What’s Next for the Climate Movement?

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.

5 Responses to “What’s Next for the Climate Movement?”


  1. 1 ClaudiChameleon Jul 23rd, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    MONEY! that’s why the Prez, Senators, etc. etc. feel they can just “shelve” climate change bills and actions. SO MUCH MONEY is pushing against any efforts to take any action against Big Oil/Coal/Gas/Industry and Big MONEY… Idealistic young Liberals (and most not so young ones) don’t seem to understand the Power, Intensity and Determination involved in THE WAR AGAINST PROGRESSIVE CHANGE that is being waged on so many fronts in this nation and the world. BECAUSE SO MUCH MONEY-POWER IS AT STAKE. Those who are very close to truly Dominating the Globe for their own personal pleasures and preferences… who already Control almost Everything… see that the whole oyster is within their grasp and their fist is about to close around it. THEY DO NOT WANT CHANGE OF ANY KIND AND WILL DO ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING TO STOP IT. You just Must understand this! WE must understand it! And TAKE EVERY ACTION POSSIBLE to stop their fist from closing around US all.

  2. 2 Daniel J Sullivan Jul 23rd, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    One of my fears is being arrested.I came very close to purposely being arrested in the 2005 peace march in D.C.but I remembered that I had some family documents in my backpack,so I heeded the order to move from the fence in front of the White House.I don`t regret my actions at all.

    But recently I see that industry is so powerful over the Washington scene,and nothing is going to happen until people actively engage in civil disobedience.I am ready to do this as I was willing to die for my country in the 1960s by taking to the streets to stop the war.We did it.We with the help of Daniel Ellsberg and those of us who got the shit kicked out of us,stopped that war.Our mistake was not following up.

    Now is the time to rectify that mistake.I am again ready to get arrested,even die.The corporate criminals have wrecked this country and now the whole world.The lie about what is really happening to this planet will kill us all unless we fight.corporations have engaged in civil disobedience for years.It was backed up by the powers that be,the government.Now seeing that corporate pressure and money has bought off our three branches of government it is time to move with the non-violent weapons that we have,the pen and civil disobedience.This is a life or death movement.If we do not stop the corporate “war on the earth,”none of us will survive.This post is only part of my work.The 10/10/10 Global Work Party will be part two. Beyond that I do not know.

  3. 3 fishita1 Jul 24th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I agree that we need to start doing things on a local level, however, there is good climate change legislation out there. It is the CLEAR Act written by Senators Maria Cantwell of WA and Susan Collins of Maine. It is out of the box legislation that is only 40 pages long and is not written by industry reps like the Kerry-Lieberman bill. If we want to change Congress we need to start supporting this kind of legislation. It does have some support from environmental groups but I don’t think the big ones like Sierra Club have signed on so if you are members of these groups you should ask them about their view of the legislation. The CLEAR Act just got passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee so it still does have a chance. Please take a look at the legislation and if you like it contact your reps in Congress for their support.

  4. 4 Matt Dernoga Jul 25th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Well said Phil

  1. 1 » US Senate deals blow to global climate talks - Sydney Morning Herald Trackback on Jul 24th, 2010 at 6:27 am
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About Phil


Phil has been a campus clean energy activist and helped organize Step It Up 2007, the largest national open source grassroots campaign to stop global warming. He is currently working on building an international movement, focusing specifically on mobilizing and educating people in Africa and the Middle East. His new project, 350.org, will stitch together a creative, powerful and unstoppable global movement pushing for bold and comprehensive action on climate change on the international level.

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