Category Archives: Social Justice

U. S. Households Can’t Afford Water

Reposted from Poor People’s Campaign.

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Ecological Devastation

Did you know 13.8 million U.S. households cannot afford water?

Federal assistance to local water systems is currently 74 percent below its peak in 1977. This has contributed to the inability of public water utilities to address failing and aging infrastructure. It has also prompted utilities to privatize their water systems, even though private water utilities charge 59 percent more per unit of water than publicly owned water systems.

As a result, nearly 12 percent of U.S. households face unaffordable water bills. Tens of thousands of households have had their water shut off due to non-payment, precipitating homelessness, child removal and a host of medical problems. It also means that at least 4 million families with children are being exposed to high levels of lead from drinking water and other sources. Poor rural communities face the additional problem of lacking access to piped water and sewage systems in the first place.

While there is failing infrastructure in poor cities and rural counties across the country, there has been a boom in infrastructure to support fossil fuel production and transportation. Fracking has driven U.S. domestic oil and gas production since 2007, making the U.S. the world’s largest producer of both oil and gas. It has also demanded an expanded pipeline infrastructure criss-crossing the country.

However, since 1998, there have been 5,712 significant oil and gas leaks or ruptures on U.S. pipelines. And since 1964, there were more than 2,400 spills from offshore drilling in U.S. waters. The largest of these was the Deepwater Horizon “BP” oil spill in 2010, which accounted for 95 percent of oil spilled in the past 50 years.

There are also 1,100 coal ash sites throughout the country. Toxins from these sites gradually leach into water bodies and groundwater, or get released in catastrophic spills.

Scientists have known for decades that human activities, particularly the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, are warming the planet. In spite of knowing the risks, political leadership has dragged its feet on implementing solutions. U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions peaked in 2007. This reveals how little priority our political leadership attaches to an existential threat that, for now, mostly impacts poor people. It also shows the political influence of the fossil fuel industry, which has effectively captured the U.S. political system and prevented the kind of drastic action the country should have taken long ago.

The truth is that our policies have not fundamentally valued human life or the ecological systems in which we live. Instead, it has prioritized private, corporate and financial interests over our precious natural resources.  

We have a fundamental right to clean water, air and a healthy environment and public resources to monitor, penalize and reverse the polluting impacts of fossil fuel industries. 

  • We demand 100 percent clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to transition to a green economy.
  • We demand a fully funded public water and sanitation infrastructure that keeps these utilities and services under public control and that prioritize poor, rural and Native communities that have been harmed by polluting industries.
  • We demand a ban on fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, coal ash ponds, and offshore drilling. We demand a ban on all new pipelines, refineries, and coal, oil, and gas export terminals.
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Standing Up to Climate Denial in Action

by Thanu Yakupitiyage – 350.org

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The only event the Trump administration hosted at the COP 23 UN climate talks during the last two weeks in Germany was a panel promoting “clean” coal, nuclear, and other fossil fuels. This is climate denial in action.

Luckily, people weren’t buying it. As fossil fuel executives took the stage to speak, hundreds of people rose up, disrupting the event by singing, and walked out. I was there, and I can tell you that being part of that beautiful and powerful moment sent shivers down my spine. But don’t just take it from me — watch this powerful video of people rising up in resistance.

This powerful act of resistance was led by members of the U.S. People’s Delegation. The delegation included youth, Indigenous peoples, frontline communities, advocates, and policymakers who came to Germany to stand their ground as the true representatives of people in the U.S. Through direct actions, speak outs and discussions with elected officials, they spotlighted that true climate leadership in the U.S. comes from the people.

The U.S. People’s Delegation sent a powerful message to the world in Germany: U.S. communities aren’t waiting for this administration to get its act together — we’re demanding lasting change now. The delegation showed world leaders that people are already organizing in cities and states across the country to call for a fast, just transition to a world free of fossil fuels that’s powered by 100% renewable energy for all.

The organizations represented in the People’s Delegation include: SustainUS, Sunrise Movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, and the Climate Justice Alliance as part of It Takes Roots, U.S Human Rights Network, Climate Generation, Our Children’s Trust, ICLEI USA, NextGen America, and 350.org.

Now, with the climate talks having just finished, the delegation members are heading home for some much-needed rest — but here in the U.S., our fight is just beginning. We will be in touch soon with more information on what’s next.

With resolve,

Thanu Yakupitiyage

 

 

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I felt like a lip-reader watching the communication of despair

via Synthetic Zero

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“In my case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexorably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting. Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he is able and willing to accept his own vision of the world, no matter how radically this vision departs from others.” -James Baldwin

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To Paris and Beyond: Climate and Freedom

by Erik Lindberg, originally published by Transition Milwaukee

For the modern radical is as confident in the moral expression of his stances and consequently in the assertive uses of the rhetoric of morality as any conservative has ever been.  Whatever else he denounces in our culture he is certain that it still possesses the moral resources which he requires in order to denounce it.  Everything else may be, in his eyes, in disorder; but the language of morality is in order, just as it is.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

In my previous installments in this series[i]–a series in which I question how and to what extent “freedom” can be the main organizing principle of a sustainable civilization–I argued that most of what passes for freedom is dependent upon an open system.  To put this in historical terms I developed earlier, freedom is attendant to a cosmological transition from a closed world to an infinite universe.[ii]  I have been working these metaphysical metaphors in order to illustrate a suspicion I have been meditating over: not only that the “closed world” of our global ecology has been suffering because we treat it as an “infinite universe”; but also that this treatment is by and large the natural outcome of the unrestrained freedom which serves as the main operating principle of our politics, economy, and Liberal moral code. While I realize there are number of risks in questioning the modern unquestionable, I am working towards an articulation of human good and morality that does not hinge mainly on the notion of individual liberty, especially the freedom to consume, or the freedom to have whatever we can afford.

At the end of my last installment, however, I entertained a possible reversal in the main course of my argument, adopting for my purposes a title from one of the late Richard Rorty’s excellent papers on the relationship between philosophy and politics.[iii]  As “an end of philosophy” philosopher, Rorty suggests that most of the questions that philosophy has attempted to answer cannot be answered in the absolute terms the same philosophers tend to demand.  According to Rorty, we should expect the sort of suggestive answers that we get from novelists or poets.  The lack of absolute answers, Rorty argues, is hardly something to mourn—in large part because Liberal, democratic politics do not depend on a strong philosophical glue, any more than they depend on shared religious beliefs.  Rather, democratic deliberation requires only a process of negotiation and compromise, a process that is actually aided by the humility one gains by seeing his or her interests as having no solid philosophical backing.  We don’t need better philosophy, in short, we need better politics; a new philosophical theory or metanarrative won’t help us learn to treat our environment and each other better.

Continue reading here.

 

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Buen Vivir, Degrowth and Ecological Swaraj: Alternatives to ble development and the Green Economy

by Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta

Introduction

Concern over the ecological unsustainability of human presence on Earth, and the growing inequality coupled with continuing deprivation of a huge part of humanity, has grown rapidly in the last couple of decades (Rockstrom et al., 2009; Piketty, 2014; Steffen et al., 2015). Inequality, injustice and unsustainability, already part of many state-dominated systems, have clearly been worsened by the recent phase of capitalism’s accelerated expansion (Harvey, 2014).

Along with this, however, the global exploration of pathways towards sustainability, equity and justice has also grown. These are of two broad kinds. First, and currently on the ascendance, are ‘Green Economy’ (GE) and ‘sustainable development’ (SD) approaches. These entail a series of technological, managerial, and behavioural changes, in particular to build in principles and parameters of sustainability and inclusion into production, consumption and trade while maintaining high rates of economic growth as the key driver of development. These attempts have failed (and we argue, will continue to fail) to deliver what they promised: halt the worsening of the planetary health, eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. Somewhat on the fringes, as the second broad trend, are paradigms that call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development and of the neo-liberal economy and related forms of ‘representative democracy’. This essay attempts to provide a critique of the ‘Green Economy’ model, and describe the alternative notions or worldviews of well-being emerging (or re-emerging) in various regions. By comparing the two, it suggests how the latter can contribute to re-politicize the public debate by identifying and naming different socio-environmental futures: Buen Vivir, Ecological Swaraj or Radical Ecological Democracy (RED), and Degrowth. Finally, it discusses the risk of mainstream co-option of radical alternatives, and concludes on the need to strive for genuine political and socio-ecological transformation.

Continue Reading here.

Published in Development (2014) 57(3–4), 362–375. doi:10.1057/dev.2015.24

 

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Filed under Capitalism, ecologies, economicss, Equity, Policy, politics, Social Justice, Uncategorized

What are the Connetions Between Culture and Conscience?

Upcoming New York and radio event sponsored by The Center for Humans & Nature:

“Explore the relationship between culture and morality: How do humans discern between right and wrong? How do these decisions shape our communities and cultures? How does culture influence our values? Melvin Konner and Jonathan Haidt kick off the conversation, with new voices added weekly.

Join us in New York City on October 26 for a live event with Jonathan Haidt, Melvin Konner, and Krista Tippett. This conversation on culture and conscience is a partnership with the On Being radio and podcast.”

See original post here.

Note from C. Skolnik: These issues may be somewhat tangential to Environmental Critique, but they are central to conversations of the blog’s sponsoring organization, the DePaul Institute for Nature and Culture.

 

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Filed under Affect and Ecology, brain science, Climate Change, commons, corporations, ecologies, economicss, Environmental Ethics, environmental justice, Equity, Humanities and Ecology, Nature, Social Justice

Remarks by Pope Francis to Congress

Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of Congress on September 24, 2015, the first time a pope has spoken to Congress. He discussed immigration, poverty, and care for the environment, quoting parts of his encyclical released in June 2015.”

See here.

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Filed under Catholic, Christianity, Climate Change, commons, corporations, ecologies, economicss, Encyclical, environmental justice, Equity, Humanities and Ecology, Pope, Refugees, Social Justice