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This Reconciliation is for the Colonizer

Indigenous Motherhood

June 13, 2017

By Andrea Landry

 

“Indigenous based child-rearing in today’s generation resides in watching the restoration of unfaltering kinship in our Indigenous family systems unfold and allowing that to reside in the raising of our children with the knowing of who they are, and where they come from, wildly and unapologetically.”

 

Artwork by: Votan Henriquez 

 

This reconciliation is for the colonizer.

This settler-colonial reconciliation branded by the government is artificially sweetened with handshake photo-ops and small pockets of money buying out silence on real issues.

The fad and conversation of reconciliation that our people are playing a role in is immobilizing “leadership” and converting indigenous peoples into colonially operated marionettes.

This type of reconciliation is a distraction.

Instead of being idle no more, we are “reconciling some more” with present day Indian act agents whose hands are choking out our voices for land, water, and our children’s minds.

This type of reconciliation is for the ones who want to be “friends” with the Indians for land commodification reasoning, for the ones who whisper the words “im sorry” as they watched the priests and nuns rape our children, for the ones who shut their eyes and turned away when genocide was bleeding into their forts, for the ones who defy Treaty daily- without remorse, and it’s for the ones who beat you, apologize, and beat your daughter and their daughters in the coming years.

This type of reconciliation is for the professors at universities who are pro-Trudeau and believe “decolonizing” universities looks like mandatory Indigenous studies classes yet those very same professors still belittle, marginalize, and see themselves better than, smarter than, and superior to every indigenous student in their classes, shaming them for their brown skin and indigenous minds.

This type of reconciliation is for the professionals in work-spaces who want to aid in repairing the settler-Indigenous relationship in their work places but when an Indigenous women brings her children into that space because her sitter didn’t show up that morning, the mother will be told that her children need to leave because they’re laughter doesn’t line up with colonial workplace standards.

This type of reconciliation helps elderly white woman carry their groceries to their vehicle, but later follows a single indigenous woman with 3 children in the store, aisle after aisle, under the suspicion that she will shoplift.

This type of reconciliation will have dollars for moccasin making and small “cultural” events, but those accounts will be “out of money” the moment those events begin to engage in conversations and action around indigenous liberation, sovereignty, and nationhood.

This type of reconciliation sponsors powwows through companies like Potash and Shell, hoping the 1000 first place special will buy out a few hundred acres of indigenous land more easily.

This type of reconciliation claims residential schools are over but maintains a superior and oppressive power dynamic between settler adults and indigenous children at its own convenience.

This type of reconciliation declares “no foul play” to the bodies of young indigenous youth found in the riverbanks in this country’s most racist cities but later claims they celebrate the lives of indigenous peoples.

This type of reconciliation organizes a national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women but neglects to do any actual work by configuring the timeframe to benefit the colonizer and showing that bringing justice to murdered indigenous women is something that can go on summer vacation.

This type of reconciliation invents a “new nation to nation relationship” and teaches our people that the only way we can access our treaty rights is if we have a status card, completely negating from the truth that we, as indigenous peoples, do not need a new “nation to nation relationship,” as ours is with the crown “as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and water flows,” and those status cards have nothing to do with our treaty rights.

This type of reconciliation was born by the colonizer’s TRC and will die on the very same shelves as those documents in the halls and walls of colonial buildings. For their benefit.

This type of reconciliation claims they are not racist but makes degrading comments about the braids on your sons and the skin of your daughters in public spaces.

This type of reconciliation will say it wants to bring justice to our women but is raping the very land our mothers were birthed on for generations.

This type of reconciliation will say there are no funds for following through with Jordan’s principle, none for the lack of clean drinking water in communities, zero for decreasing the price of food in northern communities, and nothing for the mouldy housing and schools that indigenous children must learn in everyday, but will spend half a billion dollars on Canada 150 – a birthday party founded and based upon genocide.

This type of reconciliation claims to “love” indigenous peoples but expects your indigenous child to sing “oh Canada” in their classroom every morning, standing up.

This type of reconciliation is “making space” for indigenous peoples in writing and editorials but later compiles money together to create an appropriation prize.

This type of reconciliation is “putting an end” to indigenous young people killing themselves but only provides enough money for communities to bring in guest speakers and concerts rather than full time therapists equipped with all the tools needed to aid young people in full-blown crisis.

This type of reconciliation “seeks” to decrease the numbers of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system but will place a young indigenous male in solitary confinement for 4 years for no real reason other than being an Indian in “Canada.”

This type of reconciliation wants to build better relationships with indigenous peoples but is building better ways to commit treason, genocide, colonization, and prejudice with nice hair and a smile of lies.

This reconciliation is for the colonizers.

This is a time of pseudo-reconciliation for continued colonization.

This reconciliation is colonization, disguised with dollar signs and white-skinned handshakes.

This reconciliation is not our reconciliation.

Because.

The only reconciliation that exists for us, as Indigenous nations, is the reconciliation we need to find within ourselves and our communities, for agreeing and complying to this madness for so long.

The only reconciliation that exists for us, is the reconciliation needed to forgive our families, our loved ones, for acting like the colonizer.

The only reconciliation we need. Is a reconciliation that doesn’t involve white skinned handshakes and five dollar handouts for our lands.

The only reconciliation we need is indigenous reconciliation. Free of money. Handshakes. Photo-ops. Inquiries with summer vacations. The continued rape of our women, our girls, our lands, and our babies. Highway of tears and roadways of fears. The continued murder of our women, our girls, our lands, and our babies. Free of shaming our boys out for being indigenous boys with indigenous hair. Free of shaming our girls for being indigenous girls with indigenous skin. Free of support for the colonizer’s version of indigenous “culture,” yet no support money for liberation. Free of supremacy. Trickery. Fake it til you make it syndrome. Indian agents. Sir John A Macdonald governments disguised as Trudeau. Colonial chiefs. Free of the continued manipulation, colonization, degradation, and humiliation of Indigenous people. Free of colonially written documents claiming to “save” us, viewing us always, as victims. Free of the lyrics of Oh Canada for breakfast for our children.

Instead of us living in times of reconciliation, we are living in times of recolonization.

And it will only happen if we allow it.

This reconciliation is for the colonizer. And we need to leave this conversation.

We need to reconcile with ourselves. With our families. With our nations.

For our babies.

Because I want our children to to learn about our own liberation, rather than the colonizer’s reconciliation.

And I want our children to know that
Indigenous liberation will always overthrow colonial reconciliation.

Because having our homelands is more important to me than a photo-op and handshake with government officials named Trudeau.

 

[Andrea Landry is Anishinaabe from Pawgwasheeng (Pays Plat First Nation) but currently resides on Treaty Six territory in Poundmaker Cree Nation. She holds a Masters in Communications and Social Justice from the University of Windsor. Full bio.]

Destroy Here and Destroy There: The Double Exploitation of Biodiversity Offsets

World Rainforest Movement

August 23, 2017

Bulletin 232

 

 

This issue of the WRM bulletin is focused on one of the key strategies that (mainly extractive) industries use to expand within the framework of the so-called “green economy”: biodiversity offsets. We believe it is important to warn about the strong corporate push that is trying to get governments to relax their environmental laws, and thus allow certain industrial activities to take place in areas previously considered to be unviable. The only requirement is that the biodiversity destroyed upon implementing the industrial activity be “offset.” These offset projects incur double destruction, exploitation and domination: on the one hand, of lands affected by industrial activities, and on the other hand, of lands targeted for offset projects. The latter generally entail severe social and cultural destruction.

In order to understand the rationale behind “offsets”, whether they be for biodiversity, carbon, water or anything the like, it is important to always keep the following in mind: the main purpose of these compensation mechanisms is to enable the dominant economic model—which is dependent on fossil fuels—to continue to thrive and expand. In the context of the current socio-environmental crises, adopting offsets was necessary for both governments and companies responsible for these crises to appear to be taking action to move towards a “greener” model. Yet this smokescreen, full of misleading discourse and empty promises, actually further deepens these crises.

Considering this starting point, we can understand why offset mechanisms do not seek to stop the driving forces behind the destruction of territories and forests. On the contrary, they enable destructive activities to expand into areas which, until recently, were impossible to imagine being handed over for exploitation. This is how mining, petroleum, infrastructure, monoculture plantations, mega-dams and many other industries—along with the thousands of kilometres of access roads, workers’ camps, drainage ditches and other impacts these industries cause—continue to grow their operations and profits. Let us not forget that the dominant economic model, which is structurally racist and patriarchal, unloads almost all of its destruction, invasion and violence on indigenous peoples and peasant families, so as to keep exploiting, producing and accumulating profits.

Offsets also make it easier for industries and their allies (governments, conservation NGOs or others) to access more and more land. At the end of the day, offsets have become a green light for destructive activities to proceed within a legal framework; never mind that areas which previously could not have been legally or legitimately destroyed now will be. The only requirement is that the biodiversity destroyed at the site of operations be recreated or replaced elsewhere. In order to achieve this, the argument goes, the biodiversity lost in the area that is destroyed must be “equivalent” to the alleged protection or (re)creation in the area chosen to supposedly replace what is destroyed. Yet this “equivalence” argument actually covers up important contradictions and questions of power, territorial rights, inequalities, violence and colonial history.

Since the aim is not to stop the destruction, but rather to “offset” it, most offset projects are focused on indigenous peoples’ and other traditional forest-dependent communities’ territories. In many cases, forest-dependent communities are required to surrender their land—or control of it—in the name of the offset project. Offset mechanisms thus incur double destruction, exploitation and domination—on the one hand, of land affected by extractive/capitalist industrial activities, and on the other hand, of territories targeted for offset projects. The latter generally do not involve environmental destruction, since they supposedly protect an area for conservation; however experience has shown that they do, indeed, entail severe social and cultural destruction.

“Offset areas” must be under some kind of threat, at least on paper—since, if this were not the case, why would a project be needed to protect them? Thus, almost all projects identify traditional communities as the main threat to conservation. Numerous restrictions are placed on communities’ access to, control of, and rights to use these forests that are turned into offsets. Project proponents argue that “conservation” can only be “successful” through the dominant Western approach (which has its roots in colonization); that is, through the creation of fenced-off parks, or “nature without people.” Usurping forest-dependent communities’ customary rights and territorial control—and hence also their traditions, cultures and livelihoods—is fundamentally racist and violent. (See more on Environmental Racism in Bulletin 223 from April 2016.) 

So, how do so-called biodiversity offsets work in practice?

First and foremost, offsets for loss of biodiversity must be able to measure and quantify “biodiversity.” The elements that will be destroyed must be established and categorized in order to later be recreated elsewhere, or to ensure that the protection of another area has an “equivalent” amount of these elements. Of course, reducing the destruction of a territory—in a specific place and time, and with a specific history and stories—to mere categories and measurements, ignores the coexistence of peoples, cultures, traditions and interconnections within forests and lands, as well as many other aspects. The only thing that matters in this logic is that which can be measured, and therefore exchanged or replaced.

The investment criteria of multilateral banks—such as regional development banks or the World Bank—aim to influence countries’ environmental legislation. In this vein, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, changed its Performance Standard 6 in 2012. Any company wishing to access an IFC loan for a project that will destroy what the IFC considers to be “critical habitat,” must present a plan stating that the biodiversity destroyed will be compensated elsewhere. Accordingly, governments mainly from the Global South are increasingly relaxing their environmental laws to follow the “rules” established by corporate power—concentrated in financial institutions. They can now accept the viability of certain operations previously considered to be unviable, as long as they offset the biodiversity which will be destroyed upon project implementation.

Many biodiversity offset projects are presented as “conservation projects”. About many of them, there is scarce and difficult-to-access information. In these cases, forest-use restrictions imposed on communities are also framed within conservation arguments. This is very problematic: it covers up the fact that, in practice, offset projects prevent communities from carrying out subsistence agriculture, hunting or fishing activities, meanwhile permitting corporations to extract petroleum or build mega-dams in areas that are often protected due to their biological diversity. Once again, the prevailing economic model—reinforced by the offset system—reveals its dominating and racist characteristics.

Worse yet, in some cases, companies claim they even “create” “more biodiversity”; for example, when in addition to the offset project, they implement complementary activities—such as planting trees to “enrich the biodiversity” of the area. They call this having a “net positive impact.” The result is that a mining company—which is extremely destructive—can advertise that its activities not only have no impact, but are also positive for the environment. Meanwhile, communities are forced to change their practices, a few might be offered employment as park rangers – reporting on whether their relatives and neighbours comply with the rules imposed by the offset project -, or leave their territories because they can no longer obtain a livelihood from the land.

In other words, biodiversity offset mechanisms are a strategy for destructive industries to expand even more without violating legislation. The diverse life that is destroyed can never be recreated or replaced. Each space, time and interconnection is unique. These kinds of compensation mechanisms—whose proponents seek to turn them into national and regional policies, international treaties, and ultimately the “status quo,”—impose a worldview based on dominating others’ lives. Clearly, this is not a fortuitous imposition, but rather a violently racist one.

Therefore, it is essential to actively stand in solidarity with struggles to defend lands and territories, and simultaneously expose these mechanisms for what they are. This is necessary in order to break paradigms of domination and open up space—not only to respect, but to learn from, the many other worlds that exist.

 

An Analysis of Women’s Marches Along Historical & Present Lines

Wrong Kind of Green Op-ed

January 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer 

 

not-my-feminism

To go back into the women’s rights movement in the Western world historically, there has ALWAYS been a breach along ethnic lines. That is the truth regarding any honest analysis of the situation. In order to give it some context, we need look no further than the white women who spurred the women’s rights movement in the United States during the eighteenth century and their collective inability to acknowledge the suffering of black women at the hands of white men that was along ethnic lines. This is best illustrated in the presence of Ida B. Wells and her crusade against lynching, something that affected and was used to control black women as well as men. Yet, there was never any open support of her crusade nor black women as a selective group and the crimes against them that were inclusive of being both women and non-anglo. As there was wanton rape of black women and non-anglo women in general by white men during that time which was in accordance with the ethnic domination and patriarchy of that day (which continued as the norm until fairly recently and still present today we might add), there was NEVER any acknowledgement that non-anglo women face an INCREASED amount of subjugation in comparison to white women due to the fact that they lived in a white supremacist system where gender is secondary to being White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

radical-feminism-2-liberation

Over the many, many decades since the Western women’s movement began in the nineteenth century, there has been little betterment in regards to the acknowledgement that white supremacy is a reality and a part of the overall oppression of women. It hasn’t happened in regards to their plight then or now. This is not to dismiss any number of atrocities that white women have faced in this patriarchal system, but their inferior position has ultimately been at the behest of the sole continuance of white male supremacy and dominance. That has been the impediment of white women reaching equality in this world (of which “equality” in regards to gender lines needs to be fully defined in a way that is universal in nature and not just a Western standard, which is what it is today). So, while white women have INTRA-racial domination, non-anglo women have always had to deal with INTRA-racial domination and INTER-racial domination by white men, with the latter being more of an issue than the former. It is granted that Indigenous men the world over have practiced patriarchy and misogyny to varying degrees, but the INTER-racial dominance of white men as a collective has always been a perpetual fear that was many times enacted on Indigenous women in addition to the vagaries that come along with just being a women in this world. Hence, their ethnicity compounded their problems while there was always some alleviation of white women’s problems at some juncture due to their shared ethnicity and heritage with white men.

Presently, we must ask this question after this long sordid history of Western domination that has essentially seen it control the entire world (which it still does presently): How are we going to stop non-anglo women from being taken advantage of in this socio-economic system when white women benefit more now from this set of living circumstances more than their counterparts? By any measurable you want to use, white women lead much more improved lives than any other group of women on this planet. This is entirely due to their ethnicity. There are an ample amount of tales of woe on the white female side, but that doesn’t negate the norm. In comparison, there are any number of black men who hold prominent positions in the United States, but that doesn’t belie the normative aspects of their collective existence at the lowest rung of the social order when it comes to incarceration, unemployment, homelessness and innumerable other forms of disenfranchisement. So, you can always point to individual cases of good and bad, as there were even individual cases of black and African “success stories” even during the height of African chattel slavery across the globe. However, primacy must always be placed on the worst of conditions that the majority face every day. Therefore, it is impossible to fairly equate the enrichment of Oprah Winfrey and extrapolate that to encompass all black women, the same way that you can’t take a white woman who is living in comparable horrid conditions as a First Nations woman and look at it as normal circumstances for white women in the Western world.

What people need to understand is that patriarchy and misogyny became the primary forms of global dominance over the intervening centuries from the European invasion, which began approximately 500 years previous to now. In basically commandeering the entire globe, whiteness (something that was wholly defined and embraced by Europeans as a reason for their NATURAL right to dominate the entire world) replaced patriarchy and misogyny in the daily lives of everyone on Earth. As such, this change in the global social order made white women as a group complicit in subjugation, even over other women. Hence, the historical record has been one of white women being complicit in the crime of ‘racial’ domination, which put them as enemies of other women as they put their gender in deference to their ethnicity. That is just an objective reality.

radical-feminism

And to go even further to the extremities of Western culture and how the immersion of people along ethnic lines is skewed towards the continuation of white domination, the assimilation of non-anglos over the centuries has ultimately led non-anglo women to be fully supportive of dominating other non-anglo women at the behest of white supremacy. So, be it the conservative Condoleezza Rice or the liberal Susan Rice, non-anglo women are just as guilty in thinking of themselves as a part of the Western standard, which is to see the typical non-anglo woman as being lesser than themselves due to their acceptance of the superiority of whiteness. Therefore, these women have no qualms about agreeing with Madeline Albright that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it to conquer that country. As a result, these non-anglo women will commit the same atrocities as their white female counterparts since the only victims of this state violence by the Western world will always include non-anglo women and children. This is no different than say non-anglo female police leading their non-anglo to a prison cell domestically, which is happening in increasing numbers.

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In conclusion, there has been no honest discussion of straight universal principles to address the inequalities of non-anglo women with white women due to ethnic reasons, with suggestions of how this equality is to be achieved at a state, regional and local level across the globe. In order to do that, the leaders of these marches must be willing to be on TOTALLY equal footing with their non-anglo female counterparts in the Western world domestically as well as those in the Global South.  The terms of revolution can’t be dictated by the same people who benefit in some degree to the status quo and only want to reform it to their particular benefit and not deal with the problems that are plaguing their supposed allies. Hence, until Western women want to deal with the Indonesian woman in the sweatshop making her shoes where the victim is paid pennies to feed herself and her family as well as be forced to have sex with one of the male managers (nothing but rape) to keep her job, then this is nothing but caterwauling about personal aggrievement by white women. And as this Western standard is wholly unattainable for non-anglo women in whatever place on Earth (and even becoming more precarious for white women in the Western world), there can be no honest dialogue between the women of the Western world (primarily white women) and those residing in the nether regions of the Global South who will never have access to the resources available which give white women their privileged lifestyles in comparison. Therefore in regards to the oppressed non-anglo woman in this world, it isn’t the female comrade next to her in the fields that is the enemy. It is the typical western white woman who goes to the grocery store or her corporate job and continues her privileged lifestyle everyday who is her enemy, since one’s comfort is entirely dependent on the other’s domination in toiling in those fields. Solidarity can’t be reliant on the convenience of its participants or lack thereof.

Ultimately, until white women as a group (which has spearheaded this movement) want to deal with the historical and present day contributions to the domestic and global subjugation of non-anglo women, of which they have systemically caused and benefited to varying degrees through their willing participation, then this “revolution” can best be described as a grandstanding show of outrage based upon gender being the primary component of white women’s collective oppression while denying the privilege they receive based off their ethnicity.

Gloria Steinem Discussing Her Time in the CIA:

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

WATCH: Gail Dines: Putting the Radical Back in Feminism

January 27, 2016

 

How did we get from radical feminism (liberation meaning you and me) to empowerment (“if I’m okay fuck you”) in a single generation?

A Gail Dines talk filmed at The Institute of Education in London on ‘Putting the Radical back in Feminism’, November, 2014 [Save the Dog Video Production, London]

 

 

Women’s March On Washington: To White Women Who Were Allowed To Resist While We Survived Passive Racism

Essence

January 23, 2017

I realize somewhere between being pushed into a trash can by an oblivious “Nasty Woman,” and being racially profiled by an elderly feminist, that white women marched yesterday for themselves alone.

Exodus To A Brand New World

Wrong Kind of Green

June 8, 2016

by Forrest Palmer and Cory Morningstar

 

Trail of Tears 1

Between 1830 and 1850, the United States committed one of the most genocidal movements in the history of this country, although still unacknowledged as such to this very day.  During the aforementioned time period, the U.S. government forcibly removed all of the major indigenous tribes from their homelands in the Southeast portion of the country to West of the Mississippi  River in the Oklahoma territory and the surrounding areas.  This mandatory migration came to be known as The Trail of Tears. The removal was comprised of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” (given this moniker because they were seen to be most equipped to appropriate the traits of Western civilization, such as clothes, customs, economy, Christianity and other signs of being ‘humanized’, i.e. white).  These five tribes included the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee Nations.  Yet for all of these tribes perceived signs of being “civilized”, when the land that they inhabited was needed by the state, their designated ethnic inferiority was the single most reason for them being compulsorily extracted from their only home.  During the migration, these indigenous First Nation members were made to walk the entire length of this most inhuman journey, which was over 1,000 miles. Of the approximately 60,000 total members of the tribes who were expelled from their homelands, anywhere from 8,700 to 17,000 were killed by making this treacherous trek , which is between 14.5% to 28.3% of the victims.

Choctaw_group

Mississippi Choctaw group wearing traditional garb, c. 1908. Photographer unknown. Public document.

Most recently, approximately 2,000 miles to the North of the general vicinity where the natives in the U.S were finally housed in the most deplorable conditions imaginable on the reservations, there was another exodus that happened recently in Alberta, Canada that had similar characteristics.  As a result of a raging, out of control forest fire, there was a mass evacuation out of this region that was reminiscent of what we saw a couple of hundred years ago during the native death march to the south. The primary difference is that this exodus wasn’t done at the barrel of a gun, but at the behest of something much more powerful than any weapon devised by man:  Mother Nature.

A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips through the forest 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips through the forest 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

In the energy oasis of northeastern Alberta, Canada where the oil tar sands are found, approximately 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray had to leave their community with wildfires nipping at their heels.  Fort McMurray is the primary residence of the people that work in the Alberta Tar Sands, comprising about 80,000 “permanent” citizens and 40,000 expatriates who came to Great White North seeking fortune in the lucrative yet environmentally  destructive tar sands oil development.  The region is most famous due to the Keystone XL pipeline and the ongoing attempts to run this pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States, primarily located in Houston Texas.  Although the tar sands oil provides millions of barrels of oil today, this effort has still been used as a red herring by the mainstream environmental movement to give the false impression that it isn’t daily business as usual in the fossil fuel industry which is the problem, since this global effort VASTLY outweighs the drop in the bucket contributed by the tar sands, whether or not Keystone XL comes online or not. (Unbeknownst to most, the pipeline is already up and running with the fourth and last phase being the only one under dispute and the other three phases already being used right now, as well as rail moving significant amounts of tar sands oil as I write this).

racism at core of suicides

Image: Racism At Core Of Native Teen Suicides [Source: Red Power Media]

As a testament that the abuse of the natives really knows no end, the indigenous were spared no mercy at the hands of the state yesterday nor the corporations today. Over past fifty years when the first barrel of oil rolled off the assembly line in 1967, there have been harmful effects visited upon the indigenous community in the surrounding region over time due to the amount of cancerous byproducts that are dumped into Lake Athabasca. The tailing ponds (the dumping ground for the polluted water that is used to assist in tar sand extraction and production) measure about 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) and reside in close proximity to Athabasca River.   Although unacknowledged by the industry, the state or the mainstream media, the sediment from the tailing ponds has been leaking into the Athabasca River. This river is a contributory downstream to Lake Athabasca, where the community of Fort Chipewyan uses for fishing and a freshwater source.  This community is comprised of approximately 1,000 people, almost entirely indigenous First Nation. As proof of the deleterious effects of the tar sands pollution, the community has experienced the rarest forms of cancers that belie such a small community somehow logically showing up with such disproportionate illnesses as compared to the general population . Yet, this medical anomaly doesn’t even fall on deaf ears since the people don’t even have a voice.

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tar sands at night

Tar sands at night. Alberta Oil Sands: “Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet’s greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.” [Source]

In relation to this turn of events with Fort McMurray currently, the definition of the term ‘poetic justice’ is experiencing a fitting or deserved retribution for one’s actions.  In destroying the environment and visiting unacknowledged depredations to the people of Fort Chipewyan and the surrounding areas, as well as contributing to the devastation of which they are facing presently since the entire community relies on the fossil fuel industry, it is poetic justice by any honest estimation that these residents had to run fleeing from their comfortable houses  in the middle of the night.  This is even more justified since the people in the Fort McMurray area are indicative of the climate change denier clique as only 33% accept that anthropogenic climate change is real to any degree.  Hence, these people are unwilling to even accept that their own hands were on the trigger that caused their own communal maiming through the most dangerous game of Russian roulette known to humanity.

The reason that this is the case is because the masses were in the region specifically to rape the land and  destroy the environment.  There is no rationally sane debate that wouldn’t admit ecological devastation and the resulting climate disruptions increased the likelihood to something such as this happening to almost a certainty.  Hence, if their actions were  the singular, primary or only a contributing factor to their speedy migration from Fort McMurray, it must be acknowledged that the  mere physical presence of the now fleeing residents in the city was  the reason that they had to run from a hell of their own making.  To be succinct, if the residents wouldn’t have put their economic wants above their environmental needs, they wouldn’t have been in a position of vulnerability since the only reason the population was so large in the area was due to the oil industry.  Ultimately, any impartial assessment of the situation comes to the conclusion that the citizens have no one to blame but themselves for this self-inflected catastrophe.

Therefore, we are now in the beginning stages of seeing a grand change in the migratory patterns of humanity. More times often than not migration was due to the collapse of civilizations by way of a lack of resources, which are the basis of any society.  As Western civilization has been able to move masses of people to whatever area of the world that it needed in order to continue the economic system of capitalism, be it the forced migration of the indigenous in North America to the concentrations camps called the reservation, or the worldwide diaspora of the African through the global slave trade, or the coolie labor system where Southeast Asians were dispersed across various continents, it has fostered a god complex in the Western world that only the system and the people who control it can ever dictate who goes anyplace at a given moment in time.

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As such, the Western world has lived under the delusion that it had conquered nature itself and was the ultimate arbiter of who and what was going to go where and when.  This latest episode is just a single example of many recent ones that are increasing in rapidity in the Western world.   The Westerner embodied in the prototypical anglo male is now being made to do the one thing that he thought he was immune to in this world: forced to go somewhere he didn’t want go when he didn’t want to leave.

Luckily, the Western world still has the resources and the economic ability to move with relative ease when disasters like this occur, although this will not be the case for too much longer.  Soon, the daily movements that are effortlessly accomplished by plane, train, ship, car and automobile will lead to having to hurriedly leave a demolishing area with the only thing that nature has given us to move and will be the last thing we have when the infrastructure isn’t available to utilize the previously mentioned contraptions : our feet.  The same feet that carried the native all those hundreds of miles in the distant past.

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Illustration by Gord Hill, Kwakwaka’wakw

As our feet will be the thing to carry us to parts unknown as we will have to go to places we have no choice to go for survival in the not too distant future, I would think that poetic justice would include that we be relegated to the same existence that was imposed on the ones so long ago by such a self-designated exceptional civilization such as this.

Poetic justice indeed.

 

 

 

Silence of Complacency

The Moral Universe of Progressive Gatekeepers

Public Good Project

May 14, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

racist institutions

 

I was thinking about my new piece, which I sent to the usual progressive gatekeepers in Seattle media, and was pondering the reluctance of all of them to ever use the word ‘racism’ in any of their coverage of the fossil fuel export war between Coast Salish Nation and Wall Street. Warren Buffett, like his friend Bill Gates, never gets exposed for profiting from racism; indeed, racism doesn’t exist in the progressive gatekeepers’ moral universe, except when applied to mental morons like the militias. In fact, no mainstream media has even mentioned Wise Use terrorism since September 1992, when CBS 60 Minutes did a twenty-minute segment that showed clips of property-rights ideologues without exposing the industrial sources of their funding.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the pious poseurs that comprise the human rights industry avoid the topic like the plague–as it is too scary for them to deal with, and it involves mustering the courage to criticize the industrial villains who are also heavy-hitters of philanthropy. Warren Buffett, funder of 350, is a case in point. Same with Bill Gates.

This intentional omission by progressive media and activists has, of course, been thoroughly exposed by yours truly and my Canadian colleague, Cory Morningstar–which makes us pariahs in the minds of those dependent on handouts from the financial elite, i.e. Ford, Rockefeller, Soros, et al. Indeed, it is the reason that Public Good Project has been largely shunned by the financially-dependent writers who used our work without giving us credit for the last twenty years. I don’t expect this situation to change, and as Paul de Armond said, we’re still better off with them than without them, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep quiet about it.

 

 

CONSTRUCTION OF A SITUATION

Wrong Kind of Green

January 31, 2016

By Jay Taber

31 3

Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta, Tulalip Tribes. Photographer Matika Wilbur

 

In April 2013, when I received an email from the editor of the Cascadia Weekly requesting background on CERA (“The Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country”) — which had just held an Anti-Indian conference in his city — I sent him a Letter to the Editor (LTE), which he published. My letter connected the organized racism to propaganda by coal terminal developers. Responding to my LTE, the PR guy for fossil fuel export developers next to the local Indian reservation phoned the editor, expressing his displeasure at his publishing my opinion.

Shortly after, the editor published a column titled A History of Violence, based on my exclusive feature story at IC Magazine a week earlier. Ten days later, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights in Seattle published a special report titled Take These Tribes Down, which cited two reports on the Public Good Project website.

Reading my LTE, a local researcher, Sandy Robson, contacted me, requesting historical background on the Anti-Indian Movement in the Pacific Northwest. By October 2013, she was ready to go, launching her first expose in Whatcom Watch–a local free community newsletter. In January 2014, Sandy published her detailed account of money-laundering by the export consortium into the hands of CERA-supporting, Tea Party-led PACs.

In February 2014, the PR guy threatened Whatcom Watch with a SLAPP suit, which led to online discussions on local blogs and Facebook about Sandy’s article, and eventually to organizing in local churches, in particular the Unitarians. At this point, a local Unitarian social justice committee contacted me, asking for reading materials they could use in adult education and community forums. In March 2014, Indian Country Today published a feature story on CERA, in which the reporter quoted me three times. (Her story was based on mine.)

The PR guy’s response to all this was to get the local corporate-friendly news monopoly to publish an article claiming the SLAPP suit issue had been amicably resolved, and that the racism charge was overstated by Robson and me, whom she quoted in her article. This article, in turn, propelled the incident into the Greater Seattle Earth Ministry milieu (progressive churches), which began hosting speakers from the targeted Indian tribes, culminating in a national conference of Unitarians in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2015.

Video: American Indian Movement:

“This video is intended to raise awareness about the American Indian Movement. Often times educators are prepared and expected to educate students about the Civil Rights Movement. But, the American Indian Movement is often left out of the history curriculum. ”

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Further reading:

The Truth About Thanksgiving – National Day of Mourning


Speech by Moonanum James, co-chair of United American Indians of New England, on Nov. 27, 2013 at the Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass.

“Once again on the fourth Thursday in November, United American Indians of New England have gathered on this hill to observe a National Day of Mourning. Today, we mark the 45th time we have come here, in all kinds of weather, to mourn our ancestors and speak the truth about our history. Those who started National Day of Mourning could not have envisioned that their descendants and the descendants of their supporters would still be here, year after year, carrying on this tradition.  Many of the elders who stood on this hill and organized that first day of mourning are no longer with us, but we feel their spirits guiding us today.

National Day of Mourning should always be part of the history of this country.  Nearly 45 years ago, my father, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man named Wamsutta Frank James, was invited to address a gathering of so-called dignitaries celebrating the 350th anniversary of the stumbling ashore of the Pilgrims. When asked by the organizers of the dinner to provide an advance copy of the speech he planned to deliver, Wamsutta agreed. Within days he was told his words were not acceptable.  The planners of the gathering, fearing the truth, told him he could speak only if he were willing to speak false words in praise of the white man.

The organizers were even willing to write a speech for him.  After all, they said, “The theme of the celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would be out of place.” He refused to have words put into his mouth.  National Day of Mourning came into being as a result of his refusal to speak untrue words.  Instead of speaking at the banquet, he and many hundreds of Native people from throughout the Americas gathered in Plymouth, on this hill, and observed the first National Day of Mourning.

What was it that got those state officials so upset? Wamsutta used as a basis for his remarks one of their own history books, “Mourt’s Relation,” a Pilgrim account of their first year on Indian land.

What really happened at the first “Thanksgiving” — or what some of us call the first “Thanks Taking?”  According to popular myth, the Indians (us) and the Pilgrims (them) sat down and had a wonderful dinner.  Everyone lived happily ever after.  The end.

True history of ‘thanksgiving’

Many times we have been asked what is the true history of “Thanksgiving.”  This comes as no surprise.  The truth has been buried for 395 years.  In 2020, Plymouth is planning to celebrate 400 years of the same myth.  I don’t think that anyone from UAINE is going to be invited to address that banquet!  If we are, rest assured that no advance copy of our remarks will be sent.

Here is the truth.  The first Thanksgiving did not take place in 1621, when the Pilgrim survivors of the first winter sat down to dinner with their Indian friends.  The first official day of thanksgiving feasting in Massachusetts was proclaimed by Gov. Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637.  He did this to give thanks for the safe return of men from the colony who had gone to what is now Mystic, Connecticut, to participate in the massacre of over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Nation.

About the only true thing is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of the Wampanoag people.  What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, the theft of our lands and never ending repression.

Another truth: The reason that the mythmakers prefer to talk about the Pilgrims and not the earlier English-speaking colony, Jamestown, is that in Jamestown the circumstances were way too ugly to hold up as an effective national myth.  For example, the white settlers in Jamestown turned to cannibalism to survive.  Not a very nice story to tell the kids in school.  The Pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything.  Every inch of this land is Indian land.

The Pilgrims (who did not even call themselves “Pilgrims”) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland.  They came here as a part of a commercial venture.  The Mayflower Compact was nothing more than a bunch of white men — women were pretty much excluded by them — sticking together to ensure that they would get a return on their investment.  They introduced sexism, racism and a class system to these shores.  And guess what?  They did not even land at the sacred shrine down the hill called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried, not once but twice — in 1970 and again in 1995.

Upon arriving, the Pilgrims opened my ancestors’ graves and took as much as they could carry of our corn and bean supplies.  Massasoit, the great sachem of the Wampanoag, knew of this, yet he and his people welcomed and befriended the settlers, saving them from extinction, little knowing how many Wampanoag and other Indians would be killed by their guns or dead from their diseases.  Later, from the very harbor we can see from here, the pious Pilgrims sold my ancestors as slaves for 220 shillings each.

Two true plaques in Plymouth

Some would ask what we have gained by observing National Day of Mourning since 1970.  The very fact that you are here is perhaps our greatest gain.  People from the Four Directions, having seen through the Pilgrim myth, join us every year in the struggle to destroy that mythology.

There are also two plaques, erected by Plymouth, one on Cole’s Hill to honor Day of Mourning and another in Post Office Square to Metacom or King Philip.  This was part of an agreement we signed with Plymouth in 1998.  Those of us who were here in 1997 will never forget what happened to our peaceful march that year, when 25 of us were arrested.  After a powerful show of unity demanding all charges be dropped, Plymouth was forced to drop the charges and erect the plaques.  Now at least, there are two rocks in Plymouth that speak the truth.

The placement of these plaques does not end the need for us to continue to come to Plymouth and speak the truth.  We will do so as long as sports teams and schools continue to use racist team names and mascots.  We will continue to gather on this hill until the U.S. military and corporations stop polluting our mother, the Earth.  We will continue to stand here and protest until racism is made illegal.  We will not stop until the oppression of our Two-Spirited sisters and brothers is a thing of the past.  When the homeless have homes.  When immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America are no longer targeted.  When no person goes hungry or is left to die because they have little or no access to quality health care.  When union busting is a thing of the past.    Until then, the struggle will continue.

That first Day of Mourning in 1970 was a powerful demonstration of Native unity.  Today is a powerful demonstration of not only Native unity, but the unity of all people who want the truth to be told and want to see an end to the oppressive system brought to these shores by the Pilgrim invaders.

Sadly, the conditions which prevailed in Indian Country in 1970 still prevail today.  In 1970 we demanded an end to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  It is still a demand today.  Native nations do not need federal oversight to govern ourselves.

Those who started Day of Mourning spoke of terrible racism and poverty.  We all know that racism is alive and well.  Not only Native people but many people from the Four Directions are mired in the deepest poverty while the 1% reap huge profits.  Every winter, millions of people have to make a bitter choice between heating and eating.  Native youth suicide and school dropout rates, our rates of alcoholism, continue to be the highest in the nation.

As we did in 1970, we mourn the loss of millions of our ancestors and the devastation of our beautiful land and water and air.  We pray for our people who have died during this past year, and during the past 522 years since Columbus showed up.

For all who are ‘collateral damage’

I hope that you will join me in grieving, too, for our sisters and brothers in all countries, human beings, who are referred to by this government as “collateral damage.”  Keep in mind that for centuries people throughout the Americas have been the “collateral damage” of the European invasion.  I also hope you will join me in grieving, too, for the immense suffering of our sisters and brothers in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Palestine, in Iraq, all human beings who suffer and face acts of terror on a daily basis.  Remember too, the hundreds of millions of people who are hungry today no matter where they live.

We condemn all acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by all governments and organizations against innocent civilians worldwide. Since the invasion of Columbus and the rest of the Europeans, Native people have been virtually nonstop victims of terrorism.  The slaughter of the Pequots at Mystic, Connecticut, in 1637.  The U.S. military massacres of peaceful Native people at Wounded Knee and Sand Creek and so many, many other places.  The very foundations of this powerful and wealthy country are the theft of our lands and the slaughter of Native peoples, and the kidnapping and enslavement of our African sisters and brothers.

Today, on liberated territory, we will correct some history and do so in a country that continues to glorify butchers such as Christopher Columbus, in a country that glorifies slave-owning presidents such as Washington and Jefferson and even carves their faces into the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota.

On our program will be only Native speakers.  This is one day when we speak for ourselves, without non-Native people, so-called “experts,” intervening to interpret and speak for us.  We ask that our non-Native allies respect Native leadership today.

Our very presence frees this land from the lies of the history books, the profiteers and the mythmakers.  We will remember and honor all of our ancestors in struggle who went before us.  We will speak truth to power.  We will remember in particular all of our sisters and brothers, including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal and Oscar López Rivera, who are caged in the iron houses.

In 1970, very few people would have given any thought to the fact that the Indigenous people of this hemisphere do not look upon the arrival of the European invaders as a reason to give thanks.  Today, many thousands stand with us in spirit as we commemorate our 45th National Day of Mourning.

To our beautiful Native youth, I say: Learn about and remember what your ancestors went through to bring you here.  We are like the dirt, like the sand, like the tides.  We shall endure.

In the spirit of Crazy Horse, in the spirit of Metacom, in the spirit of Geronimo. We are not vanishing.  We are not conquered.  We are as strong as ever.”

 

 

Fetishisms of Apocalypse

The Corner House

by Larry Lohmann

Note: An excellent interview with Larry Lohmann follows this piece.

September 20, 2014

Climate change and other environmental campaigns often try to mobilize people around the idea of avoiding apocalypse. This short piece for Occupied Times explores some of the weaknesses of this approach.

To anybody who has ever gone around Europe or North America giving talks or workshops on environmental politics, the scene will be familiar. At some stage a person sitting in the front row will stand up to wonder aloud what the point of the discussion is given that the world is going to hell so fast. A list of terrifying trends will then be laid out. At least three “planetary boundaries” out of nine have already been breached. Humanity now appropriates between 20 and 40 per cent of nature’s net primary production. The proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now higher than it was 10 or 15 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 feet above current levels. If temperatures continue to rise and release even a small amount of the carbon still locked up in the soils and ocean bottoms of the Arctic, we’re fucked. If any doubt remains about whether apocalypse is really on the way, just look at all those crashed civilisations of the past (Easter Island and the Maya are regularly invoked) who also failed to pay attention to “ecological limits”.

The tone of the recital is that of a grim call to order. Those present have just not been registering the facts, and clearly the volume has to be turned up. Why sit around sharing experiences of financialisation, environmental racism, or the enclosure of commons when climate change is about to fry all of us? There’s no time for social transformation. Ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now. So obvious is all this to the person in the front row that at this point they may just get up and leave – not so much in protest at the triviality of the proceedings nor out of conscious disrespect for the other participants as from a sense that now that the people present have been alerted to the situation, it’s time to take the message elsewhere.

In a meeting of the kind I describe, the front-row apocalyptician will probably get a respectful hearing. This is a person, after all, in possession of an impressive body of research and statistics – and who is more than justified in insisting that the status quo is untenable. Yet one or two things are likely, rightly, to raise a tremor of unease among those present.

One is the implicit dismissal of class politics. The apocalyptician’s reasoning is as follows. We’re talking about a catastrophe that could kill everybody and everything. Who could have an interest in bringing that on? No need now for the Marxist project of trying to understand how capital accumulation continually recreates human interest in destruction, because, ex hypothesi, no one could ever want destruction to that extent. Catastrophic climate change makes distinctions between hotel room cleaners and hedge fund managers irrelevant. “People” become the universal political subject. Climate politics moves out of the realm of, say, class struggle between workers in Chicago and the financiers of energy projects that pollute their neighbourhoods, or between indigenous bands in the Amazon and the oil companies despoiling their territories. Instead, it becomes – to quote the words of US climate movement guru Bill McKibben – a battle in which generic “human beings” collectively learn to submit to the Great Other of “physics and chemistry”.

For the apocalyptician, the spectre of universal catastrophe may look like a good way of rallying a middle class who may not directly suffer from the impact of fossil-fuelled globalisation. But for many listeners, to flatten out existing social conflict in this way feels disempowering. If the threat of global collapse is supposed to spur us all toward concerted action, why does it seem instead to paralyse the political imagination, spook ordinary people into putting their rebellious instincts on ice, and deaden discussion among different social movements about the lessons of their struggles? Why does it lead so easily to despair or indifference – or even to a sort of sado-masochistic or death-wishy pleasure in the pornography of doom? And why do the remedies proposed – “we need a crash programme to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 parts per million” – sound so parochial?

Indeed, instead of unifying political struggles, apocalyptic obsessions often seem to shrink transformative politics to the vanishing point. Slavoj Zizek has remarked that whereas it is precisely out of struggles against particular forms of oppression that “a properly universal dimension explodes … and is directly experienced as universal”, “post-political” campaigns against abstractions like “CO2” suffocate movement expansion because they close off possibilities for people to see their own strivings as a “metaphoric condensation” of global class struggles.

***

Yet isn’t the deeper problem with the appeal to apocalypse not that it is “apolitical”, but that it is all too political in a pernicious way? Not that it is “disempowering”, but that it is all too empowering of the technocratic and privileged classes?

Take climate apocalypse stories, which are currently reinforcing the old capitalist trick of splitting the world into discrete, undifferentiated monoliths called Society and Nature at precisely a time when cutting-edge work on the left – often taking its cue from indigenous peoples’, peasants’ and commoners’ movements – is moving to undermine this dualism. On the apocalyptic view, a fatally-unbalanced Nature is externalised into what Neil Smith called a “super-determinant of our social fate,” forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.

By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.Thus disaster movies – not to mention the disaster stories broadcast on the news every evening – are not produced just to feed our sneaking joy in mayhem. They also present narratives of technocratically-minded stars responding on our behalf to “external” threats in which they are portrayed as having played little part. Books like Collapse by Jared Diamond, meanwhile, replace complicated political stories of long-term survival, struggle, and creative renewal among civilisations like those of the Easter Islanders or the Maya with fables of apocalypse and extinction in which one non-European society after another supposedly wipes itself out through its rulers’ failure to “manage” the Menace from Nature. By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.

The expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows the same procedure, avoiding collective inquiry into the ins and outs of capital accumulation in favour of a simplistic narrative pitting Society against a Nature consisting of greenhouse gas molecules. Except that unlike the apocalyptician visiting the activist meeting, who chooses to get up and leave after speaking, the IPCC is actually statutorily required to “present the global warming science” as if it contained a politics-free message from Nature itself, requiring no discussion, and then get up and walk out in order to allow the sanitised missive to sink into Society (a.k.a. the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Although they can hardly be accused of drawing back from analysing the dynamics of capital, some flavour of this approach lingers on even among some thinkers on the left such as John Bellamy Foster and Naomi Klein, who, contemplating apocalypse, are tempted to fall back on creaking Cartesian slogans according to which not only does Capitalism act on a wholly separate Nature (“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”), but Nature itself somehow acquires that long-coveted ability to overthrow Capitalism (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”).

***

Apocalypse stories are always about rule. Every community, perhaps, recounts its own apocalypses, paired with its own ideals of elite or revolutionary response. St. John’s biblical apocalypse found its answer in God’s infinite love. In early capitalist England, the threatened apocalypse of rebellion on the part of an emerging, uprooted proletariat was countered by, among other things, a new discipline of abstract Newtonian time that promised to keep everyone in line. Marxist visions of capitalist  apocalypse are typically matched with projections of political redemption through revolution.   Southeast Asian millenarianists gambled on a moral cleansing of the worldly order, as do some  survivalists in the contemporary US, where doomsday religious rhetoric has often gone hand in hand
with rampant extractivism and free-market ideology.

The prototype modern apocalypse story is perhaps that of Malthus, with his 1798 vision of uncontrollably breeding hordes whose ravening after land would “sink the whole world in universal night”. Helping justify the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Malthus’s tale also energised murderous 19th-century famine policies in British India, powered Garrett Hardin’s 20th-century polemics against commons and communism and serves as an unacknowledged foundation for countless World Bank economic reports and research projects in biology and “natural resource management”. Finding an echo in Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” apocalypse speech, it also haunts the immigration policies of UKIP and other British political parties.

Of equally enduring influence has been the slow-motion apocalypse prefigured by 19thcentury
thermodynamics: heat death, when capital can extract no more work from the universe, all the lights go out, and the machines rumble to a halt. While this particular catastrophe story has ceased to be the object of the obsessive brooding that it was among North Atlantic intellectual classes in the 1800s, it too remains active today, hovering ghostlike in the background of every post-Taylorian drive to sweat labour and other resources, as well as every energy-saving programme or excited politician’s appeal to the “white heat of technology” or “increased efficiency for national competitiveness”.

Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In the global warming debate as well, apocalypse has come to be invoked mainly to tell us what will happen if we don’t adopt innovative business practices. Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In Carbon, an August 2014 climate campaign video from the Leonardo di Caprio Foundation, cartoons of a rampaging, Transformer-like “fossil fuel robot” without a human face stomping around the planet laying waste to all living things alternate with interviews with bland, besuited North American and European technocrats and  politicians drawling about carbon prices as the solution to all our climate problems. Which half of this composite vision is the more terrifying is, for me, an open question.

Justice Matters – Larry Lohmann

Published on Mar 13, 2015