Black Friday is another one of those gringo imports of our culture; like many of them, with a purely commercial sense. Another day that has been added to our calendar to drive more consumerism. As is well known (but not assimilated), consumerism promotes the use and waste of resources and energy in the manufacture of the objects we buy, and also of resources and energy in their transportation, while at the same time it is profitable for large companies, therefore for their managers and the economies where this wealth is accumulated.
In recent years it has been imposed the purchase, and consumerism on-line, and with it, the rise of companies that are dedicated to it, being among them, Amazon the biggest one after which gaining the monopoly.
Black Friday (it has been imposed even without being translated to Spanish!!!!) is celebrated on the Friday before Thanksgiving Day, a U.S. celebration which also marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Since 2005 it became the busiest shopping day of the year in the USA. In order to stimulate consumerism, companies started to make offers, markdowns on items that had no outlet, etc.
In 2015, Amazon was the first to push Black Friday also in July, which was followed by other companies. This initiative makes clear Amazon’s interest in dates like these. Because Amazon has become the leading internet (online) retailer and in 2019 became the largest global retailer surpassing the giant Walmart. Its current profits are $ 26.903 billion (April 2021).
Profits that are based among others on all the trade and delivery it performs, in which transportation, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, is fundamental. To these we should also add all the emissions from the internet and databases, usually underestimated, as well as all the energy used in its warehouses.
Amazon has therefore been challenged by climate activists, and by its own workers, who despite the company’s union and association restrictions, formed Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. As one worker reflected, «What are we risking our lives for? What are the drivers risking their lives for? It turns out that these products are far from essential.»
Yesterday, Thursday, November 25, the eve of another Black Friday, climate action organization Extinction Rebellion in the UK targeted Amazon, blockading 13 of its warehouses from which it distributes its products, as well as others in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. Activists managed to blockade the Avonmouth warehouse in the port of Bristol, positioning themselves from 4am at the site’s entrance with tripods and chaining themselves to cans. They also put up banners, including one that read «Infinite Profit, Finite Planet».
The goal of disrupting Amazon’s business has been to try to force the global giant to change its «highly climate-destructive corporate practices.» Amazon’s own 2020 figures reveal that its carbon emissions increased by 19% despite international market reduction during the Covid-19 pandemic. Because, in their case, people increased their use of online shopping, and also, as is sadly the case with consumerism, people looked to product consumption for ways with which to alleviate the constraints of confinement. Thus in 2020, Amazon’s activity accounted for the equivalent of 60.64 million Tm3 of CO2, more emissions than a country the size of Denmark.
In 2019 Amazon pledged to be Zero Net (Zero Emissions Balance) by 2040, which according to the evidence, but especially according to its evolution (in 2019 its CO2 emissions were 51.17 million Tm3 ) no one can believe. XR activists criticized Amazon that «there is no evidence of how it will be achieved and the promise does not include Amazon’s supply chain».
In 2014 Amazon already announced similar commitments to power its data centers with 100% renewable energy (like Apple, Facebook and Google at that time). It did invest some in renewable energy then, only to abandon those efforts in 2016. In 2019 Greenpeace published its report Clicking Clean Virginia – The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley in which it addressed the IT industry’s comitments on emissions. In it he concluded that Amazon was in breach of its commitments to power its data centers with 100% renewable energy.
But at the same time, so dependent on fossil fuel for its fleet of trucks, it has established agreements and partnerships with companies such as BP, Shell and Halliburton. As reported by Gizmodo, Amazon offered oil companies data-driven services, «such as machine learning to improve exploration, oilfield automation via the Internet, and remote data transport.»
We have to add to this that Amazon has lobbied the U.S. government not to adopt climate legislation. In the face of its attempt to portray itself as climate and environmentally responsible from its own Sustainability Amazon webpage, Amazon leads us to conclude that, like many other large companies, its policy is mere greenwashing.
At the Bristol blockade, Extinction Rebellion activist Gaie Delap explained that «International companies of this size cannot be allowed to create their own laws. Their leaders have the same responsibility as national governments. We all understand that this kind of over-consumption is unnecessary and destructive. And a growing number of companies are distancing themselves from Black Friday, a day that will contribute to increased vehicle and carbon emissions.»
The activist recalled the very distant and worthless Climate Summit held in her country and criticized that «two weeks after the end of COP26 it is really shocking that Amazon is actively promoting Black Friday. It is an American shopping holiday that Amazon itself introduced in the UK in 2010. We will not achieve the radical reductions in carbon emissions that COP26 clearly demonstrated are needed simply by continuing with ‘business as usual’.»
They also blockaded Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse in Edinburgh.
Targeting Amazon’s climate responsibility from the inside out
Amazon’s labor policy banning unions is well known. Yet there have been attempts. Last year, workers formed Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ). This group pressured the company to reduce its impact on climate change, but also to address concerns of its warehouse workers regarding Covid 191 infection risks.
As a result, Amazon illegally fired two Seattle workers in the believe that they were leading this initiative, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa. The company argued in their dismissal that the employees «repeatedly violated internal policies». Meanwhile, workers also added to the reasons, of their dismissal, their attempt to organize a panel with Naomi Klein. Months earlier, Amazon had tried to fire them, accusing them of violating the company’s external communications policy. This provoked a public outcry from hundreds of employees, which was repeated again with the fulfillment of the dismissal.
So in September 2020 the company went to court. The result, a year later (September 2021) was favorable to the workers and Amazon agreed a compensation and to allow (and notify!) the right for all its employees to organize without retaliation.
AECJ denounced Amazon’s emissions and impacts, but also its «environmental racism», as most of its logistics centers are located near disadvantaged communities. In the case of the U.S., these are mostly black, Latino and indigenous communities. And they are therefore the most exposed to all the pollution from its huge fleet of trucks. In one of their videos, an affected person explains how there are 2 Amazon distribution centers in San Bernardino (California) with a traffic of 20,000 diesel trucks. Those communities breathe those diesel fumes which is carcinogenic. They are sacrifice zones. The result in those communities is a high incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases, and allergies.
In one of these areas, on the outskirts of San Bernardino, Amazon was also planning to build an airport that would increase traffic by 500 more diesel trucks per day and 26 more flights per day. The project was taken to court but was denied a stay in 2018, and according to various reports, its activity began this April. True to its greenwashing and alleged Zero Emissions by 2040 commitments, Amazon announced its «first ground units running on electricity». As one of those concerned argued, Amazon builds warehouses and infrastructure such as airports in their communities, because in wealthy communities they would be opposed.
Opposition to Amazon too in Euskal Herria (Basque Country)
As part of its expansion, Amazon is also planning a distribution center in the Basque Country, in Oiartzun, which has aroused great local opposition. Now, the local platform prepares a new campaign with an eye on consumerism linked to Christmas. As usual, the Oiartzun Platform promotes local trade, circular economy and sustainability against the Amazon model. As they say «People who are surrounded by a wall of shopping malls are not afraid of the monster. As the fencing grows, the people who defend their local commerce are not afraid of globalization». The Platform also denounces the environmental impact of Amazon and its massive personal shipments due to excessive packaging and its energy waste in transportation. As they claim: «Bertan bizi, bertan erosi – Amazon ez hemen ez inon!» («Live right here, shop right here – Amazon, neither here nor anywhere!»).
1 As a result, Amazon illegally fired two Seattle workers it believed were leading this initiative, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa. The company argued in its dismissal that the employees «repeatedly violated internal policies.» Meanwhile, they also chose among the reasons, their attempt