Home Social Justice Opinion: Workers of the Earth, unite!

Opinion: Workers of the Earth, unite!

6 min read

In order to save the Earth, and to a much smaller degree, ourselves, a balance must be struck between environmentalists who care about biodiversity and blue collar workers who care about feeding their families. It’s possible, but not easy. Things are currently in motion to make this venture a reality, but then even greater problems arise concerning the nature of our economy and the nature of our work.

The Associated Press reports that,“Union leaders say their workers want to help build a new, green economy” and they quote United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard when he said, “Global warming is here, and we can work and get it fixed together.” The will is there—but is the way?

The big topic for mainstream environmentalism today is hydraulic fracturing, which has a divisive tendency because environmentalist want to focus on banning fracking altogether. But what they sometimes forget about are the people who depend on fracking for their livelihood. Tahir Duckett, an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations representative said, “It’s not just as simple as ‘No Fracking.’” Fracking “…can turn entire communities into a ghost town. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend like people aren’t fighting for their very survival.”

A way in which environmentalist have tried to bridge this gap is promoting the clean energy industry. It’s not too far fetched, either. The Solar Foundation reports that solar jobs are growing faster than jobs in almost any other industry. But another obstacle comes to the fray, a spectre that haunts not only solar workers, but laborers in almost any field, and its name is technological unemployment. Workers are being replaced by machines because human labor is expendable and machines are cheaper and don’t care about their condition. Diane Cardwell of The New York Times writes that, “…the solar industry may soon become the latest sector of the economy in which people lose jobs to [machines]”. This will drive down the price of solar energy and allow it to compete with cheap natural gas. This is because solar energy has to compete with natural gas, which has $4 billion in government subsidies, reports The New York Times. This creates another problem: by replacing workers with machines in the solar industry, it will necessarily move workers back into the coal, oil, and natural gas industries.This will solidify the gulf between the environmentalist and the blue collar workers.

This technological unemployment will eventually unemploy the oil, coal, and natural gas industries as well. So the question raised is, what are these people supposed to do?

Machines increase efficiency which leads to profit. Profit is important because that’s how we get money to sustain our basic necessities. This is not just profit in order to sustain us but instead profit for the sake of profit. The problem arises when the economy is based on growth for the sake of growth and when corporate profit has more weight than meaningful human labor. This cancerous growth cares nothing for the environment or people.

Meaningful labor is when workers feel actively engaged with the task at hand. That their labor is important and critical rather than just it being another cog in the machine. A world based on respect for the environment and labor would have an economy based on sustenance and people rather than growth and money. That is when the machine stops.


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