It should be easy (and very important) to mock the G-7 politicians who put off the conversion from fossil fuels to 2100, which would seem to be after the apocalypse.  NGO’s like Oxfam would counter the national leader’s promise with the usual hopeful-but-scolding public statement.  But it is the artists who needed to respond, especially comedians.  Russell Brand must have said something, god bless him, but I missed it.  What I noticed was a deafening silence.  Extractive corporations everywhere let out a big sigh. 

The crucial mockery went missing because the cultural world is the most established and tragic climate denier.  Why?  Why would the arts be conservative on the climate?  Think of all the performances that challenged entrenched power.   Remember all those revolutions? …the Dadaists and rock and roll, Charley Chaplin in the Great Dictator, the Ghost Dance at the end of the Indian Wars, Sam Cook’s gift of “A Change Is Gonna Come” to Dr. King, the folk-singers and poets of the Peace Movement.

At this moment in time, we have such an overwhelming climate-silence in the United States that you have to look around and wonder – where are the censors?  We hear nothing about the earth for months on end.  No TV, no music, nothing viral.  The public response only comes when a natural disaster hits us so hard that we are forced to look away from the animated disasters in our video games…

Ten months have passed since the Peoples Climate March and the enduring activist event in the USA is Black Lives Matter.  The PCM was officially permitted and had little power.  The movement against racism and militarism in American police is boiling into a revolution. Black Lives Matter is in the streets, flash-mobbing into symphony halls, super malls and Grand Central Station.  The climate movement is officially indoors, law-abiding, not-getting-your-hands-dirty. 

The recent climate drama by an American artist is Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”.   The space thriller accepts the climate apocalypse of the Earth and it is lavishly deathy.  But multiplexes are like museums at this point.  The consumer experience is so dominating that the climate emergency dramatized inside the building doesn’t seem to stick with us as we leave.   Rather, we get purged by all the special effects and stagger from the theater having had all the climate change we can handle.  The outside world of the streets – where social movements have always taken place – is reduced to commuting, headphone-wearing, and the visuals of corporate products.

We know how silent we have been when the cry of a real Planet Crier breaks through.  Suddenly there is Gezi Park with its all-night piano in the 606 trees. Yeb Sano cries in front of the power suits at the Warsaw climate conference.  The Chilean gauchos-and-environmentalists ride horses for days to save the Patagonian Rivers.  Women with trapeze skills hang in bat outfits from refinery towers in New South Wales.  The Maldives parliament holds a meeting underwater in scuba gear.  The Nigerian mothers back down Chevron with their nakedness.  Pussy Riot dances on the altar.

Meanwhile, back in the land of consumerism, we artists aren’t getting that far.  We have crowds of books and docs about the earth and they educate us.  In 2015, activism must follow education, or why learn?  The best artists have work in museums, iPhones, and colleges, but again, it’s 2015 - activism must be the point.  We’ve got a lot of facts, aesthetics, perspective – what we lack is the actual change.  Chelsea Manning has more to do with a climate movement than another teach-in at the Sierra Club.

There was a day when the comedians, songwriters, and writers were the heralds of change in the West.  Now the bullhorn of earth activism has been seized by unlikely citizens who do scary things.  I’m thinking of the band of stalwarts who occupied UK’s Tate Modern, writing the words of Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein on the floor of the Turbine Room.  Liberate Tate!  Yes!  Overwhelm the big museum with climate scrawlings!

As the basic laws of the planet shift, we will outgrow the laws of our art forms, our careers and our uninvolved consumerism.  Strange-feeling decisions will be made.  “Breaking the frame” is necessary at this time.  Put it plain: we must risk arrest.  The totalizing culture is so complete that to say something unsanctioned, defending the earth, must be illegal.   

The 200 miles an hour wind isn’t legal, and it has the drama we need to get the message.  The mudslides and avalanches and floods do not have permits.  The droughts and fires uproot us, make us move, like good political art.  We have a great teacher.

Barack Obama’s mention of the slaughters of the Christian Crusades was the opening of a can of worms that turned into snakes. The victims of the knights in shining armor were Jews and Muslims, but that was that time. The followers of the three desert deities, Jehovah, the Prophet and Jesus — have battled back and forth through history. But then each religion has devout peace activists, too. Zealots, zealots everywhere.  

In Occupy Wall Street and in the Black Lives Matter as well, there was a steady presence of ministers and rabbis — and I remember a Lakota wisdom leader at Zuccotti Park — even though clearly most of the movement-makers are secular. But we welcomed the aura of Dr.King and the Dalai Lama and Chief Joseph and Gandhi and Bishop Tutu and the movements that they represent. They both comforted and emboldened us, as we marched off to lock arms inthe doorway of Goldman Sachs or die dramatically across the floor of GrandCentral Station. 

The dismissal of religion by Marxists is discredited by present day radicals, but so are belief systems with patriarchal gods. And yet, religion never leaves. Leaders of change sometimes seem like saints, if theyare more humble in demeanor, like Joan Baez or Aung San Suu Kyi, or Yeb Sano,the Filipino climate diplomat. If they are brassier, like Vandana Shiva, or Jose Bove or Edward Snowden, then they are called messianic. 

I’m in the business of manipulating the memes of right-wing apocalyptic Christianity, with the Stop Shopping Choir. We study the presence of intolerant religion within Consumerism and Militarism; in banks that finance C02 emitting industries, like Chase andHSBC and UBS, and manufacturers of toxins like Monsanto and Bayer. We believe that the marketing departments of these industries are the new fundamentalist churches, with crusaders in the form of sexualized automobiles and product placement on celebrities’ bodies. 

Of course we rarely get anywhere near a financial or fossil fuel policy-maker. They surround us with police, who are kept in a state of angry fear. And time and time again our protests are like a clash of fundamentalist religions, the activism of two churches claiming the same God. In the conflict with banksand police, things are always very muscular, lots of finger-pointing, refusals,threats, stand-offs. We’re dealing with mutual, simultaneous damnation. You are my infidel. 

I was recently hand-cuffed while speaking in New York’s Grand Central Station with the group “We Will Not Be Silent.” Surrounded by placards featuring the names of those killed by deadly police force, and wearing my usual white polyester and priests collar, I was cuffed in mid-sentence. The metal went into the verb. So much for the 1st Amendment. The next day the policetold the Murdoch papers that I attacked a cop. 

Of course, I felt out-maneuvered by the flamboyant right wingers. But did I misguess the event? Did my analysis of power against power, protesters against institutions — pre-empt any connection with the possibly sympathetic people within Grand Central Station? Anything internal in those folks, anything deeper than theiranger, was unrevealed in the activist event. The cops feel like 9/11 is still happening. And I’m taking their Christian preacher and shouting about their blunders. We all get angry together. 

I find myself desperately wanting to talk to the employees of Grand Central Station about what happened. But these big structures, the courts, the press — all of that gets in the way. A quiet human conversation is no longer possible. A good pastor can engage in loving conversation in the middle of horror, like Bishop Tutu looking the apartheid leaders in the eye. Could I have somehow done that? I did return after I got out of jail to try to talk to the cop who man-handled me, but he wouldn’t shake my hand. 

Birth, and life, and death — no one knows what life is. Life is unexplained. Science doesn’t know and religion doesn’t either. Fundamentalists rush in with hard answers, to assuage our fear of death. Usually, the doctrine is encased in bigotry. Fundamentalist holy men arrange for us to fear the Other. And yet, again, religion cuts both ways. A “person of the cloth” carries the burden of these deeper questions, and so they can have the effect of slowing down violence. I remember clerics inserting themselves between the front lines in the Balkans. 

More of our activism needs a spiritual basis, and that doesn’t only mean the absence of mindless confrontation. Spirit is laughter, shape-shifting and music. We felt the impact of Erica Warner dying-in on the Staten Island sidewalk where her father was murdered, a mysterious and beautiful act. And we remember Wangari Maathi planting trees in the Nairobi park, in the face of the brutal dictator, and Chelsea Manning opening the door of secrets. 

I should go back to Grand Central Station and talk to those people. At least I should be able to talk to mothers, because they have the endless questions of children ringing inside them, even if those moms are cops. That is the antidote to fundamentalism. All those questions. If I talked with a hundred mothers, wouldn’t that be a better kind of activism than shouting in the echoey station and getting hauled off? Here’s the question I want to ask: “How do we end this violence?”

 Watch Reverend Billy's Freakstorm: Radical Forgiveness in Grand Slander Station. 


The Long Black Friday made sense a week ago in Ferguson, not just to young people but, surprisingly, to an older coalition of justice workers and Christians ministers who called for the cessation of shopping throughout the long Thanksgiving weekend.  This is scandalous to the corporations. “Black Friday” is this weekend that establishes the retail profits for the year, as in, the company “Goes into the black.”  But politically this is a savvy and long overdue move.  The proposal confronts a decades-long drift toward a trading in of shopping for freedom.

Now we see die-ins in Macy’s in New York after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. Disruptions of the hypnotized state of holiday browsing continue in Walmarts and Targets throughout the country. These decisions to concentrate on big retail happen instinctively.  They are crowd-sourced.  People know that the privatizing of our commons is a key to what has gone wrong in our country.  Congress is a corrupted commons.  Shopping over-runs our local park.

Our nation was founded with surging anger that filled the streets and squares, the places that are owned by all of us.  The project of neo-liberalism in recent decades pulls funds from the government agencies that maintenance such places and then turns these stages for celebration and sorrow, volunteered entertainment, mixing of strangers in the urban tradition – over to the control of local businesses, socialite ladies, wealthy “conservancies.” 

Gradually the old sites for gatherings of freedom-fighters, like Union Square in New York, have been smothered with police and big retail.  Union Square, the most important 1stAmendment site for a series of social movements that have shaped American life – from the first Labor Day parade to the huge peace marches after 9/11 – is shut-down as a public space.  It is run now by a group of 50 rich and super-rich in a glorified “Business Improvement District” or BID, with a private police force that I have seen boss around the real police.

The commons was destroyed and we were steered into the money-making environments of malls and chain stores.  In many cities, corporate retail is the only place where people can meet.  It is the “center of town.”  Once there, we are bombarded with the concentrated fire-power of corporate marketing.  Instead of trees and wrought iron and the sculpted stone of old buildings -  we suffer the seductions of super-models 50 feet tall sporting jewelry and underwear. 

The police and courts went along with this shift to private property.  Shopping rose to a religio-economic status above all else.  Our prosperity and freedom depended on it, according to a series of presidents from Ronald Reagon to Bill Clinton and finally to George Bush’s famous statement after 9/11:  “If you love your country you go out shopping.” 

Expressive politics has become impossible.   Either we are burdened with endless permits for gathering and amplified sound or we proceed in the fear that to exercise our basic freedoms puts us at risk of arrest.  In most cities it has become routine that large numbers of police rush to any gathering of citizens of any kind.  Respect for the police has fallen off in parallel to the disgust we have for politicians, as both professions seem to work for the rich and the corporations.  The United States Constitution does not seem to be their script.  The public’s freedom is no longer the goal.  The public is something to manage, to push into de-politicized consumption. 

The vacuum in public space has left police without any countervailing force.  The rough democracy of speeches and music, the speaker’s corners, were always important for civic pride.  There needs to be a balance of power with the police, or they will rule the streets absolutely.  Unaware of the rights or feelings of their constituents, police and courts now have the power to decree a citizen’s death, because of what can only be described as their cultural isolation from the lives of the people that they swear to protect.

It makes sense to take the corporations up on their pretend public space.  Force them to take the public role they are incapable of.  Then re-open again our own commons, which waits with its 1st Amendment protections.  Public space must be public again.  The police who walk that beat must work for all the people.

Let's consider for a moment the Honey Bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.

The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Micro-Robotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly, buzzy honey-maker.

But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real-life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.

After one of our singing rituals at the laboratory, a public relations man named Paul followed us out proclaiming, "But we have nothing to do with colony collapse, and we're sorry that the Honey Bee is dying..." And yet the RoboBee project's top goal, as stated on their website, is to achieve mechanical pollination. So Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al - the Big Ag companies whose agricultural chemicals are driving the honey bee's die-off, must be very interested in this honey bee drone. How couldn't they be waiting in the wings? A robot bee would be invaluable as a pesticide-proof pollinator.

These corporate giants apparently expect the RoboBee to come online just in time for the real insect's extinction, since there is no evidence that they are reducing sales of the main suspect in the case of the vanishing bees, the neonicotinoid pesticides. (...which must be a very profitable item, one third of the pesticides used worldwide this year will contain neonicotinoids.) Every scenario for the death spiral of the bees involves these neuropathic chemicals. The beekeepers report that pollen-laden Honey Bees cannot find their way to the home hive, their navigation systems short-circuited by neonicotinoids carried in their bodies.

Let's go to the stage-mother of the fake bee: the drone-maker, DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the well-known drone designer that projects American power as a deadly buzzing sound in the sky above the villages of the mid-east. While American air-power always used the aerodynamics of falcons, ospreys and eagles - DARPA is teaching Pentagon futurists to dream of the quick turns and sneaky camouflage of bats, insects and hummingbirds.

The RoboBee's public relations flacks argue that the military has nothing to do with the RoboBee. However, we have tapes of the lead scientist at the RoboBee's lab, Dr. Rob Wood, publicly thanking DARPA for early financing of the project. He is a "DARPA Young Fellow," a million-dollar award given to researchers whose work reflects the "values of the Department of Defense." The RoboBee proponents have made a tactical to use Harvard University and the National Science Foundation for a veneer of non-drone prestige.

But there are smoking drones everywhere. Military awards have been pinned to Rob Wood's chest by the Navy and Air Force. This wunderkind of nano-technology has even received a citation from President Barack Obama, drone warfare's most famous fan. The RoboBee is a DARPA project and needs to be a part of Harvard's burgeoning divestment movement.

The flight of the RoboBee gives us a revealing map of how this marriage of executives and generals envision our future. It shows us the interlocking techniques of the military and industrial GMO agriculture. Monsanto's factory farms have evolved toward the Pentagon's approach to terrorism. The chief chemist of Agent Orange wants to cover the world's surface with mono-culture cash crops, where a single strain of, say, corn, is all you see to the horizon. Pesticides and herbicides select and eliminate living things that are not contributing to profitability.

There is collateral damage in this kind of farming. Any living thing that we would call "wild" - is at risk. Honey Bees from apiaries can be killed outright by the toxins, but also may not survive the Monsanto environment of dead wild plants and low-nutrient industrial crops. People living in rural areas are exposed to these toxins. Most tragically, indigenous people are swept aside by local bribed militia who present the leaders of traditional villages with rigged evictions and transfers of land title to the giant agriculture concerns. This is going on now in Africa, the so-called "Green Revolution," directed from the offices of Monsanto and the White House.

With its agricultural theory of overwhelming force, Monsanto has joined the Pentagon's presence in most countries. The two are rulers in the new corporatized planet. Monsanto and the DARPA's child, the RoboBee, fits this nightmarish Philip K. Dick future perfectly. If one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, then the out of control meandering of the Honey Bee is unacceptably inefficient. The vast mono-cultures that these executives envision require "Smartbees," computer-directed mechanical pollinators that go straight to designated flower targets.

But as James Brown once sang, wait a minute. Anthropologists date our partnership with bees back into antiquity. We've participated with the bee in its meandering brilliance for thousands of years. We've loved the flight of the bee as it disappears headlong into the flower. We love the taste of honey. Wait a minute, does the RoboBee make honey? Or is this robot bee in essence is a little bomber, taking off not from hives but from runways, heading out on its mission for American interests?

The Honey Bee is a lover, a honey-maker, a lyric in erotic songs, an endearment we give each other. The RoboBee, on the other hand, is a drone being financed by the government. This is weaponized nature. The RoboBee is a killer.

It seems every week or so you can hear language borrowedfrom the War On Terror, the Salem Witch Hunts and the McCarthy hearings. Some prosecutor is hurling invective at fossil fuel resisters, who sit in the courtroom with their pro bono lawyers, staring with the disbelief of newcomers to Evil. We know that there are heroes like the Sea Shepherd sailors, the Arctic 30, and Tim "Bidder 70" DeChristopher. Although some of these activists are young, we tend to think of them as veterans who are making a stand for the rest of us. But a new movement seems to be building, in which the heroes are people who might be described as amateurs. These are volunteer citizens who oppose fossil fuel projects near where they live - who resist with their bodies and no money. Something about these under-equipped protesters is making Big Oil go crazy.

Three Michigan women - Lisa Leggio, Barbara Carter, and Vicci Hamlin - chained themselves to an excavator in the little town of Mason. They were polite in that midwestern way throughout their protest of Enbridge, the Canadian firm that leaked 800,000 gallons of oil in their community, and can't seem to clean it up. After the conviction was read, Judge William Collette, a Republican and former bomber pilot, marched the ladies - one of them a great-grandmother - straight to jail from their defense table, despite their intentions to appeal.

Here we have a signature tactic of fossil fuel justice. Call it "overcharging," accusing nonviolent defendants of felonious crimes that will later be dropped, but meanwhile holding them in prison because the bail is too high. In this way, the personal turmoil in the families of the accused is maximized. Also, this is how the government and its partner corporations cast a pall of guilt on the innocent, making them look dark and dangerous on the local evening news.

Over-charging can quickly slide into creative charges that re-write the law. Our American alphabet soup of security, the DHS, NSA, FBI and TSA - is using a new charge on banner-droppers in Oklahoma City. Two activists in the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance are facing charges on perpetrating a "Bioterrorism Hoax" at the headquarters of extraction giant Devon Energy. This is a strange charge - that we cannot take an action that might excite the morbid imaginations of police. When some cheap glitter shook from one of the banners, the police reasoned that this might be chemical warfare. Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson face ten years in prison.

Over-kill is easy when you're Enbridge and Devon Energy, companies whose assets are in the $30 to $45 billion range. Behind the front line of fossil companies are the banks that finance them, such as Bank of America and Chase, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. The fossil-fuel-investing banks are bigger than most countries, with assets measured in the trillions. When these giants look over the shoulders of prosecutors and see someone everyone seems to know, who lives over on Elm Street, standing up to them - was anything more outside their business plan?

Even with the corrupting consultation of Big Oil, much happens in these courtrooms that seems unintended. The efforts to cast these home-made activists as dark assassins often backfires.

Vera Scroggins lives in a heavily hydrofractured area near the town of Montrose, in northeastern Pennsylvania. She has nonviolently but flamboyantly opposed the oil companies, even organizing a rally with Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon. The Cabot Oil and Gas Co., now owns much of property rights in and around Montrose, with a tangle of difficult-to-understand leases and easements, as well mineral rights beneath the homes of long-time citizens. Cabot is so upset with Ms. Scroggins, a 63 year old grandmother, that they persuaded a judge to issue an injunction that forbids her from walking anywhere on the 312 square miles around Montrose that Cabot somehow controls. This puts her under virtual house arrest. After being tailed by police for a few days, she realized that she couldn't figure out where it was legal for her to go. She couldn't walk to the pharmacy or her favorite diner. Scroggins has, surreally, asked the court for a map with legal trails through her own hometown.

The more innocent the protesters, the more terrified the billionaire's men. Grandmother Scroggins showed up in court to face Cabot alone, while the Cabot wall of suits was six lawyers deep. So they made her the exile on Main Street. Do they really believe that will be enough? Doesn't Vera Scroggins resemble the citizen volunteers who showed up early in the civil rights, the peace and gender rights movements? Isn't this entrenched power's historical nightmare - returning again to haunt them? The willingness to risk injury, jail or worse have made "ordinary people" into legendary figures. And these folks have kids and grandkids. What if these citizens really listen to what the scientists are saying, and realize that they nothing to lose but their loved ones - won't this make them the fiercest warriors of all? You can't stop Vera Scroggins, or the Enbridge Three, or the Oklahoma City glitterati. You can't stop the families who over-ran the fracking equipment in West Sussex. You can't stop Bo Webb, the ex-marine in the coal-blasted mountains of West Virginia. You can't stop Idle No More, the natives in Canada and Utah blocking tar sands equipment from their sacred lands. You can't stop the young UK activists who climbed EDF Energy's smokestack and stopped those emissions for a week. You can't stop Grace Cagle from living in the pipeline-blocking treehouse. You can't stop the Zapatistas, the ultimate revolution by nonprofessionals, the families in the mountains of Chiapas, still going strong after twenty years. You can't stop Drew Hutton and the Lock the Gate ranchers in Queensland and New South Wales. You can't stop the Grandmothers Knitting Against Gas; or Wahleah Johns and the Navajo community trying to go solar; or Yvon Raoul in Alberta, playing bagpipes against tar sands; or the Liberate Tate museum-invaders, trying to pry big oil from the prestige of fine arts...
There are too many Vera Scrogginses to chase down, and too many to publicly defame, and too many to lock up. In the coming years, the irresistible force of the changing Earth and the supposedly immoveable object of fossil fuel industry will have a fight to the death. Whatever sort of apocalypse we're in for, the Earth will survive, and in the end I bet that Vera walks where-ever she wants to.   


Consumerism is really crazy. Any system that converts freedom of expression into shopping - nuts. A system that wants us to swap out 7 kinds of milk for Jackson Pollack's Number 7? And what was Jackson Pollack? Crazy. Not safe. Not someone who could walk down the street in broad daylight in 2013, not with that stick dripping paint - looks too much like a gun. 

Consumption slides into violent fundamentalism when the same product is copped like a drug, when shopping patterns repeat. On the worldwide scale of modern retail, what corporations call "brand loyalty" becomes the vast dancing company called NORMAL BEHAVIOR. Behavior loyalty is a choreography, a limited number of repeating gestures that are approved, like synchronized swimming across the pavement. Acting normal becomes the same thing as being a patriotic American. Men dressed in blue who shoot unarmed people in distress - that's a product we bought in the USA. 

Yesterday - brave cops with automatic weapons killed a young woman, Miriam Carey. She was driving recklessly. She wasn't carrying a gun. (No, according to her mother, she had been depressed since giving birth earlier this year. Depression and the crazy delusion that she could talk to Barack Obama - THAT was what she was carrying.) In New York, we have had two mayors and 20 years of murderous police, and the two broadest categories of unarmed murdered citizens are young black males and people who flip out. All it takes is running down the middle of the street, waving a hammer ominously. 

Like with DC's heroes, NY cops are glorified store security, enforcing behaviors, not laws. In our "Church of Stop Shopping" activism in super malls - we've noticed a kind of terror in the eye of security people when we raise our voices in joyous song. But its the WRONG song, not the product's song, it is a crazy thing to do - and must be met with - law enforcement? It is a kind of clarifying exaggeration to say the cops are now killing the people who are not shopping, not in the choreography, more spellbound by Pollock's Number 7 than by 7 kinds of milk. 

CHILDREN LISTEN. We're counting on a good kind of crazy person, aren't we? A person who will surprise us? And lead us? We're waiting in fact - we're praying for - the arrival of a VERY PERSUASIVELY crazy person, and then a crazy tsunami of people, to stand up and run out into the street shouting - please tell me you will be one of those people - demanding that our killing the Earth stop, that we learn to live peaceably, to gather with other life. 

And here is Miriam.    --------Rev

Today in Istanbul, the surprise Spring continues, with many thousands rising up against the abuses of Turkey's fundamentalist government.  At the beginning, though, it was a modest protest of the kind I have devoted my own life to:  resisting a new downtown mall, the bulldozers advancing on Genzi Park, the last green space in that part of the old city.  I've noticed that reporters think it is flukish that a park's destruction would launch a nationwide response.  The livability of trees and grass must be a separate issue from the human rights encroachments that sparked this passionate uprising.

As we pass 400 carbon units per million, it is clear that the world needs a new political perspective, where we are not splintered into our "issues," but stand together with the Earth.  The isolation of the Environmental Movement needs to be overcome.   There are many good folks working in those well-funded NGO's, but they would not, for instance, bring together the homelessness that comes from fraudulent foreclosures with the sudden homelessness of a super storm.  They think the two storms must remain separate issues.

In New York City we have banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America - whose policies drove the foreclosure mills that led to so much homelessness in our country. These same banks move billions into projects which put CO2 into the air in great quantities, especially coal-fired power plants.  Yet, when Hurricane Sandy hit our city, there was no mention of Wall Street's creation of the very conditions that brought us destruction.  On the contrary, the banks sponsored blanket give-aways and musical concerts.  They storm-washed any inconvenient truth that might emerge about their investments.

Indeed, the thousand mile wide Sandy was not publicly tied to any possible cause - other than the vaguest of references to climate change.  The suggestion that some of us felt - that retribution was at hand by a storm that veered left in the North Atlantic for a dead-eye hit on the Apple, wasn't something you could say out loud.   Sandy couldn't be that smart.  But this is the way we have always looked at nature since the dawn of the industrial age.   Weather disasters can only be an "Act of God," and the Earth cannot respond to our actions.  The Earth has no consciousness.

It is my experience that peoples' on-the-ground conversations give much more common sense credit to an angry Earth.  Climate change is regarded by us as a response to the poisons of our species.  And Earth's protest makes sense to us because of how angry we ourselves have been against fundamentalist tyrannies.  We sense the similarity of our citizens' revolutions, and the Earth's uprising against the fundamentalist expansion of its apex predator, homo sapiens.

This is the basis for my expectation that the world's people will rise up against homelessness from social injustice and homelessness from earth injustice  - simultaneously.  We are beginning to find our homelessness as much in the loss of our atmosphere as we do in the loss of a house on the street.  The two forms that injustice take are becoming the same mother of all issues.

And so the swirl of justice-striving humanity in Istanbul's Genzi Park and the floods and winds from Earth's protest - have common cause.  There is a growing sense that we are out of time, we are "inhaling our last breath."  All the issues are becoming one.  Will the Arab Spring evolve into the Earth Spring?  Will Occupy Wall Street become Earth Occupies Humans?  I believe that the joining together will make a super storm - a force for justice of overwhelming power.

The River Song

This song by the Stop Shopping Choir expresses love for the Hudson River, and outrage that it is undermined by high-pressure fracked gas pipelines.

The environmental movement ignores culture-making. The classic strategy for Earth activism in the West is to shadow the perpetrator of the crime. Thus the policy-making and lobbying of the most destructive corporations - is matched by policy-writers and lobbyists from the advocacy groups. Even the websites of the Wildlife Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) - resemble corporate graphics.

The number of people reached by the leading institutions of the environmentalism is a sliver of society. The default position for most media is to remain silent about Earth, with coverage of Climate Change sliding since 2009 in the USA. There is silence until a climate disaster demands the top of the news.

When revolutionary change came in the past century - the heralds of new values were comedians and singer-songwriters. There were words, delivered by melody, beat, and/or outrageous personality. From former times, we could cite John Lennon, Andy Kaufman, Lili Tomlin, Gil Scott Heron, Joe Strummer. Who is it now? Lady Gaga? Shakira? Stephen Colbert? We must grow new performance artists of this international rank - whose passionate defense is Earth.

Performers that might carry the Earth's message are not supported by the big budgets of the environmental movement, not by NGO's nor by their foundations. They do not think of culture-makers as people that they can invest in. Even as they watch more and more artists succumb to the dumbing down of corporate sponsorship - they hesitate to risk money on the Earth artists' wildness. They stop at educational events, teach-ins, conferences with workshops - which is GREAT - as far as it goes, but….

Not betting on culture-making is the wrong decision. It comes from fear. There should be Earth activist producers roaming the small clubs right now, looking for the Bob Marley of the movement. How much longer can the Earth's voices to go un-amplified? My suggestion: look to the kind of culture-making that comes from the activist side. Paul Watson, the Yes Men, the late Wanghari Maathi and her amazing speeches and tree-planting ceremonies, Julia Butterfly Hill and Tim DeChristopher.

These are newsmakers who are always ready with a statement, a speech, a moral homily, a symbolic act that borders on drama. And they offer a kind of entertainment by risking arrest. The perp walk is the oldest performance. When you expand the arts to include activists, then James Baldwin, Victor Jara, Emma Goldman's "Mother Earth," and Pete Seeger come to mind. Let's not stand on ceremony. The Earth needs bold dazzling words, with or without a guitar. We need more Monkey Wrench Gangs, more Silent Springs. I remember Rachel Carson personally confronting chemical executives…

In New York City - you would think that we need some Earth culture bad. If only because we spew so much talk out to the world. But our Earth performance goes from celebrities shilling about fracking all the way down to costume rituals in our community gardens. (Of course there are artists doing daring Earth projects on their own, in wetlands, on rooftop with gardens - and they often work in unsupported obscurity.) So you have the vast world of the New York stage - the dance, cabaret, Broadway, readings and concerts. At the time of Hurricane Sandy, these thousands of stages were thoroughly free of drama about the Earth. Sandy turned off those footlights.

Ultimately, all culture will be about the Earth. Nobody will be painting Campbell's Soup cans when the flood gets high and the fire gets hot. We are being pulled into the extinction that we forced on the rest of the biosphere. Our songs and dances and poems must express our desire to live - with such anguish and emergency and beauty! - that we rise to do the radical human act that matches the unprecedented action of the Earth.

Someone might call this "culture-making." We step into hazmat suits and spread pink polka dots on bulldozers at the construction site for the Spectra (fracking gas) pipeline on the Manhattan-side riverbank of the Hudson. We make media of it, still pictures that can be slide-showed on Flickr, creating a sort of film. The Stop Shopping Choir composes a song - "The River Song." We walk audience people from performances to the site, and THEY sing the song to the river with us, standing there, the citizen choir in hazmat suits. This culture-making environmentalism should not resemble "Protest," which is used like a consumer label by the commercial press to dismiss us. And god knows they've been doing that for years. If culture we're making is more interesting than the clichéd march-and-rally, and the first response isn't to point and call us "Protesters," - now we're getting somewhere! "Culture" is a big haughty word, but it makes good yogurt too. We could call it "life-making." Let's be doing something fun and memorable, people. Culture-making can take the form of a flash mob of nakedness in a big bank, a re-issue of "The Monkey Wrench Gang," a climate camp with parents and children that stops an aluminum smelter. The point is to add a dimension beyond the cycle of protest, litigation, legislation, blogging commentators, policy. This sea of recycling images is where the corporations want us to drown in our well-intentioned agony. The Spectra Pipeline? - nobody wants it. But democracy doesn't work around here. All the towns and community boards and citizens' health groups along the route of the pipeline, from the Pennsylvania fracking fields to playground at the end of Horatio Street that would be incinerated by a gas explosion - everyone's agin' it. But JP Morgan Chase is for it, Mike "Wal Street" Bloomberg is for it, and a big Texas energy company is for it. It's a pure trinity of 1% Devilishness - money, politics and fossil fuel. This threesome of natural Hellfire - they mainly deal in subterfuge. They get all the regulatory panels to vote yes on the pipeline before most New Yorkers know anything about it. People can't tell you with much specificity where the construction site is located; how the pipeline is supposed to come into the West Village at an old pier where they park garbage trucks, then cross the Westside highway along Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district and turn left toward the Con Ed grid. Our offering so far is to take audiences to the site and dress them up. Sing songs and leave clouds of hot pink dots. We're just getting started. The important thing now is for people to know where the construction site is located. What, physically, does it look like. Our costume comedies make that easier to do. We need to feel the incision point of this big pipeline; the 800 million cubic feet of natural gas shooting through the steel tube out of the river… Our reaction must become visceral. Now we are far more angry. And scared. Experience this thing. Then people won't call us protesters anymore, or NIMBY-types, or liberals… they won't call us names because we're chasing them down the street. We're stronger than their marketing. Stronger than their shopping. We're strange agents from the Earth. With sticky-backed hot pink polka dots! Amen!
Down on Henry Street just uptown from Foley Square in Manhattan, there is a church called Mariner's Temple. One Sunday we were among hundreds of folks listening while Mother Henrietta Carter preached. She stood up there, white-robed, and gestured out across the assembled faithful. "We need to see some embracing today." Mother Carter said, and then she explained that two families were blessed just recently with newborn babies, in the same week… She boomed out: "I want you two families - come down here and embrace each other! We'll wait! Oh, you come down here! I know you two families been quarreling about something, you don't speak much anymore. Oh we all know about it. Now - You come down here and you embrace each other. You bring those babies with you!" The two families slowly come to Mother Carter and embraced. They were in tears. People called out "Praise!" Embrace You see from the title of my little sermon, that I am asking the people from two movements, and Occupy Wall Street, to do the same. These two groups are difference-makers in the world. In the last year and a half - who has had more impact in our country? OWS and 350 share the view that entrenched power is only stopped by people power. In fact, they both call themselves "movements," right up front in their introductory remarks, like they're writing their own history. They both have galvanized thousands of citizens who hadn't necessarily planned to work so hard, to make so much contact with strangers, to feel such exhilaration. But it is time for the two families to "come down here and embrace." I have frequented both worlds, and communication between 350 and Occupy is spotty at best. 350's leader Bill McKibbon did an uplifting job mic-checking in New York within a few days of the founding of Liberty Square, and then he marched with OWS on October 5th. And there are Occupy people everywhere, certainly in many of the environmental orgs. There are even OWS people working in big banks. So - although there is some embracing by individuals within 350 and OWS, a recent march from the United Nations to the Federal Energy Commission offices on 34th Street - was all too typical. A spirited protest against the Jersey-to-Manhattan SPECTRA Pipeline by the Occupy "Environmental Solidarity" working groups in NYC, there was no-one from with us. At the same time, lots of OWSers in New York can't answer the simple questions about the XL Pipeline. So you have two activist groups both opposing natural gas pipelines and they don't seem to know about each other. Ships passing in the night. Why? What Each Has To Give Now you might say that the orgs of the Left always splinter apart, so why be surprised. And you could say that 350 and Occupy are two very different animals and can't be expected to get along. I disagree. We have a life-and-death emergency here on this planet. 350 and OWS agree about that. So we must do what gathers the most power. We should work together. I would gently suggest that should pay far more attention to Occupy right now, after the loss through police violence of the town squares. Just to cite the most obvious fact: there was the intoxicating unity among progressive people who journeyed to Zuccotti Park last fall from Sept 17th to November 17th - and I know that this happened in city after city and town after town. There were 2600 encampments at the height of the movement. The energy in those 8 weeks is renewable! So what can OWS offer? Occupy discovered that living together in public space is a protest form with big impact. The ingredients are famous now. Starting democracy over with hand signals and consensus and no leaders. Feeding each other, making libraries, media, signs; spending the day together in the commons. We had forgotten that all radical change in the USA has involved some form of living in public. The other thing that we shared in our cashless temporary nirvana was the danger of being surrounded by police who work for the 1%. We locked arms, sang, tended to the wounded and got legal help. There is a clear solidarity among the OWS veterans from experiencing the violence of entrenched power. This is just one reason that the Occupy community is radical, and shares members with the coming-back-to-life of Earth First! The Stop Shopping Church performed at many Occupy communities in the time last winter that the police had their way. It was fascinating to watch the Occupiers turn and look at where they came from, and re-take their own worlds again, going back home and making working groups in living rooms and church basements. Are we ready for our return? Some of us thought May Day was the moment. Now it feels more like the right cause, the right campaign, would be blessed by the replay of OWS. Yes Occupy people have a great deal to share with the organized funded NGO's like NGOness Plus Occupy I'm thinking of 350 because they are the ascendant NGO in the last year and a half. Their "Climate Movement" is so important. But no Occupy working group is listed among their partners at the website. And yet the language of Occupy is adopted, the "99%" along with the newly glamorized verb "to occupy." Truth be told, the graphics and database values of 350 resemble the Sierra Clubish NGO's that accept millions from Wall Street and the fracking companies. NGOness is a meaningful style to avoid, and pummeling people with donations form-letters and all the database stuff - damn! We should have learned by now that amassing all the unique pixelated visits in the world isn't as important as 40 people living in the town square. We need 10,000 Tim DeChristophers, not 10,000 emails on the data-base. I urge 350 people to call Occupy people and vice versa - we are resisting the same fracking 1%. Of course Occupy has much to learn from as well. If some of the stateside 350 actions seem like parking tickets compared to the beating OWS has taken - there is very creative work going on within the 188 countries of actions. OWS has the challenge now of discovering the new commons and 350's international world of activists make their "350" choreographies on beaches, out in fields and forests and even under-water, as we saw in the famous Maldives town meeting in scuba gear. 350 seems to find new Zuccottis around the world. The worldwide creativity of 350 encourages us to find new commons in the seams of our cities, where the people can find us but the police don't think to look. I gaze upon the city scape of New York and 350 helps me see Occupies on rooftops, ferries, subway platforms, fire-escapes and of course, in bank lobbies… We will re-meet one day back in our Liberty Squares, but first we must journey through unexpected public spaces for a time, gathering citizens along the way. I'm saying all this because I believe that the two most successful Earth orgs in our country will combine forces. As the C02 emissions climb, the bad weather and extinction waves accelerate - we need to "come down here and embrace." If we look ahead to the moment that JP Morgan Chase is Occupied, funding for fossil fuels industries is ended, and the disastrous climate shapes the policies of our big institutions… Our glorious revolution won't just feature people with haircuts and clean clothes. And it won't be only the funkier look of weeks of sleeping in pup tents. The change won't happen unless we're both there, going down to re-take the public space. We'll have to "come down here and embrace!" Amen? -- Rev Billy