polotics Coops in Argentina

I just caught the documentary The Take, a story about a group of workers’ struggle to take over their former work place. If you don’t know, Argentina has had a wild 21st century: protests, bank closures, disenfranchised middle class, many presidents (at least 5), massive layoffs and factory closures due to IMF restructuring, etc.

Some of the laid off workers went back to their closed factories and took them over as coops run by assemblies. The model differs according to the group who runs the different business, but they are all worker-owned.

For several years now, I have researched Argentina’s worker coop movement. There hasn’t been too much documentation in English until recently, and The Take is a great introduction for anyone who is interested in actual options other than the free market’s IMF/WTO, etc. model. There isn’t much else in English yet, but you could also scrape the Indymedia site for posts.

Author Marina Sitrin has published some of her research in The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest for an upcoming book about Argentina’s autonomous movement. AK Press has a video from Indymedia Argentina about the movement as well. It has English subtitles.

So I hope that you all try to catch The Take if it’s playing near you. I am blessed to be in a part of the world that has many forms of coops. Working for CELLspace has also been a huge experience on how to work with different systems. CELLspace has been a collective from the beginning.

I’ll probably touch on this form of organization again, because I hope to find more on the Argentina model. I also want to talk about the same model in reference to the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

polotics The Future, in China

The BBC just reported that “China has overtaken the US in the consumption of basic agricultural and industrial goods, a [Earth Policy Institute] survey has found.” While this is happening Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, “commended China as the great ‘change agent’ in the world over the next 20 years and praised its ‘brand-new form of capitalism'” at the recent economic conference in Davos. Here on the West Coast of North America, China’s culture and influence is easily felt, but during my recent visit to South Carolina, I don’t think my relatives can quite grasp what Bill Gates is so excited about.

I won’t throw out alot of economic statistics, but a few figures are impressive: according to USA Today “China held $191 billion in U.S. debt in 2004.” This means that our government is borrowing from China and paying back the interest. Americanprogress.org states “[in 2004] China will sell the U.S. about $187 billion in products and buy only about $32 billion back running a bilateral trade surplus of more than $154 billion.” This is the huge trade debt that you might hear about every 4 months on mainstream news.

If you just put these two statistics together, along with the fact that China is now the largest consumer nation in the world, then one can easily tell that the US is at or headed to secondary status as a world player. As an environmentalist, this concerns me. While the median income erodes here in the US, environmental regulations will erode as well. Why? Just like busting union wages, environmental regulations will be eased so Amercian companies can at least attempt to compete with China’s booming free market.

Right now, there are almost no environmental or labor regulations in China. The same BBC article states “according to investigators, Chinese factories process one stolen Indonesian log every minute of every working day…. Coal-fired power plants supply much of the country’s energy and according to government estimates, 60% of Chinese cities have serious air pollution problems…. Experts also say that more than three-quarters of the water flowing through China’s cities is unsuitable for drinking because of pollution from industrial waste.” According to a US Deptartment of Labor report “the Chinese Ministry of Labor admitted that the situation regarding the employment of child laborers was ‘very serious’ throughout the country.”

I won’t even get into China’s modernization of their military, but I will conclude by saying that capitalism is a viscious system. Just like the gold rush frenzies that took hold of North America, and before that Europe, the human desire to capitalize on other’s labor and earth’s resources creates winners and losers. This oncoming gold rush will leave average Americans in the dust, while folks like Bill Gates, and his Chinese counterparts, will do just fine.

polotics Tree-Free Harry Potter

In early 2003, I decided to try my best to stop buying books made from trees. Living in a city where independent booksellers proudly sell used books, and knowing that online booksellers let used bookstores sell through their sites, this lifestyle choice wasn’t too hard to make. But the early buzz around J.K. Rowling’s “Order of the Phoenix” grew louder, and I didn’t want to wait months for a used copy to turn up. I then researched Rowling’s use tree-free paper for that book.

I was astonished to discover that Canada was the only country, out of 22, that would print the hardback version on 100% tree-free paper. I instantly wrote J.K. Rowling and published a simple page on this site urging fans to write her about this. I also urged fans to buy the Canadian version, and proudly bragged about my Canadian version (which I bought via Amazon.ca).

I also called several local independent bookstores requesting the Canadian version and they all stated that they couldn’t stock that version. I called Powell’s Books, a huge Portland, OR store with online presence, requesting the recycled book, and they couldn’t stock it either. Due to copyright laws, the Canadian version couldn’t be sold in the USA. Finally, I e-mailed several progressive paper companies urging them to pressure J.K. Rowling to go green.

Canadian publisher Raincoast boldly promoted their successful use of “ancient forest-friendly” paper for their 2003 run. According to their Web site, Raincoast sold 6 million copies of “Order of the Phoenix.” When that number compares to the 195 million in total Harry Potter sales, in 200 countries, then one can see the alarms that go off with regards to the loss of trees for printing Harry Potter books.

But that success, with eventual prodding of the author, sucessfully tipped Rowling into the conservation camp. The Markets Initiative and the Green Press Initiative have recently created substantial pressure to make author’s print their books with green inks and papers, and Rowling seemed to be an easy convert. According to Greenpeace UK, “JK Rowling is one of 16 UK authors who have pledged to print their future books on ‘ancient forest friendly’ paper as part of the Greenpeace Book Campaign, launched last year.”

Initial research shows that some of the upcoming “Half Blood Prince” will be printed on varying percentages of recycled paper, but that is an improvement from past books. Raincoast has rights to Canadian paperback reprints as well, and Rowling’s promise will hopefully cover all those millions of reprints that will go into future circulation internaitonally. And hopefully this is the beginning of a trend for popular authors.

My thanks go out to the activists and business people with the resources and vision to save the trees that are the lungs of Earth. I look forward to buying my new Harry Potter book, down the street, on recycled paper. If you have the time, please take a moment to write J.K. Rowling and thank her for making a great decision (make sure you use recycled paper to do so):

J.K. Rowling
c/o Bloomsbury Publishing
38 Soho Square
London W1V 5DF
UK

Oops!

Well, proof that I’m not a coding genius lies in the fact that I deleted the directories for the 1.2 version of this site. I wanted to upgrade to 1.5, backed up my directories, and then noticed that I had junk in there from other CMS-based programs (Movable Type and PostNuke). Thought I was just deleting the junk and I ended up deleting the WP directories too.

Oops! Tried to reinstall the backup according to WP’s support, and kept getting errors. So now the past weeks work is GONE.

I think I can recover some of the index rewrites and template changes. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to put the content back too.

Chalk one up for the Newbie…