New solutions - not old exploitations

Degraded area surrounding the illegal Tatuzão mine, along the Uraricuera River, in the Waikás region of the Yanomami Territory.

Building workers’ movements for a just transition and against false solutions to the climate crisis.

An effective transition cannot allow arrangements where companies self-present as sustainable while destroying the environment, exploiting and costing workers their lives.

Humanity’s challenges have become more urgent since the beginning of Covid-19.

In recent decades, the labour movement together with social movements and environmental organisations have denounced the unsustainability of the neoliberal model that created a health, social, ecological and climate crisis.

We have been pointing out alternative paths to this model - and now, they are even more urgent.

This series of articles has been published in partnership with Dalia Gebrial and Harpreet Kaur Paul and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in London. It first appeared in a collection titled Perspectives on a Global Green New Deal.

Transition

But we also find ourselves in a moment of a systematic dispute in which the old answers are being disguised as sustainable and offered and highlighted as ways out of the crisis.

False solutions masquerading as a ‘green economy’ will likely appear with substantial strength and resources at a time when the world is demanding a different way out.

One sector that has invested heavily in false solutions is mining. Automation, IT and labour subcontracting are being presented to shareholders as the answer to the irresponsible and murderous reality of these companies’ performance in the face of impacted communities, workers and biodiversity.

Together, the ruptures of Vale dams in Bento Rodrigues (2015) and Brumadinho (2019) dumped 75 million liters of toxic tailings mud, devastating entire communities, generating irrecoverable environ- mental losses, and claiming the lives of 278 people and 12 missing, most- ly workers. To this day, families seek justice and reparations for the crime.

Meanwhile, in its institutional marketing, the company says that “it will invest at least USD$2 billion to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by 33 percent by 2030. The biggest investment ever committed by the mining industry to fight climate change.” It’s a transition that’s not at all just.

Workers

This sector, together with agriculture and cattle ranching, has been responsible for deforestation, conflicts and contamination in the Amazon that have recently intensified.

Retaining the same agricultural and mining systems, but without workers, is being presented as the answer to this crisis. This way, while production increases, jobs decrease and communities are threatened and harassed.

That’s why unions and social movements are working towards the approval of a binding treaty that holds companies accountable and responds to those impacted in cases of environmental crimes and human rights violations.

An effective transition cannot allow arrangements where companies self-present as sustainable while destroying the environment, exploiting and costing workers their lives.

Indigenous

In light of the scale of this challenge, we have been working intensively for these transformations to be made through global pacts, both in official spaces for climate negotiations at the UN and in our international alliances.

These transformations must occur through the convergence between counter-hegemonic groups that bring proposals from workers, women, Blacks, Indigenous peoples and communities.

Beyond the challenges that deal with the old and new forms of work and precariousness, it is up to the labor movement to incorporate feminist and anti-racist eco-socialism as an aid in the fight over the model of development.

Together, we can break away from this failed model, and build towards a system that focuses on life, employment and democracy. 

This Author

Daniel Machado Gaio is national secretary of environment at the Central Única Dos Trabalhadores (Cut), based in São Paulo, Brazil. Translated by Michael Fox.

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