Dirty South Bureau

June 6, 2011

Open letter to Louisiana Congressman John Fleming (R-Minden)

Filed under: energy,environment,Labor,Louisiana,New Orleans Economy,The Feds — christian @ 1:05 pm

I was greatly disappointed by the lack of vision or even contact with reality betrayed by your statements at a recent U.S. House Natural Resource Committee hearing, where you stated that you had never met anyone who has a green job.

I am one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who has a green job, writing about the global solar industry. This industry alone employs 93,000 Americans.

The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st century estimates that there were 3 million renewable energy jobs globally in 2009.

It is true that many states, particularly Louisiana, do not have the share of green jobs that we could have – largely due to the actions the Republican Party, of which you are a member, at the national level, and of a painful lack of foresight by politicians from both parties in Louisiana.

However, even here green job growth is a reality on the ground. Notable examples include Blade Dynamics’ plans for a new factory in New Orleans East to make wind turbines, which will create 600 jobs by 2015 with an average salary of $48,000 annually.

In recent weeks, Alexandria metal manufacturer AFCO Industries received one of its largest orders ever for an estimated 37 truckloads of aluminum for a solar energy project in California.

We have a stark choice in Louisiana as to whether we will join in the global energy revolution, or be left behind. The lack of vision shown by leaders including yourself puts the future of the state at great risk.

Christian Roselund
New Orleans

May 4, 2010

Notes on a disaster: Louisiana pays again for our nation’s oil addiction

Filed under: environment,Labor,Louisiana,New Orleans Economy,The Feds — christian @ 9:05 pm

Like many people in South Louisiana, I have been utterly overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster represented by the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. To witness another catastrophe of this scale, less than five years after post-Katrina levee failures, is almost too much to comprehend. There is a tendency to block it out; to think that this really can’t be happening. But it is.

News accounts will talk of leaked memos, of containment strategies, of the small armies of volunteers and of the volume of oil. Thousands of barrels per day. First it was 1,000, then 5,000, and on April 30 we find out that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks we could be facing a leak ten times that size, of 50,000 barrels per day. The numbers begin to lose meaning, because the truth is that we are screwed.

But this volume of oil is the only real thing. All the containment strategies are too late, the fires ineffective, the same with the dispersant chemicals.

A question of scale

This disaster didn’t happen on April 20. It happened long before, and all of this was just waiting. It is difficult to disaggregate how much of this is the result of safety failures on the part of BP and how much is the inherent risk we run with offshore drilling. This particular rig had a series of accidents, yet still was drilling offshore wells that set records for their depth. Obviously better safety procedures lower the risk of these kinds of accidents; but sooner or later, people make mistakes. In the offshore oil industry, like the nuclear industry, it is the magnitude of the consequences of these mistakes that is damning.

We’ve been sowing the seeds of this for roughly a century, by building an economy on the use of finite fossil fuel resources, which we now must go farther and farther to find, and by under-developing the regions where we extract these mineral resources, including lax workplace and environmental safety concerns.

And in the absurdity of this disaster, this is perhaps the most absurd thing; that we are so intently focused on utterly ineffectual short-term responses. It is not surprising that there is a lack of larger analysis in our short-attention span corporate media. Not surprising, but a dis-service nonetheless.

Multiple disasters

In this immediate, dramatic disaster, there is the background of the other, slower disaster: land loss in South Louisiana, accelerated by canals cut through the wetlands by oil companies for petroleum exploration and navigation. Non-profit Gulf Restoration Network estimates that we have lost 50% of the wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico already. Others throw around figures about how long it takes to lose a football-field sized chunk of land (under an hour).

But all of that is abstract until you stand on the edge of brackish water where people’s homes and businesses once were. Because this land loss has not only meant that South Louisiana residents, including in the city of New Orleans, are more vulnerable to hurricanes, but the displacement of entire communities. For those who live in South Louisiana and are flooded every time a major hurricane comes, sometimes every few years, it means a losing battle to hold on to land, community and ultimately culture.

The oil companies have never been held accountable for their role in this other, slower disaster. With the Horizon Deepwater leak, the livelihoods of many in these communities is on the line. Louisiana produces a large portion of the United States’ wild seafood. This seafood – boiled shrimp, oysters fried and raw, crabs, seafood gumbo – is an important part of the culture of South Louisiana, and has been a family business for many in rural South Louisiana for generations. The oyster beds offshore of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes are already closed. We don’t know when they will open again. Shrimpers have already filed a lawsuit. Many shrimpers and oystermen, who have had to fight rising fuel costs, hurricanes and floods, and in the case of shrimpers, dumping of farm-raised shrimp from other nations, are now out of work again. Again this time, more will look for work elsewhere. In a cruel irony, many who have been forced out of shrimping have gone to work on the offshore oil rigs.

Louisiana as an underdeveloped petro-state

It may be hard to understand this outside of the Deep South, but it is not really that surprising that when this happened, that South Louisiana was the first place to be affected. The oil industry has been doing whatever it wants down here in our home-grown banana republic for a long time.

Huey Long, who created the foundation of modern Louisiana, was the first political leader to take on big oil and win substantial victories. Long paid for much of the economic modernization of the state (importantly roads and bridges) and the undergirding of social reproduction (schools, hospitals, textbooks) with oil money. He succeeded in using a portion of the mineral revenues to help create a mildly social-democratic order in the state, but failed to ever really control the oil companies. Long’s approach was not to nationalize, but, as he had said of the nation’s millionaires, to “file their nails and let them live.”

This petro-populist approach may have won some victories for poor and working people, but it left a legacy of a state dependent upon mineral revenues, and politicians who are utterly sold out to big oil companies. It has been a long time since Louisiana had strong labor unions, so the forces to counter these tendencies have been few and weak. Our “right to work” laws and anti-union culture have prevented unions from seizing the power that is necessary to bring workplace safety to the forefront, as unions have in other states. It’s common knowledge that the oil industry in refining and petrochemical processing gets sweeter deals and more leeway here in Louisiana, particularly in terms of environmental enforcement and health and safety.

The results of this oil fiefdom, coupled with a dismantling of health, safety and environmental laws at the national level over the last 30 years, leaves us in a situation where these kinds of disasters are entirely predictable. Dismantling regulations seems so distant and arcane, and yet ultimately these are the results.

June 5, 2006

New Orleans AK and P-DUB

Filed under: Labor,Lower 9th Ward,Media,New Orleans Politics,Race,The Feds — christian @ 2:28 pm

So, pardon the lack of communication for the last few weeks. Among other projects I’ve had to move shop. I’m still in the Bywater, but fighting the gross housing market down here right now. (see earlier post, Gentrification Gets Personal for the DSB)

The good news: the first demo of New Orleans AK (after Katrina) a weekly radio show on current events and social justice issues in the Crescent City, has come out, and was snatched up by radio station KPFT in Houston, where it will be playing tonight at 7 PM.

New Orleans AK is a collective creation of Public Digital Urban Broadcasters (P-DUB) members Krystal Muhammud, Mayaba Leibenthal, Mikkel Allen-Loper, Christian Roselund and Corlita Mahr. So far this is the first creation of P-DUB, a radical, largely african american (except yours truly) media group.

Contact me at c.roselund@gmail to com to obtain a 128 KBPS copy, or to rebroadcast on your local radio station. Enjoy.

New Orleans AK Part 1 2 3

This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

More information is available on publicdub.com

April 17, 2006


Filed under: Labor,Media — christian @ 10:09 pm

(don’t read this Monica- you’ve already heard it enough times)

I’ve done a lot of jobs in my life.

I’ve driven cabs, built houses, moved people, managed small offices, mixed mortar for masons, done friend’s taxes, worked in a hardware store… even a couple of coffeeshops and a dorm kitchen in college. The conditions in some of these jobs were so bad that they had a permanent radicalizing effect on me. But never have I seen a worse labor situation than freelance reporting.

Here’s how it works. You pitch stories. Maybe they get taken, maybe they don’t. If they get accepted, then you scramble to meet a deadline, find sources, interview them, and do research. You send a script (or a story). You wait. Revisions come back, you work with them, and then you file the story, upload the file, wipe the sweat from your brow, and try to relax.

And then you wait to get paid. And for some reason, you repeat the process.

When do you get paid? Generally, when they feel like it.

I’m not singling out any organization that I’ve worked for, in fact I will say that FSRN pays the most regularly of any of them that I’ve experienced. I’m more talking about the norms of the industry.

I have only once or twice, in any other job, had a boss fail to pay me on time. Sure, I’ve been cheated on overtime, and I won’t tell you what some of these places paid. But normally, in any blue collar job, be it a moving company or a construction outfit, you get paid once a week, in full, no delay. If there ever were to be a delay there would be hell to pay. Carpenters, masons, cab drivers and movers get mean when they don’t get their money. They break things. Threaten people. File mechanic’s leins. Things get ugly.

But in freelance reporting, there is no such gaurantee. My bosses are thousands of miles away, immune to anything threat that I have except small claims court or that I won’t work for them anymore.

And there are far more potential freelance reporters than there are jobs.

I am not writing this to bitch. This has results. What kind of normal person can tolerate not getting paid for weeks on end?

Or, better yet, who can afford to work in unpaid internships for years on end waiting for a paying gig?

Someone already affluent, from an affluent family who supports them.

So, the rest of us had better have a steady second job, or a large savings account. But how many working people in America do? And how many years do we have to work “day” jobs to pay for our reporting habits?

The worst thing is that this is true of the “alternative” media, the “left-media” more than anywhere else.

I used to wonder why it is that the media was so out of touch with ordinary working Americans. And I shouldn’t wonder, because in the re-emerging caste system in America, only those from the upper castes, beyond being the only ones likely to be able to get an education, and the only ones from backgrounds who think of doing this sort of work as an option, are some of the only ones who can afford to do this.

America needs more working-class intellectuals. But it isn’t likely to get them any time soon, and if it does, it isn’t likely to hear much from them. Not with the structure of the knowledge industries.