Summary: Remarks delivered to the July 20 memorial meeting for scholar activist Lisa Lubow (1954-2019), at Glendale Community College, CA. Lisa linked her fierce opposition to environmental destruction to its underlying roots in the capitalist system through the Converging Storms Action Network, which she co-founded — Editors
Hi. My name is Hamid Assian and I am honored to speak here on behalf of the Converging Storms Action Network. CSAN and the Converging Storms Class Series were deeply and profoundly a part of Lisa’s life’s work. And most of us here know Lisa would take ANY opportunity to promote this work and entice others to learn, becoming aware and active. I think she would be very happy I am speaking about this work, why it was important to her and why we hope more people can see the importance of it.
As a Marxist and an ecosocialist, as well as a history and social studies professor, Lisa had a real talent for connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture. She, along with others who started CSAN, took a systemic approach to analyzing the relationship between human activity and The Earth; how the current socioeconomic-political system, capitalism, relates to our planet.
I have to say, Lisa changed my life. The education I received in the Converging Storms Class Series was invaluable. It changed how I saw the world. My education is in physics/mathematics so I immediately resonated and understood a systemic approach would make clear how systems relate.
Simply put… Capitalism is an infinite growth system. Planet Earth is a finite resource system. Applying an infinite growth system to a finite resource system will end up in dysfunction and eventual collapse.
Floods are drowning India, wildfires are burning Alaska, islands are sinking in the Pacific, heatwaves are killing in France, hurricanes are destroying, droughts are choking us, famines are starving us… (pause). Are we supposed to keep begging politicians for change when history tells us begging gets us nowhere?
Lisa spoke to us about the necessity of change, whether you are anticapitalist or not. Converging Storms’ scientific analysis shows us capitalism cannot be sustained. Whether or not we have Social Democratic programs, capitalism inherently requires growth. Without growth there is no profit, therefore, there would be no incentive to capitalize on producing anything.
We must challenge the system at its core OR at the very least we must challenge a capitalist model for anything produced for human need – like energy, food and clean water. When a few people, who privately own and control resources, decide how your life must be lived, things are just not going to turn out well for anyone, including the greedy few.
The Campaign for Energy Democracy, our organization, is initiating challenges to the system at its core. We think ENERGY should be owned publicly: Communities controlling energy democratically; deciding what energy should be extracted or produced, where it is made, how it will be used and what this energy will make. This is a difficult transition globally. We can’t push a solution on people because, collectively, people, at various levels… regions, states, countries, planet, whatever… should be the democratic decision makers of these solutions.
This is not new or radical. In Los Angeles, we already had a struggle for water and power. There is a reason the Department of Water and Power (DWP) exists. People power. From Converging Storms analysis, private ownership of energy in a capitalist economy is the primary driver of human caused climate change… maybe more appropriately stated, corporate-caused climate change.
The Campaign for Energy Democracy starts with Stage One. This is encapsulated in the CSAN pamphlet Lisa and the Converging Stormers worked to produce. Stage One is all about educating people. To reach a tipping point in knowledge and understanding how capitalism relates to and affects the planet. As Lisa used to say, knowledge is the first step in creating a political force. It can be the foundation to motivate people to take control of the energy they use; to have ownership of it and to be rid of capitalist energy corporations.
The SoCal gas leak in Porter Ranch was the single worst natural gas leak in U.S. history in terms of its environmental impact, poisoning our communities. If the workers and community had ownership, would they continue to operate the facility, poisoning their families and children? They could have the power to shut it down and repurpose the facility and/or property for a more sustainable approach. For California, Energy Democracy might be putting up a PROPOSITION to Democratize all energy production, extraction, distribution and usage in the state. To give the public a chance to exercise this power for the first time, to cooperate and build an energy infrastructure which is sustainable, nonprofit and FOR THE PEOPLE. Nationally, this may mean ending subsidies for the commercial energy industry.
Lisa would be proud if folks took the Converging Storms analysis and applied it to their own activist work, sharing it through their own networks. We welcome you to support for The Campaign For Energy Democracy. Take a booklet and share the contents. Copies of the booklet are available on our newly redesigned website. Talk about public ownership of energy. Take the Converging Storms message to organizations and individuals to have them support an Energy Democracy Campaign.
We would love to talk to all of you about your passions, talents and interests in how you express your creativity personally and politically. And how your unique perspectives and skills can aid in the struggles of justice for the people, animals and the planet.
I teach children antibullying and street safety. Their lives are very important to me as are all children. I don’t want to look in their eyes and not be able to honestly say I did everything I could. And Lisa would be thrilled if folks would help build a brighter, better and sustainable future. Thank you.