Requiem for Solidarity: From Flint to Spain an Important Era Has Passed

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Delmer Berg in Spain, 1938. Pic via Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives

This past week, two participants in an important era of solidarity passed along.

Richard Wiecorek, the last of Flint sit-down strikers died at the age of 99 in Michigan. Within the same week, Delmer Berg, the last known living member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, also died at the age of 100 at his home in California. These men participated in great moments for the left during the 1930s, an era of unprecedented solidarity with working people around the world.

From 1936 to 1937, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) Flint sit-down strike pitted tens of thousands in General Motors (GM) manufacturing plants against the industry bosses, craven politicians and the police. UAW had led a dangerous and difficult organizing drive to unionize Flint’s 45,000 workers into a large scale union that countered GM’s capital and control of the political system and police state. Continue reading

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Climate Verdict: Delta 5 Found Not Guilty of Obstructing an Oil Train, Guilty of Trespass– Judge Throws Out Necessity

necessitydefenseToday in Lynnwood, WA, five climate activists who blockaded an oil train in September 2014 were found “not guilty” of obstructing an oil train and “guilty” on a more minor trespass charge. The obstruction charge was the more serious charge and if found guilty the group would have been responsible for possible restitution from BNSF Railroad.

Joined with some of the jurors for the sentencing, Judge Howard told the court he feared more criminal acts and gave the group “two years probation. 90 days in jail, 89 suspended.$1000 fine, 800 suspended + 125 in fees.”

Yesterday, the judge presiding over the case, Judge Anthony Howard, disallowed the idea that the defendants were acting out of what was necessary to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. After two days of expert testimony by researchers and scientists on the perils of climate change and the impact that non-violent direct action has on politicians, corporations and issues at large, the judge told the jury to disregard all that they’d heard. The disallowing of  this strategy was seen as a blow to the Delta 5’s legal defense and the historic nature of a climate trial with the “necessity defense” as its cornerstone. Continue reading

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Day One: Climate Trial with Oil By Rail Blockaders Kicks Off

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The Delta 5 in court this morning.

Today was the first day of the Delta 5’s week in court.

Back in September 2014, the Delta 5 blockaded a mile long oil train from reaching an oil refinery in Everett, WA.

The five were arrested and charged with trespass and blocking a train. They collectively decided to take their case to trial and argue they did what they had to do for the planet and future generations.

As Delta 5 member Patrick Mazza has said “there came a point where I could no longer sit back and wait for the politicians to act. I had to put my body on the line to demand not talk, but action on a massive scale to rapidly replace fossil fuels.

They hope to make the case to a jury that bold action “is both justified and necessary in the fight against climate change, in light of government and corporate complacency.” Last week, in a surprise ruling,  Judge Anthony E. Howard has allowed the defendants to argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change. This is the first time a U.S. court has heard a ‘necessity defense’ in a case relating to climate action. Continue reading

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Blockadia On Trial: Climate Activists Go To Court For Oil By Rail Blockade

Delta_5_Trial-1-of-1600x400-1It is on. Tomorrow in Lynnwood, WA.

In September 2014, as the rest of us were preparing to march in New York and Flood Wall Street, these five courageous folks  blockaded an oil train for eight hours with a tripod (three legged blockade device with a person perched atop it while four others were locked to each leg.)

Tomorrow, they begin a five day trial in a Washington court. The judge has allowed the necessity defense. That means, the Delta 5 (as they’re called) will argue they did what they had to do to stop climate change. Because climate change is causing more and more environmental catastrophe, it is imperative that we act by any means necessary. Even breaking the law. Continue reading

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Putting Keystone XL in Retrospect

imagesThere are a number of important lessons learned from the fight against Keystone XL.  Perhaps most importantly, that the climate movements picked a fight scoffed at by lobbyists, politicians and pundits, dug in, fought hard and won (at least partially). The broad coalition of Indigenous groups, Nebraska and Texas landowners, students, environmentalists and many more challenged the huge amounts of political and social capital that Big Oil has in our society and fought back.

Tar Sands Action

In August 2011, the Tar Sands Action launched the first major escalation against the Keystone XL pipeline. Responding to a call to action put out by environmental writer Bill McKibben, over 1200 people engaged in two weeks of rolling sit-ins at the White House. The Tar Sands Action helped launch a political movement on climate in North America and turned Keystone Xl into a household name. Continue reading

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Demanding the Impossible: Saying “No Compromise” in the Climate Movement, And Meaning It.

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“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”

— Utah Phillips

In the summer of 2003, my friends and I launched a campaign called Dirty South Earth First! (DSEF!) that targeted the executives of financial holding company MAXXAM in their ostensibly safe gated communities in suburban Houston. MAXXAM was the parent company of Pacific Lumber (PALCO) which spent decades logging the majestic Redwoods of Northern California.

MAXXAM’s CEO Charles Hurwitz bought PALCO and escalated the logging of Northern California for higher profit and the need to pay off the debt from the acquisition. Hurwitiz had a history of financial misdeeds including the raiding of worker pensions from other companies he’d bought and crashing a Savings and Loans costing U.S. tax-payers $1.6 billion during the financial crisis of the late 1980s. Continue reading

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Warning: Greenwash Ahead

Great new article out by Pratap Chatterjee at Corpwatch about the greenwash boom going on in American business.

The coal, oil and gas industries have finally woken up to the political discourse around global warming. Instead of actually looking for ways to actually reduce their enormous carbon footprint, they have responded with a greenwashing public relations blitz and “alternatives” to traditional fossil fuels.

What do they mean by “alternatives?”

Well there is palm oil.

“For example, the weekend before [the Bali] negotiations began, Neste Oil announced plans to build the world’s largest bio-diesel facility a few hundred miles northeast of Bali, in the Tuas industrial zone on the island of Singapore. “

Neste’s $800 million plant will use palm oil. Critics like Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network say that palm oil plantations destroy valuable eco-systems and rainforests, and actually exacerbate global warming.

How much carbon is emitted from the current annual amount of rainforest destruction? 1.6 billion tons of carbon emissions.

That doesn’t sound like an alternative to carbon intensive industry. Continue reading

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