Category Archives: Winter 1998 (11/19/98)

Freedom in Sight for Bear Lincoln

One of the few pieces of good news in November’s elections came from Mendocino county, where DA Susan Massini lost her bid for re-election and Norm Vroman was voted in. Massini, besides having prosecuted many EF!ers and definitely not being a friend of progressives (much less radicals), had been rabid about prosecuting Bear Lincoln, the Indian man accused of fatally shooting a Mendocino county sheriff’s deputy in 1995. In fact, Bear’s friend Leonard Acorn Peters, another resident of the Round Valley Indian Reservation, was killed the night in April, 1995 by the cops in a case of mistaken identity. Most people close to the situation felt the partner of the deputy who killed Acorn did the shooting Bear was accused of.

Bear was acquitted by an all-white jury in a highly publicized murder trial in August 1997. He had spent over 2 years in jail without bail (after 4 months underground) awaiting trial, and the trial exposed corruption, cover-up and racism in the Mendocino county sheriff’s dept. Massini announced after the acquittal that she would pursue a second trial, and filed manslaughter charges. DA candidate Norm Vroman had said strongly and clearly early in his campaign that he would not pursue another trial for Bear Lincoln. So provided he sticks to his campaign promises, Bear Lincoln will finally be a free man, three and a half years after he watched his lifelong friend gunned down on a dirt road on the edge of the reservation in northeast Mendocino county.

Contact the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH) Ecology Center 2530 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley, CA 94702 phone: 510 548 3113 email: bach@igc.org

Communiqué

To the governments, corporations, armies, chefs, bakers, and civil societies of the earth:

In response to the heroic actions of our colleagues in London, the General Command of the BBB–Ecotopia Cell met in emergency session, and decided to announce two new global campaigns in opposition to neoliberalism, corporate crime, and industrial technocracy.

The first offensive is called the “Pie Snowball,” which is a call to arms for revolutionary bakers and pie-slingers across the Western World. Modeled after anti-nuke and anti-genetics campaigns in Europe, the plan calls for an autonomous, diffuse, and widespread pastry uprising (so to speak). As the Zapatistas have made clear, in a global economy, we all live in Chiapas. The BBB would like to make the analogy that under neoliberalism, we all can throw a pie in the face of fascism. No bosses, offices, foundation grants, never-ending consensus meetings, or CFLA’s (Confusing Four Letter Acronyms) are needed: Just Do It! We are, after all, pie-throwing anarchists. There’s an oven on every street, and cooking materials in every watershed. The idea is for at least one flan-er (or “l’entarteur,” as Belgian pieman Noel Godin of the Patisserie Brigade Internationale is known) in a bioregion to make that first fateful throw, and then inspire others to do the same. May the proverbial snowball roll down the hill of struggle until an avalanche of ‘cream psychosis’ (Godin, op. cit.) buries the global corporate elite.

The second offensive, developed by a joint task force of disaffected computer geeks and GC/BBB–EC military advisors, has been code-named “Pie2K.” Operations will target computer industry executive and consultants, who are responsible for the Year 2000 computer bug (Y2K) mess. The people have judged them guilty of gross (disgusting, really) negligence over the course of several decades. In perhaps one of the most striking examples of the inherent flaws in capitalism, the industry has known about the problem since day one, but it has never behooved workers to fix it because it would be unprofitable for their bosses to spend the extra time and labor needed to put the problem right. In addition, Y2K reveals the inherent vulnerability of technology itself, as well as the hubris and short-sightedness of the technocrats who have computerized everything they possibly could in the short time computers have been in existence. The proper response, truly, is a shower of pies across the nighttime sky upon Silicon Valley. Let’s kick it off mates, freaky-styley!

There’s a pie in the sky when you die–that’s a lie!

-Decoded and Relayed by Agent Apple

Slingshot Pie Recepies

Strawberry Pie

Preparation time: 35 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
Throw at your convenience

To make crust see Pie Crust Recipe.
To make filling, arrange points up on bottom of cooled pastry crust: 1 large basket of strawberries

Blend in blender:
2 small baskets strawberries
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cook strawberry mixture in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly for 15 minutes or until mixture turns dark red. Place pan with strawberry mixture in cold running water, stirring until cool. Pour mixture over strawberries in pie pan. Refrigerate. Decorate pie with sweetened whipped cream. Decorate politician with pie.

Pie Crust

1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
4 tablespoons ice water

Prepare one 9-inch pie pan by brushing bottom and sides lightly with oil. Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Mix oil and ice water. Add liquid to dry ingredients using fork. Stir until a ball is formed. Press into prepared pie pan, or roll out between wax paper and place in pie pan, making a high edge around the outside. Prick with fork, and bake in 400 degree over for 10-12 minutes. Plan ahead to have crust prepared before any pie-throwing event.

Cherry Tart Pie

1 9-inch baked pie shell
3 cups pitted sour cherries, drained
1/3 cup cherry juice
3/4 honey
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons tapioca granules

Combine cherries, cherry juice, honey, cornstarch, cinnamon and tapioca in heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer slowly for about 5 minutes until tapioca is clear and mixture has thickened. Cool and spoon into baked pie shell. Throw chilled or at room temperature.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

2 heaping cups of cooked pumpking
2 10.5-ounce (300 g) packages of silken tofu, drained
2 pie crusts
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, not packed tight
dash salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground dry ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Blend the tofu in a food processor or with a blender until smooth and cream-like. Add two heaping cups of cooked pumpkin and blend some more. The result should be a light orange-colored paste with no lumps of tofu. Put the paste into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt, and spices. Mix well and spoon it into two pie crusts. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the crusts are dark brown (but not burned). Cool before throwing.

Recent BBB Pie Actions

Recent pie actions have been carried out against: Renato Ruggiero, Director General of the World Trade Organization (“This is a present from the dispossessed!”); Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, Robert Shapiro, CEO of agricultural chemical giant Monsanto, neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, Charles Hurwitz, CEO of MAXXAM (which is wiping out the last privately held ancient redwoods in the world), San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, pro-reckless development San Francisco Supervisor. Mayor Brown was pied with three pies (tossed tofu cream, mixed berry and pumpkin) simultaneously for his crimes against working people in San Francisco. Three BBB operatives are being charged with felonies for the Brown action, including one who had her collar bone broken when she was tackled by security agents. Send money to help with their legal case:

Friends of the Biotic Baking Brigade
3288 21st St. #92
San Francisco, CA 94110
Call 415-267-5976.

Infowar

The Pentagon, China’s human rights agency, India’s major nuclear weapons manufacturers, and Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo have all been attacked recently, not physically, but by computer hackers. “Hacktivists” around the world are launching a series of electronic attacks on web sites of oppressive institutions. Tactics range from electronic graffiti to bombarding servers and effectively halting all traffic to a site.

Recent actions include an attack by the Mexican group X-Ploit on the country’s finance ministry website, replacing it with the face of revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata in sympathy with the Chiapas rebellion. On Nov 22, the Electronic Disturbance Theater in NY attacked the site of the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s “School of the Americas,” which trains representatives from repressive Latin American military and intelligence forces. Electronic Disturbance Theater attacks flood the server with requests for the site, severely limiting “legitimate” access and potentially crashing the server. Potential of Hacktivism.

Hacktivism has a lot of immediate potential. A lot of visibility for revolutionary movements can be generated by changing websites to reflect our political views, both through the sites themselves, and through the significant mainstream media coverage the actions receive. More importantly, the internet is an increasingly serious business tool. Since it is so easily open to attack, revolutionary groups should take this opportunity to wreak havoc and Run! Hacktivism’s Flaws.

But hacktivism has definite flaws. We should be wary of depending to heavily on technology as a vehicle for activism. The internet and much of the other technology used in hacktivism originated within the US Dept. of Defense. There is a certain enjoyable irony using these tools to wound their parents. But activists must make sure the social institutions maintained by the military-industrial complex do not taint internet-based actions.

One danger is that the movement is potentially non-diverse — in two major survey articles focusing on hacktivism, no women were mentioned, and no groups operating out of Africa were described. Although some groups are putting up sites with directions making hacktivist actions accessible to novice hackers, and although the activists are generally of a younger generation of hackers, the fact remains that the actions are primarily accessible to people with an extensive computer background, which is a generally male and middle class group of people.

There is also discussion within the hacker community questioning whether hacktivism violates the community’s ethical standards. Hackers traditionally have engaged in electronic exploration for its own sake– hacking has been driven by curiosity, not by malicious intentions. “The bottom line to me is that hackers have no moral right to break into someone else’s system. India and Pakistan have no inherent moral right to put humanity at risk and to further damn our environment. Conflicting moralities do not justify vigilante action” pointed out a letter-writer to the folks who hacked the Indian nuclear bomb makers’ sites.

In many ways it is a guerrilla war– groups changing websites and institutions retaliating. Hackers may have the advantage now, but institutions are devoting more energy to deflecting the attacks. While hacktivism has potential, energy devoted to it means less energy going towards organizing in the streets, where the effects are more promising and lasting.

Hacktivist Actions

o On Oct., 27, a day after China’s human rights agency announced its new Web site, the official view of that nation’s human rights record was replaced with an electronic trespasser’s manifesto: “China’s people have no rights at all, never mind human rights. How can the United States trade millions and millions of dollars with them and give them most-favored trade status when they know what is happening?”

o Groups MilwOrm and Ashtray Lumberjacks, acting together, orchestrated a unprecedented mass hack directed towards all of the nuclear powers, replacing pages on more than 300 sites with an anti-nuclear statement, complete with angry red mushroom cloud

o On Aug. 1st, the Portuguese group Kaotik Team hacked 45 Indonesian government Websites, altering web pages to include messages calling for full autonomy for East Timor.

o Indonesian government email accounts were flooded and several websites were hacked on Aug. 12th by hackers from China and Taiwan, to protest the fact that Chinese-Indonesians were targeted for torture, rape and looting during the anti-Suharto riots in May.

o On Oct. 13th, political activists took over an Indian government web site and posted messages and photos calling attention to alleged government-sponsored repression and human rights violations in the contested northern Indian state of Kashmir.

Correctional Officers’ Creed

To speak sparingly … to act, not argue .. to be in authority through personal presence … to correct without nagging … to speak with the calm voice of certainty … to see everything, and to know what is significant and what not to notice … to be neither insensitive to distress nor so distracted by pity as to miss what must elsewhere be seen …

To do neither that which is unkind nor self-indulgent in its misplaced charity … never to obey the impulse to tongue slash that silent insolence which in time past could receive the lash … to be both firm and fair … to know I cannot be fair simply by being firm, nor firm simply by being fair …

To support the reputations of associates and confront them without anger should they stand short of professional conduct … to reach for knowledge of the continuing mysteries of human motivation … to think; always to think … to be dependable … to be dependable first to my charges and associates, and thereafter to my duty as employee and citizen … to keep fit … to keep forever alert … to listen to what is meant as well as what is said with words and with silences.

To expect respect from my charges and my superiors yet never to abuse the one for abuses from the other … for eight hours each working day to be an example of the person I could be at all times … to acquiesce in no dishonest act … to cultivate patience under boredom and calm during confusion … to understand the why of every order I take or give …

To hold freedom among the highest values though I deny it to those I guard … to deny it with dignity that in my example they find no reason to lose their dignity … to be prompt … to be honest with all who practice deceit that they not find in me excuse for themselves … to privately face down my fear that I not signal it … to privately cool my anger that I not displace it on others … to hold in confidence what I see and hear, which by telling could harm or humiliate to no good purpose … to keep my outside problems outside … to leave inside that which should stay inside … to do my duty.

Citizens’ Creed

To voice opinions … to argue until you act .. to have your personal presence be an inspiration … to challenge without coercing … to speak without assuming you are right … to question everything, and to know what to focus your energy on … to be sensitive to distress and aware of people’s needs to understand better what must be done …

To be kind and generous when possible, to accept help when needed … never to blindly obey authority, but continually challenge yourself to change the status quo … to be both strong and sensitive … to learn to be fair though listening to others, not following society’s standards of fairness …

To support your community and fellow citizens and challenge them without anger toward building a better society … to reach for knowledge along with the joys of strength of courage … to act; always to think … to be dependable … to be responsible first for my own actions, and thereafter to my responsibilities as friend and citizen … to be ready … to keep forever alert … to listen, to really hear what is said with words and with silences, and ask questions to clarify.

To expect respect from fellow humans and to do unto others and you would have them do unto you … for every hour of each day to be an example of the joys that living can be … to have a single standard of truth … to cultivate patience in trying times and calmness during confusion … to understand the why as well as how, and then act …

To hold freedom among the highest values and work towards a world where it is denied no one … to walk and talk with dignity and compassion … to do what you say you will … to be a role model that others not find in you an excuse for themselves … to tell people your fears so that they might help … to act from an anger that does not destroy, but builds … to hold in confidence what is told to you in confidence, to speak when you understand something to be wrong … to recognize that those outside and those inside are both human beings, deserving respect … to do my duty.

Prison Rhetoric A Pack of Lies

With all the malarkey, studies, and obfuscation the mainstream / mass media has spewed out over the past 15 or so years about crime, you’d think someone would get the story right! So far, no one has. What an enormous shame


Finger pointing at Russia

The far right, the capitalist right, and part of the middle spend decades shouting and finger pointing at the totalitarian prison gulags in Stalinist Russia. They made an icon out of Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his works, including the marvelous Gulag Archipelago. All those gulag phsons were referred to as proof of an ‘Evil Empire” a failed, decadent and totalitarian system, a police state seeped in corruption, suppression and oppression. So prisons were needed everywhere.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With the far right and rapacious capitalists leading the way, the 50 United States of America combined with the federal government now incarcerate more people than China. (China has 1.4 million individuals in prison.) Further, there are 166 prisoners in China per 100,000 people, compared with 187 in Taiwan, 210 in Singapore, and 614 in the United States. The world average is 105. (Ref. New Ghosts, Old Ghosts: Prison and Labor Reform Camps in China, James Seymour and Richard Anderson, M.E. Sharpe (publisher), 1998). Obviously the Republican Party and some like minded Democrat fellow travelers have adopted Cecil B. DeMille’s dictum: “Preach against it, while you wallow in it!” Finger pointing at China, Russia, and others, while slyly not mentioning America, has made good show; and after all, there’s no business like show business.


Crime statistics misleading

Then there are the shocking American crime statistics. In the nine largest American cities, according to recent figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrests are made in only 20 percent of all reported crimes, and well over 112 of all crimes go unreported. So of all crimes committed, arrests are made in no more than 10 percent of the cases. Upwards of 90 percent of all American criminals are never so much as arrested! (NAFTA advocates should note that the arrest to reported crimes in Mexico city in 1997 was approximately 3 percent!) Add to all this the forgotten innocents in American p@sons, the estimated millions of Americans who commit crimes by deliberately not reporting or under reporting taxes owed, corporate crime, and the hundreds of thousands of persons who annually enter the U.S. of A. illegally (a crime) and the true American crime situation comes into 20-20 focus.


Prisons un@ed to crime

The hard fact is that in America prisons as we have them have nothing to do with crime. Anyone who believes American prisons have anything to do with crime or criminals no doubt also believes in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. To address the American crime problem with force/repression/incarceration it would be necessary to lock up 35-40 million Americans. A police state is very expensive- much more than a welfare state. As it stands now, the simple truth is that American prisons are poor houses. And they are big business for capitalism: Capitalism’s latest and most milkable cash cow. Captive consumers. Captive consumer mentality. Slave labor. A dumping ground for unsaleable (els6where) merchandise; Prisoncrats buy anything. Who sees? Who cares?

And the show is not over. Hard right and disingenuous, rapacious, capitalist propaganda notwithstanding, prisons are created and sustained for prison administrators and employees, not for prisoners. Politicians and Prisoncrats know this scientific truth, which is:

Whatever may be said, or believed, to the contrary, institutions of all kinds are run for the benefit of the custodians, not for the patients, prisoners, clients, or even customers. An institution is an organism, and every organism is designed to serve its own ends first, whether those ends be administrative or pecuniary.


Crime colleges and poor houses

Capitalists are living their dream here and now: turn American into a fascist police state, turn a profit on all fronts, and turn their backs on fellow Americans. Meanwhile, although American prisons today are nothing more than poor houses and warehouses, they do function as crime colleges. As the recidivist rate proves, the more individuals incarcerated the more recidivists there are in training! The life ,blood of big business and capitalism is repeat customers, and in the prison business, repeat customers are called “recidivists.”

Rapacious capitalists have discovered a perpetual motion device, an ever-blooming money tree. In some states, such as Texas, which pay no prisoner wages, what could be better than absolute slave labor? Squeeze the life blood out of poor house residents. Plutocrats know that American prisons have nothing to do with crime, but rely on Abe Lincoln’s statement-You can fool all of the people some of the time” – to rest certain that the American public will not catch on. By Robed J. Zani No. 328938

Michael Unit, 12-A-39
Rt. 1, Box 4500
Tennessee Colony, Texas 75886

Fear of Crime

In the suburbs, all is quiet. Dogs aren’t barking, dark figures are not lurking in backyards, sirens are not wailing through the desolate streets. Yet every house has a security alarm, a tall iron fence, and a guard dog. Police crawl through the streets, stopping suspicious-looking cars on the main drag, to the relieved applause of suburban residents. Those who can’t take the pressure move to gated communities, where rent-a-cops guard their children. What is going on here? What has created such a war zone of terror-stricken, irrational citizenry?


If it bleeds, it leads

Most people have never even punched anyone, let alone experienced violent crime firsthand. Yet the general fear of crime among Americans has risen stadily over the years, even as the actual crime rates have fallen steadily over the 1990′s. Some point the blame directly at our main sources of information about the world– the mass media. The fact that so much of our television, newspaper and magazine coverage is devoted to crime is bound to have an effect on our views and perceptions of crime risk.

In fact, between 1990-97, national network news coverage of crime has fully doubled. On these networks crime stories have been presented more than any other type of story, with business and economy coverage coming in a distant second. Consistently high ratings push along this trend; if people didn’t want coverage of crime, the argument goes, then why do they watch it?


Telivision: Most Guilty

Although all media are guilty of shining too many spotlights on crime, especially the rarely occurring violent crimes, it is television that deserves the most attack. The television in the average household is on more than seven hours a day. In that time, news programs bleat frantic bulletins about abducted children, convicted murders, violent gangs. Reality-crime shows underscore the message further, re-enacting the cries of the helpless victim at the moment of revenge. Television can do something that the printed word cannot: it can make crime look real and immediate, all in the comfort of one’s home.

The fact is, Americans get most of their information from television. Research has shown that, the more people believe the crime information presented on television is credible, the more fearful they are, the more likely they are to overestimate crime rates, and the more likely they are to favor Draconian measures against criminals.

And it’s not just the news that has this effect; popular programs like America’s Most Wanted, Cops, and LAPD: Life on the Beat also contribute to the fear of crime. These shows take crime coverage one step further, acting as storytellers of death and modern danger. They are a hybrid of news and entertainment, and they can take the goriest of both worlds: facts and dramatic techniques like creepy music and dark background sets. They emphasize the randomness and pervasiveness of crime, and underscore the message that if you’re not scared now, you’re just not paying attention.

Television has neither the time nor the inclination to probe deeper into the social and economic causes of crime, preferring instead topics that can be neatly summed up in under one minute, or dramatized and exaggerated in cop shows. Television news (as well as the print media) may occasionally do a feature on the larger causes of crime, but these are hardly adequate compared to the hours of random criminals that appear out of nowhere and are headed for the slammer.


Protection at a price

Of course this story wouldn’t be complete without an accounting of the opportunists who know when to pounce on a rising tide of fear about crime. Politicians, for example, proclaim themselves “tough on crime in a dying society” to appeal to scared voters. Those who think they can vote their fears away encourage repressive and ineffectual tactics like three-strikes and the death penalty. The industries that rely on crime also support these politicians. The gun industry, the security guard industry, and the prison industry all have grown rapidly in recent years, thanks to the wave of fear.


Responsible media NOW!

The media-fueled rhetoric of fear is dangerous. It makes people less tolerant, more uneasy of others not like themselves. It makes people invite police intrusion into private lives in the hopes that it will sustain order. It makes people welcome closed circuit cameras on the street, with police watching on screens down at the station. It makes people breathe easier when cops stop any “suspicious” person walking down Main Street and run an ID check.

No matter that crime rates have been falling steadily. Disporportionate media coverage leads to a highly distorted view of actual crime. Until the media take responsibility for portraying crime levels accurately, it will be almost impossible to make real progress on reducing crime.

Global Warming: We Can’t Hide

This past year has seen torrential downpours, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, decimation of fish populations, heat waves and drought. While jokes about global warming help ease anxiety, it’s really not very funny. Most credible scientists agree that the record-breaking "natural" disasters of the past few years, for example those brought on by last winter’s El Niño, are partly attributable to the billions of tons of "greenhouse gases" that have been spewed into the atmosphere during the last 150 years.

Apologists point out other factors that, of course, contribute to the increased perception of climactic catastrophe. For example, in many less-developed countries economic and population pressures are forcing more people to live in exposed and marginal areas vulnerable to extremes of weather. In developed countries like the US, developers have become fond of building resorts and houses for rich people on marginal and exposed areas. In both cases, the mainstream news media has become more effective in sensationalizing losses to human life and insurance companies.

But fools aside, global warming is a fact of life. The only real hope for averting catastrophic consequences is to immediately stop discharging the gases that cause global warming. Obviously, we could do this if there were the political will. Unfortunately, the governing bodies theoretically "in charge" of finding a solution to the climate change problem are more concerned with creating a climate friendly for corporate profits than in maintaining a climate friendly for human beings. And in the short-sighted view of corporations, reducing greenhouse gas emissions means investing in new technology. Besides, they stand to gain the most with climate change as new markets open for technological fixes.

What is global warming anyway?

Global warming is a result of physical and biological responses to the massive increase of certain gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. These gases are collectively known as "greenhouse gases", because they act like a greenhouse, trapping long-wave solar radiation that would otherwise be reflected back into space.

Most of the greenhouse gases occur naturally (though not the CFCs), and historically there has been a balance between the amount of CO2 emitted by plants and animals or through fires and volcanoes, and the ability of natural carbon "sinks" such as ocean plankton and forests to absorb the carbon. But the rate at which stored carbon-based (fossil) fuels like oil, coal, and gas have been burned during the 150 years since the industrial revolution has dramatically overwhelmed the capacity of any natural ecological process to cope. In addition, these "sinks" have less capacity than ever before, as a result of world-wide decimation of forest lands, and reductions in plankton density due to damage caused by increased UV-B radiation (because CFCs have depleted the protective atmospheric ozone layer).

What will it mean?

Because these gases trap extra heat from the sun, already the world-wide average temperature has risen about a degree. That may not sound like much, but the effects multiply: as polar ice caps melt and warmer water expands, sea levels rise and ocean currents change. Higher temperatures create changes in wind patterns, which affects the distribution and frequency of floods, droughts, and fires. Tornadoes and hurricanes become more frequent and intense. Hotter ocean waters kill coral reefs, which are a crucial part of ocean ecosystems, and populations of insects that carry disease and damage crops explode. Despite the fact that over 80% of the excess greenhouse gases have been contributed by the industrialized countries, the impact will disproportionately be borne by the world’s poor. Rising temperatures and an increase of "natural" disasters will lead to massive crop failures and loss of coastal land. Countries whose economies depend on agriculture are most vulnerable to food shortages and economic ruin-the rich are unlikely to ever go hungry. As more and more people are displaced from subsistence agriculture, they will have few options but to migrate to the peripheries of cities, joining the burgeoning pool of cheap labor for the transnational corporations. And in this era of neoliberalism, city governments are unlikely to be able to develop the infrastructure to cope with these new immigrants. Policy think tanks already warn that these changes may cause "social unrest" that will be detrimental to business.

What’s being done about it?

Some degree of global warming cannot be avoided. But how bad it will be depends on how quickly action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase natural carbon sinks. There have been big international climate meetings every year for the last 10 years now, but to date, pretty much nothing has been done.

In 1994 the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change went into effect. While this is technically a legally-binding treaty, signed by 165 countries (plus the EEC), its agreements are pathetically weak and general, leaving specific obligations to be worked out later. The US has been stalling and backpedaling all along, finally agreeing at last December’s Kyoto Protocol meeting to reduce its emissions 7% by 2010, based on 1990 levels. In this competition to see who could be the worst, the overall reduction is only planned to be 5.2%. (According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s First Assessment Report, CO2 cuts of 60-80% are necessary to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.) In addition, the treaty leaves lots of loopholes, for example, provisions for emission trading between countries. Worst of all, there’s no real mechanism to enforce even these laughable goals. The November 1998 meeting in Buenos Aires to continue the negotiations has focused on how industrialized countries are going to facilitate development in the rest of the world without increasing their emissions to industrialized-world levels.

Negotiations have gotten hung up on dozens of different arguments that are forwarded to justify inaction: issues of equity, technology transfer, how to allocate responsibility, scientific uncertainty, etc. Should we measure all greenhouse gases, or just CO2? Should a country’s current or past role in causing climate change determine its share of the sacrifices now needed to minimize it? Should a country’s emissions quota be calculated according to current emission levels, populations size, or GNP? Who should pay for saving remaining tropical (and temperate!) rainforests? Is the climate change data biased?

Should responsibility index be based on past, present or future emissions?

These issues of equity have a real basis-per capita, developed countries emit 10s of times more greenhouse gases than developing countries. For every person in the US, 20 tons of CO2 are released each year. So although the US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, it produces 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases-the same amount as 100 developing countries, making up 80% of the world’s population, combined. Rich countries have obviously benefited from the industrialization that has produced so much greenhouse gas.

Government officials from countries that have been under-developed argue that it would be unfair for emissions regulations to prevent their countries from industrializing. On the other hand, if the under-developed countries were to reach industrial levels of emissions, the scope of the problem would be incomprehensible. Despite the validity of these questions, they are being used to weaken and stall regulations that might curtail corporate profits. Clearly, the industrialized countries need to subsidize under-developed countries, since they’ve been robbing them for years.

Besides these questions, all kinds of other distracting arguments have been put forward advocating inaction. For example, "No matter what policies we adopt, we’re already in for it." "People and the economy will adapt to maximize profit and minimize losses." "Economically-vulnerable sectors are not that significant to the economy (i.e. agriculture and forestry)." "Only low-lying and island areas will really be affected by the ocean level rising 3 feet." "Even if we change policies today, we won’t see the effects for a long time, and the money we spend today will be worth less per person in the future." "Scientists aren’t sure exactly what will happen, so let’s do nothing."

These arguments are totally specious. There is no excuse for inaction. Something (even if we don’t know exactly what) is going to happen-in fact it is already happening. The damage will be catastrophic and irreversible. It’s going to take a long time to fix, so we better start now. All the international agreements are based upon future reductions to some percentage of 1990 levels. But the amount emitted in 1990 was not sustainable-it would continue to enhance the greenhouse effect. We have to reduce to pre industrial revolution levels, plus compensate for the population growth since then. On the bright side, we already have access to technology that does not emit these gases.

So what should be done?

We must work on every level on which we can have influence to immediately reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases: household, workplace, local government, state and federal regulations, etc. There are many changes we could make now that would be pretty painless, yet would make a huge difference. Three-fourths of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuel combustion. Most power plants burn coal or gas, and every automobile produces about 2 tons of CO2 per year. For starters, we can demand that gas and utility companies develop and implement technologies that increase the efficiency of fuel burning, and maintain their pipelines and wells to minimize waste.

But instead of mining and burning coal, gasoline, oil, and natural gas, we should be generating power from renewable, non-polluting sources. There are many options: photo voltaic electricity; solar heat, hot water and lighting; wind turbines; bio-mass fuel (burning plant material, which causes no net change in carbon); small-scale hydro-electricity; and geothermal heat and power. Even without calculating the real, environmental costs of power, many of these are already cheaper than fossil fuels, use local labor and materials, can be built and maintained locally. According to one estimate, it would cost only $60 billion to provide photo voltaic power to 1 billion people-this is less than 0.5% of current military expenditure.

Companies will milk fossil fuels for as long as they are profitable (and they’ve invested a lot in infrastructure) then just transition to sustainable power as soon as they’ll make more that way. Unless local communities show leadership, most power solutions will probably be centralized and run on a for-profit basis. For example, ENRON already has plans to build a 100 megawatt solar power station in the Nevada desert.

We can also fight for regulatory structures and taxes that encourage energy conservation and mass transit, and end counter-productive policies like subsidizing clear-cuts and private automobile transportation. We should make every effort to reduce unnecessary lighting, re-use materials and buy less stuff, and make better use of solar light and heat in buildings. Currently, most power companies’ pricing structure encourage more energy use, just as development patterns and transportation allocation encourage more car use.

We can force governments to require the use of only renewable energies. We can require that money be allocated for public transportation. Not only will this slow the rate of global warming, it will improve our lives now. Air quality would improve, there would be less acid rain and erosion, and biodiversity would be protected. One study in Norway indicated that 70% of the cost of a carbon tax of 2.75% of the GNP would be recouped through direct, non-climactic benefits.

Clearly the time to act is now. Although intensifying the pressure on national governments is crucial, we should not expect that these corporate-run government bodies will suddenly begin acting in our interests. While individualistic lifestyle changes are not the answer, collective changes in our resource use can be.


What can a city do to discourage use of cars, a major source of CO2 emissions?

  • Limit parking in downtown areas
  • Encourage car pools, van pools, and high-occupancy vehicle lanes
  • Dedicate arterial roads to public transit vehicles
  • Invest in public transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
  • Implement congestion pricing technologies that charge automobile drivers for the road space they use
  • Implement traffic-calming measures in the city
  • Pass zoning ordinances that encourage mixed-use and high-density development, facilitating non-motorized transportation.

In addition, cities can use by-laws, codes and ordinances to prescribe appropriate energy standards for new and retrofit construction. For example, require that buildings be oriented to take maximum advantage of the sun for light and space heating, or that trees be planted to provide shade.