Uniting to Build a National Networked Culture of Resistance
Two weeks ago we began to look very closely at what is happening at Fukushima and produced an article that tells you what you need to know about this three-part nuclear crisis. In it we urge a global solution to this global threat. If you agree, take action by signing this petition.
We will describe further what is happening at Fukushima, what needs to be done and how that relates to the broader struggle; but first, here are a number of important news items from the past week:
- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a report on drones that questions their use against civilians as equivalent to war crimes, CODEPINK exposed that the fund for drone victims is going to US NGOs instead and a former official stated that every drone strike creates 40 new enemies.
- The UN torture investigator wants to visit hunger striking prisoners in Pelican Bay and is meeting with their families.
- Recent successes include Denver activists who pressured the ritzy Palm Restaurant to drop its support for an urban camping ban that is hurting the homeless and Occupy court victories against the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge.
- NSA spying on US allies around the world was exposed as well as how government corruption (donations) leads to bipartisan support for spying and a report that NSA spying has not thwarted terrorism.
- Bankers, both Bank of American and JPMorgan, are finally being held (a little) accountable.
These are a few examples of many activities in the movement this week that you can see on Popular Resistance (and receive in your mail every morning in our daily digest).
But, the crisis at Fukushima has our attention. The disaster at Fukushima created three challenges to which there are no easy solutions, and which have never occurred before:
(1) Three nuclear reactor cores melted down and no one knows where they are, but they are still creating heat and TEPCO is pouring water where they think they are to cool them;
(2) TEPCO finally admitted 300 tons of radioactive water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean daily for 2.5 years with no end in sight. The water problem could easily get much worse. The fresh water supply for much of Japan could be poisoned through underground water tables and the 1,000 storage containers holding 330,000 tons of toxic water, some of which are leaking, could break and add to the poisoning of the Pacific; and
(3) The 11,000 spent fuel rods, considered to be the most dangerous things ever created by humans, must be secured. There is a particular focus on the 1,533 rods that are stored 100 feet above ground in the Reactor 4 building that is buckling and sagging. These rods can ignite into a radioactive storm if they break, touch each other or are not kept cool and are exposed to air.
The corporation responsible for this mess, TEPCO, has a terrible history of lying to the public about both the risks and what has occurred, treating their employees poorly and cutting corners. What are the risks? They are massive, really cataclysmic; they could easily affect millions, perhaps even billions of people. For example, just the 1,533 spent fuel rods in Reactor 4 contain 14,000 times more radiation than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If they combust into a nuclear fire, the radiation cloud created will repeatedly circle the globe. And, if the water leaks affect the major aquifer, it could mean that Tokyo, a city of 40 million, would need to be evacuated.
If that is not enough, Fukushima is located in an earthquake zone. And last weekend, a massive Typhoon brushed by and resulted in more leaks. Another hurricane could hit the area this weekend.
The solution that has been put forward by leading experts is a 15-point plan calling for an independent engineering firm to perform the clean-up with oversight by an international group of experts and a civilian panel. We hope you will join us in pushing this proposal by signing a petition to make this solution a reality. Click here to sign. We will help deliver the petition to the United Nations on November 11, Armistice Day and the 32nd month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.
The crisis at Fukushima reminds us that the US needs to end its carbon and nuclear based energy economy. Rather than making an intentional transformation to an economy based on solar, wind, thermal and ocean energy, President Obama and leaders of both parties are pushing an “all of the above” strategy that is permitting extreme energy extraction. This is unnecessary, environmentally destructive and undermines public health. We can move to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy. There is no question we can do this, the only question is when.
It is time to view nuclear power and the destructive uranium mining that feeds it as part of the broader movement against extreme energy extraction. And, extraction of uranium and fossil fuels are connected to the struggle against corporate power and imperialism. The current conflict in New Brunswick exemplifies these struggles very clearly.
The Mi'kmaq and Elsipogtog First Nations in Canada and their allies have been working to stop a Houston-based company, SWN Resources, from hydro-fracking on their land throughout the year. They blockaded access to the land beginning in late September. Last week, hundreds of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) entered the camp aggressively with guns out, sharp shooters in position, and pepper spray, attack dogs and abusive acts. See this video of the events.
After the RCMP attack, people across the world showed solidarity with the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog. Dozens of solidary actions were held in Canada and the United States; other tribes sent their support. The First Nation protesters and their allies returned to the protest site two days after the raids.
The conflict between the first nations and the Canadian government is a long-term one that is 400 years in the making. It raises long-term disputes about the control First Nations peoples have over their own lands; and whether they can control the resources on that land and protect the environment. After the raid, a court lifted the injunction against the protests – it was the injunction that justified the RCMP attack on the peaceful protesters.
The Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog were not the only protests against hydro-fracking this week. There was a nationwide day of action “The World Unites Against Fracking” during the annual Global Frackdown on October 19th. Activists from 26 countries participated in 250 protests against fracking because it contaminates groundwater, the air and land and hastens climate change. In our home city of Baltimore, activists set up a “Wheel of Misfortune” and light show that could be seen for blocks to highlight the risks of the gas drilling technique. Maryland sits in the Marcellus Shale. This coming week, there will be an Earth First! Action Camp! to stop Marcellus Shale drilling.
Tar sands and mountain top removal are other forms of extreme energy extraction that are being strongly opposed. This past week was the four-day Power Shift Conference in Pittsburgh which highlights the youth-driven climate justice movement. They opened the conference with solidarity protests in support of First Nation protesters and concluded their weekend with a protest focused on bankers and financiers of extreme energy extraction. Thousands demanded “Fund Solutions, Not Pollution.”
And, in an open letter to the Anti-Tar Sands Movement, activists in Michigan clarified the issues – it is not just about stopping pipelines. They point out that while many have been focused on the Keystone Pipeline, political leaders have “allowed the production, transportation, and refinement of this toxic substance in more and more places across the continent.” They recognize that to build a powerful grassroots movement against tar sands, we must focus on the “root causes of this issue and unites communities and groups in a common goal to stop tar sands in its entirety.” They express concern about focusing on the president as the sole decision-maker while ignoring activity at the local community level. They see our strength coming from the community, from the grassroots where the impact is being felt. They conclude:
“With urgency and strength, we implore all tar sands activists and organizations to reframe this movement to something that is more than a convenient political symbol and into something that can stop the amoral and unlawful devastation of life and our responsibility to it.”
The call of these Michigan activists resonates with us. We urge the climate justice movement to go further, to link all of the extreme energy extraction activities, along with the polluting refinement, transportation and use of this energy. This would include not only tar sands, but methane gas from hydro-fracking, uranium for nuclear energy, mountain top removal for coal and off-shore oil drilling that threatens our oceans and coastal communities. By bringing all of these together we will see a powerful, community-based grass roots movement that will transform the nation to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.
Efforts in the United States are part of a global battle for environmental justice and we were reminded of that this week. Activists in Guatemala took a Canadian mining company to court, and in Brazil the military attacked activists protesting the auction of oil land. The challenges being faced in Russia by Greenpeace off-shore oil drilling activists were highlighted when one of the Arctic 30 wrote about the challenges of her incarceration. After international protests for the Arctic 30 were held and a sailor’s union issued a statement saying that the activists did not commit piracy, charges were dropped from piracy to hooliganism – still too extreme as the Arctic 30 face up to 7 years in prison. It is also important to recognize that journalists who expose environmental crime and activists who oppose it sometimes take extreme risks in their important work.
Similar to the environmental issues, we are also all affected by the attack on our food supply by profit seekers like Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations. Scientists are speaking up against GMO foods. People see how the government and corporate media are shills for Monsanto and are protesting and taking action. In Mexico, farmers blocked the roads because of grain prices.
The pressure is building and even GMO advocates are saying it is time for the industry to accept labeling, but the industry is fighting hard. The largest donations in the history of voter initiatives in Washington State have turned an initiative requiring labeling of GMO’s into a neck and neck race. With just over a week to go, the pro-labeling side is 4 points ahead – but they need financial and other types of support from everyone. Click here to help win this pivotal vote.
The corporations and their allies in government are constantly working to rig the system to put corporate profits ahead of the people and the environment. We’re already seeing the impact of the phony corporate court system known as “Trade Tribunals” that allow corporations to sue governments when court decisions or new laws protect the environment, workers or consumers. These rigged trade tribunals have been used to undermine environmental protection. That is why it is so important for all of us to join together in solidary to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It affects everything the resistance movement is working for. Defeating the TPP is the top priority of many of us, and all of us should be working on it. These next two months are critical because the President is pushing to have the agreement signed by the end of this year. To get involved, visit www.FlushTheTPP.org.
Another important aspect of resistance is creating the kind of world in which we want to live. Here are examples of urban agriculture around the world to produce food locally. There is a school in New York City that could not find healthy meat, so they decided to go vegetarian. After one year: obesity dropped by 2% and there was improved attendance, test scores and energy. And, this inspiring video shows how a city that had been choked with cars has now become a city of bikers, a beautiful transformation. These are parts of a new economy that is being created. In fact, last week was new economy week and there were 75 events highlighting how communities can foster strong and sustainable local economies held across the nation.
There is no question that the culture is changing because of the actions of people in the resistance movement – whether it is protesting what we do not like or creating what we want, we are changing the zeitgeist. Change the culture and economy and the politics follows.
Of course, we have to push against key issues pushed by the bi-partisans in Washington, DC. We’ve mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership as one; another is the extreme austerity, including threats to Social Security and Medicare that need our attention. Both these issues should unite all of us because they affect each of us and everything we are working for. Building alliances and creating solidarity across the movement are critical ingredients to our success. These mistaken tendencies of the two parties need to be stopped. When we work to stop them, we need to be consciously building a mass movement that sets the tone for the society so that we build our strength and have a bigger impact than winning one battle.
Some political commentators still criticize the movement for not running for office or focusing on elections – not understanding the systemic corruption in a money-dominated two corporate party system with managed elections. As comedian and political commentator Russell Brand describes in his current essay on revolution, “the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites”
We are starting to see how the movement is in fact changing the political system without focusing on elections, but instead by focusing on the big issues of a failed economic system that creates inequity and puts profits before the people and the planet.
In the end, we are confident that it is not who is in office, but the environment we create for them to operate in. We need to continue to protest when elected officials go off in the wrong direction – which is too often – but always build a mass national movement of communities across the country networked together and working to end the rule of money in each of its manifestations and to shift power to the people.