Work Less, Live More and Save the Planet Too.

Sustainable Labor is down with Alexandra Bradbury from Labor Notes. She suggests that we find innovative ways to lower the cost of living.

“We wouldn’t need to work so hard if the rent (and mortgages) weren’t so damn high. If transit were free, and frequent enough. If we had free health care and higher education.

Sound utopian? It shouldn’t. Take the federal money already going to higher ed in loans and grants, hand it straight to public universities instead—and you could have free tuition for all, tomorrow. Same with health care: single-payer would cost less than we already spend on our dysfunctional private system.”

WE agree. Read the rest of her thoughtful piece at Labor Notes.

Sadness and Madness

goat“That connection to this place and the love that people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And in the end that’s what will save that place. It’s not the hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love will save this place.”
Alexis Bonogofsky, Montana goat rancher

I used to believe in hatred, that hatred would move me and others to make the changes that we need to in this marvelous world that we inhabit. Honestly, I still hate. It boils inside me sometimes, making me want to strike out at my enemies. Yes, even those who seek love have enemies. The coal companies, the banksters, pocket picking politicians and CEO’s who use the marvels of our scientific imagination against us working people, funding the development of technology that makes workers obsolete and then throwing us away after extracting every ounce of value from our depleted souls, they are my enemies.

But I don’t think such formidable foes can be defeated with mere hatred alone. Our planet is one huge organism, and we are connected. The good bacteria doesn’t hate the bad bacteria. The good,the bad and the ugly are all part of this collective experience and all this has led us to this point in time. Each of us, and all the wonders of creation, are who we must be in this moment–a profound moment it is too, where so many of the products of human imagination have become weapons of mass destruction pointed at us and all life on the planet. Sadness and madness are intertwined within each breath.

But as we know, crisis can be opportunity.  It is the struggle that defines us as a species and as individuals. All around the world people are struggling to fend off destruction. In remote villages we stand united. In mass demonstrations in cities we fill the man made canyons with harmonies for justice, all in hopes of securing this place—this tiny blue dot, so insignificant in the universe, but all encompassing for the creatures and life who call it home— for the seven generations. The future has arrived. Can we learn to love?

Keystone Pipeline will not create Sustainable Jobs

The proposed Keystone  XL pipeline that will run from the tar sands of Alberta Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is a loser for workers and the planet. While it will create some temporary construction jobs, it’s estimated that it will only create thirty-five “permanent” jobs.  Between the amount of carbon that will be burned extracting the oil from the tar sands and the fumes from the spent petroleum it is an all around loser for working people’s futures. Let’s hope Obama vetoes the bill that will undoubtedly be passed by neanderthals in Congress . You can read more about it in this piece by Zoe Carpenter in The Nation.

White House Threatens to Veto Keystone XL Legislation

Someone Must Defend the Rodents

I have always loved squirrels. Since I was a kid, I’ve been watching them zip up trees, hang beneath branches and on a rare occasion, fly through the air and land lightly on a limb. They are industrious little bastards. They gather nuts and seeds, chowing down on some and stuffing the rest in their cheeks until they can find places to hide their bounty for a rainy or snowy day. Something else about squirrels, they have a lot of fun. Even though they work their tales off, they take time to play, chasing each other around and enjoying labor and life. squirrel

My love of nature is part of what has drawn me into fight against catastrophic climate change. After all, someone must defend the rodents. My love for the working class is what has made me see that any movement for a sustainable world requires an understanding of the primacy of sustainable labor. We need time to play, to enjoy labor and life, to work in an interconnected way with our environment and each other, to understand the complexity and simplicity of our needs and construct an economy that sustains this kind of life. Humans may be powered by electrical impulses, but we are not microchips snapped into the motherboard of some vast high tech economic fantasy. The meaning of work is not to upload revenue to billionaire technocrats or to fuel the engine of “unlimited economic growth.” I’d rather be a squirrel.

Some of you may me thinking, “He may not be a squirrel, but he sure is squirrely.” Hey, I can dig it. It’s the road I’m on. In 1980’s when I was in my twenties, I was a displaced worker. Traditional working class jobs were declining so I went to school. It took me a while, but by the early 1990’s I had managed to get myself an MA in English and become a Marxist. I had dreams of joining the intellectual elite or writing the Great American Proletarian Novel, but I was also tired of being broke and figured, “There are already enough Marxists in the universities, maybe I should try organizing workers.” That’s what led me into the union movement.

Protecting the environment has always been important to me, but I wasn’t actively trying to defend it. Then I wrote a story about the development of sustainable local economies in New England for this outdoor type website and read Bill Mckibben’s book Deep Economy. I began to have different view of how the economy of a sustainable society could be organized. I discovered that keeping money local was a good thing. Mckibben didn’t talk much about labor or work conditions in his book, but I still saw the value in going local. I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and tried to spend more money with local business. Many of the local business folks I have met over the years have looked, acted and had the attitude of Chris Christie, so I didn’t probe that deeply into their labor practices, but I did begin to ponder what sustainable labor would look like. Still pondering, but here are some ideas. I’d like to know what you think as well.

  • Sustainable labor must put the needs, health and wellbeing of workers and the planet a head of profits and “unlimited economic growth.”
  • Green technology doesn’t mean a sustainable economy all by it self. The technology needs to create and promote sustainable labor too. The assembly line, whether it is building Hummers or solar panels, is not the model that we need. We need technology that does not promote alienation from the work. It must include within it the idea of connecting people to the product or service they are producing, of building cooperative and collaborative relations and squash the idea of human beings as resources. We are not an expense or a raw material. We are the creators of value.
  • Child care, cleaning living quarters, growing or buying and preparing food for a family, caring for family members who are ill, are as integral a part of the production process as using a tool to change raw material into an object that can be sold. The sexist division of labor must be obliterated.

I am interested in what you think sustainable labor is or what it could be. That’s why I’ve decided to create a website SustainableLabor.com.  I want to start a conversation among working people about how work would be in a sustainable society. I’m looking for people to share ideas, their stories and the ramblings of their imagination. As Einstein wrote,Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

If you’re into not this idea, then I urge you to do whatever you can to work toward moving us toward the paradigm change that can help us build a sustainable economy. Join a CSA, check out 350.org, plant a garden, talk to your friends and neighbors. We need a monumental change in consciousness to make this happen. Any action that pushes us toward that change matters. My favorite spiritual dude and bad assed Buddhist philosopher and activist Thich Nhat Hanh believes, “Mindfullness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise what’s the use of seeing.”