I find that quite often the 'environmental issue' (which includes climate change, global warming, peak oil, renewable energy and animal – or non-human rights) is often disregarded as a bit of a side issue apparently concerning only hippies and people crazy about bunny wabbits and perdy flowers.

But that it is understood thus by people who claim to be politically conscious and concerned with class struggle in general is a demonstration of how little thought is dedicated to the problem and, more generally, how well propaganda systems are able to trivialise matters of crucial importance.

To really get a good grip on the issue, one needn’t immediately concern oneself with rising sea levels, rainforest habitat destruction and the mass extinction of the worlds’ species... No; a good place to start is at home… Rotherham will do… a bit of sniffing around you own back yard will reveal parallels…

First, let’s see what the government says about a few relevant points.

The UK is signed up to the EU Renewable Energy Directive[1] which includes a “legally-binding target to ensure 15% of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2020”[2]. This target will be achieved by exploiting many forms of renewable energy sources, including energy derived from recycling and Biomass (“this includes sewage sludge, animal manure, waste wood from construction, and food waste that would otherwise be disposed of in landfill”[3]) but both on and off shore wind energy is to be the main source of renewable energy for the UK as “UK has the largest potential wind energy resource in Europe”[4].

In Rotherham we have two developments that are contributing to this goal. First we have a proposal, from the Banks group, for a wind farm[5] and secondly we have a major Sterecycle recycling plant.

The UK’s ability to produce wind power has been crippled thanks to the closure of the Vestas plant on the Isle of Wight[6] but of more significance to Rotherham, the towers that the turbines stand on are made of steel[7], steel that could have kept over a thousand steel workers at Corus in jobs.

A major problem facing Wind Farm development is NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard)… an acronym that is explicitly classist. The prime on-shore sites for wind are, quite obviously, where there is a lot of wind, where many rich folk also happen to have lovely houses and estates whose vistas would be ruined by unsightly wind turbines; and so they complain and the wind farms stays on paper. But compare this to proposals for open cast mines that will end metres (as close as 36m) away from working class peoples’ homes[8].

Sterecycle is a privately owned recycling plant that is “processing "black-bag" waste from 3 local authorities under a contract for up to 10 years: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council”[9]. This means that one private company is responsible for providing the recycling needs for a massive area and as such is able to charge 3 local authorities whatever amount it desires, amounts which the authorities will have to pay to keep in line with renewable and recycling targets[10].

In light of the evidence above and its implications, we must ask ourselves what the government means when it states that it estimates that “up to half a million additional jobs might be generated in the UK renewables sector and its supply chains”[11] and we MUST realise that the environmental, sustainability, climate change topic is a key class issue that embodies the core problems of working class struggle and whose moral impetus is the rights of future generations. We must fight and conclusively win battles today so others may continue a fight for a better world without having to resolve conflicts we choose to belittle or ignore.

[1] [external Link]
[2] UK Renewable Energy Strategy 2009 - Pg 8
[3] Ibid – Pg103
[4] Ibid – Pg 27
[10] Pg 13 – DEFRA Waste Strategy Annual Progress Report 2008/09
[11] Pg 27 – UK Renewable Energy Strategy 2009


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