• Welcome to the System Change Not Climate Change Community Forum. The Forum's goal is to promote exchange of information, discussion, and debate among ecosocialists and other activists who share our belief that capitalism is driving climate change and that a radical international grassroots movement can stop it.

Sandra Lindberg

Hello, all:

David Klein asked if I would post here some thoughts I have been sharing on an SCNCC listserve. Below are a series of posts, some from me and some from H. Ehrman, on the topic of organizing strategy.

I was responding to an excellent review by David Klein about the limits of green energy for climate change mitigation. You can read that review here: The Limits of Green Energy Under Capitalism.

Here goes:

David, what a great article! And Brad, thanks for posting it.

I spent the day with a couple working tirelessly to restore native plants on their ten acres in Central Illinois. A series of grants have allowed them to do this work--along with their backs, hands, legs and minds. In the group of 30 listening to stories of this 17-year process were two couples and two solo farmers all setting aside significant acreage to create prairie, pollinator areas and wildlife habitat for animals. One man in his late 60's maintains 90 such acres, largely by himself.

How maddening to think that as conventional farmers like these folks literally turn their backs on advice about how to manage their land their efforts could be wiped out in a day by drought combined with forest fire, or flash floods we are increasingly seeing in this part of the country.

So many people in my world are working so hard to lessen the effects brought to us by fossil fuels, as well as herbicides and pesticides. Ironically, even Monsanto is spending money on these efforts, offering pollinator area grants. They're probably most interested in the optics, but these farmers don't care. They want to do the work and they take those Monsanto grants.

I know many on this list are researchers and professors. I urge you to do as teachers in Cuba were required to do when Cuba dealt with the US embargo and had to very quickly come up with a way to produce its own food. If you are not already doing so, I urge you to find a way to get your hands into the soil. Help to remove invasive species in parks where you live. Plant and maintain a pollinator pocket garden. Grow some of your own food. In Cuba for some years teachers were required to spend their summers working in some way to support the food system, either in cities or the countryside.

Please listen to this gentle but determined reminder: to live in cities and spend all ones time in human-made spaces with no regular acts that give back to nature is to ask a lot of ecosystems. Someone has to grow and bring to you your food. Others must provide for your other needs navigating congested roadways in fossil fuel consuming trucks and vans.

Give back a little something every day. I know some of you engage in such practices, but for those who don't I invite you to see how your life changes when you do.

If it's too late to avoid the worst effects of climate change, even more than before we have the responsibility to live the last beautiful years this planet may have for a very long time in a way that harms the planet the least and returns some of our energy to this home of ours and its needs. How we choose to live these last years in the world we thought we would enjoy forever will say a great deal about our species.

Sandra Lindberg
Save Our Natural Areas (in Macon County, IL)

A subcommittee of the coalition in Macon County called the Community Environmental Council
One of H. Ehrman's responses to me went like this:


Thank you Sandra for your wonderful and important words of wisdom and insight as always

As the grandson of a slave who became a peasant farmer and then a small farmer in the US who taught me most of what I know about trees and food-

One of the ways to build community and directly deal with climate change mitigation, adaptation and in some cases reparations is to plant native, climate adaptable trees (and food), in as many places, both urban and rural as you/we can

Reforestation of the rural world both in the global north and south is going on all over

and several studies prove it works for GHG capture in the trees and the soil they are planted in

It is direct resistance to imperialist/capitalist deforestation and mining extraction

In some cases La Via Campesina and their allies are doing this through retaking the land from multinationals and comprador bourgeoisie government puppets

In the case of the global north, where study after study shows very accurately how much tree cover we are losing each year in cities and rural Amerika-

There are many groups re-treeing now to fight massive urban heat island effects that are here every day in what looks to be the hottest summer ever in the entire northern hemisphere

and each week or month new studies emerge on the relation of heat island effects and increasing air pollution, including this weeks UK study about significant numbers of new cases of asthma, getting worse each year due to increasing air pollution from ozone, PM 2.5 and more

While all of this does not come from local effects, heat island effects are increasing by the minute as we continue to fill in more green space with asphalt and concrete and build new buildings that make things worse

Of course trees and the soil they are planted in can also absorb GHG

We must see this both as a potentially revolutionary strategy and a tactic

It needs to involve rural and urban land takeover including building food gardens, low energy social/subsidized housing and more

We know most groups doing this in the US are not led by ecosocialists

However, in the thousands of words on this listserv written asking “What is to be Done”?

Getting our hands collectively in the soil to plant food and trees is one concrete collective effort Marxists, ecosocialists should consider

In some cases cities and some towns are planting trees, but not usually in those neighborhoods most in need of them

In the 1980’s we began planting a 100 trees a year in our Chicago working class Latino neighborhood before “green” Daley started it

While we did talk about climate change then the primary thing was how trees would reduce energy costs in housing, both in summer and winter

Several of these families formed the basis of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) which began a few years later in 1994


“The masses are the makers of History"

Howard Ehrman MD, MPH
University of Illinois Chicago
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
School of Public Health

My response to H. consisted of the following, thoughts I hope others reading this forum will consider:

Howard, thank you for your ability to draw connections between complex trends and systems. The studies I am seeing are very clear. It is to the benefit of local communities and the planet every time we resist felling trees, plant and nurture native trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses, and convert conventional acres and lawns to organic food production and native plants.

I also want to suggest a radical organizing idea. Many of you must remain in large cities, or believe you must, in order to do your work. However, cities as well as economically and racially/ethnically marginalized groups will feel first and most the effects of climate change. Women, children and lgbtq folks, regardless of the economic group in which they exist, will also experience increased difficulty as climate change progresses. If any of you can, move from the large cities to smaller communities. Economically oppressed black residents in Detroit were persuaded by Cargill to relocate to a predominantly white town in Central Illinois called Beardstown, as were immigrants from Mexico and Africa. At first their lives in Beardstown were very difficult, but they found a way to champion their collective interests and shifted Beardstown from an all-white town to one that is diverse and enjoys a complex and rich culture. To read more about this as well as a scathing review of industrial meat production check out Global Heartland: Displaced Labor, Transnational Lives and Local Placemaking by Faranak Miraftab (Indiana U. Press, 2016).

Let me talk about Decatur IL here. Decatur housing prices are incredibly affordable right now, largely because multi-corporations' greed has been undermining Decatur for several decades. Sell your east or west homes, even at a loss, and you will likely be able to buy a very nice home in Decatur. This city is struggling to regain its health and grows increasingly progressive each day. Progressive representatives sit on City Council and the Macon County Board. We hope to add to their numbers this fall.

Decatur is also home to a park district that holds over 4,000 acres. Macon County is home to one of five conservation districts in Illinois. The topography is hilly and wooded with streams and rivers of the Sangamon watershed flowing through it. Efforts continue to increase the health of Lake Decatur, manmade in the 1920's to serve the corporate ambitions of the Staley Co., but now serving as the city's water supply and providing water for Tate & Lyle and Archer Daniels Midland.

We are a rustbelt city located in Central Illinois. Because of that, the number of skilled people here is pretty incredible. Welders, metal workers of all kinds, and every building trade is well represented. Knowledge of agriculture runs deep. Higher education institutions are found here, too. The potential exists here for a real shift to a new way of living. Currently, there is an extensive freight rail hub in Decatur. Many of us hope that will expand to include passenger rail.

Finally, research we are seeing argues that this part of Illinois will feel climate change's effects later than western and easterm coastal areas of the US. In other words, we bear a great responsibility here to shift from corn and soybean production used for ethanol and cattle feed, to small and local agricultural concerns that produce food for human consumption. The growing number of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms indicate that farmers are beginning to understand that the production of fruits and vegetables for regional sales far surpasses in profits what they can earn on the narrow margins that industrial agriculture offers to them. Some of the largest farmers in this part of the country, thanks to Trump's trade war strategies, may lose their farms to one especially bad market season. Too many of them rely on selling their harvests to China ...

Come to Decatur. Or find a city like ours and get out of the huge cities on either coast. It is prudent for you to do so for many reasons.

I believe we are moving further into a time when human survival will require us to think strategically about how we can put ourselves in places where we have the best chances of creating new ecosocialist systems. Though Decatur may seem an unlikely site for such developments, I see every day signs that such shifts are not only possible but likely. This city is 70,000, not several million. One person's efforts can accomplish more in communities where the population is smaller. Simple truth I learned when living in Grand Forks, ND. There the entire state was 1M. One person getting politically active in that state could have an incredible impact.

If you come you will have to relinquish what west and east coast folks tend to do to the center of the country--assume that you somehow know what we need here. But you are also incredibly intelligent, dedicated and talented folks. If you are willing to roll up shirt sleeves and start digging into the problems with us, I believe communities like Decatur will welcome you with great excitement.

If any of you have further questions about this call, email me individually and I will do my best to provide the information you seek.
H. then asked me to provide details about the articles/studies I reference in my first post. So I sent H. Ehrman the following:

You can see my review of Urban Forests: a Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape here: http://www.sona-maconcounty.org/2018/07/10/why-do-cities-bother-with-trees-a-book-review/. The last few chapters are most related to contemporary situations.


Start here with studies reported by iTree: i-Tree Reports.

Have you seen this one by RUAF? https://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/Policy brief Urban agriculture as a climate change strategy.pdf

The issue of the interface between climate change and native plants is complicated. Start with this review of many studies to learn what I'm talking about. Plants and climate change: complexities and surprises

To all reading this, I hope these thoughts are of interest. And I'm quite serious about my invitation to move to the heartland.