Greenpeace occupies Shell oil rig

I’ve long been troubled by the unequal power dynamic that allows a wealthy person to poison thousands of poor people, without having to fear those poor people acting in self-defense to end that attack. Instead, the victims must play a game of papers and rhetoric with rules written by and for the wealthy. If they rise up, well, that’s violence you see, unlike the chromium in their water, or mercury in their air. If they rise up, they just have to be crushed for the public good!

It’s not an easy thing, figuring out how to get systemic change in a system designed to prevent just that. At what point does the law, in protecting the rich and powerful, lose its legitimacy? The answer to that is going to be different for everyone, and it’s worth remembering that, because we are all vulnerable to propaganda, there’s an ongoing effort to influence how we think about it.

The problem is, while we are trying to figure out what we can do to change course, the whole system continues barreling onwards, crushing countless lives, and carrying us towards climate catastrophe. Our future – the future of all humanity, is being burned before our eyes, and yet we must keep paying rent, and keep paying the arsonists for the privilege of getting to live in the present, and to read by the light of that fire.

I suppose in a lot of ways I’m one of the people who’s “still deciding”. I certainly haven’t done much beyond my effort to make this blog a viable source of income, which is why I’m glad for people like the Atlanta forest defenders, and Greenpeace. Say what you will about that organization, but it does me good to see them occupying another oil rig:

In an effort to call attention to the company’s planet-wrecking drilling projects, several Greenpeace International campaigners on Tuesday boarded and occupied a Shell-contracted platform in the Atlantic Ocean as it headed toward a major oil and gas field in the U.K. North Sea.

Greenpeace said in a press release that the platform is “a key piece of production equipment that will enable Shell to unlock eight new wells in the Penguins North Sea oil and gas field,” an extraction effort that the climate group has attempted to block in court.

Four Greenpeace activists—Carlos Marcelo Bariggi Amara from Argentina, Yakup Çetinkaya from Turkey Imogen Michel from the U.K., and Usnea Granger from the U.S.—managed to board the Shell vessel using ropes after reaching the platform in three boats deployed from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño, who tried and failed to board the platform, said in a statement that Shell “must stop drilling and start paying.”

“We’re taking action today because when Shell extracts fossil fuels, it causes a ripple of death, destruction, and displacement around the world, having the worst impact on people who are least to blame for the climate crisis,” said Saño, the former lead climate negotiator for the Philippines.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. The CEO of Shell is the guy who told John Stewart that maybe a goal of 1.5 degrees by 2100 means we pass that by 2050, and then spend the second half of the century cleaning up. I’ve written before about how this attitude is not only reckless, but also a horrifically callous dismissal of those people whose lives are already being destroyed or disrupted by the climate change that is lining that fucker’s pockets.

Excuse my Anglo-Saxon, it’s just infuriating to see a rich scumbag like that just sort of politely writing off countless lives. Personally, I think the temporary occupation of a drilling platform is the gentlest of responses. As far as I know, Greenpeace doesn’t even do any damage to the equipment when they do this stuff. They’re just making a statement, but even that is too much for the sensitive souls at Shell:

A Shell spokesperson claimed in a statement that the Greenpeace campaigners’ demonstration is “causing real safety concerns, with a number of people boarding a moving vessel in rough conditions.”

But the spokesperson signaled that the company has no intention of altering its development plans in the North Sea, despite warnings from the scientific community that continued drilling will usher in catastrophic climate outcomes.

“Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry are bringing the climate crisis into our homes, our families, our landscapes, and oceans,” Saño said Tuesday. “So we will take them on at sea, at shareholder meetings, in the courtroom, online, and at their headquarters. We won’t stop until we get climate justice. We will make polluters pay.”

Greenpeace’s latest direct action came days before Shell’s earnings report, which will follow the banner profit announcements of competing oil and gas giants such as Chevon and ExxonMobil.

On Tuesday, Exxon said it raked in a record $56 billion in profits in 2022.

Yes I’m sure Shell really cares about safety.

The reality is that these corporations have no more right to plunder the world than did the colonial empires that built their foundations. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve never had legitimacy, and I don’t see how one can look at their history and conclude otherwise. I fully support this occupation, and I hope to see many more like it in the future.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Filtration Friday: Kelp farms reduce water pollution

I’m not certain, but it’s likely that my favorite climate solution is covering everything in plants. In additional to mental health, they can improve our health in various ways, help guard against the harms of air pollution, and help mitigate that pollution. This isn’t just because I spent a good chunk of my childhood in the woods, either. I honestly love living in cities, I just want that life to be healthier and more pleasant for everyone.

Given all of that, I think it makes perfect sense that similar benefits would apply to plant life in the oceans. Water is, after all, another sort of “atmosphere”, for the organisms that inhabit it, and we’ve been polluting that as well. Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks have been studying kelp, and have found that depending on the species used, kelp farms could make a big difference in coastal pollution:

The paper, published in the January issue of Aquaculture Journal, analyzed carbon and nitrogen levels at two mixed-species kelp farms in southcentral and southeast Alaska during the 2020-21 growing season. Tissue and seawater samples showed that seaweed species may have different capabilities to remove nutrients from their surroundings.

“Some seaweeds are literally like sponges — they suck and suck and never saturate,” said Schery Umanzor, an assistant professor at UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the lead author of the study.

“Although carbon and carbon sequestration by kelp received most of the attention, kelp is actually much better at mitigating excessive amounts of nitrogen than carbon,” Umanzor said. “I think that’s a story that’s really underlooked.”

Nitrogen pollution is caused in coastal areas by factors such as urban sewage, domestic water runoff or fisheries waste disposal. It can lead to a variety of potential threats in marine environments, including toxic algae blooms, higher bacterial activity and depleted oxygen levels. Kelp grown in polluted waters shouldn’t be used for food but could still be a promising tool for cleaning such areas.

Kelp farming is an emerging industry in Alaska, touted to improve food security and create new job opportunities. It’s also been considered as a global-scale method for storing carbon, which could be a way to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon that contribute to climate change.

Analysis of kelp tissue samples from the farms determined that ribbon kelp was more effective than sugar kelp at absorbing both nitrogen and carbon, although that difference was somewhat offset by the higher density of farmed sugar kelp forests.

Umanzor cautioned that the study was limited to two sites during a single growing season. She is currently processing a larger collection of samples collected from six Alaska kelp farms for the subsequent season.

“Maybe it’s a function of species, maybe it’s the site, maybe it’s the type of carbon and nitrogen out there,” Umanzor said. “There’s a lot to know in a follow-up study.”

Personally, I’d want to know more about what else the kelp is absorbing, before I commit to it as a food source, but I’m in favor of using kelp farming and things like it to mitigate water pollution, whether or not it helps feed people. I do wonder to what degree it’ll turn out that efforts to reduce water pollution upstream will end up leaving kelp nitrogen-starved the way reductions in air pollution have led farmers to use more sulfur fertilizers. I also wonder how these results would compare to similar studies for species on the Atlantic side of the continent, since we wouldn’t want to just introduce a new species. After all, it wouldn’t do to create a new invasive species problem in the name of fighting pollution.

I look forward to hearing about future research on this subject, but I kinda feel like I’ve heard enough – every offshore turbine should have a seaweed farm built into it, for starters. I think we should largely leave the sea floor alone, pending a better understanding of how to help that ecosystem recover, but floating structures seem to be a different matter, to me. I’ll admit I know far less about oceanic ecosystem dynamics than terrestrial ones, but I’m excited to see where this goes.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Let There Be Elephants.

The science is in, and we need more ginormous critters. Well, ok, not exactly, but this research does remind me a bit of the ecosystem benefits of whales that I’ve mentioned before. The idea that elephants are good for the ecosystems in which they live is not at all new. When it comes to the forest elephants, it has long been clear that, as with whales, the ecosystem seems likely to collapse if they go extinct. With that as context, it makes sense that the presence or absence of elephants can have pretty big implications for the global climate:

In findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Saint Louis University researchers and colleagues report that elephants play a key role in creating forests which store more atmospheric carbon and maintaining the biodiversity of forests in Africa. If the already critically endangered elephants become extinct, rainforest of central and west Africa, the second largest rainforest on earth, would gradually lose between six and nine percent of their ability to capture atmospheric carbon, amplifying planetary warming.[…]

An elephant looks into the camera as it moves through the rainforest. Photo by Stephen Blake, Ph.D. The elephant’s face forms a gray, wrinkled wall in the background of the picture. Out-of focus leaves in the foreground give a sense of depth. The elephant’s eye is visible just above the middle of the right half of the picture. It’s facing to the right, and you can see that the eye is turned forward, off-camera. The iris looks to be a light gold or yellow with a dark ring around it, and the eye’s white has a tinge of pink to it. The trunk is off-screen to the right, and you can see its ear extending off screen to the left.

“Elephants have been hunted by humans for millennia,” Blake said. “As a result, African forest elephants are critically endangered. The argument that everybody loves elephants hasn’t raised sufficient support to stop the killing. Shifting the argument for elephant conservation toward the role forest elephants play in maintaining the biodiversity of the forest, that losing elephants would mean losing forest biodiversity, hasn’t worked either, as numbers continue to fall. We can now add the robust conclusion that if we lose forest elephants, we will be doing a global disservice to climate change mitigation. The importance of forest elephants for climate mitigation must be taken seriously by policy makers to generate the support needed for elephant conservation. The role of forest elephants in our global environment is too important to ignore.”

Elephants play multiple roles in protecting the global environment. Within the forest, some trees have light wood (low carbon density trees) while others make heavy wood (high carbon density trees). Low carbon density trees grow quickly, rising above other plants and trees to get to the sunlight. Meanwhile, high carbon density trees grow slowly, needing less sunlight and able to grow in shade. Elephants and other megaherbivores affect the abundance of these trees by feeding more heavily on the low carbon density trees, which are more palatable and nutritious than the high carbon density species. This “thins” the forest, much like a forester would do to promote growth of their preferred species. This thinning reduces competition among trees and provides more light, space and soil nutrients to help the high carbon trees to flourish.

“Elephants eat lots of leaves from lots of trees, and they do a lot of damage when they eat,” Blake said. “They’ll strip leaves from trees, rip off a whole branch or uproot a sapling when eating, and our data shows most of this damage occurs to low carbon density trees. If there are a lot of high carbon density trees around, that’s one less competitor, eliminated by the elephants.”

Elephants are also excellent dispersers of the seeds of high carbon density trees. These trees often produce large nutritious fruits which elephants eat. Those seeds pass through the elephants’ gut undamaged and when released through dung, they are primed to germinate and grow into some of the largest trees in the forest.

“Elephants are the gardeners of the forest,” Blake said. “They plant the forest with high carbon density trees and they get rid of the ‘weeds,’ which are the low carbon density trees. They do a tremendous amount of work maintaining the diversity of the forest.”

This kind of thinking is part of the ecosystem management that I think we should be doing. This doesn’t mean that we should try to introduce elephants (or mastodons, or wooly mammoths) to areas that haven’t had them in recent centuries, but it does mean that our conservation efforts, even those focused on getting plants to absorb carbon, need to include the various big mammals that we’ve pushed to the brink of extinction. Once again, this isn’t particularly new information. In addition to what we already knew about elephants, there’s also plenty of evidence that restoring bison herds also dramatically helps prairie ecosystems, and moose play a big role farther north.

This is also why I like the notion of local organizing with global networking and a global perspective. Different regions will have different needs, from a social perspective, from an engineering perspective, and from an ecological perspective. Folks on the left talk about the intersection between social dynamics like race, sex, gender, class, and so on, and bringing environmental justice into that has brought us to the point where it’s pretty clear that the social, engineering, and ecological perspectives aren’t really different things at all. They’re just different parts of the same big, complex system. The bad news, as always, is that we’re headed in the wrong direction. The good news, as always, is that we’ve got a pretty good map showing us where we need to go.

Solidarity with the Movement to Stop Cop City and Defend the Atlanta Forest

Defend The Atlanta Forest is circulating this statement of solidarity, and asking people to sign on. I’ve already done so, and I’d encourage you to read the statement, and do so yourself:

We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.

On January 18, in the course of their latest militarized raid on the forest, police in Atlanta shot and killed a person. This is only the most recent of a series of violent police retaliations against the movement. The official narrative is that Cop City is necessary to make Atlanta “safe,” but this brutal killing reveals what they mean when they use that word.

Forests are the lungs of planet Earth. The destruction of forests affects all of us. So do the gentrification and police violence that the bulldozing of Weelaunee Forest would facilitate. What is happening in Atlanta is not a local issue.

Politicians who support Cop City have attempted to discredit forest defenders as “outside agitators.” This smear has a disgraceful history in the South, where authorities have used it against abolitionists, labor organizers, and the Civil Rights Movement, among others. The goal of those who spread this narrative is to discourage solidarity and isolate communities from each other while offering a pretext to bring in state and federal forces, who are the actual “outside agitators.” The consequence of that strategy is on full display in the tragedy of January 18.

Replacing a forest with a police training center will only create a more violently policed society, in which taxpayer resources enrich police and weapons companies rather than addressing social needs. Mass incarceration and police militarization have failed to bring down crime or improve conditions for poor and working-class communities.

In Atlanta and across the US, investment in police budgets comes at the expense of access to food, education, childcare, and healthcare, of affordable and stable housing, of parks and public spaces, of transit and the free movement of people, of economic stability for the many. Concentrating resources in the hands of police serves to defend the extreme accumulation of wealth and power by corporations and the very rich.

What do cops do with their increased budgets and their carte blanche from politicians? They kill people, every single day. They incarcerate and traumatize schoolchildren, parents, loved ones who are simply struggling to survive. We must not settle for a society organized recklessly upon the values of violence, racism, greed, and careless indifference to life.

The struggle that is playing out in Atlanta is a contest for the future. As the catastrophic effects of climate change hammer our communities with hurricanes, heat waves, and forest fires, the stakes of this contest are clearer than ever. It will determine whether those who come after us inherit an inhabitable Earth or a police state nightmare. It is up to us to create a peaceful society that does not treat human life as expendable.

The forest defenders are trying to create a better world for all of us. We owe it to the people of Atlanta and to future generations everywhere to support them.

Here are some ways to support the defense of the forest in Atlanta:

  • Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to support legal costs for arrested protestors and ongoing legal action.
  • Call on investors in the project to divest from Cop City (list of APF investors). Call on builders of the project to drop their construction contracts.
  • Organize political solidarity bail funds, forest defense funds, and forest defense committees where you live.
  • Organize or participate in local solidarity actions.
  • Endorse and circulate this statement of solidarity.

Head over to their page to sign on, and to see the long list of people and organizations who have already done so. You can also find more information about what’s going on there, as well as by following It’s Going Down. I’ve also written one or three posts relating to the subject, if that interests you.

And if you have a platform, as stated above, consider circulating the statement of solidarity.

Mud Wizard Monday: Serving corporate interests leaves German police stuck in the muck

So you probably haven’t heard about this, but it turns out that the climate is warming because of human activity. There are a number of factors, but the biggest one is carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas. Given that this temperature increase is already causing problems worldwide, and it’s expected to cause exponentially more problems as the warming continues, humanity needs to stop burning coal, oil, and gas, and use other sources of energy like solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, and so on. I felt the need to spell that out, because judging by the behavior of most of the world’s governments, it’s not clear that the people in charge are aware.

The U.S. is where I tend to focus, of course, but China is increasing its use of coal, and Germany, despite committing to end coal use within the next eight years, is now fighting to demolish a village to expand a coal mine:

Activists have for the past two years attempted to protect the village from being bulldozed to make way for the opencast lignite mine, in a standoff that highlights the tensions around Germany’s climate policy.

Environmentalists say bulldozing Luetzerath would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, but the government and RWE say coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

It always comes down to some form of “security”, doesn’t it? I understand the concerns folks in Europe have about nuclear power, especially if we’re focused on older reactor models, but I don’t know that coal is any better. Certainly, the potential risks from disaster and war are less, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good option, especially given that fully “exploiting” the expansion would take until 2045, 15 years after Germany will supposedly have phased out coal power. I should be clear – it has apparently been a couple years since the town has had residents who are not there specifically to obstruct coal mine expansion. That said, while evicting people from their homes for this would certainly add incentive to stop it, the fact remains that we cannot afford to keep extracting and burning coal like this, given that climate change is already killing and displacing people.

It’s good that wealthy nations are making any progress at all, I suppose, but it’s nowhere near enough.

And so people are using the one thing that people reliably have – they’re putting their bodies between the ruling class and the object of their destructive greed. It seems unlikely, to me, that these protesters will get their way, but as with so many other things, I hope to be wrong about that. It’s encouraging to see thousands of people showing up to stand against the German police for all our sakes.

“I’m really afraid today,” Petra Mueller, a 53-year-old local who had been at the site for several days, said from a top-floor window of one of the few remaining houses. Mueller said she still held out hope of preserving what is left of Luetzerath “until nothing is left standing; hope dies last”.

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE argue that coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

However, a study by the German Institute for Economic Research calls into question the government’s stance. Its authors found other existing coal fields could be used instead, though the cost to RWE would be greater.

Another alternative would be for Germany to increase the production of renewable power, cut demand through energy efficiency measures, or import more coal or gas from abroad, the study found.

This is the point that climate activists have been making for decades. It has long been obvious that when it comes to “energy security”, and issues of war and politics in general, climate change is a “threat multiplier”. It creates resource scarcity, causes mass movement of people, and damages or disrupts infrastructure, all of which can lead to political instability. The advantage of carbon-neutral power has always been that its use doesn’t contribute to the climate problem. The advantage of things like solar and wind power is that they’re generally more resilient to climate chaos than power generation that depends on burning fuel to boil water to run a steam turbine. Dependence on oil and gas has long driven war all around the globe, and it’s a bit much for the German government to plead “security” now after decades of delayed action. To be sure, they’ve done more than the U.S., but that’s a low bar to step over, and not a standard I’m willing to accept.

If there was a genuine concern about security, rather than profits, they would have put far more work into renewable energy and next-gen nuclear power, rather than spending all these resources trying to expand a coal mine that, supposedly, won’t even be halfway to fully exploited when Germany supposedly will stop using coal. Or, just a thought, they’re not serious about meeting the 2030 mark.

Maybe they are, but I think it’s entirely reasonable for the protesters to doubt them.

I give full support to these protesters, and I’ve been delighted to see some of the footage that has come from this effort to oust them. See, while I’ll spare you any (further) porcine comparisons, it has been a treat to watch the armed and uniformed enforcers of fossil fuel interests rolling around in the muck while being mocked by a prancing mud wizard:

The image shows The Mud Wizard, dressed in a monastic habit, casting down the police who thought they would withstand the power of muck.

At risk of sounding too serious, I think there is validity to things that make cops look ridiculous, especially while they’re trying to use force to further business interests. I also want to underscore that while this video is very funny, the activists have also been setting themselves up in treehouses and wooden tripods, along with welded i-beam barricades and other bits of construction designed to make it as costly and difficult as possible for the corporations and cops to get what they want. The Garzweiler mine has equipment on hand that can make quick work of all of that stuff, but unless they want to commit mass murder, they can’t use any of it before removing the protesters.

And to remove protesters, they’re relying on the police.

I think that the act of using force to enable more coal mining, in the early stages of a global climate crisis (remember, it will get much, much worse without a change of course), is both evil, and inherently absurd. I’m sure the cops think they’re doing the right thing by just following orders, but I feel like we’ve had a lesson or two in why that’s not a great way to tell right from wrong. With a little luck, hopefully the powers that be will decide to accept a different world, rather than trying to escalate the violence to get their way, but in the meantime, we have mud wizards and Yakety Sax (It seems I can no longer embed Tweets properly, but I posted it below in case it starts working again. Thanks, Musk).

Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

If you want something to do this weekend, Atlanta forest defenders are asking for solidarity

I meant to write about this a couple days ago, but I just completely forgot about it until I sat down to go through my open tabs today. Still, better late than never, I guess? Last month I wrote about Atlanta forest defenders being arrested and charged with “domestic terrorism”, for the heinous act of sitting in trees that the cops wanted to cut down. The people working to stop the destruction of the Atlanta Forest for a massive, militarized police training facility are calling for demonstrations of solidarity around the country:

It’s Going Down has the following list of events being planned for this weekend, as of a day or two ago:

Roundup Of Solidarity Events

January 14th, Savannah, GA

Solidarity rally to defend the Atlanta Forest & Stop Cop City! Saturday, Jan 14 – 2pm – Wright Square. Atlanta is known to many as the “City in the Forest” for its extensive tree cover, which protects the city’s residents from flooding and extreme heat. Despite calls from residents to defund, demilitarize, and even abolish the police following the 2020 police killing of Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta Police Foundation, Deklab County officials, and Blackhall (Shadowbox) Studios are attempting to bulldoze the city’s largest urban forest to build a militarized police training facility and Hollywood soundstage in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, the progect’s general contractor, has a construction site near Wright Square right here in Savannah. Amidst growing concerns of police violence and climate catastrophe, thousands of Atlanta residents have organized to protect the forest and stall construction of the facility for over a year! An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Let’s show our solidarity with ATL forest defenders and demand that Brasfield and Gorrie drop the contract! Savannah DSA

January 14th, Brooklyn, NYC

January 15th, New Haven, CT

January 15th, Atlanta, GA

January 16th, Decatur, GA

January 28th, NYC

As you’ll note, some of these things are not happening this weekend. While having a lot of actions happening on the same day is a tactic to get more attention on the issue, demonstrations and other events happening spontaneously over time and across the country can also serve that purpose. This is a long-term fight, not just because the backers of Cop City are still intending to build it, but also because even if we do win this fight, there will be new ones for as long as we’re dealing with a system like the one we’re fighting to change. If we ever want to have real democracy and freedom, it will require this kind of sustained effort both to create, and to maintain the world we want.

On that note, I also think you should check out this interview that the Youtuber F.D. Signifier did with commentator and activist Kamau Franklin about the issue:

As Franklin describes, “Cop City” is intended to have, among other facilities, 11 firing ranges, and a mock city for police to train in crowd control. As he says, this seems far more about general control of the populace and of any movements for change, than it is about any concern for public safety. It sure seems as though the police and ruling class looked at the BLM movement, and decided that they had to be able to just outright crush anything like that. It wouldn’t shock me to learn, down the road, that some of this is about the increasing popularity of left-wing thought and political tactics in the U.S.. Bolstering this interpretation is the fact that U.S. police often train with the enforcers of Israeli apartheid, working to develop tactics for controlling the population through force. With worsening inequality, rising fascism, and a warming climate, this should worry you, as should the ever-increasing U.S. military budget.

The movement towards authoritarianism is not unique to the Republican Party. The Democrats have been on board every step of the way, from pouring cash into the Pentagon, to developing the humanitarian nightmare that is the U.S. carceral system. It is Democratic mayor Eric Adams that wants to declare houseless people insane and lock them up. I don’t think the Dems are full-on fascist like the current GOP, but they do very clearly value capitalism more than democracy or freedom. They have been on board through the bloody history of U.S. interference with left-wing governments and movements around the globe. They have been on board with supporting the genocide being waged in Yemen, and the ethnic cleansing in Palestine. This is why we need organizing that’s separate from political parties and the electoral system. This is why we need direct action like the work of land and water defenders – because both parties in power serve the ruling class, and actively work to suppress working class power. It’s evident in Democratic policy over the years, in the people from whom they seek advice, and in the many corporations supporting the development of this facility, to the tune of $60 million of the $90 million budget.

And white supremacy is absolutely a part of that, both within the United States, and in its actions around the world.

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but the communities in which this monstrosity is being built are majority black, and have not been consulted on this project that will destroy a forest for the sake of building what amounts to a military training facility for the same cops who have been brutalizing and murdering black people in Atlanta and around the country. Kamau Franklin and F.D. Signifier have a much better discussion of the racial issues here than I’m able to summarize, so I recommend you watch the video. It provides a good overview of the problem from a systemic perspective. If you want to help out, Franklin pointed people to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, Community Movement Builders, and Stop Cop City, and even if you can’t do anything this weekend (sorry again for dropping the ball on this!), it still helps to get “stop cop city” in front of people, be it signs, bumper stickers, or you could even organize your own demonstrations just to get attention.

A new year, a new Brazilian president, and new hope for the Amazon

I’ve written before about the political situation in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro, a neofascist with ties to the old military dictatorship, ended up in power after a bogus corruption scandal and Bolsonaro’s soon-to-be Justice Minister put the most popular candidate in prison, so he was unable to run for office. Fortunately, that candidate, Lula da Silva was freed, and then won the next presidential election. While the man was in no way perfect, his previous time as president saw a great many people lifted from poverty, new rights and protections for Indigenous Brazilians, and for the Amazon Rainforest. There’s still very real concern about a coup attempt from Bolsonaro’s faction, but Lula will be sworn in as president this coming Sunday, and it looks like he intends to continue doing good things for Brazil, and for the world:

Environmentalists and rights advocates around the world are celebrating Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s selection of Marina Silva and Sônia Guajajara to serve as the nation’s environment and Indigenous ministers, respectively.


Several advocates throughout Brazil and beyond celebrated both appointments. Kenneth Roth, the former long-time executive director of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, proclaimed that “Lula’s win was a win for the Amazon.”

Jennifer Morgan—who earlier this year stepped down as Greenpeace International’s executive director to serve as special envoy for international climate action in the German Foreign Ministry—also congratulated and celebrated both women on Twitter.

“The world is fortunate to have you in this critical position at this key moment of history,” Morgan said of Silva. “Look forward working together to achieve your vision for a social, ecological transformation for the people and nature of Brazil.”

Morgan wrote of Guajajara: “Your courage and tenacity is an inspiration. Celebrating this historic day for you and Indigenous peoples around the world.”

As The Guardian detailed: “Guajajara was born in the Araribóia territory of the eastern Amazon and became one of the leading lights of Brazil’s flourishing Indigenous rights movement, as well as a prominent leftist politician. In 2018, Guajajara became the first Indigenous woman to run for Brazil’s vice presidency. She won a place in Brazil’s overwhelmingly white, male Congress in October’s election.”

While I’m far from knowledgable about this, both women seem to have strong records when it comes to the intertwined subjects of the environment, and Indigenous rights. From what I can tell, the political situation is still far more precarious than I’d like. There’s some evidence of FBI involvement in Bolsonaro’s rise to power, and there’s a long history of left-wing regimes being attacked by the United States and other imperial powers. Lula is no communist, but he’s a ways to the left of the United States, and he seems to mostly put people over profit, which seems to offend the sensibilities of capitalist “world leaders”. Unfortunately, I think it’ll be a long time before we can expect to see real movement to the left in the world without that movement drawing fire from the global capitalist war machine. The upside is that Biden has show support for Lula, and has some political reasons to maintain that support, given Bolsonaro’s closeness with Trump, and the Dems’ desire to stop there from being a pattern of this particular kind of coup attempt.

Sorry, had to fret at least a little about that. The reality is that this is good news, and there’s been so much bad news the last few years, that good things feel like a trick sometimes. This really is good news, though. I first started paying attention to Brazil back in 2006, when I met a man in Tanzania who had been at a renewable energy conference, and was excited to talk about all the advances Brazil had been making – it seemed like it was way ahead of the U.S.! That was right in the middle of Lula’s first stint as president, and while Bolsonaro has done his damnedest to sell the Amazon for lumber, there’s still a lot left to save, and Lula taking office is a great way to start 2023.

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A video and some thoughts on the recent power grid attacks

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about an attack on the power grid of Moore County, NC, apparently planned and carried out to shut down a drag show happening at a theater in the town of Southern Pines. Attacking the power grid is not a new tactic, either for right-wing extremists in the United States, or for paramilitary and revolutionary groups around the world. In the time since that post, there have been several more attacks around the country, not all associated with particular events the way the Moore County attack was, and it seems like that pattern is going to continue. This video from Beau of the Fifth Column goes into the thinking (and lack thereof) behind these attacks, why they won’t work for their probable intended purpose, and why they’re a problem anyway. It also goes into some tips for preparing for this to happen to your part of the grid.

Basically, there are three goals that attacks like this have historically had three goals, which don’t apply to the current situation. I’ll try to summarize below for those who can’t watch the video.

  1. To provoke a security clampdown. This is designed to anger the general public against the government forces clamping down. It has been successful, in some places, in getting more of the local populace to take up arms against an occupier. The U.S., however, is not being occupied by any outside force. The U.S. is also extremely good at controlling its populace, and because security clampdowns would be done by many different agencies (local police, state police, national guard, state and local governments, federal government), there’s no single target against whom to unify the people. The U.S. also pioneered understanding of this particular tactic, and so has literal instructions about avoiding the kind of clampdown in question.
  2. To blame the people in power for the grid failures, to turn the general public against them. The problem with this is that it requires the propaganda/political wing of the movement to repeatedly blame the people in power for what’s happening, but given that the “mainstream” right and the “extreme” right in the U.S. are so intertwined that moderation algorithms may not be able to tell the difference, so very few people will buy that the Democrats are to blame for these attacks. It’s more likely that the GOP will be seen as being on board with the attacks. Beau mentions that as with the first goal, this goal usually applies to occupied countries.
  3. To do a “reset” – knock everything out, and use the chaos to take control of the country by force. This would require them to have popular support, which they don’t. Absent that, they’d need the numbers, resources, and organization to occupy and control the entirety of the “lower 48”. Beau said he’s not sure that the U.S. army, which is the one force on the planet that might be able to pull that off, would be able to. The U.S. is simply too big. Maybe they’re hoping that the military would do it for them, but in my own opinion, there’s no way that happens without the GOP already having total control of the federal government, or something very close to it.

The bad news is that these attacks still cut off power to thousands of people. Beau compares this to January 6th – virtually zero chance of success, but still very destructive. Lost power can mean lost heat, spoiled food and medicine, shutdown of medical devices, shutdown of municipal water systems, and much more, depending on where it happens and how long the damage takes to repair. That means that to whatever degree you are able, you should probably prepare for power outages if you live in the U.S..

You know how I’ve written about the synergy between the threats we face, and the actions we need to take to prepare or remove those threats? You know how my direct action post couples the dangers of a warming planet and rising fascism? In both cases, I think it’s reasonable to expect more power outages, which means doing what you can to prepare for that. At the more expensive end, that means getting a generator (which should always be used outdoors, even if it means you have to crack a window for the cable. Please don’t gas yourself), or having a solar or wind setup with a battery, as well as something for purifying water. Again, at the high end that might be a powered purifier, and at the low end, we have stuff like iodine tablets or the filters lots of people use for camping. At the low end for power, there are cheap cell phone backup batteries, less cheap solar chargers, or you can look into the devices sold to jump-start cars, and get one that has a normal outlet as well as the car cables. Beau also mentions car inverters, that let you use your car as a generator. I’m not providing any links because I don’t want to recommend any particular products, but if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have the capacity to search the internet to see what’s out there.

Obviously, different people will have different needs, and in the U.S. it’s pretty common for those who need powered medical devices or refrigerated medicine, to also be short on resources to buy things like big backup batteries or generators. If you have the means to “overprepare”, you might want to consider doing so, expressly for the purpose of offering help to those around you who don’t have the means. If they’re open to it and you can, help others prepare. Also, in general, be on the lookout for random opportunities to help – it may well come down to luck and landscape. I have relatives who’ve been the only means of communication for their neighborhood, because their home just happened to be a bit more elevated, so the storm surge didn’t reach them.

It absolutely sucks that this is where we’re at, but in addition to extreme weather, we also need to prepare for the violent outbursts of a group of obnoxious people eager to fight to the death against largely imaginary enemies, in the name of the pettiest, most boring, and least stable fantasy of a utopia that bigoted cowards have ever devised. The danger is real, even if the effort is doomed to failure, and the overall threat of fascism is, in my opinion, still extremely high. The one silver lining, tissue-thin though it is, is that our course of action should be the same regardless. Build collective power. Organize, train, and prepare for disasters, both natural and man-made. It’s a very, very old formula, but it’s one that seems to be affective across the ages.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Video: We Need A Library Economy

I’ve heard it said many times that people have trouble imagining what a post-capitalist society might look like. After all, all we have to go on is what came before capitalism, plus the few attempts at something different that we’ve seen over the last century or so. It’s hard to imagine something that doesn’t exist yet, right? Even those parts of the world that operate differently within their own borders, do so within a world controlled by capitalism, and operating under those rules.

So what do we have to compare? Is there anything in existence now, that most people know about, that we could expand use as an example of how things could work differently? Honestly, there are probably a few examples, but one of the best, brought to us by Andrewism, is that of the library. His videos are always pretty chill, and I find this description of what a “library economy” might look like to be inspiring:

No wonder conservatives hate them.

Pine Ridge Reservation needs your help

It’s important to remember, when we talk about the United States as an empire, that its war against the various Native American tribes never really ended, it just changed a little. When the rights and needs of Native communities come into conflict with the greed of capitalists, the government still responds with violence. The reservation system was not set up for the benefit of Native Americans, it was set up to contain them. Understanding that is key to understanding why conditions on those reservations tend to be so bad. And when conditions are bad as a matter of routine, disasters hit a lot harder. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota has been hit hard by the latest distortion of the Polar Vortex, to the point where there are snow drifts as tall as houses, and people have had to burn clothes to stay warm:

Halverson, who represents the Pass Creek District on the Pine Ridge Reservation, described their harrowing situation to the Journal on Thursday.

“It’s been really tough,” she said. “We don’t have the proper equipment here to handle what’s been going on. We have drifts as high as some houses that stretch 60, 70 yards at a time.”

More than 10 days since the storm began, Diaz has moved on and the skies have started to clear, but the recovery process is just beginning. Halverson didn’t get dug out of her house until eight days after the storm. Others are still trapped, reachable only by snowmobile.

It seems like every time we open the road, the snow just drifts it back over,” she said.

It’s an incredibly scary situation, she explained, as many of those snowed-in are missing dialysis treatments or dealing with other medical emergencies. One family ran out of infant formula, and spent four days drifted in before attempting to leave, Halverson said.

“We even talked about using drone drops to get the baby some Enfamil, because the baby was starving,” she said.

But Mother Nature wasn’t done yet.

If being trapped by formidable walls of ice and snow wasn’t enough, subzero temperatures, brought down by an Arctic front, took an already struggling region by the neck. Temperatures dropped into the negative teens and 20s this week, and the unkind Midwest wind shredded those figures with wind chills in the negative 40s and negative 50s.

Cold like that is deadly, just another blow to a reservation already crippled by conditions, Halverson said.

“Most of our members use wood stoves,” she said. “We’re not able to get them with deliveries because of the roads. A lot of our members across the reservation have no propane, because the propane companies can’t reach their tanks to fill. Even right now in my district, we haven’t had anybody able to deliver out to these members that have no propane since the storm started.”

Oglala-based service organization Re-Member provides firewood to families on all corners of the reservation, but the drifts of snow have rendered their wood stockpile inaccessible still – and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future.

“Our wood pile remains inaccessible,” read a Facebook post on Dec. 20. “Our skid steer and plow are out-of-service. Given the conditions, it would be near impossible to operate our equipment and unsafe for our staff to work in the conditions we are facing. We appreciate the efforts being made by many to keep the Oyate safe during these challenging times.”


“I’ve seen across the reservation some members were burning clothes in their wood stove because they couldn’t get access to wood,” Halverson said.

I think it’s likely that this distortion in the polar vortex is caused by arctic warming. The basic theory is that lower ice cover allows more direct interaction between sea and air, which builds up atmospheric pressure, stretching the vortex southward, but there’s still debate about that. What matters at this moment is doing what we can to help. You’re welcome to hunt for your own ways to do so, but this looks like the best option to me:

   I sent them what we can spare. It’s not much, but as I like to say, crowdfunding requires a crowd. The National Guard has also been helping, but there’s no question that they need everything they can get. As I mentioned before, the fact that they were already living so close to the edge has made this disaster many times worse than it might have been. I think this quote from Halverson sums it up well:

“We don’t live on our reservation,” she said. “We survive on our reservation. We’re in serious need of some help.”

When you’re in a survival scenario, even something small going wrong can kill, and this storm is definitely not “something small”. We help as we can right now, but it’s important to remember that that living situation – surviving, not living – is the result of ongoing injustice. It’s good that the government is helping in this situation, but that same government is what stands in the way when Native Americans fight for more than mere survival. Support Land Back and other struggles for Indigenous liberation, and if you can spare a little money to help in the short term, it’s sorely needed. Even if you can just spare $1, that combines with what others give, and it’s our collective power that can save lives.