[Documents menu] Documents menu

Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 98 08:18:37 CST
From: scott@rednet.org (Peoples Weekly World)
Subject: Corporations won’t save the earth
Organization: Scott Marshall
Article: 25722

Corporations won’t save the earth

By Virginia Brodine, People’s Weekly World, 17 January 1998

The recently concluded Global Warming Conference signaled the end of the debate over whether the activities of human societies are increasing global warming, and moved the discussion into the arena of doing something about it. The concern of the people of the world is now whether there will be action commensurate with the danger.

The decisions are in the hands of governments, including our own, and of the corporations that in the capitalist world still make the production decisions. Without people’s movements to affect when, what, and how much action, it is likely to be too little, too late.

Millions of words poured over us from newspapers and TV programs during the conference, words that were confusing at best, misleading at worst. Scarcely mentioned in the arguments between nations and groups of nations was the fact that lowering the emission of greenhouse gases should have been done long ago to improve local environments.

Besides, limitation of the use of fossil fuels will have to come some time - they are non-renewable resources. If it is done now, there will be triple benefits: a visible improvement locally, a less visible but profoundly important benefit worldwide, and an energy shift that can be accomplished much more easily before the resources become scarce.

The battleground now changes to our own country, where we can expect equally confusing skirmishes over ratification of the Treaty and over every proposal for cutting down the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from U.S. factories, utilities and vehicles. We must keep our eyes on the prize: saving ourselves and the generations that will follow us from the consequences of unchecked global warming.

Already shaping up is the debate over ratification of the Treaty by the Senate. Opponents of ratification are trying to frame that debate in terms of patriotism.

To ratify, they say, is to give up our national sovereignty and submit to international pressure. To oppose ratification is to defend our country against the unfair developing countries that don’t want to do their part.

They are speaking for the industrial and financial giants who are making very nice profits now, thank you, and want to go right on doing things their own way. Republicans even have the gall to present their anti-treaty position as defense of working people. They hope to prevent, or at least postpone any action.

The Clinton administration is giving in on the postponement and will not submit the Treaty until developing nations agree to participate. But inadequate as the Treaty is, it is a first step and should be ratified as soon as possible.

Some changes in our economy will be necessary, first of all in energy use to reduce carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, but it is the most important.

Administration spokesmen say there will soon be a proposal for a $5 billion package of tax incentives and research grants to move the country on to a more energy-efficient path. It is too soon to say how useful this package will be, but it sounds uncomfortably like foot-dragging. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been telling us for years that the necessary research has been done, that a host of clean energy technologies are available to substantially reduce global warming emissions without impeding economic growth. (Nucleus, Spring 1997)

We won’t win the prize without working for it. People and people’s organizations, especially trade unions and environmental organizations, need a program which will work seriously for the kind of change that puts people and nature before profits. We are already getting the same tirade that has been fired at every environmental issue: It will ruin the economy! It will destroy jobs! Translated, that means It will interfere with our right to make profits our own way.

Environmentalists may make the mistake of disregarding or downplaying the jobs issue, thereby losing allies in the unions. Unions may make the mistake of opposing change on the jobs issue. The reality is that the wind is now beginning to blow, however slowly, in the direction of energy change. For unions to oppose that change because jobs will be lost is spitting into the wind. Overall, jobs will almost certainly increase, but particular jobs in coal mining, for example, will probably be lost. Transitional pay and training to move workers from old jobs to new should be demanded by both environmentalists and unionists.

Workers in the capitalist United States are offered jobs on a take it or leave it basis. We will decide what to produce and how to produce it, say the bosses. If it pollutes your own environment, if it makes the world unlivable for your children, that’s none of your business.

Workers, through their unions, have refused to take it or leave it if pay and conditions were unlivable. It is time to say that the energy that makes the economy work is also their business, and they want a voice in how the changes are made to a different kind of production.