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A sixth Pillar?: Environmental concerns

Two emailed comments stressed the significance of environmental struggles. One suggested adding a Sixth Pillar on Ecology. The other emphasised the need to be clear about why capitalism cannot be environmentally sustainable; it sparked the separate item on unsustainable capitalism

 First, explaining why an Ecology Pillar runs counter to the thinking behind the project is a chance to bring out two of its important aspects.

The first reason against is to avoid terms such as ecology which either require a lot of explanation to link to everyday problems, or which carry a load of mistrust for being about the interests of a privileged strata. On comparable grounds, leaflets publicising the FIVE PILLARS will not be the place to use terms such as  capitalism, socialism, communism or Marxism. It is likely that ‘environment’ and ‘environmentalism’ and ‘climate change’ raise barriers. Instead of getting caught up in assumptions and misconceptions around these terms, the approach behind the Five Pillars is that we promote ‘practical environmentalism’ by focusing on the ways in which current policies injure the lives of working people every hour of the day. From there, we can move towards practical solutions. In other words, we are practical environmentalists, that is, we expose particular injuries and push specific remedies.

            The second reason against a Sixth Pillar should have been spelt out in the initial outline. Running through the points jotted down under each of the Five Pillars are particular concerns connected to the environment. Here are some examples: Housing – heating and cooling costs; Transport -  mass transit vs cars;  Work -  asbestos;  Health  -  food labeling. Two tasks arise. The first is to show how these examples intersect. With examples that down and dirty – like the problems on the Frankston line and not just ‘public transport’ The second is to seek policies that redress the problems but do so in ways which make sense in workplaces and neighbourhoods, and not just on Radio National.

            Hence, the Ecology Pillar is already present, indeed, it is pervasive. Like the other five, it needs to be made practical. (see the item on ‘Practical’)

            How to make the analysis  ‘Sustainable capitalism’ into a common good?

Community gardens are not just individuals working with nature. Their existence, their success and their survival involve learning how to work together. Often the team will have to stand up to local or State authorities who want to sell off public spaces. Remember that urban Green Bans got started in 1970 to preserve a park on abandoned railway land in North Carlton. That campaign led to the gaoling of BLF secretary Gallagher. Big things from little things grow.

A Five Pillars approach is necessary to get back in touch with the hourly concerns of the majority. At the same time, we must be sure not to lose touch with those who remain activists. Examples of issues round which to link elements from the Pillars with environmental concerns include Lock the Gate, Morwell fire and the Melbourne East-West tunnel.

Far from marginalising environmental issues, this approach brings them into the breathing heart of political and industrial struggles.

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