In case you missed the news–I did–here’s a story about the 45 environmental and other leaders who were arrested last week, from Yes!
Arrests in Washington Signal Increasing Urgency on Keystone Pipeline by Chris Francis — YES! Magazine.
Bill McKibben kicked off the 22-city tour the day after Obama was re-elected; it’s getting a lot of attention because he’s leading a frontal assault on the fossil-fuel corporations, the most profitable industry in the history of the world, urging a global stock-divestment scheme similar to the one that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa. (I’ll be posting about it regularly.) For an account of the stirring kickoff lecture, read this in Yes! “McKibben Spearheads Plans to Hit Dirty Energy Where It Hurts.”
For the nuts and bolts of how the lecture tour encourages grass-roots action in the cities it visits, see the Huffington Post article by Matthew Fleischer of TakePart on McKibben’s talk at UCLA.
[O]rganizers are turning what would otherwise be a lecture circuit into a political machine. Before rolling into town, Do the Math smartly organizes with local environmental groups. Prior to McKibben’s lecture, these groups are allowed to take the stage and talk about local initiatives that need fighting. Contact information is gathered to keep the audience updated on those efforts. Instead of simply listening to McKibben, as they perhaps intended, the audience has suddenly become part of their local environmental movement.
Despite the sensational headline,”‘Do The Math’ Tour Points to 2028 as the Year of Catastrophic Climate Change,” Fleischer says that McKibben is actually quite optimistic about our ability to forestall catastrophe:
Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming. Though its application is lagging in the United States, it is being employed on a mass scale in other countries. In socially-stratified China, with its billion-plus population and tremendous wealth inequalities, 25 percent of the country still manages to use solar arrays to heat its water. Germany—Europe’s economic powerhouse—in less than a decade, has managed to get upwards of half of its energy from sustainable sources.
The problem is getting the political will to force the oil companies to accept lower profits from leaving reserves in the ground, unexploited. Fleischer writes, “McKibben says the key to realizing that goal is to battle the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry—its bottom line.” Thus the push for divestment.
Hurricane Sandy and its $50 billion price tag and the election of President Obama made the pre-election criticism about the silence of both Romney and Obama on one of the most important issues of our time, perhaps the most challenging, seemingly irrelevant. But it’s worth looking at why the two candidates avoided the issue. On October 25 the Times offered a detailed explanation, which might be summed up as, “In times of economic dire straits, calling for action that will inevitably result in higher energy prices is political suicide.” The Times explained:
Any serious effort to address climate change will require a transformation of the nation’s system for producing and consuming energy and will, at least in the medium term, mean higher prices for fuel and electricity. Powerful incumbent industries — coal, oil, utilities — are threatened by such changes and have mounted a well-financed long-term campaign to sow doubt about climate change. The Koch brothers and others in the oil industry have underwritten advertising campaigns and grass-roots efforts to support like-minded candidates.
Now that Obama has won and many of the Kochs’ “like-minded candidates” lost (though not enough in the House and in many state races) and never has to win re-election again, he can and must campaign to win our support for this transformation of our energy system. The predictions are simply too dire to ignore, and it’s almost too late to prevent the warming by getting carbon out of the atmosphere and keeping most fossil fuels in the ground. It will be expensive–but much more expensive not to act now. (Soon, a post on cost-benefit analysis that proves we cannot postpone action any longer.) The good news: several grass-roots movements are underway to put pressure on the administration and Congress to begin the change; upcoming posts will summarize them and guide you to the sites where you can join the actions (e.g., 350.org’s Do the Math campaign) and be inspired by wonderful coverage of the movement (Grist, Think Progress, Yes!).
May 5, 2012, was the day to “Connect the Dots.” As 350.org explained on Saturday, “Today the world is stepping up to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather – because climate change is too real and happening too fast to let our leaders continue to ignore it.” That was the motive. The method was to take a photo that illustrated the effect of climate change in your locale and to feature prominently a dot, so that others viewing the 1,000-plus photos on the Climate Dots website would see what havoc weather extremes–record droughts and floods, increased intensity and frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes, and rising sea levels here in the Pacific and in island nations–have already wrought.
Bill McKibben, of 350.org, which organized this, the third annual international day of action on climate change, once again draws out the significance of the mass protests in a blog post that appeared first on Tom Dispatch and was re-posted on Yes! Originally titled “Too Hot Not to Notice? A Planet Connected by Wild Weather” and in Yes! headlined “A Worldwide Effort to Make Climate Change Visible,” the essay makes not just the connection between climate change and its effects but an analogy between this causal connection and tobacco and lung cancer. There is the same denial (termed “skepticism” by the industry that stands to lose in each case–oil and coal now, the tobacco companies then) and a similar lack of in-depth coverage by the news media–until in the case of tobacco evidence was so overwhelming that the media got on board. McKibben makes it clear that despite the recent polls showing that a majority of Americans accept the reality that a warming planet is unleashing unprecedented disasters and want leaders to do something about it, a very real obstacle is the disinformation campaign emanating from the fossil-fuel corporations and the stonewalling of initiatives (such as a cap-and-trade bill) by the legislators they have bought with campaign contributions.
Therefore May 5 was not a culmination but a beginning. As McKibben writes, “It’s time for each of us to get involved in the full-on fight between misinformation and truth.” Tom Engelhardt of Tom Dispatch predicts that doing something about climate change may be a campaign issue, because people are starting to demand controls on carbon emissions (63%, according to a recent poll) and fully three-fourths of Americans support “regulating carbon dioxide as a ‘pollutant.'” When the president brings it up, you know he has read the polls. He quotes the president as saying, “I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” Engelhardt suggests that taking a strong position might help Obama get re-elected “if this summer and fall prove just as weather-freaky as our North American winter and spring have been, leaving Republican climate-change deniers and prevaricators in the dust.”
It won’t happen if we don’t keep the issue front and center. Join the movement at 350.org; there are several other projects in the works, including 350 Earth ART, which uses art to spark a global climate movement, and a campaign to end fossil fuel subsidies. A good description of 350.org: “our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by people in 188 countries.”