Saturday, 12 December 2009

John Muir`s Blue Sierra

The Ramblers, The John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the National Trust Scotland are among a number of conservation organisations joining forces to oppose the controversial Beauly-Denny pipeline, which will see a 138 mile-line of 600 mega-pylons put in place across the heart of the Highlands, including the Cairngorms National Park, and passing by the Wallace Monument.

A leaked government document seems to indicate that Scottish ministers are planning to give approval to the line, though as we all know, sometimes politicians arrange for these things to be leaked in order to test the strength of public feeling. 

In a new development, Richard Cellarious, International Vice-President of the Sierra Club, The John Muir Trust`s influential American sister organisation,  has written to Scotland`s First Minister Alex Salmond urging that the plan be abandoned in favour of "more environmentally benign alternatives".

Talking of the Sierra Club brings me seamlessly to that organisation`s involvement in America`s  Blue Green Alliance, a "national, strategic partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy".

Initially, the BGA was an alliance between the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers trade union, but as it developed momentum , numerous trade union and environmental organisations signed up. In some areas, notably Cincinnati, the BGA has developed in a grassroots, activist-driven way, with emphasis placed on raising money for a green jobs study, fighting for a living wage for recycling workers and more generally building links between the labour movement and the environmental lobby.   

Now the United Steel Workers has made an agreement with Spanish co-operatively run business Mondragon to build worker-owned manufacturing co-operatives in America. It is generally felt that this intiative could fit in well with the USW`s commitment to the BGA and it`s `green jobs` objectives.

I gather Mondragon have, to use their own phrase "no pretensions" that they represent an alternative to capitalism, so it would seem that here we have a free enterprise initiative, co-operatively owned, backed by a trade union with impressive green credentials. In theory, presumably, that should tick all boxes, but one suspects  it will have it`s detractors. Against that, I`m sure there will be many supporters, if only because I`m sure many Americans, like many here in the UK, would welcome moves back towards an economy based on production  rather than one based on  speculation, as both countries have at present.

It will be interesting to see if this American example inspires similar initiatives elsewhere.

We`ve covered quite some ground, from pipelines in Scotland to workers` co-ops in the USA, but here are sme useful links ;


Ramblers Campaigns -
Ramblers Scotland    -
National Trust Scotland -
Mountaineering Council of Scotland -
John Muir Trust -
Sierra Club -
Blue Green Alliance -
United Steel Workers -
Mondragon -


As far as I recall, my sources for this article were ;

Phil Amadon - `Worker Co-Ops, The Blue-Green Alliance and Mondragon` - People`s World , 9/12/09

Unsigned Article  - `Pipeline Given Go-Ahead`  - Walk Magazine , Winter 2009

and other details were from some of the websites listed above


Nick Osmond - Rambling Through Adversity - , 10/12/09.