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Anti-Imperialism is Green: USSF workshop

June 23, 2010

Global Exchange hosted a session to discuss and analyze the impact of US-based policies that impact other countries negatively with Climate Change. They showed a video that looked at the People’s Climate Summit in Bolivia, which points out that imperialist policies make climate disparities greater for the poorer countries of the world and that those of us in the US should pay massive reparations for what this country’s policies have meant abroad.

Michigan policies to confront this – Lansing Bike Co-op formed recently to provide affordable bikes to people, tools for repair, bartering, skill share and workshops for the community on a variety of topics. The bike co-op also has a garden and fair trade coffee project, which delivers the coffee by bicycle.

Another presenter talks about the Highland Park project, which is based in Detroit. The presenter asks people what barriers there are changing the culture in the US. Some identify a power imbalance, poverty, racism, corporate media, intertwining of economic and political power and the education system.

The question is then asked what solutions can we come up with to confront these imperialist projects. One person suggested identified local polluters and then engaging in various forms of direct action. People also mention it is important to not by into the idea that just changing personal behavior is enough to create systemic change. Another person pointed out that US militarism is a huge contributor to the climate crisis and that anti-war, anti-imperialist groups need to build alliances with environmental-focused groups when possible.

The presenter then begins to engage people about localized examples of truly sustainable communities. In the Highland Park area they are working to transform neighborhoods with their Green Economy Training. The project includes creating garden space and sustainable demolition, where resources from the homes demolished would be used for any new projects. Another component of the project is to create some alternative energy sources that would allow people to get off the grid of DTE and Consumers Energy.

Highland Park is a predominantly African American community, with about 75% of the population living in poverty. The project is a partnership with residents and other entities that have a commitment to transforming that community. It is evolving and may take a direction of its own, but the intent is to provides skills and resources to people from Highland Park the opportunity not only transform their community, but to create alternative futures through education and economic opportunities.

Besides Highland Park, they discussed another project in the Appalachian part of West Virginia. Since mountaintop coal removal is the biggest issue facing them, this project is not only confronting the coal mining industry, but looking at ways create a green economy that truly benefits to residents of works of Appalachia.

Another speaker shared stories of another project in the Washington, DC area. This project is called weatherize DC and is designed to build more equity in communities that are currently devastated by poverty. By doing weatherizing and education about energy efficiency, people not only can save on energy costs, it provides employment for people.

One of the presenters also mentions that there are other campaigns like one in Utah that is challenging tar sands mining, a bike caravan project in the New England states and a project in Cleveland that is similar to the one in Highland Park.

While there was interesting information about local projects around the country, the session did not really present any serious anti-imperialist analysis or strategy. Working at the local level to transform our communities is extremely important, but it is not enough to combat what US consumption and US militarism abroad has done to communities. In addition, not challenging US imperialism abroad is often because of privilege. People who have privilege in this society, even if they are working on climate change work in their communities, are the “beneficiaries” of US imperialism, which in the case of climate change means that they don’t feel the brunch of global warming to the degree that communities around the world do. As the Bolivians in the video screened at the beginning of the session said, the US must pay massive reparations to countries that US imperialism has impacted.

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