Unjust Transition

Break Free thinks that by appropriating the just transition idea–that the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union proposed in the 1990s to protect the livelihoods of its members–they can persuade the public that the 350 ‘disobedience’ campaign camp out at the March Point oil refineries May 14-16, 2016 was a pro-labor noble cause. That is a lie.

The Break Free moral theatrics camp out–that cost Skagit County $100,000 for law enforcement overtime–stated in advance that they intended to close down the refineries and refinery jobs, causing workers to go on unemployment. Instead of building an alliance with oil industry workers–terrified of bomb trains exploding as they unload at refineries–these privileged youth want to cost them their jobs.

The blatantly obvious platitudes of 350 groupies, and their arrogance as mindless followers of Break Free, apparently knows no bounds. I mean, the Break Free just transition agenda is staggering in its ignorance. Suggesting that six million US fossil fuel industry workers can collect unemployment, instead of paychecks, is preposterous. They’d become destitute, all so these imbeciles can take selfies posturing as climate heroes.

If Break Free had any brains, they would put their energy into organizing against bomb trains in collaboration with refinery workers, possibly organizing a union strike against these deadly forms of oil shipment. Had they done that, Skagit County residents–afraid for their families’ safety–might stand with them. Now, Break Free and 350 are known for being reckless and uncaring.

This is not surprising, as 350 has been reckless and uncaring since its inception, when it got in bed with Warren Buffett, TIDES foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Their sabotage of the 2010 indigenous peoples climate conference in Bolivia–on behalf of their oil industry funders–made the name 350 synonymous with ‘agent saboteur‘.
Further reading

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

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8 comments on “Unjust Transition

  1. […] Point Shell and Tesoro oil refineries at Anacortes, Washington State–location of a 350 Break Free disobedience camp out on BNSF Railway tracks–in its May 25 issue, reprinted Democracy Now! hype of Break Free […]

  2. […] and the Indian tribes. The publicly stated intent of Break Free to close down refineries altogether threatens the livelihood of refinery workers, and threatens to disrupt all transportation in Washington […]

  3. Dena says:

    I have been thinking a lot about the 350.org dilemma as critiquing posts on the Break Free campaign on the Salish Sea Maritime blog are stacking up, and I wanted to add a little perspective that feels important to me.

    I am aware of the limitations and pitfalls of giant organizations with big money funding. I have observed some people with genuine passion, who are influential on environmental issues in their own right, painfully run into these seemingly inherent drawbacks of big machines that periodically leave the organizations all looking the same as the giant corporations who care nothing about the human beings that make them up.

    But I think that it all comes back around to the fact that humans do make up these organizations. Just as humans make up Shell refineries and Cloud Peak Mines. There are energetic youth that are on the tracks locked to each other and blocking days of train transport, just as there are energetic young union workers chained by virtue of their employment to the factory that’s boiling oil. Both sets are taking big risks. They want a better life for themselves and their children, but choose different ways to get there. Both sets of young people are imperiled due to the toxic substance and processes that I believe we cannot allow to continue to be our good jobs now. If we cannot leave our industry workers behind, we also cannot abandon our passionate protestors. Even if there are those who might not choose to do things the way they are doing it.

    The many people who feel a moral imperative to preserve the land, air, water and life forms that sustain us, work in many ways. Some work through international, national, local governments, the courts, in research, and writing, small organizations, big ones, through cultures and families, at school, through their businesses and their art, some all by themselves by means we never see. There are drawbacks to all of these ways, and there are benefits.

    I think it is important to point out the warning flags and potential pitfalls in a big organization like 350.org and its campaigns. But I also think we have to be careful not to stereo-type those that choose to participate in them. I personally know many people who went to participate in the protest events in Anacortes. I would not describe the vast majority of them as arrogant or mindless. And of these people, I can think of none who do work for environmental and social justice, solely through 350. In almost all cases, in fact, they are doing most of their work through other organizations and actions.

    I think that also we must not ignore the benefits of big organizations and their campaigns. They can bring a lot of people together at once from a broad cross-section of society and are able to get some people involved who would otherwise probably be at the mall or a football game. This gives people a chance to be exposed to the knowledge held by the many who attend who are experienced, educated, creative and impassioned. They have the chance to truly become engaged, and once they are, then we have a greater chance to be successful in getting important things done.

    The U.S. government is messed up, so are our schools and courts, our environmental agencies. All of these are probably controlled on a very scary level by big corporations with big money. Yet as many of us critique them and expose their weaknesses, we also work with them and try to improve them and make them better. Won’t we have to scrap the whole thing at some point when true history has been exposed and ways to implement better systems come to life? Probably. We work on that as well. We work hard on that. And we try to help each other. And we hope we have time.

    • Jay Taber says:

      I think it might help to note other examples where the public has been coerced or seduced by PR firms into accepting or supporting actions contrary to the public interest, yet very much in the interest of those who pay the PR firms, and stand to profit from public ignorance or complacency. The Gulf War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan, War in Libya, and War in Syria were all based on PR fabrications, intended to mislead public opinion, and to stampede public officials into urgent actions that later turned out to be unnecessary and harmful to the public interest.

      The same thing happened with the bank bailouts, and is now repeating itself with climate change adaptation. One might get the impression that the public never learns, has given up, or doesn’t care.

      On the other hand, perhaps the majority of citizens are now either cynics or fanatics, resulting in an impossible organizing task for sober, constructive engagement in public affairs. Either way, culture-jamming social media–that promotes hysteria–is a public health measure.

  4. Jay Taber says:

    Thank you for commenting. There is little discussion about social engineering through social media, which indicates there is little learning taking place, when there is much to be learned.

    We live in a society where thought control is consolidated to such a degree, that few recognize how pervasive social engineering has become in our lives. The constant drumbeat by corporate media (mainstream and alternative) to panic the multitudes into actions orchestrated by corporate NGOs, i.e. Avaaz, Purpose, and 350, stampedes many to react according to these campaigns–choreographed by these marketing agents on the payroll of the financial elite.

    Public relations (PR) firms, such as 350, and foundation-funded media such as Democracy Now!, adhere to the prescribed art of manipulating public opinion on behalf of the financial elite, without anyone questioning how it is that millions of people–on several continents–could be reacting in exactly the same way, on the same date, chanting the same slogans. It is because the herded are not self-organized, based on independent research and discussion. Rather, they have ceded their judgment to the central authority of NGOs funded by corporations, laundered through foundations.

    In this aspect, activism has been privatized by Wall Street–just like government, academia, and media. The organizers are in it for a career, not as a duty of citizenship, and cater to the agenda of their corporate philanthropic funders. This is not democracy in action; it is social tyranny.

    The Break Free quotes in the media are a mix of official organizers working for the corporations, and the followers that participated in the staged events. For the most part, they repeat mantras about the salvation of clean energy that are corporate fabrications, but widely and uncritically accepted, due to the network drumbeat. This is what Netwar (networked psychological warfare) is all about–drowning out other perspectives, and dominating all forms of communication.

    This creates a sense of panicked urgency, that, in turn, drives followers to believe they are on a holy mission–one that exempts them from both social conventions and the law, and that limits the choices for public response to those composed by corporate decision-makers, in order to benefit the corporations. We need to take the time for more discussion, research and education–that doesn’t begin by adopting the assumptions prepackaged by the financial elite.

    Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand.

  5. Dena says:

    Your points are good about prescribed messaging and solutions that may, in fact, not really be sustainable and that also serve industries that are hoping to take financial advantage of the results of the movement away from fossil fuels. It’s something we all have to keep reminding ourselves of and we need to keep looking for where all of this is coming from and how to address its negative effects.

    I think we also need to look at why grass roots organizations and individual citizens invested in protecting the environment and resilient and healing cultures are willing to work with these organizations and make use of the part of them that they see as beneficial. We also have to look at what rings true to these more local organizations and individuals about the urgency factor present in 350 and other large anti-fossil fuel organizations.

    In the Pacific Northwest there have been so many proposed mega fossil fuel projects over the last 5-10 years that lethal threat seems imminent and frighteningly real. So, if people tell us there is not urgency, that does not ring true. The projects are either pulsing against a current legal or physical blockade; are undergoing the permitting process, are sliding into city council emails and county planning commission presentations, or are being pitched to investors. Meanwhile other projects are being piece-mealed together and we are fighting the fragments that have already been put into place behind our backs. And while the fight against these things may occasionally lead to strategic civil disobedience, and even less often, impulsive illegal actions, it needs to also be recognized that this is not, by far, the only response that is being given.

    So my input is that in order to get a clear message to thinking and caring people about what the negative make up and effects of an organization like 350.org, you may have to know what is motivating them to connect with it.

    And decisions have to be made about whether there is more negative to it or whether it can be used for its temporary benefits. We use the government, gas, computers, social media, internet, electricity, educational institutions. All of these things have the potential to suck us up in their own agendas. On a personal level I tend to back away from all of these things step by step, but I am a long way off from cutting them loose, and here I am writing this on this blog.

    • Jay Taber says:

      It is urgent to stop fossil fuel export for a couple reasons: it creates expedited demand for fracking and new terminal development, and it exhausts our reserves for our own future needs–making it more likely we will turn to nuclear power development. The idea of ending fossil fuel use altogether is a charade used to cover for nuclear power development plans.

      The financial backers of 350 and other Wall Street, hedge fund and private equity investors know from intensive studies that oil and gas use is going to continue increasing for a long time, so what we get by following the Break Free game plan is increased fossil fuel use, increased toxic pollution from solar cell manufacture, and increased nuclear power development.

      The only workable plan is to decrease consumer demand for gasoline and petroleum-based plastic products, and to decrease military usage for wars used to maintain access and control of foreign mineral deposits. Anti-consumerism and anti-war campaigns are the two things that promise the largest climate change payback, and they are omitted from the 350 agenda.

  6. […] I noted in my comments about the unjust transition of the Break Free campaign, sponsored by 350, it is urgent to stop fossil fuel export for a couple […]

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