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In Face of Climate Crisis, Environment and Trade Union Movements Finding Common Cause


In Face of Climate Crisis, Environment and Trade Union Movements Finding Common Cause

Susann Scherbarth

Properly done, we can tackle the threat of climate change while simultaneously reducing inequality and promoting democracy


Sad to see how few care a damned about the environment, right wing or left. The Zero comments before my own.

A damned shame. Because for all we talk about tax bills, workers benefits, organization, etc. these may be ultimately trivial in the face of global warming- global annhiliation that is - where "ultimately " is far sooner than we care to think. (So maybe why some DON’T think. Others may just not Care to think).

Steven Hawking predicted that Nuclear War, Global Warming, or Artificial Intelligence would bring about global annihilation. With respect to Global Warming, his prediction was that Earth’s temperatures could reach 250C. His field: physics. A good frying temp. Granted, I’m sure we’re all brighter, wiser, and more knowledgeable than Steve. But maybe give a thought to what he said? (Forgive the Sarcasm, but the enthusiastic uninterest in the issue, plus my witnessing of environmental trashing - virtual as well as corporeal garbage - by many fellow(?) left folk leaves me a bit cynical. )

No. I don’t believe one bit that all the current “hot” issues are as critical as Climate Change. I don’t believe unemployment is a critical as global annihilation. Except in the most short-sighted, cynical sense. You get a job now and your descendents will all be dead.

Doesn’t mean that taxes, jobs, is unions, and such Don’t matter. They matter very much. But not so much that the very largest issue is ignored for their sake. That’s the Trump base approach to everything.

Hoping I see a lot more comments here. If only to tell me I know sh-t about their concern about the environment and climate change.


Remaining organized labor, those in the transportation sector - Teamsters, Longshoremen, Big Auto, Transit, Airline, and the energy sector - oil well, pipeline to refinery, have some organized power to determine the direction of their industries. Approval of Keystone XL is a nod to globalization, as Alberta’s crudest of crude tar sands is most suited to big diesel engines of shipping and trucking, and trucking firms touting the future of self-driving cars and trucks too, never mind that it’s BS. Addressing climate change requires a scaling back of globalization, less shipping, trucking, flying and personal driving. Any ideas how to prepare for that inevitability?


These COP talks just bring up concerns for the ecosystem of Earth’s inhabitants but offer little action especially at governmental levels which will be required to save Earth and her current brood of children and yes that includes humans, ya know, the ones with so much toxic waste that poisoning the planet trumps all,(no pun intended). People can certainly help. I’ve done all I can do, I still have to eat and have electricity, but my carbon footprint is small by American standards. This is not enough. Governments have to stop military machines, they gobble 30% of available resources especially the US’s.(I’m guessing on amount of resource use, but it’s huge) Meat production adds still more toxic waste, burning forests for meat, rubber, palm oil, hardwoods for caskets and fancy furniture, all add considerably to the destruction of precious Earth, our only home. Friends of Earth is one of the best environmental groups going and I support them every month but really it’s up to governments to affect real change, without their actions I’m afraid it’s all over. Sad.


Dreaming of a capitalism that can benefit the many.

No matter how it is radically phrased, the author is offering more of the same because there is no understanding of what capitalism is and therefore ignorance of the consequences of capitalism continuing in any shape or form.

The only solution is the utter and complete abolition of the profit system - the exchange economy - the end of buying and selling.


It is always good to see that someone cares even though absolutely nothing will be done until the wealthiest among us realize all that horded wealth can’t give them a life worth living.


The Hartwell Paper was written in 2010, following the disastrous Conference of the Parties in 2009 in Copenhagen.

At the time of COP15 (Copenhagen), Yvo de Boer was executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

I was intensely involved in Copenhagen as a blogger on the BBC World News site of their top environmental reporter Richard Black.

Two things happened after the stalemated conference:

  1. Yvo de Boer quit. My strongest impression is that he was as disgusted by the lack of progress as I was, and like me, and others, such as James Hansen - also saw no real prospect for real progress in these meetings.

  2. A year or so later, Richard Black quit the BBC - in mid-career. Richard was a dedicated environmentalist, speaking truth to power - I leave it to your imagination to connect the dots.

This article by Susann Scherbarth is very much like The Hartwell Paper that follows.

Unfortunately - that was some seven years ago - and we really are moving far too slowly.

For myself - well - one has first to maintain an even strain, as they say.

I keep thinking back to Lincoln’s faith in “the ultimate justice of the people”, because that seems the only way out of this mess.

Take a look at the executive summary if nothing else, and if you care to - let me know what you think?


“The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the
raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for
all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential
functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to
withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever
their cause may be.”


In Sao Paulo, a city of twenty one million in Brazil - an unexpected drought in 2015, linked to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and to climate change, had the city on its knees.

In this ‘Guardian Cities’ interview and expose, the situation is remembered in depth, and thoughts on an “unknown” future emerge.

A truly excellent article, one I will keep.

I recommend all take a look - as the ‘black swans’ are alive and well, and coming to a location near us all.

Here are a few quotes from the article:

Jerson Kelman, president of water company Sabesp, told Guardian Cities he felt a duty to speak out because he was a citizen as well as the head of a company who had seen firsthand how close this metropolis of 21 million people had come to a breakdown.

“It’s possible to improve by investing in forests and water treatment, but that’s not happening,” said Malu Ribeiro of the conservation movement, SOS Mata Atlantica. “So of course this [kind of drought] will happen again. The city is still growing. There is more deforestation. More people are living next to water sources. We have learned little or nothing from the crisis.”

For Kelman, the lessons are fourfold: good supply-side engineering, sensible demand-management through pricing mechanisms, transparency so that the public are on the side of the government in saving water, and accepting that past data was no longer a reliable guide as a result of climate change and land-use change. “The São Paulo experience shows us we can not rely on past assumptions. We need to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

He is also looking at the causes. Global climate change and regional deforestation are top of the list.

Based on these old statistics, he calculated the chance of a drought like that of 2014-15 as 0.4%, or once in 250 years. It was twice as severe as the planner’s worst forecasts, forcing him into a period of philosophical self-reflection.

“We had excellent data – 83 years worth – and we were prepared for the worst on record,” he says. “But nature showed us that we cannot rely on stationary series statistics as we did in the past. We should prepare for the unknown.”

Another Sabesp official who asked not to be named described the situation as “completely out of control.” A senior government adviser, who also asked for anonymity, concurred. “The risks we discussed in private were far greater than those discussed in public at the time.”


Earth cannot sustain the billions of humans that inhabit it. Especially with their appetite for environmental/ecological destruction.

One might wish for a staggered sterilization of all people so as to reach a negative population growth until a sustainable number is reached.

As it is, tensions are rising, conflicts are increasing even without the damage - famines etc. - such as seen in Syria. Add that damage, and there can arise atrocity, as in Syria.

All we can do is contain our carbon breath print (the bs of our country’s talk and action). We can do it, except Such a shame we have in office that incarnation of the Nordic god of chaos and annihilation - Donald “Loki” Trump.

Hope, hope, for 20/20 in 2020


Well, Good to see there are about 8 comments here.

The solution to perhaps the most terrible - if not final - catastrophe for Planet Earth (as per Hawking) is not an easy one in any sense of the word. I certainly have no real idea at all. But there are interesting points raised in the comments.

And maybe THAT’s the point: so many of our best and brightest- those who might just Have the ideas - seem to regard environment, climate change, as secondary importance, if not irrelevant. As with most humans - especially Americans - they see the immediate bird in the hand as worth a few hundred in the bush. Granted, the left does better than the right, whose immediacy is measured in seconds and minutes.

What Really is needed is a "mega solution " so to speak. People in this hyper polluting country need to come to grips with the very horrible reality of Climate Change and the specter of fried Earth. It means being a bit visionary, and a bit selfless in the way of sacrificing short term , idealistic goals for long term critical and real goals. (Unfortunately, in America and maybe the rest of the world (?) charity not only begins at home but seems to stay there. ).

If people really understood and BELIEVED in the threat of climate change, we might see a good but of climate change in Washington.

As part of the mega solution,

I think also we have to be very careful about which of the evils we allow in office. Whatever we might think of Hillary, she is and was in no way “as bad” as the monster POTUS we have. She would have had to veto the grotesque tax bill, she would not have purged the country of scientific thinking, she would not have lifted the regs on pollution and poison in the air and water, etc.

Maybe best after all to vote then"lesser of two evils" when it’s a comparatively minor devil up against Satan himself.


For now that’s enough - awareness precedes action - usually anyway.

I’ve been thinking about the 50% who don’t vote - a lot - for years. I may have hit on something ?

  1. ~ 25% are conservative; ~ 25% are liberal;

  2. Maybe the other 50% are anarchists at heart - but don’t know it ? Like the Apaches in John Cremony’s seminal book, “Life Among the Apaches”, where each warrior was his own master - in Cremony’s words: “a pure democrat.”

Now anarchists have gotten a bad rep - at least from the half who do vote - BUT -

Lincoln had faith in “the ultimate justice of the people” - I have often wondered why ?

And Lincoln himself seems to have disparaged anarchy.

But maybe anarchy is the wrong word ?

Maybe the half who don’t vote are simply intuitive - and understand the fix was in long long ago - and in their own way - refuse to submit to the system, like Geronimo.

Certainly our vaunted democracy and system of representative government has so far failed miserably to address not only climate change, but the entire suite of misanthropic principles which support all known civilizations, past and present.

Our system is coming apart at the seams - you can see it and feel it if you look around with both eyes wide open and more importantly - the heart - the intuitive complex.

And not a minute too soon.

This system - our system - is a road to nowhere.


Take a look at my reply to Olhippy - and see what you think ?


Replying to now although the topic seems to have withered on the 12-grape vine already.

The Hartwell papers are certainly inviting, and the Executive Summary inspires one to read on. (May yet regain some faith and optimism. )
A major undertaking!

No question but that human dignity Should be a key. Awareness- Education- Should be a key.

I am yet skeptical, as my thinly veiled rants might suggest.

In America, at least, education, knowledge, was secondary to other things: the practicality of the agricultural colleges of the Midwest. Harvard - the need for the 3 r"s for to read the Bible etc. Teaching was considered something Anyone could do, and higher education was and is still comparatively disprized, even today, even amongst public schools. A Ph D seems to mean little unless one is a "scientist " whatever that means. Perhaps shades of Tweedle-dee;dum. And is “American education” after all an oxymoron?

The above was a preamble to a bitter view that, like any species, ignoramus seeks to perpetuate itself. True, we can’t expect underpaid and overworked waiters and other struggling folk etc to be so concerned about distant events, let alone be visionaries. But what about teachers? Professors? Other professionals? Politicians? (A bit of comedy relief!). If awareness is key, then they are the key to awareness.

So, awareness may come, but maybe not too enough of us, maybe not enough awareness to effect change in the time remaining us.

And yes, our system(s) becoming seamless - apart at the seams. But my fear is that whatever happens to one system will be ignorantly replaced by another as bad, or worse.

All that being said, I agree again that it may be more effective to frame climate change around human dignity than around human sinfulness. And hope that That sentiment filters through to people’s awareness, especially in the the world’s biggest polluter - America.

for all the skepticism, it’s our only hope.


I hope to see you on another thread Monopoly, and I would suggest that the paucity of comments is partly the fault of the format here on Common Dreams, which prefers quantity over quality as to the number of articles they publish every day.

This may be due to the ‘newsy’ nature of the entire idea of Common Dreams - and so we’ll just have to adapt.

As for education - the universities have been largely captured by corporate money and thus tow the line - but so do most people going to university put a job first and learning a very very distant second.

As for cynicism - I’ve fallen into that mode numerous times - but I dig myself out of that hole, for hole it is, and remember the soul surfing idea, i.e., there are always troughs, but then there are always crests, and the soul surfer needs to navigate ob this unalterable system, it being a law of the Universe apparently.

Just as every picture has, and needs, a frame, so energy in the cosmos requires opposites.

As for dignity, self-esteem or the new buzzword, self-compassion - yes, absolutely essential before one can extend this to the rest of the world outside of the self. But so many are damaged early in life - and may actually never even get to stage one - i.e., self-dignity, that the only response for those lucky enough to have this strength is to use it to help when possible.

See you on the next thread ?