Archive for the 'Politics' Category

VICTORY: Midwest Generation and GenOn Announce Coal Plant Closures

Well, folks, it seems the fight to phase out coal-fired electric generation is starting to work. Today, Midwest Generation announced that they will be closing their two dirty coal plants in Chicago, the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen will shut down in 2012 and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village will shut down by 2014. As if this wasn’t enough good news, GenOn has also announced that it will be retiring 8 of it’s plants, 7 coal and 1 oil.

These plants are some of the dirtiest in the nation, and are probably part of the reason I, and so many others, grew up with asthma. What’s more, their impact on the climate will shortly be eliminated and I hope that means the demand drives further renewable energy production.  Below are many links where you can learn more, but a huge debt of gratitude goes out to the organizations who have been fighting these, and for those who mobilized the American public to get stronger rules at EPA. In particular, the communities of Pilsen and Little Village have been dealing with the health effects of Fisk and Crawford and have been fighting for their closure for some time.

Here’s more: P.E.R.R.O, Washington Post, Greenpeace , Sierra ClubChicago CBS, Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See

One of the great things about the age of email, Twitter, and Facebook, is it theoretically allows ordinary people to connect quickly and easily with their elected officials, sharing their views about matters of concern to them.  In the perfect democracy, politicians would embrace the opportunity to host open and transparent discussions about big issues online.

Yet in the real world, politicians all too often use tools like Facebook merely to have a one-sided conversation, projecting the image they want you to see while removing posts and comments they disagree with.  A case in point is Montana’s Congressman Denny Rehberg (who is running for the US Senate this year).

One week ago, after a weekend of action against coal exports in the Northwest, youth activists posted photos from a rally outside of Rehberg’s office on his Facebook page.  Since the action was on a Sunday, when no one was in the office, we wanted to make sure Rehberg still knew we had been there.  Some of us hoped he might even respond to our concerns about expanded coal mining, and explain why he continues to support the coal industry despite it’s record of health, safety, and environmental violations.

Instead, the photos were removed from Rehberg’s Facebook page almost immediately.  No comments, no explanation, nothing.

Continue reading ‘The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See’

Climate Activist Punks Big Oil’s “Vote4Energy” Commercial Shoot

Posted on Behalf of Connor Gibson, Greenpeace Activist.

If you had the chance to talk to Big Oil directly to its big oily face, what would you want to say?

I recently had such a chance at a commercial shoot run by the American Petroleum Institute, the major lobbying and public relations front for the oil industry (ie ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, TransCanada and just about every major oil company). Here’s what I had to say:

Through recorded audio, we got to expose API’s upcoming “Vote4Energy” campaign, which debuts January first on CNN during major political programs. Audio recordings from inside the Vote4Energy commercial shoot can be found on the Greenpeace website, and on Yahoo News. More can also be found at the Checks and Balances Project, where Deputy Director and youth climate leader Gabe Elsner has more recordings from inside the shoot.

Continue reading ‘Climate Activist Punks Big Oil’s “Vote4Energy” Commercial Shoot’

How the People Got Their Groove Back: What a Bunch of Farmers Can Teach a Bunch of Occupiers About How to Keep on Going

[Written by Ash Sanders. Originally published as a zine, which you can download and print (6 double-sided sheets folded into a 24 half-page booklet). Online version cross-posted from peacefuluprising.org]

Not so long ago, Americans witnessed the beginning of a mass democratic uprising. Thousands of average people, disgusted by greedy elites and corporate control of government, launched a movement that spread to almost every state in the nation. They did it to reject debt. They did it to fight foreclosures. They did it to topple a world where the 1 percent determined life for the other 99. And they did all of it against incredible odds, with a self-respect that stymied critics.

The year? 1877. The people? Dirt-poor farmers who would come to be known as Populists.

Now it’s 2011, and the People are stirring again. It’s been over two months since a few hundred dreamers pitched their tents in Zuccotti Park and stayed.

These people weren’t Populists, but they had the same complaints. They couldn’t make rent. They had no future. They lived in a nation with one price for the rich and another for the poor. And they knew that whatever anyone said that they didn’t have real democracy.

Okay, and so what? What do a bunch of century-dead farmers have to do with the Occupy movement? Well, quite a lot, actually.

You see, the Populists came within an inch of changing the entire corporate-capitalist system. They wanted a totally new world, and they had a plan to get it. But as you may have noticed, they didn’t. And now here we are, one hundred years later, occupying parks where fields once stood. We’re at a crucial phase in our movement, standing just now with the great Everything around us—everything to win or everything to lose. It’s our choice. And that’s good, because the choices we make next will echo, not just for scholars and bored kids in history class, but in the lives we do or don’t get to have. The good news is this: the Populists traveled in wagons and left us their wheels. We don’t have to reinvent them. We’re going in a new direction, but I have a feeling they can help us get there.

Occupy has done a lot of things right, and even more things beautifully. But strategy has not been our forte. That was okay at first, even good. We didn’t have one demand, because we wanted it all. So we let our anger grow, and our imagination with it. We were not partisan or monogamous to one creed. That ranging anger got 35,000 people on the Brooklyn Bridge after the Wall Street eviction, and hell if I’m not saying hallelujah. But winter is settling now, and cops are on the march. Each week we face new eviction orders, and wonder how to occupy limbo.

It’s time for a plan, then, some idea for going forward. This plan should in no way replace the rhizomatic-glorious, joyful-rip-roarious verve of the movement so far. It can occur in tandem. But we need a blueprint for the future, because strategy is the road resistance walks to freedom.

In that spirit, I sat down a few years ago and devoted myself to studying social movements of the past. I wanted to see what I could learn from them—where they went wrong, where they went right. I didn’t trust this exercise to random musings. No, like a good Type A kid, I made butcher paper lists of past movement features and mapped them onto current ones. I asked: What is the revolt of the guard for the climate movement? What’s the modern anti-corporate equivalent of the Boston Tea Party?

As I read, I learned a lot about the phases movements go through as they form, what common features they share, and what often breaks them apart.

I could name these phases myself, but it’s already been done. And no one has named them better than historian Lawrence Goodwyn, a thinking human if there ever was one and the author of The Populist Moment.

Goodwyn said that successful movements go through four stages:

Continue reading ‘How the People Got Their Groove Back: What a Bunch of Farmers Can Teach a Bunch of Occupiers About How to Keep on Going’

Occupy Denialism

Occupy Denialism: Toward Ecological and Social Revolution

This is a reconstruction from notes of a keynote address delivered to the Power Shift West Conference, Eugene, Oregon, November 5, 2011.

All of us here today, along with countless others around the world, are currently engaged in the collective struggle to save the planet as a place of habitation for humanity and innumerable other species.  The environmental movement has grown leaps and bounds in the last fifty years.  But we need to recognize that despite our increasing numbers we are losing the battle, if not the war, for the future of the earth.  Our worst enemy is denialism: not just the outright denial of climate-change skeptics, but also the far more dangerous denial — often found amongst environmentalists themselves — of capitalism’s role in the accumulation of ecological catastrophe.1

Recently, climate scientists, writing in leading scientific journals, have developed a way of addressing the extreme nature of the climate crisis, focusing on irreversible change and the trillionth ton of carbon.  Central to the scientific consensus on climate change today is the finding that a rise in global temperature by 2° C (3.6° F), associated with an atmospheric carbon concentration of 450 parts per million (ppm), represents a critical tipping point, irreversible in anything like human-time frames.  Climate models show that if we were to reach that point feedback mechanisms would likely set in, and society would no longer be able to prevent the climate catastrophe from developing further out of our control.  Even if we were completely to cease burning fossil fuels when global average temperature had risen by 2° C, climate change and its catastrophic effects would still be present in the year 3000.  In other words, avoiding an increase in global average temperatures of 2° C, 450 ppm is crucial because it constitutes a point of no return.  Once we get to that point, we will no longer be able to return, even in a millennium, to the Holocene conditions under which human civilization developed over the last 12,000 years.  Many of you are aware that long-term stabilization of the climate requires that we target 350 ppm, not 450 ppm.  But 450 ppm remains significant, since it represents the planetary equivalent of cutting down the last palm tree on Easter Island.2.

Continue reading ‘Occupy Denialism’

Why Ethical Oil’s Deceptive ‘Women’s Rights’ Defense of Tar Sands is Insulting and Wrong

Cross posted from DeSmogBlog.com written by Emma Pullman

EthicalOil.org’s new spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall, authored an insulting piece this week on the Huffington Post titled “Care About Women’s Rights? Support Ethical Oil”. Marshall’s piece is a response to the October 11 article by Maryam Adrangi at It’s Getting Hot In Here.  Adrangi argues that the underlying motive of the “ethical oil” campaign is to deflect negative attention from the tar sands, not to actually engage in a conversation about women’s liberation.

“If women’s rights were of genuine concern to EthicalOil.org” writes Adrangi, “then there would be a conversation about the impacts that tar sands extraction has on women”.

You’ll notice that Marshall’s attempted rebuttal fails to actually address the substantive criticisms made in Adrangi’s piece – Marshall never mentions the impacts of Alberta’s tar sands development on women, but instead repeats the same arguments and general hand-waving that sparked Adrangi’s criticism of EthicalOil.org’s conservative pundits in the first place.

Marshall’s promotion of tar sands oil is framed around a central argument that if we care about women’s rights then we must support tar sands expansion, and by extension the Keystone XL pipeline, because Canadian women fare far better than women in petrocracies, such as Saudi Arabia.  But Marshall’s argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for three major reasons.

The first is that increasing tar sands output will not hurt the Saudi sheiks’ coffers. TransCanada’s own research proves that the Keystone XL pipeline was never meant to decrease our reliance on foreign oil, just to keep Gulf Coast refineries at capacity. As global demand for oil keeps going up, a marginal shift in Canadian and US consumption will be offset by growing demand from other countries, keeping prices high and continuing to enrich the oppressive Saudi regime. Expanding the tar sands just buys Saudi Arabia a bit more time to profit before we are compelled to shift away from oil addiction towards a clean energy future – the real ‘ethical’ choice.

This leads to the second major flaw in Ethicaloil.org’s argument: it presents the reader with a false choice. Marshall’s bait-and-switch suggests that we must make a choice between “conflict oil” and “ethical oil”. On the contrary, you can simultaneously support women’s rights and oppose Alberta’s tar sands. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, to say the least. If we really want to hurt the regimes of oppressive petrocracies, then the wise choice is to end our addiction to fossil fuels and move rapidly towards a clean energy economy, setting a model that the rest of the world can follow. EthicalOil.org’s entire line of reasoning is a diversionary tactic designed to obscure this hard reality. It’s a red herring, and a dangerous one at that.

Third, Marshall’s emotional appeal tells readers that because women’s rights are worse in petrocracries, then we needn’t concern ourselves with what’s happening in Canada. In Canada, we have female mayors and premiers. We are a liberal democratic nation that respects human rights. I agree that the plight of women in many petrocracies is grave, but that does not mean that the plight of many women in Canada deserves less consideration from Canadians.

We can and should engage in critical discussions on women’s rights in Canada. And tar sands expansion forces us to explore some of these issues head-on.

In Alberta’s tar sands region in particular, rates of sexual violence towards women have increased and women working in the industry have reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination. With expansion of the tar sands industry, instances of domestic violence in Fort McMurray have spiralled upwards, and few women have safe places to go, forcing many to return home to their abusers.

Instead of pretending that expanding the tar sands will somehow help women in Saudi Arabia, let’s talk about how we can help Canadian women impacted right here at home by tar sands expansion.

Marshall boldly demands to know where Canadian women’s groups have been in speaking out against Saudi women’s oppression. Did she ever think to ask these groups? I did. For one, Jan Slakov, the National Secretary for Canadian Voices of Women for Peace, the organization that Marshall attacks in her piece, told me,

“The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace has worked to support women’s rights and well-being, not just in Canada, but around the world. Groups have raised funds to support programs in countires where women face systematic human rights abuses. We also work at the international level to support women’s rights through the UN.”

As a Women’s Studies graduate, Marshall should know that Canadian women’s rights groups are engaged in this fight directly. Instead, Marshall, while claiming to be an advocate of women’s rights, erases the history of the women’s rights movement in Canada and its work in global solidarity with women living under oppressive regimes. I can’t speak for women’s groups, but I think it’s telling that we haven’t heard any credible organizations supporting EthicalOil.org’s message. I suspect they see right through EthicalOil.org’s insincere issue hijacking.

Slakov notes that women’s organizations are engaged in promoting a clean energy future while advocating women’s rights. She told DeSmogBlog:

“We recognize that extreme weather events associated with climate change disproportionately affect women, especially in the world’s poorest countries.  This is one of the many reasons why we feel it is essential that Canada do its part to cut GHG emissions to the earth’s atmosphere.”

Marshall’s attempts to disparage Canadian women’s rights groups proves Maryam Adrangi’s point: “When we get attention, they get defensive and they look silly.”

And what else frankly looks silly is Kathryn Marshall’s connections to the oil lobby. Marshall learned her pro-oil talking points as an intern with the fossil fuel-funded Fraser Institute. Their internship program is funded in part by oil and gas money, including Gwyn Morgan of Encana and R.J. Pirie of Sabre Energy. Until July 2009, Marshall worked as Fraser’s Development Manager and raised over $125,000 to promote pro-oil, free market thinking.

Given this, it’s clear whose interests she’s chiefly representing, and it isn’t women’s rights. It’s the oil industry and its status quo profiteering without regard to the impacts of pollution on our planet, our familes and especially our women.

Ethicaloil.org,  if you really care about women’s rights, how about engaging in a real discussion of the impacts of the tar sands on First Nations communities and women? Prove you’re engaged in the advancement of women’s rights by joining the conversation about how to actually challenge oppressive Saudi sheiks —through a transition to a clean energy future.

Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Science, and spent three years working within the provincial and federal governments in research and policy development. In addition to her DeSmogBlog work, Emma sits on the board of TEDxVancouver, and is a Communications Advisor with Leadnow.

 

 

Power Shift West: Registration Open!

Across the country a bold movement is emerging to demand a clean and sustainable future. People of all ages and backgrounds are coming together to show industry and politicians that we will not let our country continue its dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and youth are at the forefront. Whether it is in DC resisting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, in Appalachia resisting the destructive process of mountaintop removal or in cities resisting the placement of toxic industries near low-income communities our generation is taking a crucial role in this process.

In the Pacific Northwest, we face numerous and complex problems. There is the export of coal to Asian markets, the expansion of clear cutting in ancient forests, the importation of tar sands equipment, unsustainable food systems, close ties between industry and politicians, and the ongoing inequity in the distribution of environmental harm in our own communities. Yet we also know how powerful we are when we come together as a movement. Youth environmental activists have been victorious in gradually phasing out coal plants, defeating LNG export terminals, and passing some of the boldest climate legislation in the country.

That is why on November 4th-6th, members of the youth environmental movement from up and down the west coast are going to Eugene for Power Shift West. The weekend long conference will have speakers, panels, skill building workshops and opportunities to network with other leaders of the youth climate movement. We gather to deepen our understanding of the systems that are destroying the environment and to develop tools to dismantle those systems and construct equitable and sustainable alternatives.

We demand a viable future where the health of our communities and our land is put above the profit of corporations. Come join us and be part of this growing movement.

Get involved today by registering to join us at Power Shift West.

Attend on Facebook & follow us on Twitter.

The View from Four Years Out

Cross-posted from www.solutionaries.net, where you can find more stories of young people building the green economy.

When I helped close the 2011 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions three weeks ago, I knew something amazing was happening, but in the flurry of it all I wasn’t really able to identify it. I started to get a sense of it when I first sat down at the Grand Aspirations August Gathering two weeks ago, when forty people from all over the country streamed in with wondrous stories of their work creating the green economy. By the end of the Gathering, last week, the full depth of the change was starting to dawn on me and was brought to the front of my attention when Ethan Buckner, a friend and Oakland Summer of Solutions Program Leader, said smiling at the end of a big group hug, ‘you know, we’ve created something really remarkable in the past few years’. Now, after a week of catching up and taking the next steps forward back in Minnesota, I’m finally seeing the view from four years out.

Four years ago was about 6 months after the events that got Cooperative Energy Futures and the Alliance to Reindustrialize for a Sustainable Economy off the ground – the seeds of my green economy work in the Twin Cities. It was about 6 months before the vision for the Summer of Solutions and Grand Aspirations emerged. Four years ago, there had been no national gatherings of thousands of youth activists, candidate Barack Obama was barely a competitor, and the economy had not yet tanked. The dream of a green economy was barely starting to be voiced, and the idea that we could sustain ourselves, our communities, and the future of our world by creating new ways to feed, house, power, and transport our society was an exciting but utopian ideal.

So what has changed?
Continue reading ‘The View from Four Years Out’

Outside, In.

I recently caught up with a once-and-forever youth climate leader who has since moved on to fill his days with other ways of building global community.  I asked what we needed to do to bring him back to the fold. He, in turn, confessed he wished he could borrow one of our own to further his new pursuits.  I gave him my blessing– but only if in four years, both of them would come back to us by running for elected office.
He laughed. I wasn’t joking.
Continue reading ‘Outside, In.’

From Cufflinks to Handcuffs: My experiences at the White House

That’s me with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis at the White House on Earth Day 2010

Here’s me getting arrested at the White House on September 2nd 2011 in protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Photo credit: Josh Lopez

During my college experience at American University I was pretty active in climate change issues on my campus and in my community. I went to Congress to push for ACES. I interned with environmental groups pushing for renewable portfolio standards and new passenger rail. I helped write the university’s carbon neutrality plan. Perhaps most important to this story, I voted for Obama in the Iowa caucuses and in the general election because of his pledges to take truly significant action to stop climate change. After spending years of my young life working inside the normal political system to push for these things this administration claims to believe in, I was fortunate to be invited to the White House’s Earth Day reception (along with about 100 other environmentalists).It was there that I got to meet folks I admired like Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, Hilda Solis, and President Barack Obama.  Everyone in attendance was still holding out hope that a climate-energy bill written by John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham could be passed. Looking back now, we know it never passed, wasn’t even voted on, and probably was the most watered-down bill there possibly could have been that claimed to be mitigating climate change.

I was very lucky to get to speak to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. I really admired Steven Chu for being a great scientist who straightforwardly said what he thought about energy issues; many times I told my friends that Chu was by-far the smartest and most qualified Secretary of Energy we had ever had. That’s why I was so utterly disappointed when he told EneryNow that he thought the Keystone XL pipeline was a good idea:

“I know there’s concerns about this, but both the technologies used to extract the tar sands oil – which are improving dramatically – and so I think that can go forward. I think in the end what we need to do is diversify our supply of oil. Right now our transportation needs come exclusively from oil.”  & “In the end, it’s not perfect but it’s a trade-off.”

Kind of an obfuscated statement for a scientist to make, eh? From what I can tell, he tepidly supports the thing, or has been told to do so by others in the administration, or maybe he’s just saying what he thinks the other people in the administration want him to think. I can only hope behind the scenes he is telling Obama to stop the pipeline because it will further chain our economy to oil and only make climate change worse.

But hope hasn’t worked thus far. Hope for a climate bill? Hope for an end to mountaintop removal? Hope for an end to offshore drilling? Hope for an end to oil company subsidies? Sad to say, but none of that hope has worked out for us environmentalists lately.

So instead of hoping, I decided to go back down to the White House and physically express my disagreement with Dr. Chu and his boss.

Getting handled by US Park Police. Still better than a party in the Rose Garden. Photo credit: Josh Lopez


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