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Boxed Water, Greenwashing and the DeVos Family support for racist water policies in Michigan

April 19, 2018

More and more corporations are trying to present themselves as caring about the environment. These corporations use slick advertising campaigns and try to deceive us into thinking that we can consume our way out of the environmental crisis we have made.

Greenwashing is a term that eco-activists have used for several decades now, in an attempt to expose the hypocrisy of capitalism. Green Capitalism is especially visible around the time that we celebrate earth day. In fact, corporations have pretty much hijacked earth day, by trying to convince us that they too care about the planet. Nothing could be further from the truth, since what drives capitalism is labor exploitation, profits and exponential growth……none of which is sustainable.

A great example of greenwashing in the West Michigan-based product known as Boxed Water. Boxed Water markets themselves as a product that is Better For Our Planet. The company’s main argument is that buying water in plastic bottles is bad for the planet, so buy water in a box, which is completely recyclable. 

While I would agree that buying bottled water is highly problematic, buying water in a box is just as deceptive.

First, water is essential to life. It should not be a commodity, but something that all life has access to. Second, the energy spent manufacturing the boxes, putting water into the boxes, shipping it and marketing the product could all go away if we just stuck to drinking water from a tap.

Third, for those who argue that tap water is not safe, then we should put our energies into fixing the water delivery system that comes from a municipal water infrastructure to homes, schools, hospitals, etc.

Fourth, Boxed Water, by their own admission, uses water from Lake Michigan, via their Holland plant. The company also has another facility in Utah.

Fifth, Boxed Water does use a filtration process, claiming that their water is more pure. Ok, so why don’t they apply this filtration process to all municipal water systems, so that we can all drink healthier water? Ah, but then the company could not make a profit…..and therein lies the problem. Well, at least one of the problems.

I’m sure that most people are well aware that Boxed Water is just one of the companies that is part of the Windquest Group. The Windquest Group is part of the DeVos Family empire and is specifically part of what Dick & Betsy DeVos own, along with Melissa DeVos and Rick DeVos.

Part of the irony of the DeVos Family owning Boxed Water, is that they are major contributors to Govenor Rick Snyder and many other state politicians that have supported the recent decision to grant the Nestle Corporation rights to steal more water from Michigan for their Ice Mountain bottled water brand. These same politicians have also engaged in the criminal acts being committed in Flint, where residents of that city STILL do not have access to clean, drinkable water. 

The Flint water disaster is a direct result of having an emergency management system, which essentially takes power away from local communities and puts it in the hands of people that the state government choses.

This downsizing and privatizing of local government is also one of the main goals of the DeVos Family, both through their direct campaign contributions and through groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the West Michigan Policy Forum, which makes the privatization of government services their goal.

Another example of the DeVos effect on water is the Emergency Management system in Detroit, which has privatized some of the water services and made it a priority to shut water off to thousands of homes of mostly African Americans. 

Like Flint, the Detroit water crisis is a deeply racist policy by design. Now, which politicians are responsible for these policies……….the very same politicians whom the DeVos Family has so zealously supported.

Looking Back, Thinking Forward: Earth Day in Grand Rapids 1970

April 17, 2018

The annual event known as Earth Day, will be celebrated this coming Sunday, April 22nd. Earth Day began in 1970, as greater consciousness was being raised about the how humans were impacting the environment.

Many people were influenced by Rachel Carson’s monumental book, Silent Spring, which was published in 1962. In her book, Carson exposed the harmful impact that pesticides and other commercial chemical use was having on wildlife and our ecosystems.

Building on the popular movements of the 1950s and 1960s, like the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-war Movement, the Farmworker Movement and the Feminist Movement, the modern day Environmental movement was born.

What the first Earth Day organizers emphasized was the need to directly confront polluters and force the federal government to adopt some regulations. After all, it was the first Earth Day that forced the Nixon administration to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of course there was also the message of personal responsibility that came with the first Earth Day celebrations, but this was not the focus.

As a response to the growing scrutiny of environmental polluters, the business sector responded by creating a campaign called, Keep America Beautiful. The centerpiece of this campaign became moving attention away from industrial waste and pollution to personalized trash known as litter. The Keep America Campaign even came up with the label “litterbug,” a term which is used even today to describe individuals we all should look down upon. The campaign worked beautifully and by the second Earth Day celebration these corporate entities financed the creation of a powerful TV ad using a Native America actor Iron Eyes Cody. The Native man is seen at numerous places – in the woods, along the beach  – and everywhere he goes there is trash. Again the emphasis was on individual behavior and not so much on industry.

The First Earth Day in Grand Rapids

Earth Day activities were planned across the country on April 22, 1970. Grand Rapids was also included in those communities that celebrated Earth Day.

Based on articles from the Grand Rapids Press, there were three separate activities that received attention in Grand Rapids. 

In the afternoon, there was an event with song and signs on the Calder Plaza, with the featured speaker being Rep. Guy VanderJagt, a Republican from Cadillac. The comments by VanderJagt, as reported in the Grand Rapids Press, spoke of the urgency to take action. However, the representative from Cadillac framed the environmental urgency in terms of how much people would be willing to pay in taxes to get clean air and clean water.

There was also a large community event, with an estimated 1,500 people in attendance at the Civic Auditorium in the evening. The event featured images on the big screen, musicians and speakers.

Senator Philip Hart got the biggest applause from the audience, according to the Press. Hart spoke about not separating humanity from nature and that the “drive to save the environment” will outlast recent crusades such as those of civil rights and the war on poverty.

At one point the image of Vice President Spiro Agnew appeared on the screen, which received a lot of boos from the audience. Representative Gerald Ford spoke, and he too received boos, shouted comments about the war in Vietnam and sometimes loud stamping of feet.

Ford’s comments, according to the GR Press, were limited to personal sacrifices, consumer dollars and taxes. Ford also suggested we “reduce pollution from the internal combustion engine.” He claimed that President Nixon, along with the private sector, would be creating a “virtually pollution-free automobile within five years.”

There were a whole list of other speakers, including representatives from business, the faith community and non-profits.

The other major activity that people took part in on Earth Day in Grand Rapids in 1970, was a protest organized by students from the Grand Rapids Junior College.

Students chose to protest at a meat factory, because of the pollution the business was emitting as a result of how the company cured the meat. The factory had been the target of complaints from neighbors for years because of the pollution.

The owner of the business was cited as saying that he was in the process of addressing the air pollution, but didn’t know what kind of timetable there would be to address the issue.

This last action, organized by students, is more reflective of the kinds of actions people were taking across the country, which focused attention on corporate pollution or structural pollution. In fact, in its early years, Earth Day actions were either to engage in collective projects that would promote ecological integrity or to confront those most responsible for environmental destruction, the corporate/industrial sectors.

Grand Rapids has 1.67 housing evictions every day: What are we going to do about it?

April 17, 2018

Being evicted is an awful thing for anyone to experience. It is humiliating. Eviction can be the result of poverty and it can be a cause of poverty. Eviction is also a form of structural violence, which can take a tremendous toll on individuals and families alike.

A new project called Eviction Lab, a project through Princeton University, provides us with some great tools to understand the eviction crisis in the United States, something that is part of the larger affordable housing crisis.

According to Eviction Lab:

Today, most poor renting families spend at least half of their income on housing costs, with one in four of those families spending over 70 percent of their income just on rent and utilities. Incomes for Americans of modest means have flatlined while housing costs have soared. Only one in four families who qualifies for affordable housing programs gets any kind of help. Under those conditions, it has become harder for low-income families to keep up with rent and utility costs, and a growing number are living one misstep or emergency away from eviction.

The most current data provided by Eviction Lab is for 2016. During 2016, there were 34,016 evictions throughout the state of Michigan, which translates to 92.94 evictions per day. In Grand Rapids, the number of eviction in 2016 totaled 611, which means that 1.67 evictions happened every day.

Now, data doesn’t give us the whole picture, since we don’t know how many people these 611 evictions in Grand Rapids impacted in 2016. The data also does not adequately communicate the harm and humiliation that those being evicted must endure.

First, evictions are often posted on your door and/or are sent to you via the mail that you have to appear in court.

People being evicted must show up for this court hearing, which might be listed as appearing before a judge at 9:00am, but in reality, possibly dozens of other people have received similar eviction notices and they are all waiting to go before a judge. This means that people might have to wait hours.

Landlords and property management companies often send their lawyers to the court hearing, which means that they don’t even know the person who is being evicted. People being evicted have to defend themselves in front of a judge, who generally sides with those issuing the eviction notice. Renters might be “offered” some conditions in order to have the eviction notice dropped, but these conditions are also often humiliating.

People who are at most risk of being evicted are low-income women, especially poor women of color. Also, individuals and families who are the victims of domestic violence, are also at high risk of being evicted.

So, people being evicted are disproportionately women of color who are experiencing poverty. They have to find transportation to get to the court hearing and no doubt bring their children because they can’t afford day care. Then these people who are being evicted, must sit through a dozen or more eviction proceedings and witness the humiliation that several other people are going through, before being subjected to this process themselves.

What is to be done?

In most cases people are evicted and then fall further into poverty, since they now have a record of being evicted, which often results in making it difficult to find future housing. Therefore, evictions often result in perpetuating poverty and social marginalization.

Last year, the Steelcase Foundation and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, together contributed $300,000 towards an eviction prevention project. This project is a partnership between the 61st District Court, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Salvation Army.

This project will pay for a full-time DHHS staff person to work with people who are at risk of eviction. The goal is to negotiate an agreement between landlords and tenants before they come to court and avoid an eviction on their official court records.

This project is an important safety net, but it doesn’t offer any longterm solutions.

What people have done in other cities is to form Tenant Unions to fight against no cause evictions, to negotiate a rent freeze or rent control with individual landlords and property management companies.Tenant Unions can provide important support to individual renters by offering solidarity and resources to collectively fight exploitation by landlords and property management companies.

However, even this is not enough. People need to make a livable wage/livable income, which means that fighting poverty is also fighting an unjust economic system that does not support millions of people who are facing eviction. These same people are also experiencing food insecurity, have limited access to affordable health care and other basic necessities. In other words, there needs to be major systemic and structural changes. Dr. King called for that very restructuring of society, when he said:

“We have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights,, an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We have been in a reform movement… But after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be the era of revolution. We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”  Dr. King, report to his staff – 1967

We just commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Let us make his call to embrace revolutionary values in order to restructure this society.

US missile strikes against Syria: Part of a longstanding policy of US Imperialism

April 15, 2018

Let me begin by saying that the US military assault on Syria this past Friday was nothing short of criminal. In fact, such an attack violated international law, in part because of the failure of the US to get approval from the United Nations Security Council, but more importantly because of the death and destruction it caused.

There has been plenty of outrage on social media since the latest example of US imperialism, with lots of people claiming that this was an example of the Trump administration wagging the dog. This is certainly not the first time that a US president has engaged in a military strike against another country, especially when a sitting president is in the midst of a domestic scandal. Bill Clinton did the same thing in 1998, when his administration bombed Sudan, targeting a pharmaceutical plant, which resulted in the premature deaths of thousands of Sudanese, since the pharmaceutical plant was the only one in Sudan producing critical medicines.

More importantly, the notion that this was a wag the dog tactic on the part of the Trump administration is just to simplistic a response to a very complex matter. What we will do here is to look at a brief history of US policy towards Syria, a geo-political analysis, the issue of WMDs in context, the US media response and other US military industrial complex factors that are always part of the equation with US imperialism.

US Foreign Policy and Syria

Syria, like the rest of the Middle East, is a creation of European Colonialism. The French imposed colonial rule over Syria, until 1946, when Syria gained independence.

The US took particular interest in Syria after WWII, primarily as the US dependence of Middle Eastern oil became the central determining factor in the region.

The CIA initiated a coup in Syria in 1949, which was one of nearly 20 coups that would destabilize Syria for the next two decades. For the US, the Syrian power structure was too autonomous, was deeply sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and not supportive enough of the plans to run pipelines through their country for US oil extraction.

Syria was also run by the Baathist Party, which the US generally did not support. Besides CIA coup attempts, the US was financing and arming Islamic groups in order to destabilize Syria, primarily a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, by Robert Dreyfuss.

Syria was also often in conflict with Israel, a conflict that came to head over the control of the Golan Heights, which Israel militarily took during the 1967 war. The US was claiming at the time that both Syria and Egypt were under the influence of the Soviet Union, although that argument was often a justification for undermining Syrian autonomy.

Another coup took place in 1970, which brought to power Hafez-al Assad. Assad became one of the most brutal dictators in the region, but that did not stop the US from developing a close relationship with Assad.

In 1976, Assad invaded Lebanon, with approval from the US, specifically Henry Kissinger, who was the point person for President Gerald Ford. Syria’s invasion on Lebanon was to counter the PLO effort to influence Lebanon, since so many Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon.

Syria was a big supporter of the US war on Iraq in 1991, known as the Gulf War. The US rewarded that support with $2 billion channeled through the Saudi Kingdom. Hafez-al-Assad died of a heart attack in 2000, but was replaced by his son, Bashar, who still rules Syria today.

After 9/11, the US continued a close relationship with the Assad regime, but Syria was also on a US State Department short list of countries that sponsored terrorism. It was in 2002, that the US named Syria, along with Iraq, Iran and North Korea, as the “Axis of Evil.”

In the Spring of 2011, inspired by the other Arab uprisings, a Syrian pro-reform movement was initiated. However, the pro-Democracy groups were followed by armed rebels, who don’t always have the same goals.

The Obama administration had uniformly opposed the Arab Spring and in Syria, his administration engaged in bombing campaigns on more than one occasion, supposedly in response to the Russian support of Assad. US foreign policy expert Noam Chomsky made the observation the number of casualties more than tripled after the US and British air strikes. (see Who Rules the World? 2016) You can also see from this map that more US bombs were dropped on Syria, than any other country in 2016.

The US/British bombings, combined with the civil war in Syria, has resulted in the creation of over a million refugees fleeing the country.

This brings us to the present, which should make it clear that the most recent air strike by President Trump, is consistent with decades of US foreign policy towards Syria.

On Friday, 80 members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump stating that, “engaging our military in Syria … without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” Rep. Justin Amash was one of those who signed on to the bi-partisan statement, but it is ultimately an empty action, since Congress will not do anything other than make statements.

On the matter of the claims that Syria has Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), we may never know. United Nations inspectors had come to Syria the same day as the airstrike, leading one to think that the air strike was a way to ultimately foil the UN investigation on the claim that Syria had WMDs.

US Media uniformity on the air strikes on Syria

Here we defer to the national media watchdog group, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, which posted the following: 

The curators of American public opinion at the three most influential broadsheets in the United States have decided that dissent from the build-up to new airstrikes on Syria is not really an opinion worth hearing. Of 16 columns leveling an opinion about “fresh” airstrikes on the Syrian regime in the coming days, only two—both in the Washington Post (4/12/184/12/18)—opposed the airstrikes. No New York Times or Wall Street Journalopinion piece came out against a renewed attack on Syria.

Ten expressly supported the airstrikes (three in the Times, five in the Post and two in the Journal), two did so by implication (both in the Times, both lamenting the US “doing nothing” in Syria), two were ambiguous and two were opposed to the airstrikes. A complete list of the columns can be reviewed here.

This is slightly less unanimous than the level of support Trump’s airstrikes on Syrian air bases received from the media last year, when only one out of 47 editorial boards failed to back the escalation (FAIR.org4/11/17).

On the issue of launching airstrikes against the Assad government, robust debate is nonexistent. Major publications take the bulk of the premises for war for granted—namely the US’s legal and moral right to wage it—and simply parse over the details (FAIR.org4/12/18). The Washington Post editorial board (4/9/18), unsatisfied with what they view as token airstrikes, calls for Trump to not just launch “a few cruise missiles,” but for a “concerted strategy” of open-ended “US military initiatives.” This, of course, includes additional permanent military bases scattered throughout Syria.

Military strikes on Syria is good business for Weapons Manufacturers

66 Tomahawk missiles were used and 19 JASSM-ER. The Tomahawk missile are manufactured by the Raytheon Company and the JASSM-ER weapons are made by Lockheed Martin. The Ratheyon Corporation has contributed over $24 million to politicians since 1990, with a slight edge to Republicans. 

Lockheed Martin has contributed over $37 million since 1990, with Republicans receiving nearly twice as much as the Democrats. However, it is clear that both of these weapons manufacturers are committed to bipartisan support. 

As we stated at the beginning, the Trump administration’s missile attack against Syria is criminal, but we need to see it as a longstanding imperialist policy in the Middle East.

Buying and Selling the Public: Facebook, Google and the cost of Big Media

April 13, 2018

It is interesting how many news sources have reported on Mark Zuckerberg recent visit to Congress to discuss his company’s role in Facebook’s harvesting of data from an estimated 87 million users.

Much of the news media coverage focused on how some members of Congress are not very clear on how social media functions, instead of the reason why Zuckerberg was called in before Congress.

Cambridge Analytica, a British data analytics firm, harvested data from over 87 million Facebookprofiles (up from Facebook’s original count of 50 million) without the users’ consent, according to a report by the London Observer (3/17/18) sourced to a whistleblower who worked at Cambridge Analytica until 2014.

The data collected was then used by Cambridge Analytica to comb through the political preferences of the survey takers and their Facebook friends, without their knowledge, to create individual “psychographic models” that would then allow for entities (like the Trump presidential campaign) to target them with personalized political advertisements and news.

All of this happened with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge.

Then there is Google, which has received almost no coverage of what one of their subsidiaries, Youtube, has been doing with the data mining of children.

A recent complaint was filed with the Federal Trade Commission, pointing out that Youtube has been illegally mining the data from millions of children under the age of 13 for years. 

According to the group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Many of YouTube’s most successful channels feature nursery rhyme videos, cartoons, toy ads, and other content designed to capture young children’s attention. YouTube provides how-to guides for creators making videos for kids. Google even runs a program called Google Preferred that lets advertisers pay extra money to get their ads onto the most popular kid-directed channels, like Ryan Toy Review and ChuChuTV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs.

In short: Despite the presence of literally millions of child-directed videos, and despite promising advertisers access to kids via YouTube ads, Google pretends that they aren’t responsible for the children on YouTube. Google knows kids are there, and they are not taking steps to protect their privacy. So we are.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, is the only federal law regulating how to handle kids’ online data, and its demands are relatively straightforward: if you run a site for kids, or if you know kids are using your site, you need to a) tell their parents exactly what kind of personal data you collect, and b) get verifiable parental permission before you gather any information from or about kids. There’s other stuff, too, but those are the basic requirements, and Google doesn’t even try to meet them. Instead, their privacy policy says that YouTube isn’t for children under 13, and that kids shouldn’t use it.

This is what out of control tech companies and media monopolies look like. Media Consumers are nothing more than a resource that these media conglomerates can make a ton of money from. A more honest assessment of consumers was given by Omnicom Group Senior Ad Executive David Lubars a few years ago, when he said:

“Consumers are like roaches. You spray them and spray them and they become immune after a while. The only answer is to spray them some more.”

As in the case of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, social media conglomerates like Facebook and Google have tremendous influence in our lives, both in terms of what we know and what we consume.

There is no simple solution to dealing with this overwhelming issue. Some groups advocate regulation, while other push for new kinds of social media sources. The reality is that since the media monopolies are so big, it is hard to operate outside of their reach. Maybe it is time for anti-Trust laws to be applied to these massive companies, to break them up. However, even this seems like a fairly in-effective strategy and maybe what is will take will be revolutionary imagination that will be led by a civil society, which doesn’t see people as consumers to be targeted.

Cops out of uniform can’t stop being cops

April 12, 2018

Last night I was invited to speak at a church about the issue of immigration. A small group within the church meets weekly to discuss and hear from people working on a variety of social justice issues.

I spoke briefly about the history of US immigration policy from the founding of the US through the current Trump administration. In addition, I spoke briefly about what Cosecha GR is doing and how they are the real leaders of this issue in West Michigan, since Cosecha GR is immigrant led.

Lastly, I addressed the work of GR Rapid Response to ICE and the realities of state repression in West Michigan that targets immigrants.

The conversation was lively and people seemed to be very interested in the information shared as well as participating in the Rapid Response to ICE work and looking into what it would mean to be a sanctuary church.

Just before the end of the conversation, a white male, roughly 30 years of age, said he wanted to end the conversation on a positive note, specifically about police. At this point he revealed that he was a cop in the Wyoming Police Department. He then went on to say that the Wyoming PD did not ask immigrants what their status is and that the GRPD didn’t do the same. He said they try to get people to trust them and that they are only interested in arresting people who commit crimes. At one point, this police officer said that he understands that immigrants might be afraid of cops, because in their countries the police repression people, unlike here in the US.

The session was over at that point and people quietly left the building. I thought about what this cop had to say and decided to respond to his claims. There are several points to make, in unpacking what this police officer did and said.

First, I object to his point that he wanted to end the night on a positive note. While we were talking about the level of state violence against the immigrant community, we also discussed all the amazing things that immigrants contribute to this community, their courage and the fact that there is this powerful immigrant-led movement in West Michigan. In fact, most of what we talked about was positive and empowering.

Second, what the police was really saying is that he was uncomfortable with all the discussion about local law enforcement and how immigrants often end up in detention, because if they are processed into the Kent County Jail, the Sheriff’s Department lets ICE know that an immigrant was picked up. Kent County does this because they have a contract with ICE to inform them if immigrants are being held at the Kent County Jail.

In the police officer’s mind, when cops enforce the law, they are not doing harm to immigrants. However, the reality is that if someone is pulled over for a traffic violation or a tail light that is out, and they are undocumented, they won’t have a drivers license, since the undocumented community can’t get a drivers license. This may not be overt state repression, but it is state repression, since it results in people being separated from their families, put in detention and possibly deported to their country of origin.

Third, the cop made the claim that the Wyoming and GRPD do not ask people of their immigrant status, he was just flat out wrong. In fact, the City of Grand Rapids made it clear last November that the GRPD are excluded from a city police barring employees from asking people their immigrant status.

Fourth, when the police officer made the point about how he understood that people from other countries don’t trust cops, because there they repress people, but that isn’t the case in the US, he was essentially deny that police all across the US are not killing black people, engaged in surveillance of communities of color, arresting and incarcerating black and brown people. How can you say that cops don’t engage in state repression here, when the US has the largest prison population in the world.

Lastly, this police officer did what he was trained to do, which is to try to convince the public that cops are necessary for safety, that they protect and serve the general public. What this police officer was doing was engaging in Copspeak.

According to a new book entitled, Police: A Field Guide, “Copspeak is a language that limits our ability to understand police as anything other than essential, anything other than the guarantor of civilization and the last line of defense against what police call savagery.” The reality is that Copspeak is about pacification, not transformation. Even when they are out of uniform, cops can’t stop policing the rest of us.

Nestle’s Theft of Water: When Boycotts are Not Enough Part II

April 11, 2018

On Monday, we posted an article discussing why boycotting Nestle, in light of their most recent theft of Michigan’s water, would not be enough if we really want to stop what the corporation is doing. 

The responses I received from that post were rather instructive and worth discussing here in Part II on the matter of Nestle’s theft of water in Michigan.

One response stated:

I’m not sure what the point is in boycotting Nestle? It’s up to us, the voters, to get rid of lawmakers who made it possible for this to happen. Let’s work to turn Michigan blue again!

In fact, there were several calls to get Governor Synder out and to vote for Democrats. First, Snyder will be out at the end of the year because of term limits. Second, people to seem to have a short memory when it comes to partisan politics, since the Granholm administration also granted massive water extraction rights to the Nestle Corporation’s Ice Mountain bottling plant.

Third, just voting for Democrats does not guarantee that such blatant forms of corporate theft will end. I am not aware of any Democrat running for state office who is taking a strong anti-corporate position. What I have been seeing is that even “progressive” Democrats are talking about business responsibility and businesses being sustainable. There is no sustainable approach to the theft of water by the likes of Nestle. We need to stop them from extracting any more water and making money off of something that should never be a commodity.

In the article posted on Monday, we discussed the importance of using and developing tactics and strategies. Another person suggested that I contact environmental groups and get them on board with using direct action to actually stop Nestle from extracting one more drop of water from Michigan.

On the surface this may sound like a logical thing to do, but there are few environmental groups that have actually come out against Nestle’s extraction of water from Michigan. For example, the largest environmental group in the state, the Michigan Environmental Council, recently said, “Industries that profit from their use of Michigan’s waters should not be the ones to decide whether the amount they use is appropriate.” This is not a definite commitment to opposing corporations like Nestle from extracting water. In the statement they released, they seemed to be more concerned about ending public input. While the public should have a say in this matter, it didn’t seem to make a difference considering that the DEQ received comments from 81,020 people and only 75 supported Nestle’s plan of extraction.

Secondly, most environmental organizations, especially those that are non-profits do not endorse using direct action as a tactic to stop environmental destruction. To advocate for direct action, these environmental groups would probably not be able to apply for grants from foundations and they would likely lose membership of a disproportionately white, economically privileged group of supporters.

A third major theme from those who responded to the article was the complete lack of understanding of how effective social movement have been in US history. Several responders still wanted to push for voting as the means to create change. One of the main points from Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, is that whenever there has been any substantial change in the US, it has come about because of social movements using direct action.

  • The Abolitionist Movement used direct action – slave revolts, the Underground Railroad and work stoppages as mechanism to directly impact the profit making imperative of plantations. Armed uprising was also a tactic, which was then used on a large scale by the North, called the Civil War.
  • The Labor Movement used direct action – marches, wildcat strikes, work stoppages and industrial sabotage to win better wages, the 8 hour work day, worker safety protections, benefits and pensions. Any labor laws that were passes were the result of the labor movement threatening a massive shut down of capitalism, especially during the administration of FDR. There were literally thousands of strikes happening in the early 1930s.(See Jeremy Brecher’s book, Strike)
  • The Civil Rights Movement used direct action – to desegregate the buses, lunch counters, education, ect. with marches, civil disobedience, sit ins, boycotts, and strikes. Whatever civil rights legislation that was passed, was only passed because the Johnson administration was forced to pass those laws by the movement for black freedom.
  • The farmworkers movement then and now was not sending their time getting politicians elected, they were using direct action – marches, boycotts, strikes, sit ins, etc – to get better wages and better working conditions. They weren’t appealing to politicians, they were confronting agribusiness.

It has been said by many that electoral politics is the graveyard of social movements. We tend to agree. Let’s be about the business of movement building, not wasting our time and money to get people elected.