The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference has just concluded, the eighteenth in a series notable for the lack of cooperation among the planet’s worst polluters, first and foremost the United States, and their failure to swiftly move away from dirty energy sources. Now residents of the Pacific Northwest face the planned building of the largest coal export terminal in North America, at Cherry Point in Washington state.
The proposal for the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) comes from war profiteer and union opponent SSA Marine, formerly Stevedoring Services of America (which employs the husband of Patty Murray, Washington’s senior U.S. senator). SSA promises an innovative, efficient, and environmentally safe terminal that will play a key role in national economic recovery.
But haven’t we heard this before? “Don’t worry; it’s clean and we’re creating jobs!” After numerous oil spills, flammable water due to hydraulic fracturing in the Northeast, the Keystone XL pipeline with its possible “game over” scenarios, and the rapid disappearance of polar ice caps, when will we say enough is enough? Corporations like Peabody Energy and Arch Coal plunder the Earth, kill their workers, and then reap the profits. When will we rise up and throw off these eco-villains?!
Double-speaking politicians, corporate CEOs, and some union officials have formed the “Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.” They paint the terminal as a savior for beleaguered communities through jobs and tax revenue while denying its harmful and potentially catastrophic environmental and health effects. These will be felt from the U.S. Northwest, where air quality will deteriorate and traffic will snarl; to the areas of the U.S. where the dangerous and debilitating job of mining coal poisons whole communities; and to China, India, and the other Asian countries where the coal will be marketed. Because coal is a main contributor to global warming, the whole planet will suffer.
Eco-warriors from the youth, people of color, environmental, and Occupy movements who aren’t fooled by corporate platitudes are emerging as leaders and taking action. But if their goals are to be achieved, these movements need to unite around demands for radical change to meet human needs and protect the Earth.
1. NATIONALIZE the energy industry under public ownership and workers’ control — seize the means to save the planet!
Energy corporations have proven time and time again that they are terrible, irresponsible stewards of the environment and its resources. The only way for the working-class majority to liberate ourselves from the energy privateers and accomplish public oversight is to take the profits out of the industry. Then local committees of workers, linked nationally and collaborating with independent scientists and affected communities, can democratically make rational decisions about how to meet energy needs that do not pit one area or country against another — or jobs against the environment.
2. CREATE JOBS not pollution.
What’s urgently needed is publicly funded research and development of sustainable, clean energy. This would enable communities to create high-tech, union jobs in the public sector with good wages and benefits. Here in Washington, we could expand public transit by making the state one big “free ride zone.” And, instead of restricting passenger use of the railways by turning them over to the coal giants, we could do the opposite — open them up for more passenger trains, which would create jobs while reducing pollution from cars and airplanes.
3. MEET THE NEEDS of people and the planet — deny all GPT permits!
Human people require clean water and air to survive, but corporate “people” only need profits. The Freedom Socialist Party’s (FSP) strong tradition of fighting for the needs of poor and working people — real people — continues in our opposition to all parts of the GPT proposal and our call for no permits for dirty energy infrastructure. Jobs are needed, but not at the expense of ecosystems, health, and the emergency response systems that the GPT would impair.
And as part of the commitment to human needs, let’s shut down the Pentagon and end all U.S. wars! The U.S. military-industrial complex is the world’s greatest consumer of oil. Reining in U.S. imperialism would slash the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere. And think of the sustainable energy public works that the U.S. could fund if it stopped giving the Pentagon more than half a trillion dollars a year to kill workers overseas.
4. BUILD SOLIDARITY among workers and oppressed people in the U.S. and internationally — fight the carbon traffickers, not each other!
FSP joins with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Lummi Nation, and all people who oppose the uncontrolled expansion of corporate influence over natural resources, which jeopardizes fishing and other Native rights. FSP strongly believes that it is in the interest of environmentalists and workers of all backgrounds to support Native sovereignty in the U.S. and to oppose the xenophobic jingoism spouted by corporate liars, which pits U.S. working people against their sisters and brothers in places like China and India — where coal protests are on the rise. Rejecting “not in my back yard” in favor of solidarity is the only way forward for those who oppose the planetary destroyers.