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Economic Oppression and the Environment

At my workshops, I have not done a lot of direct work on the environment, though in talking about the “internal contradictions” of capitalism I talk about the exploitation of the environment and the genocide of Indigenous people. I make the point that if a profit is to be made, it doesn’t matter if you are a mineral, plant, animal, or human, you are to be exploited to the maximum. And if you stand in the way of profit, you are to be destroyed.

Many national conflicts that are presented to the world as “ethnic” or “religious” are really driven by a desire to control natural resources. For example, wars in parts of Africa described by the media as ethnic genocidal conflicts have their origins in environmental crises. They are also fueled by divisions and patterns imposed by earlier European colonization. My own country, the United States, exploits other countries’ resources under the name of “economic development” and by means of war.

Iraq is one of the areas of the world in which agriculture has flourished for thousands of years. Built into the U.S. plan for the post-invasion “recovery” of Iraq was a plan for corporations based in the United States to dominate the region’s agriculture. This would drive indigenous seed stocks and agricultural practice out of existence.

I have assisted labor people when they were faced with opposition or lack of cooperation from environmentalists. I have talked about classism in the environmental movement. I have explained how, in at least one progressive coalition in my state, the environmentalists (owning-class dominated and funded) had massive amounts of money but were reluctant to share it with the coalition of labor, women’s groups, Gay groups, and so on. Organized labor, on the other hand, despite disputes with some of the other groups over policy, provided most of the money, meeting spaces, workers, training, and organization to move the coalition goals forward.

Due to classism, most of the money from environmental groups in our region goes to the preservation of beauty in selected areas. It does little to address the underlying exploitation of people and resources that is the major environmental problem. In fact, it sometimes makes this exploitation worse.

The current push in RC on care of the environment has made me face the classism that previously distanced me from the environmental movement. I am going to lead a couple of evenings in my Community on this topic. 

Dan Nickerson
International Liberation Reference
Person for Working-Class People
Freeport, Maine, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list
for International Liberation and
Commonality Reference Persons


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00