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The Silk-Salamon “Victory Plan”: potentials, contradictions, questions

On July 14th David Wallace-Wells published a cover story in New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, a devastated economy, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read millions of times, the most-read article in the magazine’s history. The article provoked controversy and was criticized in the climate movement mainly because the piece was said to be “too frightening.”

Margaret Klein Salamon, clinical psychologist and founder and director of The Climate Mobilization (TCM) , responded on Resilience.org that the climate movement fears to tell the awful truth because many think this could paralyze people into inaction. She says, “it is OK, indeed imperative, to tell the whole, frightening story . . . it’s the job of those of us trying to protect humanity and restore a safe climate to tell the truth about the climate crisis and help people process and channel their own feelings — not to preemptively try to manage and constrain those feelings.” She continues:

"people are coming out of the trance of denial and starting to confront the reality of our existential emergency. I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it — it’s to protect them from the climate crisis!" (Climate Truth and the New York Magazine’s “The Uninhabitable Earth” - Resilience)


I’m no psychologist but it seems to me she’s certainly correct that facing up to the whole awful truth is essential to motivating people to confront our existential crisis and “the first step to taking substantial action.” Yet as an ecosocialist, I would say that Salamon either does not fully grasp or is too fearful to confront, the reality of scope of the necessary systemic political-economic changes we would need to make happen in order to prevent ecological apocalypse and the collapse of civilization – namely: the overthrow of capitalism and the institution of an ecosocialist social order.


What I find interesting about Salamon’s Climate Mobilization group is that, whereas many environmentalists are narrowly focused on suppressing fossil fuels while giving little or no thought to the broader implications of doing so, Salamon’s group goes further, presenting a comprehensive “plan” to save the planet, authored mainly by TCM co-founder Ezra Silk. As they describe it,

The Climate Mobilization's "Victory Plan" aims to detail how a fully mobilized United States government could drive our economy to net zero greenhouse gas emissions within a decade, restore a safe climate, end the sixth mass extinction, reverse ecological overshoot — and revitalize America, with 100% employment for all who want work.” (What does WWII-scale Climate Mobilization really mean?):

"Our Victory Plan lays out what policies would look like that, if implemented, would actually protect billions of people and millions of species from decimation. They include: 1) An immediate ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure and a scheduled shut down of all fossil fuels in 10 years; 2) massive government investment in renewables; 3) overhauling our agricultural system to make it a huge carbon sink; 4) fair-shares rationing to reduce demand; 5) A federally-financed job guarantee to eliminate unemployment 6) a 100% marginal tax on income above $500,000. (Climate Truth and the New York Magazine’s “The Uninhabitable Earth” - Resilience)

"This is far beyond anything proposed in today’s polite political debates about climate action. We believe that unless policymakers, advocates, and citizens envision what "victory" might actually look like when facing the complexity of our looming emergency, it's impossible to determine a horizon for our ambitions that is in line with the increasingly stark realities of climate science. (What does WWII-scale Climate Mobilization really mean?)

"We aren’t doomed — we are choosing to be doomed by failing to respond adequately to the emergency, which would of course entail initiating a WWII-scale response to the climate emergency. Gradualist half measures, such as a gradually phased-in carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, that seem “politically realistic” but have no hope of actually restoring a safe climate, are not adequate to channel people’s fear into productive action. " (Climate Truth and the New York Magazine’s “The Uninhabitable Earth” - Resilience)

So what does this Victory Plan (VP) envision and call for? The Executive Summary details a 10 Point Plan (Victory Plan Executive Summary.pdf). The main points are as follows:

Front One:
I. Kick-start the Mobilization by declaring a global climate emergency, setting limits on all 15 greenhouse gas emissions, and most crucially: “Order all businesses with annual revenues greater than $10 million to produce plans “showing how each entity will cut their emissions to net zero by 2025.”

IV. Ration GHG emissions: “The federal government should institute a rationing system in which all products and services that emit greenhouse gases are rationed . . .”

V. Energy and Electricity: The Plan calls for a “massive, mandatory” decarbonization of energy generation, based on “a tremendous build-out of solar and wind energy,” the building of a continental renewable energy ‘super-smart’ power grid,” “built as a federal works program on a scope and scale similar to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936,” with the goal of a “shift to 100% renewable energy economy” by 2025.

VI. Transportation Mobilization: The VP calls for replacement of virtually all fossil-fuel powered vehicles and public transportation with electric vehicles, trains, and so on.

IX. Full Employment Job Guarantee: “To ensure a just transition” for working people, the

VP says that “a system must be implemented that provides economic security for working individuals and families and protects them from the burdens of transition costs.” The government “must create a federally funded, locally organized Job Guarantee program . . . and a salary cap on income above $500,000 for the duration of the mobilization, in order to ensure relative equality of sacrifice and social solidarity.”

Front two:
I. Reverse ecological overshoot to halt the Sixth Extinction

-Phase out consumerism and planned obsolescence
-Considerably shrink the physical resource consumption levels of the global economy
-Set aside at least half the Earth’s land surface for preservation
-Halt the further expansion of agricultural and land and restore degraded lands

Potentials, contradictions, questions:

There’s a lot to admire in this Plan, much that we ecosocialists support, and indeed, they make some of the same arguments I’ve made elsewhere (for rationing, for job guarantees, for contraction of consumption in the industrialized economies) in my book and Six Theses paper: Six Theses on Saving the Planet - The Next System Project. That said, here are some problems I see with their Plan as it currently stands:

1. Abstract demands vs. concrete realities: First of all, TCM envisions their decarbonization within the framework of our existing capitalist system. But in the real world 100% decarbonization has to mean closing down some of the richest most powerful industries in the world: ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and so on. I don't understand how Silk and Salamon see this happening. There is no way to incentivize them to put themselves out of business. I don’t see how we can close down the carbon industrial complex without nationalizing or socializing these industries. Yet I don’t see that Salamon and Silk have anything to say about this. The same applies to all those industries that depend on fossil fuels, everything from autos to airlines, shipping to construction , chemicals to plastic junk, disposables and more, much more. Again, how else can we force those industrial closures or retrenchments short of taking them over, as public property, to socialize the costs of closures?

2. How can such a huge transformation be done without comprehensive economic planning? Government mandates for GHG emissions are a start but we would need to systematically and comprehensively plan the retrenchments, closures, reallocation of labor and capital, reprioritizing the whole economy, and so on. Companies cant’ do this. They’re owned by and responsible to shareholders, not society. I just don't see how this could happen in a market economy. It requires direct planning of the economy, indeed, planning or at least tight coordination of much of the world economy to limit emissions, protect forests, oceans, etc. We would need something like a world government, at least with respect to ecological concerns, which i the end amount to most of the economies. As I've argued elsewhere, I don't see any need to nationalize small businesses, worker co-ops, farmers and such. They're not destroying the world. But the world's corporations are destroying the world. We need to socialize these and directly plan much to most of the industrialized economies. (I won't repeat arguments I've made elsewhere but see my Six Theses paper on these issues).

3. When TCM calls for “phasing out consumerism and planned obsolescence,” again, how can this be done in the context of a capitalist market economy? Except for basic infrastructure, nearly all industries in the U.S. are based on consumerism. And most, everything from iPhones to H&M clothes to IKEA furniture and more, are based on designed-in obsolescence. We do indeed need to abolish those industries and not only here but in China and elsewhere as well (on which see my "China's communist-capitalist ecological apocalypse": http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue71/Smith71.pdf). But it doesn’t appear that TCM fully grasps the depth of this problem – or the impossibility of solving it within the system of private property.

So those are my first reactions reading Salamon & Silk's Victory Plan. What do other people think?
 

Mark

New Member
The Victory Plan is one of the more comprehensive plans I have seen so far for the transition to 100% renewables. One missing point is agriculture and support for regenerative agriculture and moving to a more plant based diet. Didn't see much re the need for a Just Transition and economic democracy / community / worker ownership The Green New Deal (Green New Deal – 100% Renewable Now NY Campaign) is more progressive and tied closer to a full employment economy / sustaintable public jobs program. The transition towards a renewable energy system is a critical opportunity to restructure the ownership of power (on various levels) Too bad the Climate Mobilization folks veered towards the Democrats in the last election since while they rejected most of the climate agenda (as limited as it was) put forth by BIll McKibben / Bernie Sanders, the Dems did agree to say that we need a WWII type mobilization to deal with it, which is the CM's prime framing message
 

MReiss

New Member
I think we need less energy going into plans (Richard Smith's is perfectly fine and really all we need in terms of plans). Rather than debating the fine points of this plan versus that one we need to confront how far away we are from being in a position to enact anything like any of them and start thinking about how capitalism is actually to be overthrown and an ecosocialist order put in its place. It's the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution. What lessons (positive or negative) are to be learned from how the Bolsheviks overthrew a barely capitalist system and replaced it with a weak approximation of socialism? We return, again and again, to the perennial question: What is to be done? It's an urgent matter, not of plans, but of power.
 

Larry Green

New Member
The (im)possibility of social change.

Having recently "woken up" to the reality of climate change, I've given some thought to the process of abandoning the status quo in preparation for opening up a space where creative solutions are more possible. What follows here are some thoughts about freeing ourselves from the seemingly inevitable. These ideas are prior to the very practical ideas that began this post. They are prerequisites for opening to those suggestions.

It seems like climate change is forcing us to rethink everything. Thank god. But how to think “outside the box”? How to think outside of the immanent ideas that manifest what we’ve come to think of as “reality”? Who would be crazy enough to go up against reality? It seems foolish to bang your head against necessity.

How did we get here? Immanent ideas that haven’t been explicated can’t be critiqued — “that’s just the way things are” is the lament. But what happens when we acknowledge that that it isn’t reality but rather social conventions that we’re up against? As we come to realize the mutable nature of “reality”, does that not change the nature of our task?

I’m a psychotherapist whose occupation is to assist those who want to recognize and possibly change the immanent ideas that are generating their lives. I offer some thoughts on individual or personal change in the hopes that some parallels with collective change will be easier to recognize. I part company with political thinkers, when I refer to immanent ideas as implicit beliefs. Beliefs, assumptions, premises, expectations as implicit meanings. Because these meanings are implicit they are experienced pre-reflectively. That is, they condition or determine our conscious experience. For example, if I’m in a blue mood, I can’t see the world without looking through that mood. And…I experience the world as blue. If we try to think within the framework of our conscious experience we will never identify the conditions that imprison us. We need to identify, critique and possibly change those conditions in order to think differently. How do I help my clients to do so? How to I help myself to do so?

“You should be grateful whenever you’re disappointed or frustrated because it means that you’re getting news from reality.” Choygum Trungpa

The above aphorism is an aid to transcend the immanent. The emotions it refers to can be read as a warning or an alarm that our assumptions are not adequate for dealing with the situation in which we find ourselves. The alarm they sound can be read as a command: give up your map (it’s out of date) and pay attention to your circumstances. Or, “get out of your head and into the world.” The world will correct your erroneous views and lead you closer to a reality that can produce new, more adequate assumptions. Climate change = social change.
 

Harry Cason

New Member
Richard is absolutely spot on to argue that the dominant players (interests) in the market are not going to remove themselves from the market for the sake of saving the human race. They will continue to try and save themselves until there is nothing left to save.

What is needed then is a highly coordinated and promoted vision that is practical, inspiring and fairly detailed as to an alternative way forward (another world is possible). I am sure that Richard already has a lot of these details worked out.

However, I will push the matter a bit by outlining a few thoughts on this vision.

I (and many others who have come before me, including I believe Richard) would recommend highly that we restructure our relations as humans beings on the basis of cooperation for survival rather than competition for survival.

Yes, easy enough said, but still the difference is monumental, and of course not easily done.

I would argue however that the prospects of such a vision (if explained and considered widely, not shied away from) could themselves be politically monumental.

For example, the structurally induced reasons for war (over resources) would be no more. We would not only be saving millions of lives, resources and a lot of work , but we would be contributing mightily to saving our environment as well.

In addition, we should embrace technology (environmentally sound that is) and let the machines do the work. We could (as promised many years ago by the capitalists) reduce our work load enormously, leaving considerable time to govern ourselves, to solving lingering social problems, and finding ways to further reduce our workload through more technology, recycling, conservation measures and ending planned obsolescence.

Why must we continue to create the need to competitively find a way to make a living, or for that matter, do make-work?

Of course, we would transition quickly to renewable energy, putting us on the path to reducing the marginal costs of things to virtual zero, and consequently eliminating the need for money.

Wow, if there is any problem that needs addressing these days is the financialization of our world economy.

Regarding our self-governance, it would be based on a system of open source information, and I would suggest, direct democracy. Representative democracy can and will never be accountable.

Local communities (since almost everything would be free and made available on the basis of equal access to managed resources) would have to be respected, and power would work its way up from the bottom. (Of course, this part needs more discussion.)

Hey, if this plan cannot sell itself, then let's all just go to the beach and wait for the next hurricane.

I know, I am being a bit flipped. But I would argue that only by the left collectively putting forth such a plan as this, will we have a chance of moving the masses forward.

Pounding away (collectively) at a great vision for the future is our only chance for a future.

I am aware of the obstacles, especially the media, but what alternatives do we have? Violent revolution? Not a chance!
 

Lawrence Boxall

New Member
I hope this is not seen as off topic. However, I am copying this poem by Marge Piercy, published in the June edition of MONTHLY REVIEW, in an attempt to provide a larger context than simply “human aversion to disaster recognition” as a means of presenting the bigger picture than just this obsession with climate, for I believe that we will never succeed until we restore the class consciousness that neoliberalism has so successfully destroyed as a prelude to the neo-fascism that has triumphed with the election of Donald Trump. Neofascism sharpens the refusal to acknowledge climate change and will thus accelerate capitalism’s ongoing destruction of the entire biosphere including enhancing the conditions for climate change.

The solution for socialist and ecosocialist alike must involve rebuilding worker class-consciousness to unleash the only power that will destroy capitalism.

MONTHLY REVIEW: 2017 › Volume 69, Issue 02 (June 2017)
[Dear Reader, we make this and other articles available for free online to serve those unable to afford or access the print edition of Monthly Review. If you read the magazine online and can afford a print subscription, we hope you will consider purchasing one. Please visit the MR store for subscription options. Thank you very much. —Eds.]
Poetry
Consider these but you won’t
by Marge Piercy

Topics: Inequality , Labor

Places: Americas, United States
From: Made in Detroit: Poems

Consider the child with curly brown
hair sleeping with her dog in the back
of an old SUV while her parents doze
in scruffy front seats tilted back.

Consider the child with brown skin
called nigger and told to go back
to Africa, whose great grandparent
built the road running past the school.

Consider the woman pregnant from
rape, the woman who could not take
off work to cross two states for
an abortion, who tries hard to love

her child but he looks more and
more like that nightmare rapist.
Consider men and women who worked
the assembly line till their ears

dimmed out, back, kidneys rotted
wanting a pension to reward them
with sunshine. But the company
no longer has to pay its promises.

Consider the family whose home
will be taken by the bank while they
can no longer pay for the pills
for cancer that cost a month’s wages

every month. So their daughter
dies and they’re still in debt. But
Herr President, you cannot even
see them; they’re just too small.

Marge Piercy is the author of many books of poetry, most recently Made in Detroit.
 

Sandra Lindberg

Moderator
What is to be said about this topic? It is difficult to organize a Victory-style mobilization when the enemy is ... ourselves.

Brad posted an article about Pakistan ("Climate Justice for the Marginalized") The first photo in that article shows a community in which large sections of it are flooded with a black liquid. The flood in Grand Forks ND in the '90's looked like that as basements flooded and large tanks of heating oil in older homes ruptured, their contents spilling out broken windows to flow across yards and streets. Grand Forks had a direct experience of how poisonous oil can be. But that reality was quickly put aside after the clean-up.

What's my point? The 1% may be driving this monster train, but we're still pretty content to hitch a ride. And by we, I mean US citizens.

Where is the power, some writers here ask. Our power, our resolve and our actions will come when we acknowledge that our willingness to continue with business as usual is destroying countries like Pakistan. That those of us who don't live on the coast are content to live as we usually do while Florida's water supply is inundated with salt water. That those of us who live near one of the hundreds of pipelines drive past their ground-level installations sometimes every day and never raise a complaint anywhere. We know the guy down the block who works there. We have a gas-fired furnace. We work at ADM and it needs gas to keep its huge operation afloat. You can supply your own discomfort point for taking on this fights

The truth may become that the country that set itself up as the great hope for the planet actually leads the charge to the planet's destruction. And I helped.

The final distancing technique, of course, is the chorus that will read this post and admonish me for 'feeling guilty' about all or any of this. Guilt can be a useful emotion if truly explored. If I have the resolve to admit this guilt, and I am guided in life by a moral/ethical compass, the only way beyond the uncomfortable sensation is action to address what I know is wrong. I don't operate on a world stage, but I do live in community. This week I am fighting to save 114 trees that our city government is recklessly and unethically intent on allowing a lumber operator to harvest (God, I hate that euphemism; hardwood trees are not a corn crop) in order to bring a one-time cash influx of $25,000 to city coffers, which the city council intends to use for "city beautification." You can bet that I will fight this little maneuver and draw others into the struggle, too. What the local city council has attempted to do on the quiet is part of climate change and climate justice in so many ways that I won't take the time to enumerate here. But this is the work for me this week and so off I go.

It's one tree at a time. One less airplane ride at a time. One less car in the driveway at a time. One more mouthy local citizen at a time.

Oh, and by the way, where is energy conservation in the Salomon plan? An aspect of this work that will create jobs, reduce energy consumption, and save in building materials as we convert leaky buildings in an economical way to less energy consumption?

Don't bother to tell me these actions are not enough. I know that. But they are part of a psychological sea change. I ask readers to think about the Japanese fountains where a single drop of water falls from a too full basin onto a stone below. The drops wear away that stone. I'm talking about power here, not the speed with which it manifests. I know, too, that the quickness of our response is of the essence. Now, if many US citizens acted on what s/he knew of climate change and/or climate justice, we could turn those dripping fountains into high pressure hoses.

Take the first damn step. We don't fight for what we believe to be right because we know we will win. We fight for what is right because it's essential to do, regardless of the outcome. Someone famous said that but I do not remember who. Just admitting I didn't invent that one.

We need more articles about what people are doing. We've already read the articles about how to describe this mess. Unless there is a game-changing analysis of current conditions I vow here and now to spend more time reading about the specifics of the fight and less about how bad it all is. And doing. Daily work. If I'm going to push any thought aside it's going to be my fear that what I'm doing is not worth the effort. I can't know that. Why not operate as if the opposite might have a chance?

In solidarity,

Sandra
 

Ted F

Admin
We need more articles about what people are doing. We've already read the articles about how to describe this mess. Unless there is a game-changing analysis of current conditions I vow here and now to spend more time reading about the specifics of the fight and less about how bad it all is. And doing. Daily work. If I'm going to push any thought aside it's going to be my fear that what I'm doing is not worth the effort. I can't know that. Why not operate as if the opposite might have a chance?
Yes! Discussion about what people are doing is what will make this forum most useful for organizers and activists. Whether we are screwed or superscrewed by climate change is of academic interest to me, but I assume we have to turn the screwdriver in the opposite direction regardless. The question that interests me most is "How?" I am deeply engaged in the campaign to keep Utah coal from escaping to Asia via a new export terminal proposed to be built here in Oakland, California. No Coal in Oakland has build a coalition with the support of over 200 local organizations--labor, faith, environmental, and community groups. Ecosocialists affiliated with SCNCC (along with others) have played leading roles in organizing. We have built a stronger, more resolute, more diverse, and more deeply rooted anti-fossil-fuel community in the process. Being preoccupied with that struggle has kept me from participating more in SCNCC at the national level but I am eager to see us share more tales from the barricades through the forum. As a radio broadcaster in the Bay Area used to say, "If you don't like the news, go out and make your own!"
 

Harry Cason

New Member
To Sandra and Ted,

Thank You for your activities and defense of our environment, and I think it would be great if either of you or with some of your friends, you all wrote and kept more of us informed about specific, important matters happening to our environment.

For myself, I would like to work with conscious individuals like you both on promoting an alternative vision that we could jointly and in large numbers present to the people in the U.S. and in the world that was bold, exciting, and a real alternative, which was also economically doable and incredibly progressive.

I understand that what I outlined earlier is politically extremely challenging. But is not global warming pretty damn challenging to all of us? We had better get a program/vision and be just as damn challenging ourselves.

Quite honestly, I am surprised by the silence in this forum to what I wrote. I thought that at least I would get brutally criticized!! I,m really disappointed. Doesn't anyone want to attack what I wrote. That's what the left is best at!
 

Sandra Lindberg

Moderator
To Sandra and Ted,

Thank You for your activities and defense of our environment, and I think it would be great if either of you or with some of your friends, you all wrote and kept more of us informed about specific, important matters happening to our environment.

For myself, I would like to work with conscious individuals like you both on promoting an alternative vision that we could jointly and in large numbers present to the people in the U.S. and in the world that was bold, exciting, and a real alternative, which was also economically doable and incredibly progressive.

I understand that what I outlined earlier is politically extremely challenging. But is not global warming pretty damn challenging to all of us? We had better get a program/vision and be just as damn challenging ourselves.

Quite honestly, I am surprised by the silence in this forum to what I wrote. I thought that at least I would get brutally criticized!! I,m really disappointed. Doesn't anyone want to attack what I wrote. That's what the left is best at!
Thank you for your encouragement! I've taken up your suggestion and created two new threads this morning. Hope to read what others have to say.
 

Kamran Nayeri

Moderator
The key problem in The Climate Mobilization Victory Plan is political. It demands World War II-style government mobilization without any attention to the need to the development of mass working class consciousness as the AGENCY for this massive transformation. While the U.S. government entry into the WWII and its massive mobilization effort were for its imperialist reasons, to become the dominant capitalist nation-state on the world stage benefiting the U.S. capitalist class, the mass mobilization needed to avert the world social and planetary crisis is an ANTI-CAPITALIST effort in every major step which the capitalist U.S. government would not and cannot undertake. I have detailed this critique of their longer first draft plan when it was published last summer in:

Making Progress: A Critical Assessment of Climate Action Plans by Bill McKibben and The Climate Mobilization Kamran Nayeri's Writings: Making Progress: A Critical Assessment of Climate Action Plans by Bill McKibben and The Climate Mobilization

I share Richard Smith view that only the Associated Producers can save the world, expressed in his Sixth Thesis on Saving the Planet, and have detailed a similar argument in just published

To Be or Not to Be: Ecocentric Ecological Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis Kamran Nayeri's Writings: To Be or Not to Be: Ecocentric Ecological Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis

presented on a separate thread on the Discussion Forum. If we accept the thesis that only the working peoples of the United States and the planet can be the agent to avert the social and planetary existential crisis, then we must have A TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM to work towards that change in consciousness. Working people have been conditioned to accept the capitalist market and capitalist government as "natural" part of any social organization. It is through their own experiences and out deliberate participation in them with our TRANSITIONAL ACTION PROGRAM that we can hope to overcome this illusion.

In the latter paper, I have offered some pointers on how this can be done based on the revolutionary history and theory. Of course, their entire elaboration requires much discussion among the leading sectors of the working people themselves and ecological socialists.

Still, The Climate Mobilization is probably the most left-wing sector of the climate organizations in the U.S. After the publication of my critical assessment of their draft Victory Plan, Ezra Silk and another leader of TCM called me and we discussed some of these issues. I hope they consider them more in light of Richard's initiative to reopen this discussion and the comments made on this thread. We need to allies and make more allied in the fight for the independent action of millions of working people to stop the crisis before it is too late.


 

MichaelG

Admin
Thanks for starting this off, Richard. I agree with you and Kamran that the problem with the Plan is political; it's just very naive about how what they're proposing could happen under the political and economic system we have.

Most people have probably also heard of the even more ambitious program that makes up Paul Hawken's Drawdown project (and book). I just came back from a local event here where we watched a video of a talk he gave earlier this year in Seattle and then proceeded to discuss how we locally could plug into the different "solutions" proposed in the book . (I'm afraid I was feeling pretty discouraged for the reasons I'll explain and didn't stay for the discussion.)

The project is interesting in many ways, mostly because of how it ranks different solutions in terms of how much they would actually contribute to mitigating climate change* and how much they would cost, based on the contributions of many experts. There are lots of surprises, especially how big an effect empowering girls and women could have. And the meta-category of Food ends up more significant than Energy. In fact I think everyone should go through the solutions. It's fascinating reading and, as he says, the first comprehensive proposal of its kind.

But Hawken is even more naive politically. He keeps talking about how all "we" have to do is get started on these "solutions" and "we"'ll get to negative carbon in 30 years. He has no sense of power, of who actually runs the world (or that anyone does). Many of the solutions not only would fail miserably as profit-making schemes, they run counter to the profit-making schemes that dominate the world, like industrial agriculture. The fact that it is these industries (and the capitalist system that enables them) that is responsible for the crisis never comes up. In fact Hawken dismisses "politics" as largely irrelevant.

And, though Food Waste is one of the problems/solutions in his top 20, there is no mention of the contraction of the whole economy that Richard and others have emphasized will have to happen.

This kind of hopeful take on the future and how easy it is to solve the crisis really seems to appeal to a lot of people. I know the crowd that was there tonight, knew I would be all alone in my criticism, and didn't feel like looking like the radical know-it-all once more (I'm getting a reputation for this, I'm afraid).

Which is not to say there aren't things we can do locally, particularly taking on Big Ag, which is a significant part of the economy in this region, while encouraging the alternatives to it (plenty of them around here too). That's where I'm going to be focusing my energies.

*He doesn't actually like the word "mitigate" and apparently doesn't consider any of the planetary boundaries other than climate change.
 

Ted F

Admin
With Carol Dansereau's blessing, I would like to share Carol's comment on the Victory Plan which was posted last year on The Climate Mobilization Forum website. Carol is the author of What It Will Take: Rejecting Dead-ends and False Friends in the Fight for the Earth, a longtime environmental activist's view of why are losing the fight for the Earth and how we can turn things around. Carol has worked for environmental justice as an attorney and organizer for 30 years. She is the recipient of the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association's Public Justice Award and the Pesticide Action Network's Health and Justice Award. Her book skillfully examines how mainstream environmental groups often reinforce the capitalist system and squander the power of popular resistance to that system's environmental depredations.

Here are her comments on the TCM Victory Plan which I have edited slightly in favor of brevity:

October 7, 2016

Dear Ezra, Margeret and Others at TCM:

I read with enthusiastic interest the documents on your website, especially the draft Victory Plan. As someone who’s given my all to fighting for environmental justice as an organizer, attorney and nonprofit director at environmental groups for 30 plus years, I have important feedback to share.

I would like to send you a complimentary copy of my new book, What It Will Take. Rejecting Dead-ends and False Friends in the Fight for the Earth. The book offers a long-time activist’s perspective on why we’ve been losing ground in our struggle for justice and survival. It provides essential context for planning the way forward.

A little more about me: I hold a law degree from the University of Michigan, and worked for environmental groups in Michigan, Connecticut and D.C. before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1989. In the Northwest, I worked for ten years with the Washington Toxics Coalition, including three as its ED. I then shifted to helping farm worker families in their struggle against exposures to highly toxic farm pesticides, and did that work for 10 years. (With Columbia Legal Services briefly and then the farm worker-led Farm Worker Pesticide Project.)

Input on the Draft Victory Plan

First of all, thank you for:
  • Telling the truth about how dire the situation is and how major our response must be. I discuss in my book the propensity of environmental groups and others to aim low and imply that we’re making adequate progress even though we’re not. I also discuss the dynamics of hope, and how telling the truth is actually the key to generating hope, while sugar-coating things leads to despair.
  • Laying out an aggressive plan of action with lots of excellent ideas.
  • Putting the document out for public input.
I do have some important suggestions for how the plan can be improved. These include the following:

1. The plan needs to better reflect and address the barriers to success that spring from our current economic set-up.

As my book details, we have been blocked in our efforts to create the just and sustainable world we want by the power dynamics inherent in the current economic set-up. Under capitalism, key industries that affect whether basic human needs are met and determine our fate as a species are privately owned and operated for profit. A number of outcomes flow inexorably from this set-up:
  • An elite few at the top of corporations make decisions about what products and services are produced despite profound implications for all of us. They also determine what jobs will exist and where, who will have those jobs, and much more. They hold the reins for very important decisions, and we don’t.
  • Meanwhile most of us work as wage laborers, and though we spend most of our waking hours at work, we have almost no control over our jobs. This subjects us to extortion. We give corporations what they want and/or we keep our heads down and our mouths shut, to get and keep jobs. When people are extortable, we don’t truly have a democracy.
  • On top of having little or no control over jobs, workplace conditions and what we produce with our labor, we also have no control over the profits our work produces. The profits are funneled upwards to the owners of the corporations we work for. That leaves us without the money we need for implementing environmental solutions and doing other things we want. At a time of enormous prosperity, we are forced to endure austerity.
  • Theoretically, we’re supposed to be able to influence the decisions of those at the top through public policies. But corporate owners use the giant profits they accumulate to distort every aspect of how policy decisions are made. Big Money in elections is just a tiny part of the picture. Big Money also buys scientific research, huge PR campaigns, news media outlets, control over higher education, major influence in K-12 education, spies, lobbyists who target legislators, lobbyists who target agencies that implement and enforce laws, lawyers who sue farmers and activists and governments, front groups, experts who pretend to be independent, smear campaigns to discredit independent scientists and effective activists, violence and more. The influence wielded by corporate owners is so pervasive and so insidious, that activists regularly promote solutions or take approaches that are counter-productive because they don’t realize that their perceptions have been manipulated.
  • On top of all that, with inequity deepening each year as those at the top gather even more of the world’s resources, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to be involved in our self-governance. We’re stressed out of our minds, struggling to make ends meet, and juggling multiple burdens.
This backdrop has to be understood and recognized as the Victory Plan is refined. We may be able to get some wins by mobilizing lots of people behind a joint agenda, but those wins will be undone if we leave our fundamentally undemocratic economic system in place. My book provides multiple examples of this happening in the past.
We must take public control of major industries, and use vibrant democratic grassroots-up structures to develop and implement plans for those industries. Workers, communities around each industry’s facilities, and all of us collectively need to have ownership. We can’t control what we don’t own. By nationalizing key industries,
  • We will hold the reins. This is a vastly different situation…one in which we have actual power…as compared to one in which we try to affect the decisions corporate owners make.
  • We will gain control over jobs – creating them, locating them, linking them to those who need them, and more.
  • We will gather the profits of our labor and use those profits for democratically-derived next steps.
Small businesses can still be privately owned in the economic system I envision. We can jointly decide what the dividing line will be between publicly owned enterprises and privately owned ones. But certainly public ownership is warranted for the energy, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and financial industries, to name a few. Small businesses will do better under a socialist system than a capitalist one. In agriculture small farmer ownership should be supported and greatly expanded over its current diminished status. Society must support the farmers who feed us, sharing the risks inherent to farming, for example.

Private ownership of things like homes can also continue. In fact, more people will actually own their homes under socialism than under capitalism. Currently banks own more homes than people do. Lots of people are renters. And the ranks of the homeless are expanding every day.

In summary, my first recommendation is that the Victory Plan must clearly articulate the need to establish worker, community and collective ownership of major industries.

2. The plan needs to stop perpetuating the model of agencies and other institutions being steered by parties that have massive financial conflicts of interest.

In the old days, people understood that those who stand to make or lose big profits as the result of government decisions should never be in the drivers’ seat regarding those decisions. That understanding made absolute sense. But it’s been thrown out the window, no doubt as the result of a calculated strategy by the ultra wealthy.

The norm now is to put those with blatant financial conflicts in positions of power. Corporate representatives are appointed to high positions in government agencies (right near the revolving door back to industry.) They are appointed to “stakeholder groups.” If people without conflicts are at the table at all, we are outnumbered and outgunned.

I know all about what happens in “stakeholder groups”….those ubiquitous “partnerships” and “collaborations” that bring corporate owners who profit from decisions together with those whose health, planet, wages and working conditions are at stake. If the official or unofficial goal is consensus, the corporate owners have literal veto power over the policies we, the people, want. In fact, they have veto power over even bringing those ideas up for discussion. Even if there’s no consensus goal, those with financial conflicts use their money and power to steer discussions and skew outcomes. Please see the discussion in my book about how this works.

The draft Victory Plan adheres to this upside down way of doing things, putting those with financial conflicts in positions of power. The Climate Mobilization Board is to be staffed in part by “CEOs”, for example. The Mobilization Labor Board is to be steered by a board composed of not only labor and the federal government but also “capital.” This approach has got to be rooted out of the plan.

No, we don’t have to have all parties at the table. Those with financial conflicts shouldn’t be there. They can provide comments, but decision-making bodies and staffing positions must be populated by working people who don’t have major financial conflicts of interest.

If my first recommendation is implemented, major industries will be publicly owned, rendering this topic moot. There won’t be private CEOs for affected industries any more. Capital will be controlled by the public rather than by individuals seeking to become wealthier and wealthier at the expense of others.

3. The Plan needs to be much stronger and clearer about jobs and other rights. It needs to establish and make enforceable an Economic Bill of Rights for all.

Currently, the draft plan has the President “champion” “Four Freedoms.” It needs to more clearly articulate in a distinct subchapter, that we need to establish an Economic Bill of Rights. Perhaps this will be done via a constitutional amendment. Perhaps via some other route. In any case, we need much more than a declaration by the President about his or her desire. The Economic Bill of Rights needs to be established as an essential core of our efforts, or else extortion will continue and people will not have time and wherewithal to engage in self-governance.

With increases in productivity that have already happened, and further productivity increases projected for the future, we will be able to work part-time for full living wages. That will give us more time to become involved in our self-governance. It will reduce our stress and make us healthier, thereby increasing our ability to be effective participants in our democracy.

We need guaranteed good paying life-affirming jobs for everyone who is able to work. This right should belong to everyone, not just those who sign up for a job transition program, as is currently the case in the draft plan. The guarantee has to be enforceable.

Those who cannot or should not work due to debility, old age, illness, a new baby, or other causes, must also be guaranteed a livable income. Caring for one’s own children, as well as others’ children, needs to be considered a job, worthy of a good salary.

The Economic Bill of Rights must include all the things you list as “freedoms”, and also the right to free health care and free education.

4. The Pledge is a useful tool but as written it over-emphasizes electoral politics and forces people to support Democratic Party candidates which is bad.

Various Democrats have taken the Pledge. One problem is that the pledge they’ve signed is vague. The Victory Plan is a draft. What is it exactly that they’re pledging to do? Elected officials are adept at co-opting language and claiming to do things they’re not doing… “Let’s not and say we did”, characterizes the Obama Administration’s approach on a number of key fronts, for example.

But beyond the details of the pledge, it is extremely problematic to funnel Climate Mobilizers' energy into supporting Democrats. The Party has long been absolutely committed to maintaining the economic and political systems that disempower us and doom our species. Its record on climate change and on other environmental issues is atrocious as I detail in my book. While co-opting the language of concern over climate change (after conspicuous years of silence, joining by environmental groups who were urged at a White House meeting to not talk about climate change), President Obama and his Party have overseen a massive expansion of fossil fuel extraction, including via the most extreme technologies and in the most vulnerable regions. On agricultural issues, this President and his Party have approved pesticide after pesticide. Obama’s White House has interfered with far more environmental regulations (and other regulations) than prior Republican White Houses did. Horrendous trade agreements, US ambassadors strong-arming other countries’ leaders on behalf of Monsanto and other GMO corporations. The list of environmentally destructive Democratic Party policies goes on and on.

Yes, mavericks are sometimes tolerated by Party leaders, but only so long as they serve the purpose of giving people false hope of changing the party. When the mavericks’ votes really count, they are forced to bend. Dennis Kucinich violated his life-long commitment to single payer health care after the head of his party, President Obama, twisted his arm, as just one sad example.

The Democratic Party is funded by the 1% and most of its leaders and top candidates are among the few who have been made wealthy by our current undemocratic economic system. It is absolute folly to continue to funnel our money, time and passion into this dead-end. We must develop our movement for environmental sanity and economic democracy first and foremost, and then as part of that movement-building we can and must develop our own working people’s party. We need our own political voice that stands for the system changes we so desperately need. More people are independent now than Democrat or Republican. The time is right for an independent party. It would be a very bad thing if this great TCM movement propped up one of the biggest barriers to saving life on earth that has ever existed: the Democratic Party.

Finally, in addition to steering TCM supporters to Democrats, the pledge also steers them into electoral politics as a priority effort. True, the pledge allows for and encourages other work, but a clear major emphasis is electoral involvement, and those taking the pledge will act accordingly. Electoral politics has long been perceived by many as the end-all. Since the campaign season is so long, there is almost no time when people aren’t fixating on electoral organizing. This diverts our attention from movement-building, which is what we need to see as our priority.

The outreach strategies I saw on your website fail to understand the value and importance of focusing on working people’s organizations. Ultimately, to achieve the fundamental changes we need, we will have to use the power working people have to bring society to a standstill. Working people make things run. Therein lies our power. Even if we turn out huge crowds to rallies, these can become ineffective unless we have a way to significantly disrupt things. Refusing to operate the machines, open the stores, drive the trains, unpack the ships and more will ultimately be our ticket to success. The Plan and other relevant documents need to explicitly discuss the importance of focusing on labor organizations. It needs to articulate how to do so.

With respect to nationalizing industries and paying compensation for that, consider carefully what we need to advocate:
  • A strong argument can be made that compensation is neither necessary nor appropriate for many major industries. See Bruce Lesnick’s Truthout article, Why The Climate Change Movement Must Demand Energy Industry Nationalization (Why the Climate Change Movement Must Demand Energy Industry Nationalization), for example.
  • Don’t forget charter revocation as one tool for taking the leap forward to controlling major industries and our destiny.
  • Check out the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and its materials for additional ideas on legal handles for transitions. I’m still exploring their materials and analysis myself, but want to make sure you know about this organization.
Miscellaneous additional comments:
  • The plan regularly uses the term “citizen” which is problematic. Huge numbers of people are currently denied citizenship. They must be valued and empowered by the Plan. Please correct this important semantic error.
  • Ultimately, the plan needs to discuss immigration reform, and take on the disenfranchisement currently accomplished by immigration injustice, incarceration, etc.
  • The plan needs to call for free education, not debt-free education.
  • The plan should identify establishing a single payer health care system as an important step. Providing actual health care (as opposed to expensive unusable insurance) will make a big difference in people’s lives. It will also establish an important precedent of ending privatization of things that should be public.
  • Obviously there’s more work to be done fleshing out the details in the later parts of the Plan. In articulating what we aim for and how we get there on agricultural issues, keep in mind the points I made above. If we allow ongoing private ownership of agribusinesses we will not get where we need to go. Chemical/agribusiness corporations thoroughly manipulate and undercut public policy-making. That’s why they’ve grown bigger and more powerful year after year, wreaking havoc on our agricultural system and our planet. (Note: we should restore family farm ownership. It is just large agribusiness operations and the planning that goes with them that should be made public.)
I hope you find these comments useful and persuasive. I would like to meet with you to discuss them and other matters.
Thank you again for your admirable work. I look forward to meeting you and working together.

Carol Dansereau
Seattle, WA
 
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