We are living through an age of profound transition. Political upheaval is the order of the day. Economic inequality is rising. People around the globe are being displaced by conflict and climate emergencies. Racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance are on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic cast new light on the injustices and irrationality of our current economic and social systems. The crises we face today are social and political, but they go deeper. The life giving systems of the earth are under threat as a result of the system of production which has been foisted upon the world over the last 250 years. Fuelled by petrochemicals, driven by profit, and based on the hyper-exploitation of both workers and natural systems, this mode of production has overtaxed and disrupted many of the cycles that kept the global ecosystem in balance — including carbon cycles.
The coal industry is to Australia what the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (granting citizens the right to bear arms) is to the United States: it would be hard to imagine the country without it. With fossil fuels still accounting for 92 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, including 29 per cent for coal in 2021, the industry is still vigorously defended by lobbies, even in parliamentary circles and the corridors of ministries. Australia’s conservative former prime minister Scott Morrison famously held up a piece of coal in Parliament in 2017, when he was finance minister, admonishing his colleagues not to be afraid of it. When he became prime minister, he also directly surrounded himself with lobbyists like John Kunkel, former vice-chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, who he appointed chief of staff in 2018.
Somerville, MA is an inner suburb of Boston and the most densely populated city in New England with 81,000 residents. It was long an industrial center inhabited by repeated waves of immigrants, but it has increasingly become a bedroom community for Boston and Cambridge. Somerville is currently being transformed by the extension of the Boston Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) subway system’s Green Line throughout the city, bringing transit access to 80% of Somerville residents. Over five million square feet of new development is in the works. Somerville’s long-term mayor supported development but not union labor for either city employees or for construction, much of which, to the dismay of building trades unions, was done non-union.
Matt Reuscher was laid off a decade ago from Peabody Energy’s Gateway coal mine in Southern Illinois, in the midst of a drought that made the water needed to wash the coal too scarce and caused production to drop, as he remembers it. Reuscher’s grandfather and two uncles had been miners, and his father — a machinist — did much work with the mines. Like many young men in Southern Illinois, it was a natural career choice for Reuscher. Still in his early 20s when he was laid off, Reuscher “spent that summer doing odds and ends, not really finding much of anything I enjoyed doing as much as being underground.” By fall of 2012, he started working installing solar panels for StraightUp Solar, one of very few solar companies operating in the heart of Illinois coal country. He heard about the job through a family friend and figured he’d give it a try since he had a construction background. He immediately loved the work, and he’s become an evangelist for the clean energy shift happening nationwide, if more slowly in Southern Illinois. With colleagues, he fundraised to install solar panels in tiny villages on the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua, and he became a solar electrician and worked on StraightUp Solar installations powering the wastewater treatment center and civic center in Carbondale, Illinois — a town named for coal.
There is currently heightened concern about nuclear threats being made in relation to the war in Ukraine, although the danger of nuclear war or accidental detonation is ever present. Massachusetts is a potential target, because it is home to important nuclear weapons facilities and corporations as well as culturally significant landmarks. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force as international law in January 2021. This “Nuclear Ban Treaty” is intended to reduce the nuclear danger to zero, but enforcing it may also affect jobs with Raytheon, General Dynamics, Draper Labs and ten other nuclear weapon-producing companies that have facilities in Massachusetts. The Commission would explore how those jobs might be converted to green technologies or other important industries.
In the mid-2000s, when the documentary featuring former Vice President Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth,” first alerted viewers that human activity was drastically altering the environment, and global warming would insidiously thaw the North and South poles and raise the sea levels, urban organizers like Mateo Nube heard the warning loud and clear. Nube quickly banded together with other activists in the San Francisco Bay Area to educate their communities about humanity’s devastating impacts on the environment and what needed to be done to try to abate the eventual irreparable changes by shifting people’s views about the economy, which was contributing to the environmental degradation.
The lights went out around Johannesburg on a Monday morning in November 2021, not to flicker back on until early that Friday in some areas. It marked the last rolling blackout of a year troubled by more outages than any in recent memory. The fate of Eskom, the beleaguered power utility behind the crisis, is now at the center of South Africa’s struggle for a just energy transition — a break from fossil fuels without leaving behind frontline communities or energy workers. As a public company, Eskom has a constitutional mandate to guarantee electricity as a basic right. But the utility struggles to meet that mandate with its aging equipment, staggering debt, corruption and rules that require it to break even, which drive exorbitant rate hikes.
The idea of a “just transition” has emerged as an absolute requirement for any progress toward a clean energy future. An energy transformation will impact workers in the fossil fuel industry but will also affect regions and communities differently. A just transition must be designed to ensure that the benefits of greening the economy are shared widely and that no worker is left behind.
The Green New Deal is a visionary program to protect the earth’s climate while creating good jobs, reducing injustice, and eliminating poverty. Its core principle is to use the necessity for climate protection as a basis for realizing full employment and social justice. The Green New Deal first emerged as a proposal for national legislation, and the struggle to embody it in national legislation is ongoing. But there has also emerged a little-noticed wave of initiatives from community groups, unions, city and state governments, tribes, and other non-federal institutions designed to contribute to the climate protection and social justice goals of the Green New Deal. We will call these the Green New Deal from Below (GNDfB).
Canada has not provided a transition pathway for its fossil fuel workers to move into other industries, and as global demand for oil and gas wanes, tens of thousands of workers could lose their jobs, say the authors of a new report. Roughly 167,000 people are directly employed in Canada’s oil and gas industry, but increased automation combined with the energy transition and climate policy mean that half of those jobs are slated to disappear by the end of the decade, according to a report published on October 13 by the Climate Action Network Canada and Blue Green Canada, which is a coalition of labor and environmental groups. The report said there is potential to transition many of these workers into cleaner industries, but action is needed by the federal and provincial governments to ease the pathway.
There is a general consensus that cities and public transport will play a central role in the recovery from Covid-19. Some have called this the “urban opportunity”. From investments in sustainable mobility, to enhancing the role of public transport and the electrification of transport, these discussions have often centered on the potential for the transport sector to provide green jobs, lower emissions, to create access and reshape society along more equitable lines in the post-Covid world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently published a report highlighting the massive potential for jobs and for lowering emissions if we focus on investments which double down on public transport and electrification.
When Aroldo Garcia learned that the operations base for a major offshore wind project was coming to his Brooklyn neighborhood, he thought about the jobs it could provide for his family members and friends who worked as handymen and contractors, and for others who didn’t have work at all. The project promised to bring more than a thousand new jobs to a waterfront site in Sunset Park, a largely immigrant, working-class community where many residents have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of living. It was, he thought, exactly the type of development people had been waiting for. “These are not service type jobs that pay low wages,” Garcia said. “These are going to be technical jobs that pay good wages. And I think the community needs that.”
London/Vienna - Today, the UK trade union PCS and the global network Stay Grounded published together a paper entitled “A Rapid and Just Transition of Aviation - Shifting towards Climate-Just Mobility”. Tahir Latif, PCS Aviation Group President, says: “This paper clearly shows: the aviation workforce needs to accommodate the urgent requirement for a reduction in flying. This is imperative to avoid climate catastrophe. We need to retain job security through retraining and redeployment into jobs, some within aviation and some in other sectors, that help to restore the planet, not destroy it.”