Center for Global Justice Summer Symposium
By Peter Weisberg
The Center for Global Justice is continuing its Summer Symposium with three timely films and discussions to illuminate issues relevant during this provocative election season.
June 30 Political/Economic Update, Rick Wolff
Wed, Jul 27, 11am
The Untold History of the US: The Cold War: Truman, Wallace, Churchill, and Stalin
Wed, Jul 27, 4pm
Teatro Santa Ana
This Changes Everything
Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein
Thu, Jul 28, 1pm
Teatro Santa Ana
First up is a presentation by progressive economist Rick Wolff delivered June 30, tackling current issues. Wolff began by discussing the Puerto Rican debt crisis and what it means for Puerto Rico and the United States. Colonialism (debt peonage) once again raised its ugly head. Wolff witnessed firsthand the protests over new labor laws and the social and political climate that is accelerating the collapse of the traditional two-party system in France. The fallout from the Brexit vote comes under discussion, and Wolff draws parallels between the European situation and the US political climate that has seen “political outsiders” show unexpected strength among the electorate. A stimulating discussion will follow.
Next up is Chapter 4 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States: Truman, Wallace, Churchill, and Stalin. Specific month-by-month causes of the Cold War emerge: an illustration of Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, the civil war in Greece, and the Red Scare that prompts the rise of McCarthy in the United States. It is unclear who started it. It seems that saber rattling has not lost its appeal today.
Finally, we present a showing of Avi Lewis’s film, This Changes Everything, inspired by his wife Naomi Klein’s book of the same title. Avi tells us, “This is not a sad story. It’s not a slit-your-wrists climate film. It’s a story about people who are making change happen in real time.”
Let’s look at the changes happening in real time in Germany. Prior to 2000, four major multinational corporate utilities controlled Germany’s energy. With Germany’s shift in 2011 away from nuclear power toward renewables—technologies ranging from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass, and biofuels—their energy sector has been democratized. Germany’s non-nuclear Energiewende has empowered citizens, and now two-thirds of the clean power generation is in the hands of over two million consumers: farmers, energy co-ops, individuals, small and medium sized businesses, green investment funds, and municipalities. The big four account for only six percent of renewables. Germany has created hundreds of thousands of good jobs, has a surplus of electricity, and has experienced fewer outages than pro-nuclear neighbors.
Greenpeace Germany warns that it is not enough to support renewables. Coal has to be taxed and disincentivized in other ways to bring emissions down, and Germany’s electricity grid needs modernization.
Klein tell us, “In a lot of cases, people are engaging because they don’t have a choice. They see it as fighting for the health of their kids, fighting for their water, and fighting for survival. The biggest barrier for others is that we think things can’t change, and we’re constantly told that by our so-called realists, the gatekeepers of public opinion and of policy in the political realm. Avi Lewis says, “Once you feel the desire to engage, you have to think about what you’re good at and what you can contribute. It’s about breaking down the idea that there are activists and ordinary people.”