Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolution: The Environment: Basic principles for Struggling with Conflicts

In August 1997, at the Canadian Autoworkers Constitutional Convention in
Vancouver, BC, the following resolution was agreed upon.


The environment is not an issue involving “others”.

• The environment is first of all a public health issue, affecting the air we
breathe, the water we depend on, the food we eat, the soil our children
play in; it’s about chemicals, poisons and carcinogens in our community.
• It’s about the future resources we leave for the next generation; it’s about
preserving and therefore sharing the beauty of nature.

Environmental issues can’t be separated from the economic
system we live in.

• An economic system that treats humans as commodities, interested
only in their contribution to profits and discarding them at will, is
unlikely to give much priority to our natural environment.

Our economic system divides us regarding our concerns over
jobs vs our concerns over our environment.

• Although the long-term effects of environmental damage will negatively
impact on all our lives, the need to earn a living in uncertain times
pushes workers to focus on the short term, which often means laying
environmental issues aside.
• Somehow we must address both the short-term (jobs) and long-term
(environment) aspects of survival.

We can learn from our experience over health and safety.

• In the early days of the health and safety movement, workers were often
confronted with the choice between trading off health (the work
environment) for profits and competitiveness (i.e., jobs). When we
resisted – with significant success – was this anti-social and a false
•We demanded both a safe environment and decent jobs, and we are
making substantial progress in this area.

Tensions will occur and we must think strategically in dealing
with them.

• The most difficult choices involve jobs that affect a specific group vs
environmental implications that primarily affect a broader and different
group. To deal with this, both sides must think strategically.
• Those who make the environment the centre of their political activities
can’t build a constituency if they’re perceived as being insensitive to jobs
and people’s livelihoods.
•Workers and unions can’t build the broader alliances they need in
today’s times – especially with young people – if we’re cornered into
being seen as insensitive to the wider community and the kind of
environment we will leave for future generations.
•We need public education and will to achieve that campaign goal, unions
and environmentalists need to think and work strategically, but we’re
barely talking to each other.

1 comment:


    A great podcast/transcript which will shed much light on why 'agency' seems to be missing from so many in our class.

    From the transcript of the podcast:

    "The so called subprime mortgage crisis has sent world stock markets into a spin ... Domestic violence is on the rise, depression is on the rise, anxiety is on the rise, alcohol and drug use are on the rise, so the stress is starting to take its toll ... Tonight the biggest mortgage meltdown ... The thing that makes people most stressed out is when they don't feel like they have any control."

    "There is a kind of biological embedding if you will, a biological fingerprint that is left by experiences of growing up in disadvantage, and there are both short term changes in the biology of children who are exposed to those kinds of settings, but there appears to be longer term changes as well. They affect their development and may potentially affect things as distant as when they die, the chronic diseases they develop over the course of their adult life, that their mental health over the years of their adult life."

    "Tom Boyce: I think of it as being almost kind of like an archaeological dig, if you will, you begin with the lived experience of the child, the adversity and stressful events that that child encounters, that is experienced by the child within circuitry of the brain. So we begin this archaeology by exploring what are the brain structures and functions that are changed by early exposure. Then you dig down a little further, a little smaller in scale and complexity and there are differences in the cellular level. in the communication between neurons within the brain, the kind of neuro-transmitter systems that are present in the brain.

    And then a little deeper are the sub-cellular kinds of processes like the epigenetic changes that we are now seeing that are also systematically different between low and high disadvantaged children.

    Natasha Mitchell: And by epigenetic you are referring to not the genetics of a person but the cellular architecture that influences which genes are switched on and off in a body, which is very much affected, as we are finding out, by our environment, by what we are exposed to—our parenting, what we eat."

    "om Boyce: That's right, all of the things that we're all familiar with right. What we're finding in our work in the San Francisco bay area among kindergarten children is that kids who within their social groups are more subordinate, who kind of filter to the bottom of the social hierarchy within the group of children within their class, that they have higher levels of reactivity in both of those systems than do children who are dominant and at the top, the leadership, if you will, of the classroom.

    We think that a similar kind of thing happens among children of low social class families. A variety of work has shown that kids who are growing up in disadvantaged families have higher cortisol levels, higher cortisol reactivity, changes in immune system, that are greater among kids in disadvantage."

    The research presented here should provide plenty of socialist bullets for us to charge our cyber-rifles with. One can even take a 'moral' position for common ownership of the social product of labour now..with scientific backing. However, the problem of agency remains. Class consciousness does not come 'naturally' within the social relation of Capital.