Labor's Contribution OmittedI appreciated Van Jones' article in the Winter 2005 issue of YES! On the heels of disheartening national election results, my spirits were boosted by Jones' sense of optimism and fight in “A Phoenix from the Ashes
However, in giving accolades to the many progressive constituencies who came together in 2004, Jones notably failed to mention one group: organized labor.
Working people and our unions were one of the big stories of the 2004 election. From my hometown of Bellingham, Washington, to Miami, Florida, tens of thousands of union activists got co-workers registered to vote for the first time. We passed out millions of pieces of literature in the workplace and in neighborhoods and turned out the labor vote as never before.
In almost every state where unions still retain some strength, Bush was defeated. Union households voted more than 65 percent for Kerry—and even better in the “battleground” states. Progressives who won local and state offices often did so because unions worked hand-in-hand with greens, immigrant rights groups, and civil and women's rights activists.
Here in Washington state, the newest progressives elected to our legislature include union leaders such as Teamster Bob Hasegawa and Tami Green, a registered nurse and organizer for Service Employees International Union. They both won with a strong labor-neighbor door-knocking strategy and with strong backing from environmental and civil rights organizations.
The lesson is not just that we need better candidates or better networking on the left, but we also need more union members. Building the labor movement, and fighting for the right of every worker to organize in her or his workplace, is a key part of any strategy to build a more powerful left.
The labor movement is essential to the campaign of resistance that Jones so eloquently describes. I hope to see more coverage of this vital coalition partner in future
issues of YES!
Member, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 17
A Cell With a View
In the last few months I was moved to a cell with a view of the country?side instead of the rest of the prison.
Now this is what I see: The sunrise was beautiful, with brillant pinks and deep purples changing and molding themselves around the shades of gray. The fog billowed up from the river and overflowed into the fields. Our resident hawk perched on the side of the gym as if it were a canyon wall. All the pigeons and chi-chi birds were a-flutter, sensing danger in the air. A cell with a view. What a change!Thanks for the scholarship subscription to
Nuclear is Not Sustainable EnergyI was surprised that Professor James Lovelock received equal time with Cameron Burns
on nuclear power in the Fall 2004 issue. I'm dismayed that Mr. Lovelock was allowed to promote a highly dangerous technology, inextricably bound with nuclear weapons. More than half a century's experience with this technology shows clearly that one side of the coin (nuclear warheads) would not exist without the other (power), and vice versa. They feed on each other, hence the insurmountable conflict of interest at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, charged, on the one hand to promote nuclear power and, on the other, to regulate nuclear weapons proliferation.
After 10 years of working on the effects of low levels of ionizing radiation on living cells, I'm convinced that Lovelock's position is at least naive and, at its worst, dangerously irresponsible in dismissing opposition to nuclear power, a serious threat to life even at very small doses.
Those of us who would safeguard our ecosystem from the ravages of weapons tests (including U.S. plans for space nukes), and want no more Chelyabinsks, Windscales, Bohunices, Three Mile Islands, Chernobyls, or the thousands of “lesser” nuclear radiation releases worldwide, or the unresolved mega-problems of long-lasting nuclear wastes, need to reject the “environmentally friendly‚” rhetoric of a stealth nuclear industry awaiting its rebirth in the U.S. under the Bush Administration.
Secondly, I was shocked not to find a single word on cold fusion. The potential for this demonstrated free energy is unmatched by all alternative energies combined. New energy is predicated on the theory that there are fluctuations of electrical field energy embedded in the fabric of space; it is available everywhere and leaves zero pollution. Ignoring this discovery will surely result in endless American wars over oil.
Greenwashing ChinaPerhaps a more honest slogan for your magazine would be Journal of Greenwashing. To completely ignore China's massive growth in nuclear power is to erode the confidence of an educated reader. William Brent
in the Fall 2004 issue must be aware of China's increased construction of nuclear power plants, having spent 20 years there. Yet his only mention of Chinese nuclear power is that it is considered renewable energy. Why does he not explain that the majority of the increase in renewables is actually nuclear? Positive articles can be useful only as long as they remain honest and based in reality.
The story in China has many moving pieces, not all of which can be addressed fully in one brief article. While it is true that China has plans to commission almost two nuclear reactors a year for the next 15 years, the pros and cons of nuclear power were, I think, addressed adequately elsewhere in the issue in which my article appeared. In addition, at the beginning of my article, I stated that I would “be honest about the complexities of China, while focusing on the light, not the dark.”
The questions you raise over nuclear power are worthwhile, whether in China or in the West (France, for example, relies on nuclear power for a third of its total). If nothing else, 20 years in China taught me pragmatism, and in the reality of rapid industrialization and extreme power shortage, China faces difficult choices. Does it adopt nuclear power or continue to build coal-fired plants that fast-track global warming? In this context, is nuclear relatively sustainable? The answers are certainly not easy. Let us also not forget that China's increasing anxiety over power supply is in part being fueled by the companies, many of which are based in the U.S., investing in manufacturing in China and their consumers who continue to demand cheaper products and higher-performing stock prices.
Left Coast Blinders?
I have enjoyed YES! However, everything you cover seems to be west of the Rockies. Aren't there a few people on the East Coast trying to save our beleaguered planet? After all, our older, civilized urban areas are more sustainable than your endless freeways. A small quibble—I'm just looking for fellow travelers closer to home.
New York, New York
Editors' note: YES! would love to do more stories from around North America (and the globe). Please send us tips, leads, and the names of writers.
Working for Our Community
Friends of Flagstaff's Future was founded in 1995 by citizens who found themselves organizing around various issues again and again—the loss of community open spaces and wildlife habitat as well as a proposal to build a large road through a beloved park.
We still focus on protection of open space and clean air and water, but we now focus also on a diverse and locally owned economy and what makes for a good place to live. We've grown from that circle of citizens into an organization with more than 800 dues-paying members and are considered an important stakeholder in many community processes. My philosophy on attracting increasing numbers of people to our work is in line with the stories and information shared in YES!—to show the positive alternatives that already exist or are possible.
Friends of Flagstaff's FutureFlagstaff, Arizona