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RAN, at 25, Keeps After the Banks

As Rainforest Action Network turns 25, new director Rebecca Tarbotton says they are fighting 'the biggest battle that has ever been fought.'

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We need a million CodePinks. That type of fearlessness is tremendous. I think that RAN is also like that, we just operate differently because we are running longer-term campaigns and have a different kind of infrastructure. We are setting goals three years out and working toward that. Not that CodePink isn’t doing that, I just think there is a distinction there.

DH: So what’s the scenario on climate change? You know obviously we’re heading into an election where what little advantage that Democrats had for two years, which turned out to be not very much, is going to evaporate almost overnight. The Republican party as a whole somehow has become climate change deniers. What’s the future?

RT: I think that we’re in a pretty dismal state in terms of climate in the U.S. right now, to be totally honest. What gives me hope is that, not to sound arrogant, is that we’ve been having a lot of really good success for our campaign.

So where I see a huge amount of opportunity is twofold. One is that there are a lot of people in this country right now who really threw their heart and soul into climate policy at the national level. And now that that has failed, they are standing around saying "give me something to do." Whether it is a push for renewable energy, whether it is fighting a coal plant, whether it is fighting to deconstruct an existing coal plant -- whatever it is, people I think are really hungry to take action and really willing to step it up.

Secondly, I think that we also have a real opportunity around confronting corporate power at the moment because if there is one thing that is true, it is that we know that climate policy failed in Washington because of the influence of big business. The fossil fuel lobby is tremendously powerful and if we don’t get it out of the way, if we don’t really drive a stake through its heart, we are really never going to get progressive climate policy in Washington. So the one most important thing that I can see us doing alongside movement building is really pushing to essentially undermine coal and oil in the United States and push heavily into the future.

DH: What’s the stake you’re going to drive?

RT:I think the first stake – we’re not there yet -- was almost winning on mountaintop removal. You know, we assessed years ago that the weak underbelly of the coal industry was really mountaintop removal because the most egregious, clearly un-American thing that they could possibly be doing is destroying this national monument and this incredible wealth of culture at the heart of Appalachia. And I think that the national attention that has been driven toward mountaintop removal has really exposed the depths to which the coal industry is willing to go to continue our addiction to coal, and the cost that they are willing to accumulate environmentally, in the waters, in the community, health. That’s their vulnerability.

DH: But is that their heart?

RT: No, it is not their heart. But I think what is really important is that for the first time we see on the horizon the end to a particular form of coal mining that is unacceptable. And with that end to coal mining, it actually has created a political space for having a conversation about what kind of coal mining is acceptable, what does it mean to keep coal in the ground. That is a conversation that the U.S. has to have.

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