September 20, 2014
Climate change and other environmental campaigns often try to mobilize people around the idea of avoiding apocalypse. This short piece for Occupied Times explores some of the weaknesses of this approach.
To anybody who has ever gone around Europe or North America giving talks or workshops on environmental politics, the scene will be familiar. At some stage a person sitting in the front row will stand up to wonder aloud what the point of the discussion is given that the world is going to hell so fast. A list of terrifying trends will then be laid out. At least three “planetary boundaries” out of nine have already been breached. Humanity now appropriates between 20 and 40 per cent of nature’s net primary production. The proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now higher than it was 10 or 15 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 feet above current levels. If temperatures continue to rise and release even a small amount of the carbon still locked up in the soils and ocean bottoms of the Arctic, we’re fucked. If any doubt remains about whether apocalypse is really on the way, just look at all those crashed civilisations of the past (Easter Island and the Maya are regularly invoked) who also failed to pay attention to “ecological limits”.
The tone of the recital is that of a grim call to order. Those present have just not been registering the facts, and clearly the volume has to be turned up. Why sit around sharing experiences of financialisation, environmental racism, or the enclosure of commons when climate change is about to fry all of us? There’s no time for social transformation. Ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now. So obvious is all this to the person in the front row that at this point they may just get up and leave – not so much in protest at the triviality of the proceedings nor out of conscious disrespect for the other participants as from a sense that now that the people present have been alerted to the situation, it’s time to take the message elsewhere.
In a meeting of the kind I describe, the front-row apocalyptician will probably get a respectful hearing. This is a person, after all, in possession of an impressive body of research and statistics – and who is more than justified in insisting that the status quo is untenable. Yet one or two things are likely, rightly, to raise a tremor of unease among those present.
One is the implicit dismissal of class politics. The apocalyptician’s reasoning is as follows. We’re talking about a catastrophe that could kill everybody and everything. Who could have an interest in bringing that on? No need now for the Marxist project of trying to understand how capital accumulation continually recreates human interest in destruction, because, ex hypothesi, no one could ever want destruction to that extent. Catastrophic climate change makes distinctions between hotel room cleaners and hedge fund managers irrelevant. “People” become the universal political subject. Climate politics moves out of the realm of, say, class struggle between workers in Chicago and the financiers of energy projects that pollute their neighbourhoods, or between indigenous bands in the Amazon and the oil companies despoiling their territories. Instead, it becomes – to quote the words of US climate movement guru Bill McKibben – a battle in which generic “human beings” collectively learn to submit to the Great Other of “physics and chemistry”.
For the apocalyptician, the spectre of universal catastrophe may look like a good way of rallying a middle class who may not directly suffer from the impact of fossil-fuelled globalisation. But for many listeners, to flatten out existing social conflict in this way feels disempowering. If the threat of global collapse is supposed to spur us all toward concerted action, why does it seem instead to paralyse the political imagination, spook ordinary people into putting their rebellious instincts on ice, and deaden discussion among different social movements about the lessons of their struggles? Why does it lead so easily to despair or indifference – or even to a sort of sado-masochistic or death-wishy pleasure in the pornography of doom? And why do the remedies proposed – “we need a crash programme to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 parts per million” – sound so parochial?
Indeed, instead of unifying political struggles, apocalyptic obsessions often seem to shrink transformative politics to the vanishing point. Slavoj Zizek has remarked that whereas it is precisely out of struggles against particular forms of oppression that “a properly universal dimension explodes … and is directly experienced as universal”, “post-political” campaigns against abstractions like “CO2” suffocate movement expansion because they close off possibilities for people to see their own strivings as a “metaphoric condensation” of global class struggles.
Yet isn’t the deeper problem with the appeal to apocalypse not that it is “apolitical”, but that it is all too political in a pernicious way? Not that it is “disempowering”, but that it is all too empowering of the technocratic and privileged classes?
Take climate apocalypse stories, which are currently reinforcing the old capitalist trick of splitting the world into discrete, undifferentiated monoliths called Society and Nature at precisely a time when cutting-edge work on the left – often taking its cue from indigenous peoples’, peasants’ and commoners’ movements – is moving to undermine this dualism. On the apocalyptic view, a fatally-unbalanced Nature is externalised into what Neil Smith called a “super-determinant of our social fate,” forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.
By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.Thus disaster movies – not to mention the disaster stories broadcast on the news every evening – are not produced just to feed our sneaking joy in mayhem. They also present narratives of technocratically-minded stars responding on our behalf to “external” threats in which they are portrayed as having played little part. Books like Collapse by Jared Diamond, meanwhile, replace complicated political stories of long-term survival, struggle, and creative renewal among civilisations like those of the Easter Islanders or the Maya with fables of apocalypse and extinction in which one non-European society after another supposedly wipes itself out through its rulers’ failure to “manage” the Menace from Nature. By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.
The expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows the same procedure, avoiding collective inquiry into the ins and outs of capital accumulation in favour of a simplistic narrative pitting Society against a Nature consisting of greenhouse gas molecules. Except that unlike the apocalyptician visiting the activist meeting, who chooses to get up and leave after speaking, the IPCC is actually statutorily required to “present the global warming science” as if it contained a politics-free message from Nature itself, requiring no discussion, and then get up and walk out in order to allow the sanitised missive to sink into Society (a.k.a. the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).
Although they can hardly be accused of drawing back from analysing the dynamics of capital, some flavour of this approach lingers on even among some thinkers on the left such as John Bellamy Foster and Naomi Klein, who, contemplating apocalypse, are tempted to fall back on creaking Cartesian slogans according to which not only does Capitalism act on a wholly separate Nature (“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”), but Nature itself somehow acquires that long-coveted ability to overthrow Capitalism (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”).
Apocalypse stories are always about rule. Every community, perhaps, recounts its own apocalypses, paired with its own ideals of elite or revolutionary response. St. John’s biblical apocalypse found its answer in God’s infinite love. In early capitalist England, the threatened apocalypse of rebellion on the part of an emerging, uprooted proletariat was countered by, among other things, a new discipline of abstract Newtonian time that promised to keep everyone in line. Marxist visions of capitalist apocalypse are typically matched with projections of political redemption through revolution. Southeast Asian millenarianists gambled on a moral cleansing of the worldly order, as do some survivalists in the contemporary US, where doomsday religious rhetoric has often gone hand in hand
with rampant extractivism and free-market ideology.
The prototype modern apocalypse story is perhaps that of Malthus, with his 1798 vision of uncontrollably breeding hordes whose ravening after land would “sink the whole world in universal night”. Helping justify the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Malthus’s tale also energised murderous 19th-century famine policies in British India, powered Garrett Hardin’s 20th-century polemics against commons and communism and serves as an unacknowledged foundation for countless World Bank economic reports and research projects in biology and “natural resource management”. Finding an echo in Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” apocalypse speech, it also haunts the immigration policies of UKIP and other British political parties.
Of equally enduring influence has been the slow-motion apocalypse prefigured by 19thcentury
thermodynamics: heat death, when capital can extract no more work from the universe, all the lights go out, and the machines rumble to a halt. While this particular catastrophe story has ceased to be the object of the obsessive brooding that it was among North Atlantic intellectual classes in the 1800s, it too remains active today, hovering ghostlike in the background of every post-Taylorian drive to sweat labour and other resources, as well as every energy-saving programme or excited politician’s appeal to the “white heat of technology” or “increased efficiency for national competitiveness”.
Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In the global warming debate as well, apocalypse has come to be invoked mainly to tell us what will happen if we don’t adopt innovative business practices. Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In Carbon, an August 2014 climate campaign video from the Leonardo di Caprio Foundation, cartoons of a rampaging, Transformer-like “fossil fuel robot” without a human face stomping around the planet laying waste to all living things alternate with interviews with bland, besuited North American and European technocrats and politicians drawling about carbon prices as the solution to all our climate problems. Which half of this composite vision is the more terrifying is, for me, an open question.
Justice Matters – Larry Lohmann
Published on Mar 13, 2015
The Band-Aid Wing of the Green Growth Economy
Weekend Edition March 13-15, 2015
“The environmental movement needs shaming at this point.”
– Denise Boggs
It was 60+ degrees and sunny – had been for weeks – in western Oregon, as I arrived in Eugene for the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon Law School – the planet’s oldest such conference. The conference, attended by over 3000 attorneys, activists, wonks and government officials, is put on by law students at the UofO. Other students from other top environmental law schools (Lewis and Clark, Vermont Law …) also pitch in organizing and moderating panel discussions. The organizers did a remarkable job juggling speakers, attendees and all the little things necessary.
While suffering from a bigger than usual allergy attack brought on by many types of trees and flowering plants budding out at the same time; I, as usual, perused the conference brochure for panels and Keynote addresses that would take on the big eco-threats of the day.
Out of over 200 panel presentations and twelve Keynote speakers, there were 1) three panels on citizen activism (two at the same time); 2) one panel on Consumption; 3) one panel on Population; 4) one on the “false solution” of “Green” Energy;…and NONE at all on Biomass/Biofuels! Not at all promising.
The first sign that PIELC was headed down the rabbit hole was the Fund for Wild Nature’s panel presenting the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award. A grand total of five people attended as Arlene Montgomery was honored. Us five heard inspiring tales of how she and the two other women panelists have carried on with great success against all odds and little money.
I found it quite an irony that the award was presented by Doug Bevington, author of the “Rebirth of Environmentalism,” in which he wrote that the was the model for grassroots activism in the 21st Century. No one from the high-budget, big green litigation shop was there at the grassroots panel, though CBD staffers dominated the conference overall, appearing on five times as many panels as any other group. CBD has perfected the suing to get endangered species listings and garnering millions in Attorneys Fees in the process. Yet, rarely is there any critical habitat set aside in these listing victories – rendering them hollow, at best.
And, with the abject failure of the Clinton Option 9 Northwest Forest Plan to save the Northern Spotted Owl, there is deafening silence from CBD and the rest of the professional Endangered Species listings camp on an overdue Upgrade Petition for the owls, as Endangered, rather than the current more mild Threatened Status would result in real set asides – likely ALL old growth habitat remaining (8% of original, at best), if not all national forest lands in owl habitat – and the funders and Democrats will have none of that. The owls have no chance.
In a way, Bevington sadly was right. CBD is a new model, not of grassroots activism by any means; but of how to become an undemocratic, well-compensated big green outfit masquerading as a citizen membership group quicker than any predecessors.
Fossil Fuel Addicts against Fossil Fuels
From there, I went to the Friday noon Keynote address. The speakers on the agenda were Bill McKibben; writer Gary Nabhan, from something called the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona; and Cyril Scott, suspended President of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Tribal Council (Scott, the main speaker I wanted to see, was unable to attend given serious intra-tribal hubbub after he called the multinational TransCanada’s effort to build the Keystone XL Pipeline across tribal lands, “An Act of War.” He was coming to rally support… the well-established way grassroots victories always have come about – organize around the issue; seek allies and find a legal team when necessary.)
Bill McKibben appeared via video, to grumblings from some in the crowd who wanted to see him in person. Amy Goodman also a came in for the same lame criticism, while I found their video instead of flying in to the conference on Wings of Tar Sands the appropriate thing to do. McKibben, looking a tad under the weather, riffed on the conference slogan “Changing Currents” while saying little of substance. He ended his short presentation with a plea to “buy more solar panels” and a flippant “See you in jail.”
McKibben was followed by Nabhan who gave a homily to Collaboration. He blithely used that false Einstein quote on the definition of insanity without any irony. He used it as a cudgel to beat those who would rather Resist than work in partnership with Gaia-destroying industries. He praised “Collaboration” efforts between farmers, ranchers and consumer activists and claimed a great victory in getting citizens in the Midwest to plant milkweed alongside their tomatoes in their gardens! He never once mentioned why the iconic North America insect, the Monarch Butterfly, has seen its milkweed breeding habitat disappear in the first place. The words “Ethanol” and “Monsanto” were never spoken.
Shenna Fortner, a Vermont Law School student who will work this summer as a legal clerk with Rappold Law Office, which serves as the lead counsel for the Rosebud Sioux in their efforts to oppose the South Dakota permit of the Keystone XL, then came on and explained that Cyril Scott was unable to attend. She gave a recap of the KXL issue and told people how they can comment on the required Public Utilities Commission hearing on the pipeline proposal that is scheduled for May 5th. Fortner also spoke of the long-standing tipi action camps that have been set up by the grandmothers at the entrance points of the proposed pipelines. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or PUC, 500 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501. For more info on how to donate or otherwise help, contact: Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Protect the Sacred: (605)481-0416 or theIndigenous Environmental Network, PO Box 485 Bemidji, MN 56619
Rodney King Environmentalism
Nabhan, unfortunately, was not the sole presenter who had a “can’t we all get along/say nothing bad about the perps/we will cleverly wiggle our way out of it” worldview. An underlying “current” of the conference was that “wild” and “Wilderness” are no longer viable concepts. The future was all about geo-engineering schemes – the garden milkweeds were part of a pattern. I’ve always been astonished that the greens so eagerly embraced the very term “Collaboration” given its (rather recent) sordid history, but it IS the appropriate idiom.
One major green growth area is climate compensation legislation/litigation. Two separate panels were on Who Should Pay for Climate Change? They were all about demonizing fossil fuel companies (“major GHG polluters”) and ways to shake loose compensation from them. To me that is akin to demonizing the pusher who provides one’s addictions, while never once looking at one’s own responsibility. Personal consumption driving Climate Change is off the table. McKibben has said, “Personal consumption doesn’t matter.”
At a presentation on another pipeline, a CBD staffer lamented the attention paid to the KXL instead of his own project. While his put out motivation was jealousy, he had a point. While the entire “movement” has been distracted by the KXL effort, ALL the necessary pipes and more have been constructed and it has been very hard to draw attention to other proposed pipelines. The competition for Foundation grants is fierce…no can’t-we-all-get-along on that front. Vast numbers are paid to work on the KXL, coal exports, land use, natural gas exports, other pipelines…these are the growth sectors the budding lawyers are steered to. Follow the Money, as usual.
The underlying causes are ignored or given little attention. After all, how could you have such conferences w/o massive carbon use? – Jet fuel is the number one end use of the Tar Sands, but you’ll never hear that at such an event.
PIELC does get credit for trying to limit its footprint – in addition to having more video presentations, you won’t see a raft of used paper coffee cups overflowing trash bins – they are banned. And, while I question the efficacy, one can make a Carbon Offset donation to the great group Friends of Trees, who have planted close to a million urban trees in Oregon. Speaking of uses of trees, a glance at the school bookstore’s Law School annex display table showed ten books being promoted. Five were indistinguishable books on Climate; each had “Forward by Bill McKibben” on the cover.
When whatever it is hits the fan, it is not redistributed evenly
The best thing about PIELC is its commitment to Indigenous peoples. Native lands have paid an inordinate price for our energy addiction – in addition to the pipelines, there are uranium mines, coal mines, coal plants, Biomass schemes, etc. all across Indian Country. Oregon just approved Tax Credits (of course) for Biomass schemes on all the state’s nine federally recognized tribes’ lands.
The most talked about Keynote this year was delivered by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, a 14-year-old activist from Boulder CO. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, a musician with his brother Itzcuahtli, a speaker at the RIo+20 United Nations Summit… and he has been concerned and active over Climate Change since he was six. The guy is a powerhouse.
I took a break and went down by the river to enjoy some sun – Eugene has a wonderful greenway along the river with bike paths on either side that run for miles. On the way back, the path runs under a railroad overpass. Sitting on the tracks was train loaded with dozens of cars full of wood chips and tankers full of Bakken shale oil – headed for the export docks. (Here was a direct action opportunity right outside the conference!) A few conference panels were on the oil and gas exports, yet none on the ground-up-forest ones.
I was getting more and more depressed. The grumbling from grassroots activists was getting loud. My mood changed when I ran into my good buddy Calvin Hecocta. Calvin is a Klamath elder and spiritual leader. He was our Northwest chair of the American Indian Movement (AIM) back in the day. And, he was instrumental in the saving of the Opal Creek and Breitenbush Ancient Forests. I could go on and on singing praises to Calvin; suffice to say, he is one of the great ones.
Friday night is the annual Indigenous Peoples Reception at the Many Nations Longhouse. The Law School is unique in that is has a beautiful student Longhouse out back and has a long-standing working relationship with the Longhouse and the tribes. Panel discussions on Native issues are held at the Longhouse during this and other conferences.
The dinner of salmon, fry bread and other foods prepared by Native cooks was overflowing and a wonderful time. My mood got better.
Dancing on the Ruins
“You know I don’t lead you and you know I don’t feed you no lies. And it’s not up to me to tell you what you see through your eyes.”
– Jackson Browne
PIELC also is the occasion of the annual Earth First! OutLAW Bash. In a scene out of Mad Max, about 500 by-and-large younger, non- attorney activists gathered in a dilapidated industrial zone of old warehouses, kilns, yards of industrial debris – old log trucks, firetrucks, logs, rusting beams, cracked cement everywhere… music and kegs and the always entertaining effigy of some industrial insult to be burned are the highlights. This year it was a mock-up of the huge fracked Natural Gas export plant planned for Coos Bay, Oregon…with attendant thousands of miles of new pipelines. (I learned a lesson – never stand in a tight crowd behind anyone in a power wheelchair, especially if there is a big fire with fireworks shooting off randomly!)
As a naked pyramid and dancers appeared around the fire with a big moon in the clear sky, I couldn’t help but hear Casey Neill’s “Dancing on the Ruins” in my head. This is the eyes-open community that always has been and always will be on the front lines – the activists who show up, paid only by a clear Gaian conscience and great camaraderie. While Derrick Jensen wrote and three different PIELC speakers I heard paraphrase “When hope dies; action begins;” I have to note that it is through collective action that there is any hope of hope.
The Elephant in the Boiler Room
I didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to attend the sole panel on Consumption that was held at the early hour of 9am. It was put on by the wonky folks from the PolicyInteractive Research group that has interviewed thousands of people worldwide on environmental values. A case study of 16 low-carbon lifestyle people in the Eugene area was presented – the why and how they live such lives. A larger study was presented on just why pro-environmental values do NOT translate into pro-environment behavior.
It was very informative and telling. 88% of us claim pro-environment values, but few live them. (The average annual American Carbon Output is 19.7 tons – what is optimistically projected to be “sustainable” worldwide is 4.5 tons per capita.) Why don’t we walk our talk? The research shows that the disconnect is the result of a combination of:
Denial – No problem, it doesn’t exist; nothing really matters, we are unimportant, love for the moment; the problem is beyond our ability to solve; I’m already doing my part (likely without much effect) – “I bought the Prius, what more do you want me to do? -; and, I’m working on something more important.
We heard of a sociology professor who wrote a book on Climate Change concluding that “the problem is beyond our ability to solve.” And we heard of another UofO professor – a Climate Change professor – who commutes from Portland, over 100 miles away – in a high-end German auto!
A friend recently posted on Facebook about feeling guilty about her carbon use and asked if others felt the same. The responses were 90%, “No way. I deserve it” or some other variance of the blind, New Agey “abundance” rationale.
Robin Quirke of PolicyInteractive noted, if we don’t walk our talk, how can we expect to convince governments and society at large to change behaviors and policies? What I call “Al Gore Syndrome.”
Her colleague Tom Bowerman noted that he and partner live in a 700 square foot house and have a monthly electric bill of around $10. They have a car they drive 3000 miles a year and do not fly. His personal footprint was around the 4.5 tons and he felt he could and would lower it without and real sacrifice. Tom talked about flying and its huge carbon cost. Basically, flying somewhere on a full plane spews the same amount of carbon per capita as one person driving an SUV the same distance. He called the back-and-forth flying far-flung First World family members do as a matter of course, “Love Miles.”
The sole other panel that looked at consumption and population was put on by CBD’s Population and Sustainability wing. CBD, in addition to distributing millions of free condoms with packaging tying it to species loss, seeks to break the taboo on talking about population in green circles. 7.3 billion Clever Apes consuming a finite planet is anything but “Sustainable” – by far THE most common word found in Panel titles.
Return of the Clan Mothers
The highlight of the conference for me was the “canceled” panel on Indigenous Resistance to the KXL. With President Scott unable to attend, it was called off. But, over 70 people showed up anyway and it turned into a circle discussion (not the usual school lecture model by any means) on those perverse impacts on Native lands due to our energy addiction and consumer lifestyle. Shenna Fortner chaired it and started things off with a summary of the Rosebud Resistance to the Keystone XL and how one can plug in and help.
Cedar Gillette, another Vermont Law student and tribal member from North Dakota, gave a powerful presentation on the human costs of the “man camps” associated with the fracking boom in the Bakken shale oil formations that underlie her nation. A staggering litany of domestic abuse, alcohol-fueled rampages brought some of the human costs associated with our energy addiction into focus.
Good Shield spoke of the Buffalo Field Campaign – the longest continuous non-violent civil disobedience encampment in the nation. The BFC seeks to end the horrific slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone Bison that is carried out annually at the behest of the cattle industry.
And, Calvin Hecocta spoke from the heart about what has been lost. He (and others) talked about the days of the Clan Mothers. The highly-respected elder women of each clan would set about correcting anyone’s behaviors that worked against the common good. And tellingly, they also chose the leaders of the men’s councils. Calvin was chosen by the Clan Mothers at a young age to speak for the land, the birds, the mammals, the trees…and he does it well. He spoke to how all this degradation has occurred on men’s watch and it is time again to look to the grandmothers for leadership.
With all the “logical” thinking and presentations going on all around, Calvin and others’ perspective was a breath of fresh air. There were few dry eyes in the room – from Native women elders to young, white students…all were deeply touched. While the spontaneity was a big part of it, I’d still suggest that such a gathering be an integral part of ANY green gathering.
While the many efforts against bad forest logging practices, GMO foods, fracking, pipelines, water, plastics, Indigenous survival, etc. are all well and good and necessary, little analysis can be found on the efficacy of already tried solutions, much less proposed ones. And, thus, the biggest elephant is the Renewable Energy Portfolios which require that a certain percentage (usually 25%) of the retail electricity in a state’s grid come from “renewables” by 2025.
Just as Nabhan studiously avoided the real reason for the Monarchs’ decline (First Worlders burning corn in their SUVs), the entire “green” movement elides the other failures of “renewable” energy. McKibben et al. can pimp all the solar panels they want, but that does nothing to stop Climate chaos while Biofuels (monarch, et al.) and Biomass (forests) add to it. (Not to mention, solar panels – like wind towers – are carbon-based.)
After hundreds of millions in subsidies (and blighted landscapes, roasted birds, etc.) the last eight years, wind and solar combined feed less than 5% into the grid (and there is evidence that even that 5% is not useable energy – useless without concurrent steam-generated Baseload power stabilizing the grid) we’re left with laws requiring 25% by ten years from now.
And the major way the 25% will be met is with Biomass – the burning of forests for energy – the oldest (and dirtiest – 1.5x as polluting as burning coal) energy source of humankind. While some panels dealt with the across-the-board proposed increases in logging on public lands, the end game of Biomass is rarely mentioned. While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR though he lives in NY!) proposes “thinning” 9 million acres of eastern Oregon public forests, he and Oregon’s former governor helped arrange billions in loans for new Biomass plants to consume the “thinning.” Ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber even sold of 1500 acres of a state forest to a Biomass company! Kitzhaber was ultimately brought down by the sordid crony capitalism/influence peddling side of the “Green” Growth Economy. Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PGE) Boardman Coal Plant is Oregon’s biggest carbon polluter and it is on schedule to be converted from coal to Biomass by 2020.
Just this week, The Oregonian reported that ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber’s forest adviser was the private owner of a timber consulting firm that benefited from Biomass deals Kitzhaber was selling State Forests and providing the Tax Credits to feed…plans the adviser was paid $400,000 by the State to develop! To her credit, new Governor Kate Brown immediately ended the contract with the adviser.
Forests in the Amazon, the US Southeast and British Columbia are being turned into chips/pellets and exported to Europe where they are burned for electrons and the countries burning them preposterously get Carbon Credits for it which are then used to off-set the emissions from coal plants! Every day, one sees false memes overselling German solar energy; yet, never a mention of Germany’s Biomass energy use (expected to comprise 2/3rds of Germany’s “renewable” energy by 2020) and increased coal use.
CBD is one of the many “green” groups that promote Biomass under the disproven rubric of thinning the forest to make them more fire-proof! CBD has helped plan the largest timber sale in Southwest history. They are hardly alone – Oregon Mild, errr, Wild signed on to Wyden’s plan and staffers appeared in a widely-disseminated photo with the senator and timber execs announcing their collaboration. One Oregon Wild staffer wrote a tortured defense of it (that has since been scrubbed from their website). McKibben is also a top promoter of his Middlebury Vermont college’s biomass plant.
I’ll go so far as to say that Biomass is a greater threat to planetary life than Climate Change! Already we have copious evidence of entire civilizations going under due to deforestation. What could possibly go wrong at planetary scale this time?
Somehow people have come to believe that being an environmental groupie is equivalent to being an activist. It’s not!”
Ultimately PIELC is a Job Fair for eco-law students. It is not the more activist entity is started out as. In those days, grassroots activists, like Cyril Scott and allies, identified an issue and set up resistance to it. When needed, legal teams were assembled to carry out the paperwork resistance. Now, it is inverted with high-paid pro-Democrat foundation agents dictating eco-policy and even what issues are on the radar and fundable. It has devolved into a multi-billion dollars per year growth industry run by big foundations (whose wealth came/comes mostly from energy production), lawyers and Democratic Party factotums. Many “green” groups have annual budgets in the tens of millions – The Nature Conservancy alone (one of the proponents of Biomass) has over $20 billion in assets while dogged grassroots activists show up whether paid or not, often getting undermined (or their efforts fund-raised upon) by the big greens.
The problem with having a “movement” lead by a professional class who collectively are a combination of General McClellans and Marshal Petains is that you get either hubris-ridden ineptness (paid to pull punches) or proud collaborators calling the shots and driving off the activists necessary to carry any issue to true victory. This top down mindset ultimately ends with: promoting, rather than opposing Biomass/Biofuel schemes; eliding consumption and population; failure to walk the talk… and planting milkweeds-in-a-garden being the only “victories.”
During the course of the job fair, some 800 species went extinct. The professional Green Growth industry is a dead end. It’s way past time to walk the talk. There are NO Law Jobs on a Dead Planet.
[MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in Salem, OR. He was plaintiff in the first successful Ancient Forest lawsuit. He can be reached at Pahtoo@aol.com]
1Sky/350.org Ben Caldecott Bill McKibben Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Carbon Tracker Carbon Visuals Chatham House Divestment Do the Math Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Green Alliance Naomi Klein Shell Stranded Assets Project World Business Council for Sustainable Development Xynteo
March 10, 2015
This morning I woke to discover that Bill McKibben @billmckibben had started to follow me on Twitter. How strange I thought. I’d been expecting to be blocked just like I was by @naomiaklein @bencaldecott @market_forces @350australia. I figured since I was blocked without breaching any kind of community standards it would only be a matter of time before Bill McKibben and @BobBurtonoz blocked me too.
I’ve got a couple of theories about why I was blocked. I’ve been following the political will around carbon capture and storage (CCS), and highlighting the silence from the BigGreen NGOs and the well connected pundits and commentators. Some of my posts were getting noticed, they appear at the end of conversations, unacknowledged by the recipients. My posts stood out perhaps because they were talking about the silences and were returned with silence.
This week The Guardian has rolled out the red carpet for Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Both were quoted and cited repeatedly in departing editor Alan Rusbridger’s “personal manifesto” introducing the thinking behind his series on the climate crisis that will dovetail perfectly into Naomi Klein’s ‘changes nothing’ tour at the end of the month. Already we have seen this series explain divestment, tackle divestment myths, and release excerpts from Naomi Klein’s most recent book.
In my first conversation with Bill McKibben he wriggles out of providing an opinion on Shell’s plans for CCS, and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the North Sea. I highlighted the fact that Shell’s Red Balls/Peterhead Gas CCS ad campaign was very public on the weekend he spoke at Chatham House and asked why he has never spoken about the threat posed by CCS and EOR in the North Sea. His first response was to direct me to this article from Quartz reporting his appearance at Chatham House. Adam Epstein’s article doesn’t show that he spoke against the Peterhead CCS project that was being advertised in London on large billboards in tube stations using artwork produced by Carbon Visuals. I suspect Bill McKibben was intimating that drilling for oil in the arctic is also a fossil fuel frontier. Who knows? It’s Naomi Klein’s talking point. For me new fossil energy frontiers are defined by dangerous new technology to combat scarcity, like fracking. Either way, Bill McKibben was right there in front of the people whose ads for an incomprehensibly dangerous nascent industry that stands to benefit from future trade in CO2 while providing demand for coal mining and an increased life span for oil extraction were plastered all over the city and he didn’t raise the issue, he never has.
Like Ben Caldecott (Carbon Tracker, Green Alliance, Stranded Assets Project), Shell seem to be everywhere they want to be. Not only are they very well connected in the venerable home of silence, Chatham House, but they have their collaborators smoothing the path for them at The Guardian. The article that prompted me to remind Bill McKibben that he has yet to offer an opinion about Ed Davey’s plans for unabated coal appeared on Saturday, March 7 in The Guardian’s Sustainable Business Leadership section sponsored by Xynteo, a group with some heavy weight fossil fools like Shell, Woodside, and Statoil. Xynteo have an astounding motto “We are reinventing growth”. They certainly sound well positioned for the world that Ed Davey is envisaging.
Ed Davey? You can find out what he thinks here.
350.org Alternative Energy Fetishes Avaaz Bill McKibben Biomass Capitalism Ceres Divestment Free Market Environmentalism Naomi Klein Purpose RBF Rockefellers Social Engineering The New Economy Tides Wall Street
February 24, 2015
by Jay Taber
One Hoax after Another
After successfully bewitching the greens into falling for college campus fossil fuel divestment in the US — which helped Wall Street consolidate its fossil fuel control — Wall Street is now cooking up an international carbon copy of this hoax to capitalize on the euphoria of climate campaigns.
The Divest-Invest Shell Game — like the REDD carbon market fiasco — requires suspension of disbelief, and determined engagement in wishful thinking.
BDS against Israel, and formerly against South Africa, used the three-part formula of Boycott Divestment Sanction. Divestment, as used by 350, omits boycott and sanction, and limits divestment to meaningless, symbolic acts.
All this divestment does is make once publicly-held shares available on Wall Street, which allows trading houses like Goldman Sachs to further consolidate their control of the industry.When it comes to the 350 agenda, they leave out the boycott of fossil fuels, and the sanction of fossil fuel corporations, and instead press for divestment by institutions like colleges and universities. All this divestment does is make once publicly-held shares available on Wall Street, which allows trading houses like Goldman Sachs to further consolidate their control of the industry.
BDS, when applied against apartheid states by other states and international institutions, includes cutting off access to finance, as well as penalties for crimes against humanity. What makes 350 so devious, is that they hijack public emotions using phony “divestment” as a disorganizing tool to redirect activism away from effective work.
The mystique of mass hypnosis, embodied in the Charms of Naomi, examines the social engineering of climate activism organized by 350, as well as the seductive energy tales that lead gullible progressives into supporting one hoax after another.
In McKibben’s Divestment Tour — Brought to You by Wall Street, acclaimed investigative reporter Cory Morningstar continues her series of reports on the non-profit industrial complex, with a focus on social capitalists like The Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund that created 1Sky–the forerunner of 350. With support from CERES, they help the fossil fuel industry avoid boycott and sanction by owning NGOs and directing their climate agenda.
CERES, Tides and 350*
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) is a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). CERES funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.
WBCSD is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.
One third of the CERES network companies are in the Fortune 500. Since 2001, CERES has received millions from Wall Street corporations and foundations.
CERES president Mindy Lubber promotes “sustainable capitalism” at Forbes. Bill McKibben (founder of 350) was an esteemed guest of CERES conferences in 2007 and 2013.
1Sky, which merged with 350 in 2011, was created by the Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Betsy Taylor of 1Sky/350 is on the CERES board of directors.
In 2012, Bill McKibben and Peter Buffett (oil train tycoon Warren Buffet’s son) headlined the Strategies for a New Economy conference. Between 2003 and 2011, NoVo (Buffet’s foundation) donated $26 million to Tides Foundation, which in turn funds CERES and 350.
Suzanne Nossel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton, is on the Tides Center board of directors.
The New Economy
Presaging the new economy of progressives like 350’s Naomi Klein, CERES’ Mindy Lubber and Avaaz’ Ricken Patel, was the 2004 Progressive Democrats of America campaign and the appointment of self-described Reaganite U.S. Senator Barack Obama, as keynote speaker at the 2006 Democratic National Convention.
As America’s nervous breakdown intensified, progressives produced such horrors as the 2006 bill, introduced by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D) San Francisco, to make activism against corporations illegal. With the 2010 U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrests of anti-war and environmental activists, for the crime of showing documentary films criticizing the arms and energy industries, Feinstein was in seventh heaven.
In 2012, as federal prosecutors and law enforcement escalated harassment of #Occupy activists attempting to influence U.S. policy, the defense of civil and human rights moved from the courts to the streets. Neoliberals like Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Barack Obama — committed to state-sponsored violence for the benefit of Wall Street — exercised fascism through aggression, surveillance, and repression of dissent.
Illogic of the Climateers
Cults — religious or secular — involve dissemination of core beliefs by their agents. Whether priests or public relations provocateurs, these agents are the vectors by which recruiting and indoctrination are accomplished.Cults — religious or secular — involve dissemination of core beliefs by their agents. Whether priests or public relations provocateurs, these agents are the vectors by which recruiting and indoctrination are accomplished. In order to maintain the cult, ideological doctrine — when founded on nonsense — become mantras that prevent critical thought.
The illogic of the climateers cult — of which Naomi Klein is the primary prophet — finds fertile ground in the political illiteracy of privileged first world progressives–fallen prey to institutional propaganda and market advertising. The hoax is made possible by a combination of hopelessness, magical thinking, and media consolidation.
In a world where warmongers are given the Nobel Peace Prize, and revolutions are won by throngs in blue taking selfies while eating pizza provided by Wall Street, anything is possible. Anything, that is, except social change.
In a culture of imbeciles, secular cults flourish according to the amount of Wall Street derivatives flowing through foundations into the non-profit industrial complex. After that, it’s a simple matter of echoing mantras on YouTube and TV talk shows.
The art of social engineering, while dependent on high finance, also requires a politically illiterate audience. In a society like the United States, the charms of Naomi are amplified by progressive ignorance, and sustained by imperial civil society.
Simulating an Orwellian ministry of truth, the magic of Naomi — funded by Wall Street — becomes revolutionary in ways envisioned in the novel 1984. As a maverick in her own mind, Klein has become the progressives’ Sarah Palin.
Progressive self-delusion, from hope and change to this changes everything, is grounded in hysteria. The climateers Kool-Aid keeps reality at bay.
The Invisible Environment
Image Courtesy of Mark Gould
In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman — American media theorist, humanist and cultural critic — noted that “new technology can never substitute for human values.”
Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.In American society today, our social amusements have come to occupy not only our pastimes, but everything about our lives, politics, values and beliefs. Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.
Capitalizing on this corrosion of civil society, Wall Street marketing agencies like Purpose and Avaaz — sponsors of campaigns to support “humanitarian war” and the “new economy” — have designed and exploited an advertising niche to make money from this social pathology.
While American faith about the truth in advertising might suffer as a result of these amusements, the deaths that result take place mostly in the Third and Fourth World. As Americans are herded into waving signs and marching around Manhattan wearing the color blue, millions around the world are dying from starvation, disease and murder resulting from American consumerism.
As a professor of Culture and Communication, Postman taught a course called Communication: the Invisible Environment. While he was concerned primarily with the decline in the ability of mass communications to share serious ideas, Postman was aware that the turning of complex ideas into superficial images — that become a form of entertainment — leads to a society where information is a commodity, bought and sold for entertainment, or to enhance one’s status. In contemporary society, mediated by technology, individuals will literally believe anything.
Seductive Energy Tales
“The seductive tales of wind turbines, solar cells, and biofuels foster the impression that with a few technical upgrades, we might just sustain our current energy trajectories without consequence…Like most fairy tales, this productivist parable contains a tiny bit of truth. And a whole lot of fantasy.”Demanding an end to fossil fuels has its allure, but when we examine the alternatives, things don’t look quite so cheery. As Ozzie Zehner reports from the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at University of California, Berkeley, “The seductive tales of wind turbines, solar cells, and biofuels foster the impression that with a few technical upgrades, we might just sustain our current energy trajectories without consequence…Like most fairy tales, this productivist parable contains a tiny bit of truth. And a whole lot of fantasy.”
As Zehner notes in Green Illusions, “Emerging research on the side effects and limitations of solar cells, wind turbines, biofuels, electric cars and other alternative energy strategies will likely transform conventional wisdom about what’s green, and what’s not.” Since renewable energy doesn’t scale to meet our current (let alone future) demands, that leaves fossil fuels and nuclear energy–or reduced demand.
Perhaps our only hope is that the coming plague from the collapse of global public health will reduce the human population sufficiently to give us a fresh start at screwing up. Of course, last time that happened, things didn’t work out so well. Still, 14th Century thought leaders had to contend with economic panic and religious hysteria, unlike our progressive 21st Century leaders.
New Age Ghost Dance
The inheritors of the Standard Oil fortune (Rockefeller Brothers) would not be funding 350 were they not thus disempowering their naive followers. As Agent Saboteur, 350 has already proven its value to Wall Street.
Enchanting as the chimera of clean energy might be, it doesn’t scale to meet energy demand, and its use by marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose and 350 is to perpetuate the misbelief that Wall Street — which caused all our social and environmental problems — is our only hope for salvation. Sort of a New Age Ghost Dance.
Divest-Invest Shell Game
One of the recurring scenes in the iconic comic strip Charlie Brown is the one where his sister Lucy holds the ball for Charlie to kick, promising not to move the ball at the last second, thereby causing Charlie to tumble backward when she always does. Humiliated time after time by Lucy’s sadistic antics, Charlie — trusting soul that he is — never fails to fall for Lucy’s promise, that this time she won’t pull the same trick as before.
I thought of Charlie Brown and Lucy reading the announcement of “major commitments” on the eve of the UN Summit on Climate Change. Having moved the ball at Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban — thus causing progressive greens to take a tumble — the UN, Wall Street, and big international NGOs (BINGOs) are now asking recently enraptured climateers to give them another chance to prove themselves trustworthy.
When they begin swooning over oil tycoon heirs as their new heroes, the greens demonstrate their boundless capacity for self-delusion. When they begin swooning over oil tycoon heirs as their new heroes, the greens demonstrate their boundless capacity for self-delusion. As we saw with the enchanting Charms of Naomi, the mystique of mass hypnosis is a simple matter of the prescribed art of social engineering. Having captivated a gullible audience, in a state of ecstasy after their euphoric march in blue, makes beguiling the credulous child’s play.
Till the End of Time
Social engineering by Avaaz, Purpose and 350 over the years has been exclusively focused on increasing market share for themselves. This, in turn, keeps Wall Street foundation funds flowing into their coffers. Market share, acquired through advertising (i.e. branding), has been demonstrated by these cults and PR firms to be designed to deceive consumers into believing they are making a difference when they are not.Market share, acquired through advertising (i.e. branding), has been demonstrated by these cults and PR firms to be designed to deceive consumers into believing they are making a difference when they are not.
As with other Wall Street-backed political campaigns, Avaaz, Purpose and 350 engage in false advertising, more commonly known as fraud. Like earlier campaigns, promoting supposedly green products or projects that turned out to be bogus (i.e. Keystone XL, clean energy, and fossil fuel divestment), the new economy form of Free-Market environmentalism only benefits Wall Street and its stable of NGOs–not the environment.
This marketing sophistry is particularly appealing to over-consumers in countries like the US, who do not want to make any sacrifices, preferring to be sold fantasies about magical capitalist-friendly solutions, in which all lethal downsides and toxic side effects are strategically concealed from them. Indeed, part of the magical thinking — sold by Avaaz, Purpose and 350 — is that progressives have inside knowledge about this clever stratagem, while the ignorant masses are tricked into being green without knowing it.
The same idiots who bought into biofuel — whose plantations cause mass starvation and displacement of indigenous peoples — now reflexively participate in promoting Wall Street’s agenda as something new.The arrogance of progressives, along with unlimited funds from Wall Street, is what makes this advertising effective. The same people who were conned into buying electric cars that use environmentally-destructive methods to obtain rare earth minerals in their fabrication, are now oblivious to the new economy shell game. The same idiots who bought into biofuel — whose plantations cause mass starvation and displacement of indigenous peoples — now reflexively participate in promoting Wall Street’s agenda as something new.
The fact there is no substance to the empty promotions by new economy celebrities like Naomi Klein is perhaps what progressives find most enticing. Without any actual plan — other than advertising — there is nothing to debate. In that way, their imbecility is secure from attack, free to follow pipe dreams and pied pipers till the end of time.
*Excerpts from the McKibben’s Divestment Tour: Brought to You by Wall Street series by Cory Morningstar
[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]
October 27, 2013
See Also: “Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?” By Kat Stevens.
*Notes Via Kat Stevens: “This piece originally appeared as part of a series called, “Millenials Take On Climate Change” on the website, Policy Mic. The title I had wanted to go with for this piece was, “How Big Green NGOs Are Harming the Environmental Movement”. Only 800 words were allowed. Policy Mic asked me to become a regular contributor after this piece but I declined once they repeatedly told me that a piece featuring an interview with a frontline indigenous organizer fighting tar sands pipelines wasn’t relevant for their readers.”
October 25, 2013
By Jay Taber
As Cory Morningstar writes at Wrong Kind of Green, the evil empire Buffett, Gates and Rockefeller built in the private sector is mirrored in the evil networks of NGOs they — along with Clinton — have constructed to provide cover for widespread environmental devastation, ethnic cleansing and Indigenous genocide committed by their corporate investments. Using bagmen like Tides Foundation in cahoots with magicians like Bill McKibben at 350 dot org, and sleight-of-hand artists like Tzeporah Berman at Tar Sands Solutions Network, Buffett, Gates, Rockefeller and Clinton have become thick as thieves in producing political theatre to distract us from the parade of refugees in their caravan of doom.
[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as director of Public Good Project. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]
350.org Bill McKibben Canadian Boreal Initiative Capitalism CPAWS Dow Chemical Enbridge Gateway Environmental Defense ForestEthics Greenpeace Canada Keystone Living Oceans BC Michael Marx MoveOn.org NATSC Nexen North American Tar Sands Coalition Pembina Institute Pew PowerUp RAN Sierra Club BC Suncor Tar Sands Coalition Tar Sands Solutions Network Tides Canada Tides Foundation Tzeporah Berman WWF
[photo] Ms. Berman presenting a “Green” Award to former Liberal Party of B.C. premier, Gordon Campbell … the man who privatized British Columbia, sold it to General Electric and other international corporations, who built highways across farmland and called it “green;” who reversed dioxin effluent safeguards that we fought for and instituted in B.C. to protect our water; who sold off the public and natural heritage of British Columbia and opened the doors to General Electric to occupy hundreds of watersheds, devastate riparian ecosystems, and destroy forests for transmission lines to carry expensive power to mines in the north and to sprawling cities in the U.S. - Photo source: BC government.
Repeat This Aloud
October 16, 2013
By Macdonald Stainsby
Before Tzeporah Berman began her current position as head of the North American Tar Sands Coalition, Tides Canada had already established these structures to create near-total control over budgets– and therefore, most decisions– for staggering numbers of organizations. Berman was around at the time, working for PowerUp pushing forward offsets garnered by river destruction. Some of the participant organizations already had working partnerships with multiple tar sands producers. The over-whelming majority were already greased by primarily high donors and foundations. Thus, joining the NATSC meant, essentially, double dipping.
The Tides Foundation began the NATSC as a project with earmarked funding coming from other large philanthropic foundations. This unelected and unseen structure was created to stand as a vehicle to help forge a similar backroom strategy for and likely negotiation of a “final agreement” to end campaigns against either certain segments or corporations involved in tar sands, likely borrowing from concepts involved in crafting similar deals with forestry corporations.
In 2009, as a part of producing Offsetting Resistance, a full strategy paper document was leaked to myself and Dru Oja Jay. It was an internal paper from a few months prior that outlined the secret nature of the coalition, the internal structures, the over-all short, middle and long term goals of a foundation funded, and foundation directed entity that was earmarked as a project of Tides Canada, and not as a separate NGO.
The pressure applied and leveraged would be out of the hard work of other people. The people who had worked at a community or first nations grassroots level were not only to not be consulted, if deal negotiations were to happen it was without anyone but a select few ever knowing anything about it. Until the press conference.
The documents make this point specifically: “This document is confidential” reads the front page of the strategy paper for the single most important climate campaign of their multi-million dollar philanthropy. But the real kicker is the breakdown of the structures. Under the heading “Enroll key decision makers while isolating opponents” : We will not make the decisions to slow and clean up the tar sands – those in positions of authority will.”
Though there are many problematic proposed solutions contained within the program (carbon offsets, for example), this was written by Michael Marx, then head of Tides’ Tar Sands Coalition in 2008. Specific demands, strategy and more may well have moved on, especially in the face of new coalition partner, Bill McKibben, and the PR group that has brought the world 350.org. Pipeline struggles, in years past, were not as heavily focused upon as now. Keystone (both of them) gets only a whiff in the paper by name; Enbridge Gateway is described but not named. Indeed, how times have changed.
Instead of predictions about the terms of a sell-out, the focus here should be on the structures as they are described. We know automatically the terms will be detrimental to the needs of the climate or of community, simply because the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Environmental Defense, WWF, CPAWS and other organizations who do more than negotiate backroom deals– but publicly embrace and partner with corporations like Suncor, Nexen, Dow Chemical and more– are leading members. The coalition groups are now under the twin auspices of Tides and Pew funding, as well Tides and Pew membership as further “partners.”
This further blurring of foundations who are increasingly “activist” in their own right, speaking and campaigning as “just another green group” is accelerating. In the past few years, new brazen language has come from Tides Canada, previously unthinkable: “At Tides Canada we are working to bridge these two polarized camps (environmentalists and tar sands corporations– MS). As a convener of diverse interests, we’ve played this role before, most notably in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.1”
The quote above was a letter penned by President and CEO of Tides Canada, Ross McMillan. When the Great Bear Rainforest backroom deal was announced, it was publicized as a triumph of “Rainforest Solutions Project,” then comprising ForestEthics, Sierra Club BC, Greenpeace Canada and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN has since withdrawn support for the agreement). Tides was then, to use their jargon, “invisible to the outside,” but now speaks publicly as both a “stakeholder” and financial lifeblood. Now they advertise prior secretive involvement.
When looking at the real structures of the “North American Tar Sands Coalition” remember that it “shall remain invisible to the outside and to the extent possible, staff will be “purchased” from engaged organizations.”
“Purchasing” staff means that a person who is acting in the capacity of the directives of the paymaster coalition is never to public refer to the actual job, or even the organization. As such, even though someone took a leave from, say, the Pembina Institute to become a coordinator within the Tar Sands Coalition steering committee, and cashed paycheques from Tides referencing this work, they would publicly identify with their former employing organization, the Pembina Institute.
In fact, the above perfectly described the Canadian tar sands coordinator for Tides previously, Dan Woynillowicz. Google his name and he appears only as Pembina. The fact that demands, media, talking points, statements and interviews and paydays all then came from Tides direction was to “remain invisible to the outside.” He stepped aside for Jennifer Lash, who appears publicly as Executive Director of Living Oceans BC. She is, in fact, coordinator of Tides Canadian section.
Michael Marx is the former “lead coordinator” from the tar sands steering committee, above the American and Canadian coordinators. These three, in collaboration with media coordinators, form the power nucleus. Other foundations centralize campaign contributions to the Tides Coalition, and will re-direct appeals for tar sands funding to the national coordinators from this one group. This has effectively narrowed the overwhelming portion of all tar sands funding from foundation sources, leaving astronomical power in the hands of an unseen entity.
How does the final say evolve? According to Marx while he was still coordinator: “While NGOs generally prefer a network structure that allows for maximum communication, and minimal centralized control, foundations investing most heavily in the campaign have a vested interest in exercising some control over the process”(emphasis mine).
Michael Marx has moved on as mentioned, for Tzeporah Berman to become head of the North American Tar Sands Coalition. Marx himself is officially a campaigner once again with the Sierra Club in the United States.
The “Tar Sands Solutions Network” appears to be the vehicle for a public face to negotiate a “win-win” deal. A couple of years ago, the Mediacoop.ca and later on the Globe and Mail reported a leak of an attempted “fireside chat” that was to happen with no fanfare, media or record of its existence. This chat was to involve some of the largest players in energy corporations operating in the tar sands, “with beer in hand” alongside some of the more compromised and right wing environmental organizations.
That particular meeting was aborted after the leak.
There are other secret meetings as well, ones where you have to sign before hand not to release any information about what is discussed. There– without the input of the multiple indigenous communities and other active community resistance movements that target tar sands on both sides of the colonial border– strategy for the short, middle and long terms are drawn up.
Foundations spring for the event, foundations also “influence” talking points, strategy is laid out and so on. Recently, for example, there was such a meeting held off the coast of British Columbia. People who organize in other areas would likely know many of those who attended. Attendees are all sworn overtly not to speak out about its mere existence.
The coalition is the same invisible Trojan Horse that so many “collaborative model” agreements have come from in the past. Berman is simply the public face of capitalism’s last ditch attempt to save itself. The system needs reinvention as it collapses under strain, and the new class of would be green capitalists seek to emerge out of this crisis like Henry Ford did from the Depression. Exploitation of the working class, continued indigenous colonialism at home, war mongering imperialism, permanently expanding growth economics– all with climate effects being transferred onto the over-exploited majority world– this is all “just the way things are,” because “we don’t have time to try and transform the system,” and so on are invoked in defending a strategy of accommodation to capital.
The reality is it results in defeat; the tar sands are a cornerstone– as is all oil– to a growth economy. Fracking, tar sands, offshore, coal to liquids, mountain top removal and the prize of Utah and Colorado’s oil shale, every last bit of it and more must be opposed. Growth is the problem. Green capitalism is a false promise to unite a growth economy with a healthy atmosphere. It is a lie.
If the economic framework of assigning value to land to be converted to resources for dollars is not challenged, oil will continue. It is not a renegade or rogue industry. It is a perfectly normal, capitalist industry.
Big Energy’s power is a reflection of the centrality of energy, leading to influence. It is a logic completely at peace with accumulation of profit and the dominance of capital. More than “not a rogue industry,” it is the flagship, the pinnacle of industries under late industrial capitalism.
Oil exploitation has existed in every industrial society of the last few centuries; however, like the arms industry, the power nexus of its placement in the over-all economic structure of the West makes it absolutely impossible to decouple a dismantling of the power structure with any hope of weakening some falsely labelled “rogue” industry. We need at minimum to declare no right of any backroom negotiation around tar sands. Nothing can green them, nothing can legitimize discussions. Public or private.
Growth is the elephant in the living room we must confront. We must reject a “green shift” that panders to “have your cake and eat it too” eco-populism, the lefty-green rhetoric of a new green bourgeoisie trying to burst forth.
By making capital sacrosanct (“[F]oundations investing most heavily in the campaign have a vested interest in exercising some control over the process.”), the negotiation process cannot do anything about the situation of capital dominance.
Capital is most dominant in the North American political party system. The pro-Obama language of the “Tar Sands Solutions Network” likely indicates a nod to board member Bill McKibben, whose own Rockefeller funded, pro-Obama organizing in 350.org has become stuck on a hamster wheel chasing the Keystone XL. Simply put, the same PR professional thinking below the border that designed the Democrats’ Moveon.org are now more than likely having influence on crafting part of the over-all trajectory of tar sands big money organizing. Brand Obama sells, but the products are made of oil.
Let us ask: Can choreography win the day? In the excellent article “The Climate Movement’s Pipeline Preoccupation” from last week, four Rising Tide community organizers pointed out:
“[T]he mainstream Keystone XL and Northern Gateway campaigns operate on a flawed assumption that the climate movement can compel our elected leaders to respond to the climate crisis with nothing more than an effective communications strategy.”
The people who would negotiate away the work done in other diverse communities are unseen, unelected, unaccountable and have friendly relations with large corporations for a reason. They are not even a large minority of those organizing in opposition to tar sands and the energy industries, however. Those whose resistance have done the most to create this situation?
Some have warm relations with certain facets of Big Green, but all have organized independent of Big Green structures, built separate movements of their own, evolving community directed demands. Through a process of building, what it is that cannot be negotiated has evolved for every different movement in their own manner. There is not just one movement, and there are just as many different sets of principles.
Impacted indigenous communities are building opposition to Line 9 expansion with allies of theirs from outlying communities; People in Utah & Texas are engaged in creative responses of resistance to proposed tar sands mining or pipeline construction; indigenous territory has been reclaimed and rebuilt blocking all energy pipeline construction: Tar sands oil, fracked gas, none of it is being allowed across Unist’ot’en Territory near the Pacific Ocean coastline. There are other paths being walked.
People can now raise a clear voice in opposition to further moves to negotiate a final agreement that no one has any mandate to work on. We must reject the collaborative model succinctly for the tar sands, whether expressed by pipeline deals or in Alberta and Saskatchewan at the source of developments. The impacts globally from setting a North American tar sands collaborative process in motion could irreparably damage resistance to tar sands in places where it is now just getting off the ground around the world.
The current Big Green structures are undemocratic and cloak and dagger in appearance. The participants are organizations and certain individuals with a history of bad democratic practice and serious pro-corporate sympathies.
There comes a time, as has been said, when silence is betrayal. Let this be known as just such a time. Let us celebrate the existing diversity of the movements in opposition to tar sands and fossil fuels, and that have targeted the immediate, essential need to make clear the impossibility of parceling the land as a solution.
We must make certain solidarity is a true bottom line for those who are seen as allies in the battles over tar sands and climate. Solidarity cannot come from secret conversations with the enemy. Let us speak too, of this reality: Big energy is the enemy. Not bad practices within it, but the energy and growth economy itself.
The equivalent of the Canadian Tea Party crowd has filled newspaper columns with stories to frighten you and I about the power of American money. Much of the foundation-led anti-tar sands cash has been coming from the United States, and as such we are supposed to cringe at the origin. Yet it would not matter if the paper trail led one to the moon– resources in and of themselves are not the issue. Were spending resources to be the issue, big energy companies and the federal government within Canada itself have vastly outspent the foundations on both sides of the 49th parallel, promoting unfettered tar sands. The problem is the distortion of active resistance, and the hi-jacking of a public process.
These are battles that determine whether or not we can make a grim situation survivable. Capital has caused this near calamity, we surely need to stop trying to save it from itself any longer. Capital has also polluted our own thinking– and actions– from within. We must reinvigorate a democratic environmental movement through a refutation of back room deals– and organize active resistance to those who would try and negotiate one.
[Macdonald Stainsby is an anti-tar sands and social justice activist, freelance writer and professional hitchhiker looking for a ride to the better world, currently based in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com]
Counterpunch Weekend Edition
September 13-15, 2013
by Macdonald Stainsby
Stockholm Syndrome in a Three Piece Suit
A few days ago a minor shizzle storm erupted on the climate-acting internet. Well-known anti-corporate author and researcher Naomi Klein gave an interview where she made some comments that, apparently, made some of the more corporate and right wing members of the environmentalist establishment elite upset. The problem with the comments, in a nutshell, is that Klein responded to questions about how people are able to go about their day-to-day business without screaming in a panic constantly about anthropogenic climate change.
The comments she uttered that caused the most anguish? Well, I’ve been swimming through this rather heated ocean of replies targeting Naomi Klein. This seems to be the lowest common denominator from the angered voices defending “Big Green.”
Well, I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost.1
This has been called variations of victim blaming. Leaving aside whether the very-well paid executives of corporate-partnered environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) are victims of much, it’s tossed about in several different manners. We are told that the people who are making the decisions about policy for such groups believe staunchly in the science, and are not in denial at all. Really? →
Sept 3, 2013
by Macdonald Stainsby
Ah, so the Obama administration announced yet another delay in the Keystone XL pipeline review. And what a brilliant decision is this non-decision. If you have been opposed to climate change, tar sands or the oil and gas industry and live in the United States, you now know– thanks to Obama and Bill McKibben– what you are supposed to do for the next minimum several months. Isn’t it wonderful to have strategy handed to you by the US administration, and your so-called leaders?
I hope that I don’t date myself too harshly by referencing Peanuts right off the bat. Hopefully you recall the famous comic strips featuring Snoopy, Linus and the gang. There was that famous routine where Lucy, who had lied and lied many times before on the same promise, would swear to Charlie Brown that if he attempted to kick a football that she was holding, she would not pull it away– despite the fact she had done exactly that countless times before.
Of course, the joke is that we all know Lucy will pull the ball away, and Charlie will miss, falling on his rear after sailing through the air having just whiffed on kicking the ball. His injury, for us apparently, is part of the humour. He gets up, dusts himself off and we all well know it will happen again soon enough.
What we don’t know, since the ball never gets kicked, is if Charlie Brown can actually boot a football in any meaningful sense. Can he get it very far, will it be an effective kick? Since Charlie Brown has never kicked the ball it can’t be said he has failed. The anticipation of what may happen, should he get to kick the damn thing, keeps him coming back. Lucy has him right where she wants him. →
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Video | “God’s Taunt” – Bill McKibben’s Sermon on Job 38: 1-11 and Matthew 19: 16-22 from Sunday, April 28, 2013
by Forrest Palmer, WKOG Collective
July 22, 2013
In this video, it is very fitting that McKibben goes to Riverside Church. The best way to get validation in Amerikkka, still sadly the most powerful nation in the world, is to align yourself with the two most hallowed of individuals: Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus. So, he is in Riverside Church, which is a Christian establishment and it is one where Martin Luther King Jr. made one if his most famous (and at the time he gave it, most infamous) speeches concerning Amerikkka and its continuous use of violence across the globe. So, this speech is most appealing to not just the liberals and leftists in Amerikkka, but also the general Amerikkkan population which is comprised of the bulk of the middle of the road citizenry. This is a sound decision by McKibben since in the pantheon of admired people within the history of this country, King and Jesus are above reproach: one due to his ACTUAL deification and the other through his historical deification. I will let you decide which one is which.
The speech is very reminiscent of King and Jesus because it is very general in terms of the problem whereas the individual doesn’t have to look at his actions. Jesus said that you can basically do whatever you want as long as you accept him as your personal savior and, as the conduit for sacrificing for all your earthly sins, you will be okay. So, the individual behavior never needs to be analyzed because it can always find some type of absolution. In the same vein, King’s speech at Riverside Church speaks of the state violence that is ongoing across the Earth and absolves guilt from the general populace with nary a reference to the number of jobs that are either directly due to the military industrial complex or DEPENDENT upon its continuation. The individual aspect of how the daily lives of Amerikkkans are inextricably ATTACHED to wars of empire isn’t touched by King, which can leave the bulk of Amerikkkans who are for “justice” in alliance with him.
As an illustration of how this can be so delusional in regards to actually dealing with any true solutions without acknowledging or even KNOWING the truth, King once said that how can there not be enough water for everyone when the world is 70% water. It is something that everyone can agree with and feel good about because it is so generalized what kind of heartless individual would be against it since there is enough water for everyone. But you look deeper at the problem and you realize that only 3% of this water is freshwater. And then you dig deeper and you see that we only have access and live off approximately 1% to 1.5% of all the water on Earth. Then you see that this is the amount of water that billions of people need to survive on the planet. Only then, can you start to deal with the problem no matter how overwhelming it may be to the person who is basing his analsyis and possible solutions off the truth.But, this has never and will never play into the narrative of the Amerikkan lifestyle itself being analyzed to ANY degree. Therefore, in the happily every after fairy tale of King’s analysis, Amerikkka’s exorbitant amount of resource usage can continue unabated while ALSO including all the rest of the people on Earth.
Fast forward a little over 40 years and McKibben also cloaks himself in this analysis based off general terms in order to make his message palatable to the masses and also lets the ones who he must answer to (neoliberal capitalist institutions) know that ultimately he isn’t a threat. No mention of the everyday usage of polluting resources at the individual level and how he or she is the culprit as well as the fossil fuel companies.
What is most scandalous in this speech is his use of the non-anglos as a verbal prop to show some type of solidarity between the victims who supply all of the West with resources and the congregation of this church. Thereby he is intimating that the solution is the same for them as it is for the members of this church: curtailing the power of the fossil fuel industries. Notice I said CURTAILING because the resources supplied by the same victims he said are in allegiance with the members of this church will STILL have to be taken advantage of in accordance with the historical legacy of Western domination of the Global South. From the moment these people go up in the morning until they go to bed at night, their lives will be totally fueled off the dehumanization of those where the resource wealth resides, be it non-renewable or renewable resources, which in all honesty are in LESS abundance than non-renewable ones and FAR, FAR, FAR from truly being renewable.
In the speech, McKibben compares the seminal thought of the civil rights movement which is that the arc of history always bends towards justice and the LIMITED amount of time that is necessary to end the practices that are causing climate change. This assumes the supposition that McKibben and the green leaders actually have a plan of any sort that is based on a reality of actually stopping this madness in ANY timeframe, be it short or long term. Most disturbingly, just like King, McKibben and the audience believe that the arc of history can continue to bend towards justice, with justice being defined as the continuation of white privilege and the inclusion of as many other people as possible. It is ludicrous, but as stated previously, the generalities of the problem and lack of discussion on his proposed solutions are done to replicate the physical phenomena of running in place: a lot of movement, but not going anywhere.
The arc of history doesn’t bend towards justice. This is a fallacy to allow those on top to believe they can kick the can down the road and it will one day be taken care of by the next generation who will have learned from our mistakes. Well, the next generation is HERE for climate change. There is no more tomorrow or room for stating of the problem from the leaders with no mention of the solution. The ultimate goal is ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS. Period. This can either be done by CHOICE or by FORCE. Yet, everyday that people like McKibben and the horde of false green prophets continue to lie to the masses, that choice is QUICKLY turning into what will ultimately be done by force. Simple as that.
Video | “God’s Taunt” – Bill McKibben’s Sermon on Job 38: 1-11 and Matthew 19: 16-22 from Sunday, April 28, 2013