-maker Kraft dropped paper packaging contracts with Asia Pulp & Paper, who were accused of logging outside their concession area.
The focus on India marks a shift in Greenpeace’s strategy to consumers in developing countries.
“Asian countries will be among the first to feel the effects of climate change, so we can no longer act as if it’s Europe or America’s problem,” Abisaputra said.
Indonesia has implemented a two-year moratorium on issuing new logging concessions on peatland and other high-conservation forest. But unsustainable logging continues within companies’ existing concessions.
Before the moratorium, 80 percent of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions came from deforestation, UN data show, making it the world’s third-biggest emitter.
From PhysOrg: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-palm-oil-india-indonesian-forests.html