Coal fuels the fight
With regard to Juliane Poirier’s column about Bank of American and coal-fired generators in Peru (“Don’t Bank on It,” Green Zone, July 29), I would like to suggest that it’s disgustingly elitist for people who enjoy every possible convenience and who take for granted a cheap, reliable supply of electricity to impose their supposedly enlightened views upon the citizens of one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.Like it or not, coal-fired plants are, and will be for some time to come, the least expensive means of generating power. As things presently stand, many of Peru’s poor live entirely without electricity. And large parts of the country are being deforested to provide cooking fuel. It’s all very well for Kyle Thiermann to insist on green electricity in his own backyard. It’s arrogant for a cosseted student from one of the wealthiest communities on the planet to demand that the poor of Peru forego low-cost generation of electricity in order to conform to his own preferences. Perhaps Mr. Thiermann should spend less time surfing and more time living, as I have, among the poorest people of South America. I can assure him that they would welcome any method which would heat and light their homes and relieve them of the necessity to forage for hours each day in order to collect wood and dried grasses to fire their ovens.
Juliane Poirier responds: I appreciate Mr. Kurtz’s concerns about the lack of electricity available to the poor in Peru and the deforestation caused by foraging for wood fuels. However, I do not agree that the “poorest people of South America,” as Mr. Kurtz claims, would “welcome any method which would heat and light their homes.” South America is the birthplace of Gaviotas, the first successful sustainable community in the Americas, built without Bank of America loans and without input from the United States. In the video created by Thiermann, Chileans (whose lives would be directly impacted by Los Robles coal power plant) voiced in their native Spanish that they did not want this coal power plant developed. Further, Kurtz’s claim is incorrect that coal power is the “least expensive means of generating power.” In fact, no economy in the world can presently pay for the external costs associated with coal-fire power plants including, in the case of Los Robles, the destruction of the fishing industry upon which the Chileans presently depend.
“Yap Stars” (July 29) was hysterical. I loved it, and thank you for the early morning laugh.
In response to Marty Bennett’s article, “Generation Debt” (Open Mic, July 22), let me begin by saying I support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions and make it harder for employers to retaliate against employees who choose to exercise their fundamental rights on the job. Let’s keep in mind that the United States is the only industrial country with such a bureaucratic and patently undemocratic process for joining a union. No wonder so few workers join and thus have fewer benefits, lower wages and less voice on the job. However, I would like to add another layer to this important debate. As a young worker and former union organizer, I am aware of the importance of organizing on the job. However, it is historically inaccurate to assert that workers will win their rights through legislation and the goodwill of our elected representatives.
We sometimes forget that FDR did not pass pro-worker legislation out of the kindness of his heart, but because millions of workers were militantly resisting exploitation by going on strike and facing death daily. FDR knew that if he did not allow some concessions, then capitalism would surely fall. Let’s also keep in mind that the biggest gains that workers made came at a time when unions were illegal. It is an unfortunate reality that unions today are not only weak because of undemocratic labor law, but because the undemocratic and authoritarian nature of those very same unions. Too many times have I heard workers complain about their union not listening to them, not fighting for them. Regardless of the future of EFCA, workers in this country will never rise above poverty if they are not strong, conscious and willing to fight.