SftP at Ann Arbor: ENACT Conference

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email sftp.publishing@gmail.com

SftP at Ann Arbor: ENACT Conference

By G.G. & H.F.

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1970, p. 3

Six people from Boston SESPA went to Ann Arbor to participate in the first of the spring environmental teach-ins. They wanted to inject a radical political analysis into the otherwise apolitical program of the Ann Arbor ENACT (Environmental Action) conference. Jim Shapiro (see “Heroes of our time”, p 14) had been invited to speak; by adding SESPA funds to his honorarium six people were able to go.

The meetings and workshops, financed by industry money and sponsored by establishment politicians, promised no real hope for a fundamental attack on the social, political and economic basis of the ecological crisis.

Our leaflet, The Crisis of the Environment: War, Racism, Poverty and Pollution warned people not to be deflected from fundamental issues by all the hullaballoo about the “environmental crisis.” The leaflet continued,

The environmental crisis cannot be isolated from these problems [war, racism, poverty] . It is not a failure of technology that we soon may not have air to breathe and water to drink but rather the failure of our political and economic system with its primary concern for corporate profits. Without radical changes in our institutions our society’s problems will be unsolvable and we will have polluted ourselves to death.

War, the perpetuation of poverty, racism and pollution were all described as having

a common origin . . . . The people affected by political and economic decisions do not have control over those decisions . . . a small number. . . are exploiting the resources of this country and the world without regard for the consequences to the working people of the world.

Jim elaborated that message from the speaker’s platform by calling for “a socialist revolution” as the ultimately necessary solution. “For the people to take control of America’s resources and industry and use them to promote human welfare, the construction of a just, democratic socialist society is our major task.” The New York Times excerpted Jim’s speech on the front page.

Many people were startled and impressed by Jim’s statement; over the next few days at the conference an increasing number of those in attendance were wearing Science for the People buttons. Also a meeting designed to acquaint scientists and engineers with SESPA drew 40 people and resulted in lively discussions about the misuse of science, the obfuscation of ecology as a political issue, the war, repression.

The Boston group also attended several workshops and raised critical questions emphasizing that “individual actions are doomed from the outset.” People have to get together and “attack the institutions responsible for destroying our environment.” “Those who have profited from creating the pollution must pay for cleaning it up without benefit of price increases, tax benefits, government subsidies, or layoffs.”

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