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How to balance environmental needs with the needs of many workers?

+4 votes
How can environmental needs, such as the preservation of a forest, be balanced with those of workers whose job is antithetical to environmental needs, such as loggers (or oil field workers or industrial farmers or whatever)? Is there even a balance between the two? Should it even try to be made? How can green reds and blacks appeal to these workers while advocating for preservation of our environment?
asked May 14, 2013 by anonymous

2 Answers

+4 votes
The first thing that comes to mind is what are these needs, in what context are they considered needs? Within what structure do loggers need to cut trees? Within the structure of capitalism and civilization. Beyond that structure, to consider it necessary to level whole forests is absurd. Loggers wanting to keep their jobs as loggers is a real desire, but a conservative one not an anarchist one, so of course this will conflict with anarchist goals (getting rid of their jobs and work entirely). Similarly, the preservation of spaces by environmentalists is only a need within the structure of capitalism and civilization. Outside of this, it would be absurd to try to save an environment from destruction. So this is again a real desire but a conservative struggle not an anarchist one, and it will conflict with anarchist goals especially when inevitably activists lobby the state for environmental protection.

I imagine you're thinking of environmental campaigns to save a place (let's say mountains in Appalachia) where there are workers (for the coal companies) who are against the activists. This often happens, and it presents a crisis for anarchists who believe we should be having a struggle of the workers against their bosses, and instead the workers are siding with their bosses against us. In this situation, not only is everyone against each other, probably almost everyone is working against anarchist goals (as above). This is not a situation I'd want to be in, hating all the activists who believe in activism and the workers who believe in work, I'd try to get out as soon as possible. It can feel great to fight for something you love, and I know some people have experiences of anarchy in these things, before they get totally recuperated, and they might be able to give you a more positive answer to your questions, but I can't come up with anything more posi that wouldn't make me feel gross to say. Just I'd rather be walking in the mountains than chaining myself to them.
answered May 14, 2013 by anok (18,630 points)
I'm curious as to why you think it would be absurd to save an environment from destruction if said destruction was occurring outside the framework of capitalism and civilization. I've seen plenty of rural individuals do some pretty stupid shit with their surrounding environment that has or most likely will negatively affect other nearby ecological niches. Within or without capitalism and civilization, I'd hope this kind of destruction would be opposed and fought against regardless.

-Edited for typos
Lol, rural people? I don't see how their actions fall outside the framework of capitalism and civilization. I was thinking about how absurd it would be for people to try to save an environment from the destruction of a wildfire, a meteor, things like that.
@vv - i think the point is that outside the framework of capitalism and civilization, it is highly unlikely (if not impossible) for widespread environmental destruction to be human caused.  therefore to "defend" against it would be absurd. as anok pointed out, how would you defend a forest against a lightning strike wildfire, or defend a village against an earthquake or a tsunami? even *within* the framework of democrapitalism, humans cannot successfully defend against natural disaster (recent years provide ample evidence of that).

unfortunately, in my experience workers are usually not notably different than their bosses when it comes to perpetuating and defending this shitstem. they both are completely invested in it, and so almost by necessity continue to enable the widespread destruction that you speak of.
0 votes

all things are a matter of balance.
In this case, you have to bear firmly in mind that the people you are addressing have families to support - threatening their livelihoods means leaving their families homeless and hungry, literally.  Since most people would kill to protect their families, certain conflicts would seem obvious.

That said, having worked in and left several different industries, anyone who works in any capitalist industry for more than a few years comes to view that industry with contempt.  The longer the servitude, the deeper the contempt.
The loggers who clearcut the forest aren't asked which trees to cut, they're ordered to cut them all by some asshole in an office 1400 miles away; even though they would happily harvest a quarter and let the rest grow, even though their friends have been killed and maimed in the forest and cast aside; but they cut because it is cut or be cast out, and left to starve after four generations of their families have earned a living from the forest.
Your farmers poison their land because four generations of government and corporate propaganda have told them that is the only way to "farm".  They can't pay for the expensive land and seed and equipment without corporate bank loans and government bailouts, and guess how those thorns push our tillers of the land?  In truth, every one of them hates the poison they spray on the land, and the poisonous crops they grow upon it, and can count on both hands the neighbors dead of odd diseases; but every one of them feels trapped, and trapped alone, to continue upon this poisonous path or lose everything - after four generations of their families have earned a living from the land.
The roughnecks are just in it for the paycheck.  Get the money and get the hell out before the bastards kill you (and i can attest that a lot of men die dragging that black poison out of the netherworld, more away from the rigs than on).  There is nothing redeemable in this sub-culture.

How does this inform our discussion?
Some people, you just can't reason with.  Fortunately, they are also the most tenuously attached to their position - they would just as happily piss off and make a buck somewhere else.
But some people, the ones you are having trouble reconciling with your conscience, are attached vigorously to livelihoods you have a problem with.  They have a family tradition of suffering and perserverance dating back further than anarchism in america - to fail in their craft would be an unredeemable shame in the face of their ancestors.  Their attachments go deeper than reason.  This doesn't forgive the harms they do, but it needs to be understood.
If you could guarantee a livelihood to these people, so they could harvest just enough that the forest and the land would be left to support their children and grandchildren and so on, then they would happily cut less, plow less, dig less.

But we can't.
So we are stuck.
answered Feb 7, 2014 by clodbuster (1,950 points)
edited Feb 8, 2014 by clodbuster