Archive for January 26th, 2011

Wall St. Journal Editorial Sees Environmental Justice as “Case Study” of Loophole in President’s Reg Reform

Wall St. Journal Editorial Sees Environmental Justice as “Case Study” of Loophole in President’s Reg Reform

January 24, 2011 by The Legal Pulse, Washington Legal Foundation,

In its lead editorial today (here, subscription required), “Obama’s Rulemaking Loophole,” the Wall Street Journal added its respected voice to the case  which WLF has been making the past few weeks here at The Legal Pulse and in op-eds (see our post today) that President Obama’s “Improving Regulation” executive order is ineffectively narrow and easily circumvented.  The Journal notes that language in the order creates a possible exception that could swallow the entire guidance:

When the agencies weigh costs and benefits, the order says, they should always consider ‘values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts.’

A similar point was made last week by a January 19 post at Point of Law, as well as in a post at the NAM Shopfloor blog, which, we were happy to see, incorporated a passage from a Legal Pulse commentary on environmental justice.

The Journal op-ed also invokes the off-the-radar development of EPA’s environmental justice policies, and these policies’ inherently amorphous nature, in making their convincing case for the loophole in President Obama’s order:

The current EPA is a perfect case study. One of Administrator Lisa Jackson’s top priorities is “explicitly integrating environmental justice considerations into the fabric of the EPA’s process,” as a July 2010 memo to all senior regulators put it. ’Environmental justice’ is the left-wing grievance movement that claims pollution has a disproportionate effect on minorities and the poor. Ms. Jackson’s memo introduced new regulatory guidance—that is, rules about how to make rules—so every EPA action has ‘a particular focus on disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.’

Ms. Jackson wrote that a new goal for rulemaking, enforcement and permitting is to have ‘a measurable effect on environmental justice challenges.’ But these amorphous concepts are not measurable at all. According to this guidance, EPA must nonetheless consider them when estimating the ‘economic impacts of regulations,’ and even its scientific analysis should ‘encompass topics beyond just biology and chemistry.’ So put on your lab coat and complete a randomized controlled experiment in politics.

‘We can’t save capitalism and save the planet’

‘We can’t save capitalism and save the planet’


by Derek Wall, Another Green World,

posted January 25, 2011 on Temporary Artist,

( United States activist Chris William’s new book, published by Haymarket Press, is an excellent introduction to ecology and socialism. It is well written and, despite being a long-time ecosocialist activist, I learnt a lot from it.

Williams is a professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University, and chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute. He is a green activist and a member of the International Socialist Organization.

The ISO, which formed in 1976, was part of the International Socialist Tendency, the international organisation of socialist groups affiliated to the British-based Socialist Workers Party, until 2001. It is involved in a wide-range of struggles, including against war, for queer rights and environmental campaigns.

The ISO has also been active in the US Green Party. Todd Chretien, a leading ISO member, ran as the Green Party candidate for the US Senate in 2006 in California.

The ISO have a reputation for being the largest and most dynamic socialist organisation in the US, an achievement indeed given the difficulties socialists have organising in that country.

Ecology and Socialismdiscusses the reality and potentially devastating effects of climate change, noting that we are close to a number of tipping points that could unmake much of the natural world — with devastating effects on humanity.

The worrying and often ignored problem of ocean acidification is also mentioned. As carbon dioxide is emitted, some of it is absorbed by the seas, which are slowly acidifying. This in turn could destroy marine ecosystems and lead to the collapse of fish stocks.

Williams also discusses false solutions to the climate crisis, such as carbon trading and biofuels. His book challenges the notion that capitalist economic growth is environmentally sustainability.

But he also shows, in a powerful chapter, why Malthusian solutions based on cutting population levels are authoritarian and will fail to address the root causes of environmental problems.

There is an interesting section on the difficult question of how to build an independent political alternative in the US.

However, a real attraction for me was the way the book, while acknowledging that much has changed since the 19th century, is rooted in the ecological insights of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

I was intrigued, for example, to learn from the book that Marx and Engels mentioned water pollution in The German Ideology. They wrote: “The ‘essence’ of the fish is its ‘being,’ water — to go no further than this one proposition. The ‘essence’ of the freshwater fish is the water of a river.

“But the latter ceases to be the ‘essence’ of the fish and is no longer a suitable medium of existence as soon as the river is made to serve industry, as soon as it is polluted by dyes and other waste products and navigated by steamboats, or as soon as its water is diverted into canals where simple drainage can deprive the fish of its medium of existence.”

Far from being “productivists” concerned only with raising the forces of production to super industrial levels, Marx and Engels were highly concerned with environmental problems such as air pollution, water pollution and soil erosion.

The myth that Marx only saw value as created from human labour is swiftly dealt with, by the observation that Marx was well aware of the value created by the rest of nature.

The book builds on the work of writers such as Joel Kovel and John Bellamy Foster, while placing their insights in an accessible and attractive manner.

Chris Williams’ scientific knowledge shines through and it is obvious that he has put an immense amount of work into this excellent book.

He acknowledges that technology, far from being neutral, is shaped by the needs of capitalism is well made. He also makes the important point that recycling is second best to making goods to last and cutting waste.

The resource section packed full of suggested books, websites and films to watch is very useful and includes a link to Green Left Weekly.

Like any text, the book is not perfect and a number of criticisms could be made. In particular, I would have liked to have heard more about the struggles for ecology by indigenous peoples, such as the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Aidesep) in Peru, and workers internationally.

For example, workers in Britain occupied the Vestas wind turbine factory to try to prevent it closing.

It would also have been interesting to include the example of the “green bans” movement in Australia in the 1970s, when the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation refused to build environmentally damaging projects.

Likewise, there is a good discussion of the movements in Bolivia but it would have been good to include more about ecosocialism in Latin America.

Interesting thinkers and activists who don’t slot easily into the IST tradition are sadly absent, such as Peruvian indigenous leader Hugo Blanco or the often splendid, if sectarian, green anarchistMurray Bookchin.

Also lacking is how Cuba created a green revolution to overcome oil shortages after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which would have been informative to readers.

These are ultimately small criticisms. This is a very informative and interesting book that should be read by all greens and socialists. The book certainly was a pleasure to read as well as being highly informative.

As the book’s blurb explains, it is a “timely, well-grounded analysis that reveals an inconvenient truth: we can’t save capitalism and save the planet.

“Around the world, consciousness of the threat to our environment is growing. The majority of solutions on offer, from using efficient light bulbs to biking to work, focus on individual lifestyle changes. Yet the scale of the crisis requires far deeper adjustments.

Ecology and Socialism argues that time still remains to save humanity and the planet, but only by building social movements for environmental justice that can demand qualitative changes in our economy, workplaces, and infrastructure.”

[Derek Wall is an activist in the Greens Party of England and Wales.
His blog can be read at .]

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall attacks government’s sustainable fish target

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall attacks government’s sustainable fish target

Fish Fight campaigners says central government’s sustainable fish target of 60% target is ‘wholly unacceptable’

by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, The Guardian,, Tuesday 25 January 2011 Tuesday 25 January 2011

    Sustainable fishing : Cornish Fisherman Chris Bean catches a fish in his nets
    A fish caught in Cornwall, a few miles out to sea near Helford, using sustainable fishing methods. The Fish Fight campaigners want central government and Whitehall departments to commit to 100% of its fish procurement to come from sustainable sources. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

    Government proposals for buying sustainable seafood for consumption in Whitehall, government agencies and the armed forces have today been branded “wholly unacceptable” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the latest phase of his Fish Fight campaign.

    In a letter to ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the campaigners say that, under new proposals for buying standards, only 60% of fish bought by central government would have to meet sustainability criteria.

    That target is inadequate, says the letter from Fearnley-Whittingstall, the food campaign organisation Sustain, the Environmental Justice Foundation, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

    “Given the very serious conservation status of world fish stocks, on which millions of people worldwide depend for their livelihoods and wellbeing, we see no justification for aiming any lower than 100% sustainable fish,” it says.

    The letter to Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister, and Jim Paice, the minister for agriculture and food, says the rules would only cover central government, which makes up one-third of the public sector. Only one in five fish bought with taxpayers’ money would have to come from sustainable sources.

    The campaigners’ aim is for 100% of fish bought for central government to come from demonstrably sustainable stock. They called on central government to stop buying “endangered” fish on the MCS’s “fish to avoid” list and seek instead fish which are on the society’s “fish to eat” list.

    The letter says: “In effect your new procurement standards will mean that only one in five fish sold in the UK’s public sector will be covered by sustainability standards. Four out of every five will not. We believe this is wholly unacceptable.”

    Kath Dalmeny, the policy director of Sustain, said: “Responsible food companies recognise that they need to commit to buying fish only from sustainable sources. The future of fish, precious marine environments and good fishing livelihoods depend on these commitments.

    “As taxpayers, these pathetic government proposals mean that millions of pounds of our money will continue to be spent on endangered fish and on damaging fishing practices. This is a shocking state of affairs.”

    A spokeswoman for Defra said: “We want to lead by example, which is why we’re currently establishing the first-ever government buying standards for fish and other foods. All interested parties have a chance to comment on the proposed standards and we’ll consider Fish Fight’s views.”

    A consultation into the buying standards has just closed and the standards will be announced in March.

Councilman Proposes Zones to Boost Green Industry

Monday, January 24, 2011

by Jessica Vernabe, San Fernando Valley Business Journal,

Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcón is proposing to have the city’s planning department consider green industry and environmental justice issues when community plans are being updated.

This would be done through the establishment of “environmental justice zones.” With the zones, the city would utilize its planning and land use policy to encourage green business growth and proactively encourage the replacement of polluting land use activities with environmentally friendly business in highly impacted communities.

The targeted communities would include areas in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, East Los Angeles and in areas around the Port of Los Angeles.

“My motion aims to create ‘Environmental Justice Zones’ in our community plans, so we can leverage our land-use policies to ensure that all communities have access to cleaner ‘green jobs’ and a healthier environment,” Alarcón said.

The motion would require the planning department to report back to the Planning, Land Use and Management Committee with a proposal to encourage green business growth, specifically in the updates of the community plans. Community plans serve as blueprints for guiding growth and development in the city.

Jessica Vernabe