I started reading Eric Pooley’s Climate War yesterday – a nailbiter account of how our leaders didn’t pass any significant climate legislation from 2006 to now, which roughly corresponds with the years I’ve spent pushing for just that every hour of every day. The first half of that time, we had a deadlocked Congress and feckless president, and we had no chance of getting anything through – but we did have the beginning of a broad-based movement to prevent dangerous global warming. And despite a campaign framed by a genuinely progressive story, President Obama hasn’t achieved anything close to what can be called significant progress on climate and energy, despite the smart clean energy champs he recruited to top posts.
But Obama’s hands-off plan on climate isn’t the only reason the US Senate dropped climate like a bad date. In his book, Pooley describes the incredibly complex dealings Senators like John Kerry and Lindsey Graham made with utilities, oil companies (including BP) and the nuclear industry to pull together a bill that eventually collapsed under its own weight yesterday. Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid wouldn’t even bring a climate bill to the floor for a vote.
Nobody in power, except for a notable few, was twisting any arms on climate. And therein lies the age-old lesson about democracy that we all seem to forget when our guys are in charge: change doesn’t happen without power from below. It’s not enough to chase around Senators and officials whispering in their ears. Climate deniers and the right-wing media machine deserve a lion’s share of the blame. Obama deserves our ire, too, as do the US Senators on both sides of the aisle who continue to shamelessly deflect responsibility and cast doubt on science.
But a movement doesn’t give up because a piece of legislation (weak juice at that) falls through the cracks. A movement soldiers on, gets creative and multiplies. Since 2006, the climate movement has mushroomed – faster and larger than any movement in recent memory. The Tea Party’s got nothing on the climate movement. In every corner of the country, and all around the world, there are millions of people ready for an era of prosperity and clean energy. The polling shows most people want action now, and we’re going to continue to grow that majority until it becomes a political liability.
We’ll start by showing our leaders that we’re getting to work on clean energy in our own neighborhoods, towns, cities and states on 10/10/10, the Global Work Party, and we’ll build movement leaders in every congressional district before November. Know this: we’re here to stay.
This is the most important point: nobody’s going to do it for us. We deserve inspirational leadership from our elected officials and our President, but it’s up to us to build the movement to make change inevitable. I have to believe we can do that, because failure isn’t an option.