I met Rachel Smolker this past July at a cimate justice workshop at Wheelock Farm, Vermont. Her material was brutally honest and scientifically factual. I knew right away that I wanted her to write for the Broken Spear Vision. Thank you Rachel for sharing with this timely article on the People's Climate Movement.
This coming week in New York City promises to be interesting. Ban Ki Moon has called for the UN Climate Summit where President Obama and other heads of state will likely call for voluntary measures and vague aspirations at the beck and call of the corporations that currently have a stranglehold on the global economy. A week of climate related events will be brought to the city by "The Climate Group", courtesy of Duke Energy, Goldman Sachs, BP, Swiss Re and others.
The Peoples Climate March, neatly permitted and funded, is scheduled for the day prior to the summit. Chris Hedges refers to the march as "symbolic" . Quincy Saul referred to it as a "farce", with "no politics". Anne Petermann points to the lack of demands and "big umbrella" approach, as a recipe for false solutions.
Those critiques may be on the mark, but perhaps it can also be argued that such big umbrella symbolic actions have some merit here in the U.S. where deniers have sown such a vast ocean of ignorance and confusion.
In any case, there is one rather clear advantage: many people will be in NY.
Some will be content to call on "them" (congress, politicians, the UN, the Pope, Grandma...) to write a blank check for some unspecified "action on climate". They will play right into the hands of the corporate wolves in sheep's clothing who peddle false solutions and have laid elaborate and deceiving plans for profiteering from the climate crisis.
But there are also many with a deep and abiding understanding of the depth and breadth of the climate, economic, ecological, social, political crisis we are facing and its' common twisted roots. They will not just travel to NY, march in an orderly and permitted fashion, and then go quietly home afterwards feeling satisfied and personally redeemed.
They will be there, some long beforehand, doing the serious heavy lifting required to build a movement. They will be participating in the "Convergence for People, Planet and Peace Over Profit", discussing strategy, sharing knowledge and forging plans for the future monumental task that is "System Change Not Climate Change". They will link up to learn from and build solidarity with frontline communities and activists at The People's Summit.
They will stick around after the march to get on with the relentlessly demanding work of building the "post-march world" which means moving mountains, confronting the criminal corporate behemoths, speaking truth to power, putting their hearts, souls and lives on the line to make and shape a just, peaceful, healthy and yes, even potentially beautiful, future.
What less can we aspire to?
Those who will take on this task are mothers and fathers who care for future generations. They are people who cannot simply accept the drowning of nations and starvation and violent obliteration of millions. They are people who cherish and understand the intricate grace of nature and mourn its brutally evident dying. They are those who can still hear the voices of their ancestors calling on them to live honorably as stewards on this earth.
They are people who understand that climate change is not just one among an army of issues, but rather it is the "perfect storm" of all issues -- a sum greater than all its parts, spawned by a convergence of abuses: from wars and genocides to drilling, pumping, burning and mining the place to ruins, from racism, sexism and colonialism, to spewing toxic chemicals, mowing down ecosystems and poisoning the oceans.
Climate Change is not just an "inconvenience" to be resolved by plugging into some other currency of extraction ("sustainable, green and renewable" energy). It is the defining context of our lives and of this time in the history of life on earth.
To lessen the damages, push back the tides, and save what remains, including our own little skins, will require no small measure of change. No little tweakish reform here or there, a little money trickling down from the 1 percent over there, a green job for him and a solar panel for her will get us close to where we need to go. It will demand system change of a sort we can barely yet imagine.
Naomi Klein's new book This Changes Everything articulates the situation simply and artfully: "the problem is not carbon, it is capitalism."
So, the first step following the march promises to be a bold one, aimed straight at the heart of the raging beast of capitalism: Wall Street. On the morning of the 22nd, taking their cue from Occupy Wall Street, a flood of blue people will gather at Battery Park and then move to "flood" the New York Stock Exchange, to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, directly confronting the system that both both causes and profits from the crisis at the expense of life.
Here's to a fierce, invigorating and boldly targeted step for the climate justice movement. Bring on that better and beautiful future!
Rachel Smolker is a codirector of Biofuelwatch, and an organizer with Energy Justice Network. She has researched, written and organized on the impacts of biofuels, bioenergy and biochar on land use, forests, biodiversity, food, people and the climate. She works with various coalitions, national and international including the Mobilization for Climate Justice, Climate Justice Now and others opposing market-based solutions to climate change and other "false solutions". She is the daughter of one of the founders of Environmental Defense Fund and participated in a protest against that organization because of the key role EDF played in advocating market based solutions to climate change. She has a Ph.D. in ecology/biology from the University of Michigan and worked previously as a field biologist, gaining first hand experience with the complex balance between the needs of people and the ecological systems they depend upon. She is author of "To Touch A Wild Dolphin" (Doubleday 2001) and lives in Vermont. A list of publications is available on request.