Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Green Masquerade

[excerpts -- click on title for complete interview at Counterpunch]

Alan Maass: Among a number of politicians, including Democrats, the concerns about global warming seem to have become an excuse for talk about resurrecting nuclear power.

Jeffrey St. Clair: That comes out of the Gore shop. Anyone who has the slightest familiarity with Gore's political biography will know that he's his father's son, and his father was one of the prime movers behind the Tennessee Valley Authority, behind nuclear power in Appalachia, and the Oak Ridge nuclear lab. Gore Junior was their congressional protector as a congressman and as a senator.

If you go back to Gore's book, Earth in the Balance, behind the scenes of that book is a cooling tower. That's Gore's solution to the global warming crisis -- a world that is clotted with nuclear power plants. If you look at his advisers on global warming while he was vice president, that was their message, too.

Those had been lean times for the nuclear power industry. I think that the Clinton administration could have sealed the nuclear power industry's fate in the U.S. if it had wanted to. But of course, it didn't. They sort of kept them on life support, with a lot of research funding and renewing all the protections.

So is there a renewed faith in nuclear power from the Democrats? Yes. And they now have a justification for it. If you scare yourself into believing that we're going to be having a runaway greenhouse effect, and the only way to stop it is to take immediate action in reducing the burning of fossil fuels, then you're going to be confronted with the argument that a proliferation of nuclear power plants is the fastest way to do that.

Alan Maass: Can you talk about the attitude of the environmental movement toward this corporate greenwashing?

Jeffrey St. Clair: The environmental movement made its deal with the devil at least a decade ago, when they essentially became neoliberal lobby shops. The idea was that if we can't defeat capitalism, if we can't change capitalism, then let's just give in and see if we can use some of the mechanics of the free market in order to tweak the damage done to the environment.

These kinds of seeds were sown in green groups in the early 1980s, but really reached an apogee in Clinton Times.

I don't even think the term greenwashing even applies any more. That was the industry response to the great environmental tragedies of the 1970s, and '80s -- Love Canal, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, the Exxon Valdez. But they don't have to do that any more, because essentially, corporations like BP and environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund share the same basic mindset.

You can't distinguish between, for example, Ikea, one of the world's great predators of rain forests, and the World Wildlife Fund, which is in a joint venture with Ikea -- so Ikea gets a little panda stamp on the lumber cut from primary forests in Indonesia. So greenwashing seems to me to be very passé.

Environmental politics are largely controlled by the foundations -- they control what's discussed and what the major issues are. The foundations are shackled at the hip to the Democratic Party, and the dominant ones are all children of big oil companies. Pew, the Rockefeller Family Fund, W. Alton Jones -- their endowments were the fortunes of big oil.

I was talking to an environmentalist who said that if you want a grant from any of those foundations, you have to have global warming in your agenda.

Now, let's say you're working on fighting chemical companies in Cancer Alley. How do you work global warming into your agenda? Or if you're fighting factory trawlers, which are creating dead zones off the Pacific coast, how do you work global warming into that? But if you can't, then the money dries up.

What it creates is a kind of inchoate state of environmental politics, because I don't think you can build a mass political movement around global warming.

environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism