Remarks on the Environment

BY:| September 21, 2001

Speech given at the 27th National Convention of the CPUSA.

The Right-Wing Corporate Agenda and the
Environmental Danger

Good morning, comrades! Before I begin, I would
like to thank comrade Lenny from Connecticut for reading over this report
and improving it. I begin with a warning: A specter is haunting the world
– the specter of environmental destruction! And as communists, we have
the responsibility to help bring together a global alliance of working
class and people’s organizations to exorcise this specter!

Global Warming is a Reality!

The last twenty years have seen the ten hottest years
in recorded history. It is estimated that the Earth’s temperature will
rise by about 6 degrees F in the next 100 years. Rising temperatures could
cause an increase in sea levels in some parts of the Earth from 6 to 37
inches. Warming could also cause violent weather patterns, frequent flooding
in some areas and droughts in others. Significant reduction in the diversity
of plant and animal species, due to climactic changes, is also a major
cause for concern. Human tinkering with the environment through genetic
engineering, deforestation, offshore drilling and other abominations,
is exacerbating such problems with unpredictable consequences.

Unfortunately, the global warming issue has been marked
by the increasingly isolationist and unilateral stance taken by the United
States. In March, Bush announced that he intended to violate his campaign
pledge to regulate domestic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Less than
a month later, the administration declared the Kyoto agreement dead. Both
houses of Congress have supported Bush’s stance on the pretext that the
Protocol would worsen the current economic downturn. This situation has
been exacerbated by Bush’s National Energy Policy, which calls for increased
drilling for oil and natural gas, the opening up of protected lands, such
as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and dramatically expanded
production of nuclear power nationwide. Let me just mention here that
when you consider the fact that 3% of the country’s oil and natural gas
reserves, 15% of coal reserves and 55% of uranium reserves lie on Federally
recognized Indian land, the struggle for Native American equality becomes
intricately connected with the struggle for the environment.

As the world’s biggest energy consumer and the worst emitter
of greenhouse gases, the United States should be actively involved in
negotiations to reduce global CO2 emissions. With less than 5% of the
world’s population, the US is responsible for over 25% of global CO2 output.
But the environmental debate on the Kyoto treaty has triggered a ferocious
storm of criticism and hostility about the ability of the US to be a responsible
member of the world community.

The Danger of Genetic Engineering Must Be Challenged!

Two-thirds of all food products found on supermarket shelves
in the US contain genetically engineered ingredients. Biotech corporations,
such as Monsanto, Novartis and Du Pont, are engineering the development
and reproductive processes of crops themselves. Probably the most infamous
example of this is the "Terminator" gene technology, which consists
of introducing a gene into a crop so that it only produces a single normal
harvest. Monsanto exclusively owns the Terminator patent, which would
force farmers to buy their seeds every year from agribusiness monopolies.

We should work in coalition with grassroots organizations
to support a ban on the patenting of life forms, cloning, and privatization
of healthcare and agriculture. We should demand public control over the
process and results of scientific research as the shared heritage of all

The Scourge of Environmental Racism and Sexism is Alive
and Well!

Author Robert Bullard details in his book Dumping in Dixie,
"Polluting industries exploit the pro-growth, pro-jobs sentiment
exhibited among the poor, working-class and minority communities."
This is capitalism’s false dialectic that pits industrial development
against environmental conservation. There is, in fact, a strong correlation
between the location of hazardous waste sites in the country, and the
race-class makeup of surrounding communities. Nationally, three of the
five largest sites are located in majority Black and Latino/a areas.

The electronics industry is one of the biggest criminals
in this regard. Twenty of the worst hazardous waste sites in the country,
located in Silicon Valley, are directly linked to the electronics industry.
Companies like Intel have recently expanded to states like New Mexico,
Arizona and Texas, and to other countries. This capital flight is accompanied
by a "toxic flight". Today, 25% of the groundwater around Phoenix
is contaminated by hi-tech manufacturing. In Austin, Texas, the hi-tech
industry dumps about one ton of toxics daily into the environment. In
Albuquerque, hi-tech uses nearly 90% of industrially available water.
Intel alone uses about two billion gallons per year. Cleanup costs run
into billions of dollars.

What makes this a disturbing scenario is that the electronics
industry continues to grow at an explosive pace. It remains a strident
supporter of NAFTA, GATT and FTAA; is a 100% non-union industry; over
60% of its low-paid workforce are immigrant women and women of color;
and is polluting one of the most precious human commodities: water. The
rapid growth of the electronics industry has ensured the persistence of
environmental racism and sexism well into the 21st century, while affecting,
in profoundly disruptive ways, the livelihood of millions of women who
are drawn into the electronics workforce, only to be trapped in dirty,
low-end jobs.


We have to demonstrate that environmental conservation
and job growth go hand in hand, through the development and manufacture
of environmentally-friendly alternative energy sources for our cars, homes,
neighborhoods and our cities. Most importantly, the rightwing corporate
agenda should not be allowed to derail the historic partnership, so clearly
visible during the "Battle in Seattle", between the labor and
environmental movements. This partnership is rooted in a working-class
led anti-monopoly coalition against a global corporate agenda driven by
profits and greed. In the struggle for democratic rights today, and socialism
tomorrow, strengthening and protecting this alliance is the task of communists

I shall end with two quotations, which should serve as
the guiding principle for our work on the environment.

The first one is by Sioux Chief Standing Bear, who wrote,
" There was a great difference in the attitude taken by the Indian
and the Caucasian toward nature, and this difference made of one a conservationist
and of the other a non-conservationist of life. The Indian, as well as
all other creatures that were given birth and grew, were sustained by
the common mother – earth. He was therefore kin to all living things and
he gave to all creatures equal rights with himself. Everything of earth
was loved and reverenced."

The second is from Marx, who wrote, "From the standpoint
of socialism, individual private ownership of the earth will appear just
as much in bad taste as the ownership of one human being by another. Even
a whole society, a nation, or all contemporary societies taken together,
are not the absolute owners of the earth. They are only its occupants,
its beneficiaries, and have to leave it in improved condition to following


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