Activism

The Government Scandal That Shows the People Have to Take Radical Action to Prevent Climate Change

The corrupt failure of the United Nations COP 19 climate summit makes revolt irresistible.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Irina Korshunova

The world has been rapidly approaching a crossroads not only on climate change but also on mass extinction, destruction of the oceans, poisoning of the air, land and water and deteriorating food quality and security. A global revolt has been building and after this week in Poland, another reason to explode against the world’s richest governments has been provided. It is time for a world-wide environmental justice revolt. 

The Corrupt Climate Summit Falls Apart as Nations “Do Nothing”

The United Nations COP 19 climate summit has fallen apart because it is rooted in deep corruption. The overt domination by polluting industries is highlighted by Michael Klare who wrote in Tom Dispatch this week: “few governments are as yet prepared to launch the sorts of efforts that might even begin to effectively address the peril of climate change, they will increasingly be seen as obstacles to essential action and so as entities that need to be removed. In short, climate rebellion.”

At COP 19, the Corporate Europe Observatory reported that the conference was sponsored by “major car manufacturers, oil companies, steel manufacturers and coal firms.” In addition “the Polish Ministry of Economy has teamed up with the World Coal Association to put on a parallel ‘International Coal & Climate Summit,’ also in Warsaw.” In other words, the people profiting from industries that create the climate crisis took control of the climate summit. The coal industry pushed all sorts of nonsensical clean coal schemes to claim we can mitigate climate change and burn coal.

People were forced to protest as the only means of trying to shape the debate. Their question was: “Who rules the world, the fossil fuel industry or the people?”  Amy Goodman whose Democracy Now! has been doing excellent reporting on COP 19 asked UN representatives about the sponsorship of corporate polluters, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon defended the practice saying everyone has to be at the table.

Goodman pointed out there were corporate logos all over COP 19 and the message seemed to be corporations are welcome, civil society is not. She asked about the banning of three protesters who merely held up signs in support of the Philippines whose chief climate negotiator, Naderev “Yeb” Saño, was on a hunger strike to protest the inaction of the world on climate. Saño had just made an emotional plea to the delegates for action, and the young protesters held up a banner behind him at a press conference that read: “2012, Bopha, 1,067; 2013, Haiyan, 10,000-plus? How many more have to die?” Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, defended the ban saying they had not told security they were going to protest.

In fact climate justice activists were harassed from the outset. Chris Williams, long-time environmental activist and eco-socialist reports they were stopped at the border, even though the EU has open borders, met b SWAT teams at the train station and quickly saw the corporate-insignia dominated COP 19 as unwelcoming to activists.  He describes the “pervasive smell of inaction seeped like a suffocating gas throughout the inside of the conference, outside, the choking effects of coal smoke waft from all corners of a country that obtains 90 percent of its electricity from coal and whose government has pledged to keep it that way until 2060.”

The Hindu reported on leaked US State Department documents which instructed US diplomats across the world to essentially do nothing on climate and say the US is doing enough.  In particular, the leaked documents showed that the US refused to help poor countries adversely impacted by climate change and urged private corporations to finance such assistance; and they wanted no country to be forced to take higher emission reduction pledges then already had been volunteered.  While urging “do nothing” they also hypocritically told diplomats to claim that President Obama and Secretary Kerry have climate change as a high priority.

The obstinacy of the United States and other developed countries to recognize that they are the primary cause of the climate crisis and therefore have a responsibility to pay for the “loss and damage” caused the conference to fall apart. Developing countries see this as a red line issue but were blocked from making any progress on it; 132 countries walked out, orchestrated by the G77 and the China bloc of 132 countries.

Amy Goodman reported that this walkout was followed by hundreds of environmental activists also leaving over the absence of a binding agreement. In an interview with Goodman, Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace International said the “COP is a complete betrayal to the sense of urgency that is needed . . . we are walking out, and we are committing ourselves to mobilize the largest number of people in every single country in the world . . .  our message to our political leaders: Understand that nature does not negotiate. You cannot change the science.”

Dennis Trainor, Jr. sums up the lesson of the COP 19 on ACROYNM TV: “the Giant Pink Elephant in the room is that our world leaders can’t seem to deal with the reality of climate change because it is not profitable in short term profits for the global elite and the bottom line of transnational corporations.”

Beyond the Climate Summit, Government and Energy Profiteers Continue Destruction

The corruption of the climate summit is one example of many of how the fossil fuel industry, in cahoots with corrupt government, continues its destruction of the planet.

Oil Change International issued a report which showed that developed countries are providing five times more in public support for fossil fuel production and consumption than they have so far pledged in climate finance. They urge countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2015.  Governments also relax rules or ease the way for fossil fuels. For example, the Coast Guard is moving forward with a proposal that would allow barges to transport large amounts of hazardous and radioactive wastewater from fracking operations on America’s major rivers. (See link to see how you can oppose this.) Whether it’s the Republican “drill baby drill” or the Democratic “all of the above energy strategy,” the bi-partisans in Washington are willing to destroy the planet for fossil fuels.

At the same time, an oil and gas investors report indicates that the fossil fuel industries are not done raping the planet.  The investors see huge fortunes to be made in extreme extraction of oil and gas through mass investments in sub-sea infrastructure that will put the already fragile ocean at further risk, fracking old wells to get more fuel from them, the global shale oil boom, new technology to find oil and gas to frack, and mass expansion of pipelines. If there ever was an industry that put their profits ahead of the planet and people, it is the oil and gas industry that is heavily subsidized by tax dollars.

And, these industries buy politicians, the media and advocacy groups. Investigative reporter Steve Horn wrote at DeSmog Blog this week that gas industry tax returns show they are investing heavily in movies, media firms like the one owned by Obama’s campaign operative, David Axelrod, as well as Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) nephew’s firm, firms run by Clinton Administration officials, and media outlets like Bloomberg as well as MSNBC’s new website which bizarrely claims to be a progressive hub.  They are also donating to environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund to promote “responsible regulation” rather than bans on fracking.

This is occurring despite the fact that more people are experiencing the negative impacts of extreme extraction. Recently a pipeline operated by Chevron Corp exploded in rural Milford, Texas forcing the town to be evacuated.  This is one of the many regularly-occurring environmental catastrophes caused by oil leaks, explosions and train accidents. 

And, this week Public Citizen issued a report stating that we should expect more leaks from the Keystone Pipeline. The report documents construction problems and apparent engineering code violations along the Texas portion of KXL, including pipe being installed with excessive bending or sagging, and peeling patches of field coating applied to cover damage on pipes about to be placed into the ground.

Stopping a threat to the people and planet, the Trans-Pacific Partnership

One of greatest threats to the environment is the global corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  There was a major shift in momentum this week on the TPP as the protest movement continues to build to a global day of action on December 3rd.

This week protesters ‘welcomed’ the TPP negotiators who were meeting in Salt Lake City, UT.  If the Office of the US Trade Rep thought they could avoid protesters by going to Salt Lake City, they were wrong.  On the first day, a hundred protesters including labor activists, environmentalists, climate change activists and those seeking social and economic justice participated. On the second day they created a noisy TPP Welcoming Committee that brought drums, pots and pans and noise makers to multiple entrances of the building where negotiations were occurring.  On the third day they flew weather balloons to lift a giant banner outside the hotel which said: “Psst TPP what are you hiding?” and “Flush the TPP.org” while holding a funeral for our freedoms which will be destroyed by the TPP.

Momentum for the TPP has shifted over the past year as it has become exposed as a global corporate coup. More people are speaking out and mobilizing against it. In fact, 180 Members of the House, including three-quarters of the 200 Democrats came out publicly against Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.  Without Fast Track President Obama would be unable to pass the TPP or the Atlantic version, TAFTA.  Two advocates of the TPP, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told the media Fast Track will not be considered in 2013. That puts them into the do-nothing election year of 2014. When these and other problems are added up, it becomes evident that the people can defeat the TPP and stop this transnational corporate power grab.

Much of the building opposition became more public last week when Wikileaks released the intellectual property chapter of the text which showed the Obama administration trying to strong arm other nations into a trade agreement for the transnational corporations.  In fact, the Washington Post, normally a very pro-trade agreement newspaper, wrote this week about the Wikileaks disclosure that “it is obvious why the USTR and the Obama administration have insisted on secrecy. From this text it appears that the U.S. administration is negotiating for intellectual property provisions that it knows it could not achieve through an open democratic process.”  And, the pro-corporate trade Bloomberg News editorialized that Obama’s secrecy is destroying the trade agreement.

In Salt Lake City, when the Tribune reported on the protests, the USTR showed that panic might be setting in. Carol Guthrie, their senior adviser for media affairs told an obvious lie when she said the treaty had been negotiated with “unprecedented transparency.” Of course, the opposite is true as this is the most secretive trade negotiation in history and the first time a text has been classified as secret. Ms. Guthrie showed the world today that the US Trade Reps office cannot be trusted. Add to that the bogus interim environmental report which claims that the TPP will have no “significant adverse impacts in the United States.” The loss of credibility will not help the passage of the TPP.

And, now protests are starting to infect Obama and Democratic Party fundraisers.  Activists in Los Angeles are planning to protest two Democratic fundraisers on the 25th.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will be in attendance along with President Obama.  As the movement grows, elected officials are hearing from more constituents that they oppose the TPP and do not want President Obama to be given the authority to negotiate the agreement without congressional involvement throughout the process.

The Global Movement against Environmental Destruction

Recently two videos crossed our screens that highlighted how the movement for environmental justice is worldwide and that people across the globe are in the same struggle against corporate profits at the expense of the planet.

The first was a remarkable short film The Gállok Rebellion about indigenous peoples, the Saami, whose tribal lands are located in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Except for the color of their skin, which is white, their story is the same as mistreated indigenous people throughout the world.  The film tells the story of an anti-mining conflict in 2013.  It is an inspiring story as the Saami persistently resist and gradually gain support of non-indigenous people and successfully stop the mining. Their strategy and tactics, as well as the police response, mirrored the conflicts of Idle No More, First Nations and Native Indians in North America. These are the same kinds of tactics used in the blockades of pipelines, hydro-fracking, mountain top removal and other extreme forms of extraction.  It is quite remarkable to see the similarities.

The second film, Heritage Fight, is from Australia; it shows a similar conflict that is occurring in the last great wilderness of Australia, Broome in the remote Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Local people, including the indigenous aboriginal Goolaraboloo’s, who see themselves as custodians of the land join, with white Australians fighting to prevent the second largest liquefied natural gas terminal on the planet from being developed in this priceless area. Once again, the same strategy and tactics of both sides can be seen playing out.

Canada has become a hotbed of environmental activism as the Harper government has turned the nation into one of the biggest polluters on the planet.  People are fighting back against the lunge into extreme excavation throughout the nation.  Last weekend tens of thousands of Canadians demonstrated in 130 communities against their energy policy.  One sign summarized the change in Canada: “Canada should be leading the Green Revolution not hindering it. What happened Canada?? You used to be cool.”

This protest is part of ongoing protests that are often being led by First Nations peoples. One hotbed of conflict has been North of Elsipogtog where tensions are rising between the Mi’kmaq and Canadian Mounted Police. The conflicts with First Nations over energy extraction are also bringing up long simmering disputes over the treatment of the indigenous, tribal lands and indigenous sovereignty.  There are court and street conflicts constantly going on between the indigenous and the Canadian government. These same kinds of conflicts with native peoples are occurring in the United States, indeed Noam Chomsky says that indigenous people are ‘taking the lead.’

Another area where worldwide protest can be seen has been the case of the Greenpeace Arctic 30 who were arrested by Russia on September 13th in a protest against drilling in the Arctic. Protests were held in 263 cities last Saturday urging the release of the 30 activists. This week some of the group went to court.  While nine were released on bail, one, Australian Colin Russell must remain in jail until February 24, while the investigation continues.  No doubt, the worldwide protests will also continue on their behalf.

A final area of global concern where there were developments this week is Fukushima.  The crippled nuclear power plant is beginning a long-term, high risk activity moving fuel rods from their perilous position on the fourth floor of reactor four.  Prior to starting, the energy company TEPCO and Japan finally acknowledged that the activity was not routine and was risky.  They have to remove more than 1500 fuel rods in a process that could take up to two years; and the chance of a fire developing that would release large amounts of radiation into the air is very real. It is not surprising that CNN showed itself to be a nuclear energy propaganda outlet that cannot be trusted, first showing a one-sided film with lots of inaccuracies, and then following that with a lopsided panel in which Anderson Cooper embarrassed himself.

People Can See the World They Want and Are Building It

In addition to protesting what they do not like, many people are working to put in place the new economy that will move beyond oil, gas, coal and nuclear to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.  There is a lot of evidence that this kind of economy is not only possible but inevitable.  The question is how much damage will be done before we get there.

This week a labor group issued a report which found that every dollar spent on gas, water, and sewer infrastructure in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas generates 156% more employment than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Another 2013 report by researchers at Stanford that focused on the state of New York found that by 2030 New York could convert to energy from wind, water and sunlight. Not only is this feasible, but it would also reduce energy costs, create jobs, reduce air and water pollution and improve health. 

Plans are being made to bring new economy advocates together in Boston next spring. The planners say that all over the country “people are experimenting with new ways to create sustainable businesses, share knowledge and resources, and build resilient and democratic communities.”

In fact, we need to restructure our economy if we want to restore the planet and meet the needs of people. Economist Richard Smith writes we need “global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy.”  The current financial structure results in ongoing destruction of the environment and mistreatment of workers.  Smith says it this way: “So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction” The only way out “overthrow this global economic system.”

Like so many who follow these issues closely, Michael Klare sees the potential:

“it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others.  Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet.  While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy.  And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.”

Richard Smith sees this as well, concluding: “Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic ‘awakening,’ an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity’s last best hope. Let’s make history!”

An anonymous call for a “crowd sources worldwide wave of action #www” this spring has been put out and is gaining traction. #www challenges “the corporate controlled state and its paradigm that now preys on the resources and spirits of people” and avers that the “tipping point is near” for the “decentralized movement” that is “raging across the world.” They call for a “Worldwide Wave of Transformation” over a three-month “massive spring offense.”

The COP 19 was so open in their corruption and domination by polluters; as well as their mistreatment of developing nations and civil society, that government and big business have once again shown – we have no choice but to revolt.  It is time to create a culture of urgent transformation.

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This article is produced by PopularResistance.org in conjunction with AlterNet.  It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are participants in PopularResistance.org. They also co-direct It’s Our Economy and are co-hosts of Clearing the FOG, shown on UStream TV and heard on radio. They tweet at @KBZeese and MFlowers8.