In May, thousands of Live Without Trident protesters provoked the latest in a series of mass arrests by trespassing on the nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Washington.
This alliance of pacifists and environmentalists is only one of various nationwide and international coalitions focusing world attention on the perils of nuclear energy and industrial waste.
Environmental concern has surged since the late 1960s, when scientists verified what Indians and Marxists had long predicted: uncontrolled and unplanned production jeopardizes the earth. Today, as greed drives rival industrialists to strip the planet, contaminate the environment, and foment nuclear war, an aroused army of protesters seeks to build an international network of rebellion against the rape of the environment.
But What About Jobs?
Many Trident demonstrators grasp the vital connection between the exploitation of natural resources and of human beings.
They participate in anti-Bakke rallies, defend workers on strike, and bid for the support of labor, minorities, and women for their determined challenge of the corporate and governmental powers who pillage nature and poison people.
Antinuclear activists tend to be young, white and middle-class New Leftists. Political liberals with a tinge of Utopianism, their cry for scaled-down technology and reduced consumption alienates workers because the pleas are not offset with the demand for full employment.
Historically, workers have always borne the brunt of technological change, and the voice of labor is the first to disparage the need for environmental protections.
Myopic union leadership in Oregon campaigned against limiting nuclear power development with the slogan, “On this issue there is no bargaining table between labor and our management friends.”
This stance is duplicated nationally as loggers and workers in the building, utility, construction, steel and auto trades enter the fray against the environmentalists and antinuclear forces.
Organizations like Environmentalists for Full Employment, however, alert workers to the terrible dangers of resource pollution and depletion by asserting that health, safety, and continued employment depend precisely on controlling a ravaging capitalism. They demand that jobs be created by the allocation of sufficient funding to public services.
But environmentalists in general skirt an outright anti-capitalist analysis and get very excited about personal mini-solutions like lifestyle changes, boycotts and recycling. They also advocate the tired non-solution of population control as a substitute for economic transformation.
But the roots of the problem lie in the irrational economic system which enshrines profit to the detriment of clean air, drinkable water, safe energy production, occupational health and safety, and effective land use planning.
Labor is the Key
The pro-earth people will have to learn to place the burden of responsibility squarely on the capitalist class and demand funding for all human needs. A sane environmental ethic that respects the limits of nature, and asserts the need to stop plundering and start cooperating with the only earth we have, can emerge only when environmentalists and labor join hands to restore ecological harmony by vanquishing the corporate scavengers.
Meanwhile, inner-city minorities and reservation Indians continue to be the paramount victims of industrial pollution as the throwaway society plunges madly toward its own destruction.