FAWCO Environmental Bulletin Features TCM


FAWCO, an organization for American Women living overseas, created a terrific environmental bulletin featuring The Climate Mobilization, focused on in-depth research on the WWII mobilization history, and sent it to the FAWCO environmental list serve. We at TCM think this bulletin is just terrific and wanted to share it with out membership also. We are so glad FAWCO is getting the mobilization message out to Americans living all over the world!

Environment Bulletin                March 2016

Environment Task Force 
Anne van Oorschot
AWC The Hague
Kara Fairchild
AWC Gothenburg
Environment Task Force Members:
 Sarah Wallace (AIWC Genoa), Deb Reagan (AWC The Hague) 
It's hard to imagine that I'll be leaving in a bit over a week to attend the FAWCO Interim Meeting in Frankfurt. I am looking forward to (re-)connecting with FAWCO members and talking with others about environmental issues. There has been a lot going on in the past few months regarding Climate Change and I am very excited to introduce FAWCO members to a dynamic new organization that has a real vision for Climate action!
Read on to learn more...    
All the best,


The Climate Mobilization

FAWCO's Environment Task Force was recently contacted by an AWG Paris member about cooperating with The Climate Mobilization. This grass roots organization is based in the U.S. and sees the confrontation of Climate Change as the great moral imperative of our time. Their view - backed by many scientists - is that the immense human suffering and damage to the natural world caused by climate change threatens the collapse of civilization within this century. Climate Mobilization's goal is to increase awareness of the need to transition to a post-carbon economy at emergency speed and feels the only way to successfully achieve the changes needed is with a WWII-scale climate mobilization.

Wow...I can almost hear you thinking...that seems rather drastic. The UN's Climate Conference in December resulted in a good agreement...isn't that good enough? These are good questions, and while there is not always agreement on their answers, I do think more haste is needed to solve the climate problems than the Paris agreement provides. The case for a wartime-style Climate Mobilization hinges on the argument that we need to transition to a post-carbon economy at emergency speed. Most proposals suggest a 35-85 year framework for the transition to a net-zero emissions economy. Climate Mobilization's 10-year timeframe is grounded in the alarming findings of climate science - as opposed to the politics of "politically fashionable carbon gradualism".(1) Climate Mobilization's standpoint is not only that we need to move fast, but that the US has already shown its ability to do this in its mobilization for WWII. Let's look closer at what mobilization is and what measures the pre-WWII mobilization entailed in the US.


Mobilization for WW II in the USA  

Mobilization is an emergency restructuring of a modern industrial economy, typically accomplished at rapid speed in order to fight a war. It is a nothing less than a government coordinated social and industrial revolution, and involves all citizens and impacts all areas of society. The World War II home front effort is considered the classic example of a successful economic mobilization.
While a powerful isolationist movement persuaded most Americans to ignore the gathering collapse of the international order in 1939-40, the attack on Pearl Harbor in Dec 1941 flipped the mood of the country very suddenly to mobilization. Here are some of the far reaching measures taken in the US:
  • Factories rapidly converted from producing consumer goods to producing military products - shattering all historical records for war production.
  • Women surged into factories! (photo #1 right) 
  • In early February 1942, the government banned private automobile production and essentially shut down the enormous private automobile industry for the remainder of the war.
  • This conversion process occurred throughout the entire economy. The government banned or restricted activities that did not contribute to the war effort, such as the production of civilian refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, phonographs, and washing machines.
  • More than 10% of the population relocated, often across state lines, in order to find a "war job."
  • The federal government poured money into the war effort, and employed more than 10 million Americans directly through the vastly expanded military.
  • The government also distributed copious war production contracts, accruing huge budget deficits in the process. (At the peak of the war effort in 1944, defense spending constituted about 45 percent of GNP.)
  • After more than a decade of depression, unemployment was quickly wiped out, dropping from 14.6 percent to 1.9 percent in five years' time. Some 17 million jobs were created, wages grew 55%, and corporate profits boomed.
  • The federal government's Office of Price Administration controlled prices in order to minimize inflation and prevent price-gouging. (During the war, the American business community overwhelmingly supported price controls.)
  • The National War Labor Board set wages, in order to minimize inflation.(The majority of labor unions also pledged not to go on strike during the mobilization.)
  • Citizens were called on to invest in war bonds, which helped to finance the war effort as well as creating a secure savings instrument for regular Americans.
  • Women planted 50 million "Victory Gardens" that supplied 40% of America's vegetables during the war. (photo #2 right)
  • Taxes were increased significantly, particularly on high earners, who were required to pay a steep "Victory Tax," the most progressive tax in American history. (The income tax rate on the highest earners was94% in 1944. A tax on excess corporate profits provided 25% of revenues during the war.)
  • The federal government instituted a rationing program in order to ensure a fair distribution of scarce resources on the home front: gasoline, coffee, butter, tires, fuel oil, shoes, meat, cheese, and sugar were all rationed.
  • Equal access to jobs and scarce resources was a major component of the mobilization.

  • The government also called on Americans, and local communities, to hold scrap drives to recycle tin, used tires, silk stockings, cooking fats, and newspapers. (In 1943, scrap drives provided more than 50% of the rubber produced in the U.S.) (photo #3- above L, #4- above R)
  • national speed limit - or "Victory Speed" - of 35 miles per hour was imposed, and pleasure driving and automobile racing (including the Indy 500) were banned, in order to conserve fuel and rubber.
  • The federal government also partnered with universities and scientists to conduct incredibleresearch and advance scientific knowledge in many areas.

Mobilization - Who does it?

Mobilization is not an indiscriminate use of government power. It is a specific economic approach that directs the collective force of industry away from consumerism and toward a singular national purpose. It is characterized by large-scale deficit spending, sweeping command-and-control regulations, increased taxation in order to control inflation and re-direct private sector activity, and strong government controls over the distribution of raw materials and basic goods. Although corporations can play a constructive role in mobilization, they do not drive the change process. The government does.
I don't know about you, but I was very surprised by the extreme nature of some of the actions taken in the US to mobilize prior to WWII...and the fact that I had never heard anyone speak negatively about any of the measures taken! Obviously, the threat of war was clear and real to everyone. This common and very tangible problem/enemy made the far reaching actions acceptable for citizens who would otherwise have balked at such measures! (I cannot help but mention that this was the period in which the international image of the US grew to superpower status; the world looked on in amazement at what the united country was able to achieve. The US truly lead by example!)
Therein lies an essential difference between WWII and Climate Change: Americans all agreed on the threat posed by WWII, but that kind of agreement does not exist towards Climate Change. There are scientists who claim nothing short of drastic measures will do, while others deny that Climate Change is a man made problem. This makes it of the utmost importance to really look at the facts to decide for yourself where on the scale of urgency you place the climate problem. Could Climate Change be the sort of problem that calls for extreme measures? What do you think? 

The Climate Mobilization 

Climate Mobilization's goal is to increase awareness of the need to transition to a post-carbon economy at emergency speed and to get as many people as possible to take the pledge to mobilize and become involved.
For those of you attending the FAWCO IM in Frankfurt, make sure to stop by my table at Face 2 Face (Friday, 5-6 pm) for a chat. I will have information on The Climate Mobilization and pledges (in 4 languages!)
I'd love to talk with you about any aspect of the environment. :-)
 For more information, take a look at the following sites:
Sources for this bulletin:

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