Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

John Kerry: Climate Change Most Serious Threat We Face on the Planet

September 24, 2014

| September 23, 2014 9:31 am | Comments

Video Highlights from the Three-hour Democracy Now! Special Broadcast at Historic People’s Climate March

September 23, 2014

AMY GOODMAN
DEMOCRACY NOW! / VIDEO FEATURE
Published: Tuesday 23 September 2014
Watch the global mobilization from the People’s Climate March, which took place on Sunday in the streets of New York City. With more than 400,000 people in attendance, the march was monumental.

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As up to 400,000 filled the streets, Democracy Now! did an exclusive three-hour global broadcast from the heart of the People’s Climate March in New York City. We air highlights of the special.This video includes our interview with the following people:- Grammy Award–winning Béninoise musician and activist Angelique Kidjo, who sings for us a song.- Independent Senator Bernie Sanders discusses a potential 2016 presidential run and how getting money out of politics is critical to addressing the climate crisis.- Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and a lead organizer behind Sunday’s People’s Climate March and global day of action, joins us to reflect on the historic protest.- Environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “American politics is driven by two forces: One is intensity, and the other is money,” Kennedy says.- The world-renowned musician and activist Sting stops by our three-hour special from the People’s Climate March to talk about why he is marching with indigenous activists on the frontlines of the environmental movement. “The indigenous peoples’ message has been consistent from the beginning: We are in danger,” Sting says. “These people are not complacent, I am not complacent. We have to do something.”- Earlier this month, two climate activists were set to go on trial in Massachusetts for blocking the shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point power plant, a 51-year-old facility that is one of the region’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases. But in a surprise move, local prosecutor Sam Sutter dropped the criminal charges and reduced three other charges to civil offenses, calling climate change one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. On Sunday, the activists, Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward, marched with Sutter at the People’s Climate March in New York City.- Mary Robinson, former Irish president and U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She now heads the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.- Tony deBrum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.- Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who recently became the first Socialist elected to city office in Seattle in over a century.

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ABOUT AMY GOODMAN

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Gorgeous global march shows how to win the climate fight

September 23, 2014
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NEW YORK — The massive People’s Climate March, the most hopeful, diverse, photogenic, energizing, and often hilarious march I’ve joined in 52 years of activism — and one of the biggest, at 400,000 strong — has delivered a simple messag”e: we can and will rid the planet of fossil fuels and nuclear power, we will do it at the grassroots, it will be demanding and difficult to say the least, but it will also have its moments of great fun.

With our lives and planet on the line, our species has responded.

Ostensibly, this march was in part meant to influence policy makers. That just goes with the territory.

But in fact what it showed was an amazingly broad-based, diverse, savvy, imaginative, and very often off-beat movement with a deep devotion to persistence and cause, and a great flair for fun.

The magic of today’s New York minute was its upbeat diversity, sheer brilliance and relentless charm.

The magic of today’s New York minute was its upbeat diversity, sheer brilliance, and relentless charm. A cross between a political rally and a month at Mardi Gras. There were floats, synchronized dances, outrageous slogans, chants, songs, costumes, marching bands, hugs, parents with their kids, and one very sweaty guy in a gorilla suit.

Above all, there was joy”which means optimism”which means we believe we can win”which is the best indicator we will.

This was a march of the regular citizenry, many come a very long way, at great discomfort and expense, deep into the process of being community organizers, intervenors, plaintiffs, civil disobedients, fundraisers, impromptu speakers, letter writers, and whatever else we might need to us get through this awful corporate disease.

For when push comes to shove — and it has — our Solartopian future will be won one victory at a time.

Oh yes, we will try to influence the policy-makers. The UN, the Obama Administration, the bought-and-rented Congress, the usual suspects.

But we won’t be begging. It needs to be the other way around.

Because what must happen most of all is organizing from the grassroots against each and every polluting power plant, unwanted permit, errant funding scheme, stomach-turning bribe, planet-killing frack well, soon-to-melt reactor, and much much more.

Winning this fight for global survival will be done not with one great triumph over corporate hypocrisy and greed. Instead it’ll require death by a million cuts, with countless small victories won day-to-day at the unseen grassroots. As the man said, this revolution will not be televised.

Manhattan’s flagship march was joined by sibling demonstrations throughout the world.Manhattan’s flagship march was joined by sibling demonstrations throughout the world. By all counts millions of concerned citizens came out to say, loud and clear, that the debate is over:

Climate chaos is a clear and present danger.

It’s caused by “King CONG” — Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas.

The corporations that threaten us all must be reorganized and held accountable. Corporate greed is no way to power an economy. Corporate personhood is an unsustainable myth. The corporate profit motive is at war with our survival.

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Harvey Wasserman edits  www.nukefree.org . His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at  www.solartopia.org . The Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show airs at  www.progressiveradionetwork.com .
HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US is available athttp://www.harveywasserman.com/, as is A GLIMPSE OF THE BIG LIGHT and clues to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

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6 Ways Climate Change is Making Us Sick

September 23, 2014

186366687
Spaces Images—Getty Images/Blend Images

Climate change and global health are intimately connected new research argues

Just a day after the People’s Climate March, one of the largest international environmental marches, a new analysis of 56 studies on climate change-related health problems shows that increasingly, global temperatures and severe weather events will continue to have a major impact on global health.

In the U.S. alone, several cities are expected to experience many more frequent hot days by the year 2050, and New York City and Milwaukee for example, may have three times their current average of hot days that reach over 90 degrees. According to researchers from the University of Wisconsin, this is just one consequence of human-driven climate change.

Currently, 97% of scientists studying climate agree that climate change is caused by humans. The new study, which is published inJAMA, lays out what these wide ranging effects on public health are.

Here’s a breakdown of how climate change will impact human health:

Heat-related health problems
In the researchers’ findings, they report that heat-related deaths represent more fatalities than all other weather events combined, and the frequency of hot days is expected to increase across all U.S. cities. Other research, like a recent July CDC report confirmed earlier this summer that heat-related health problems in the U.S. are growing. Since outdoor workers are impacted by heat, there are also significant economic-related implications—and by 2050s, the researchers report that workdays lost due to heat could reach 15 to 18% in South East Asia, Central America and West and Central Africa.

Respiratory problems
Climate-related pollution can trigger respiratory problems, commonly due to poor air quality, as exhibited in large cities like Beijing. The researchers report that 43 million people in the U.S. alone live in places that are over the EPA’s health standards for fine particulate matter in the air, and that can come from forest fires, which are thought to increase as temperatures continue to rise and droughts are prolonged. Pollen is also thought to increase with climate change, which is terrible news for people with seasonal allergies.

Infectious diseases
In the U.S., diseases like West Nile, dengue fever, and chikungunya virus are increasing in warm and muggy states like Florida, and all three of those diseases are thought to have a connection to warmer temperatures. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that the rise of temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns have contributed to longer summers, and therefore these diseases—which are insect-borne—have longer seasons.

Waterborne diseases
Climate change is projected to continue to cause heavier rain events, and the researchers note that gastrointestinal disease among kids has been tied to heavy rain fall in both the U.S. and India. Earlier this summer, citizens in Michigan and Toledo, Ohio were banned from drinking tap water after an algae bloom, caused in part by agricultural runoff, moved to the region’s water intake area and contaminated the drinking water.

Food insecurity
According to the report, climate change is expected to lower global food production by 2% per decade, even as demand increases 14%.

Mental health problems
The researchers show that serious weather events caused by climate change like Hurricane Katrina can leave people feeling utterly hopeless, displaced, full of anxiety and even with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a corresponding editorial, Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of JAMA, and Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, the journal’s executive editor, write: “Understanding and characterizing this threat and educating the medical community, public, and policy makers are crucial if the health of the world’s population is to continue to improve during the latter half of the 21st century.”

When it comes to solutions, the researchers say reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical step in gaining better health and more economic stability. Starting Tuesday, the UN will meet for its 2014 Climate Summit, and the hope among many is that global public health will be an issue brought to the table—and addressed on an international scale.

Climate March: 400,000 strong — and that’s not counting the press who showed up – worldwide media coverage

September 23, 2014

Worldwide Media Coverage:
http://peoplesclimate.org/400000-strong-and-thats-not-counting-the-press-who-showed-up/

Largest Global Call for Climate Action in History

September 23, 2014

For Immediate Release

Nearly 400,000 march in NY, events in over 150 countries

NEW YORK – Today, the world marched for climate action. From Manhattan to Melbourne, more than half a million people took to the streets in a unified global move to demand ambitious commitments from world leaders in tackling the climate crisis.

By end of day estimates, the flagship march in New York City drew approximately 400,000 people–more than quadrupling the pre-march estimates of 100,000–just two days before world leaders converge here for an emergency UN Climate Summit.

At 3:00pm, march organizers released an initial count of 310,000 people based on the crowd density along the march route, which stretched across Manhattan from 93rd Street and Central Park West to 34th Street and 11th Avenue. But as the day continued, reports came in of tens of thousands more protesters marching outside the official route, streaming down avenues in midtown Manhattan. At 5:00pm, march organizers had to send out a text asking marchers to disperse from the march route because the crowds had swelled beyond the route’s capacity.

“We said it would take everyone to change everything — and everyone showed up,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

The New York march was led by indigenous and frontline communities who came from across the globe to highlight the disproportionate impact of climate change–from communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy to people living in the shadow of coal-fired power plants and oil refineries to those living in Island Nations already faced with evacuating their homes.

“The frontlines of the climate crisis are low-income people, communities of color and indigenous communities here in the US and around the globe. We are the hardest hit by both climate disruption––the storms, floods and droughts––as well as by the extractive, polluting and wasteful industries causing global warming,” said Cindy Wiesner, Co-Director of The Climate Justice Alliance. “We are also at the forefront of innovative community-led solutions that ensure a just transition off fossil fuels, and that support an economy good for both people and the planet.”

Once an issue seen as dividing environmentalists and labor, today’s march was also notable for the number of unions that joined the climate fight. Nearly every labor union in New York helped organize turnout for the march, including SEIU, the largest union in the city and the second largest in the country.

“Our members are marching because climate change affects all of us,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “We live in the communities that get destroyed by storms like Sandy. We work in the buildings that get flooded. We get hit by health epidemics like asthma that are rampant in our communities, and we care about the world that we will leave for our children and grandchildren.”

Notable participants in today’s march also included:

  • UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon
  • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Former Vice President Al Gore
  • Leonardo di Caprio
  • Mark Ruffalo
  • Edward Norton
  • Sting
  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
  • U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders
  • U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer
  • New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
  • U.S. Representative for Minnesota, Keith Ellison
  • U.S. Representative for New York, Nydia Velázquez
  • U.S. Representative for New York, Jerrold Nadler
  • New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman
  • Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres

“Today, civil society acted at a scale that outdid even our own wildest expectations. Tomorrow, we expect our political leaders to do the same,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org.

The global day of climate action comes just two days before a UN Climate Summit, which is hosted by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and attended by more than 125 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The summit is intended to kickstart a process that will end with significant agreement at next December’s global negotiations in Paris.

The organizing for The People’s Climate March required the coming together of 1574 groups in an effort akin to electoral campaigns. Just in the last week, 1,000,000 flyers were handed out across New York City. A total of 550 buses from nearly all 50 states flooded into Manhattan as well as two dedicated trains, one from DC and one from California. For the last month, 1 out of every 10 subway cars in the city also ran ads for the march.

Hi-res photos and B-Roll:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/peoplesclimate/sets/72157647432670290/

###

350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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Huge, Gorgeous Global March Shows How to Win the Climate Fight: At the Grassroots

September 23, 2014
Published on
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The People’s Climate March underway on Sept. 21 in New York City.  (Photo: Kristina Banks viaEnergyActionCoalition)

The most hopeful, diverse, photogenic, energizing and often hilarious march I’ve joined in 52 years of activism—and one of the biggest, at 310,000 strong—has delivered a simple messag​e: we can and will rid the planet of fossil fuels and nuclear power, we will do it at the grassroots, it will be demanding and difficult to say the least, but it will have its moments of great fun.

With our lives and planet on the line, our species has responded.

Ostensibly, this march was in part meant to influence policy makers. That just goes with the territory.

But in fact what it showed was an amazingly broad-based, diverse, savvy, imaginative and very often off-beat movement with a deep devotion to persistence and cause, and a great flair for fun.

For when push comes to shove—and it has—our Solartopian future will be won one victory at a time.

Oh….yes, yes, yes….we will try to influence the policy-makers. The UN, the Obama Administration, the bought and rented Congress, the usual suspects.

But we won’t be begging. It needs to be the other way around.

Because what must happen most of all is organizing from the grassroots against each and every polluting power plant, unwanted permit, errant funding scheme, stomach-turning bribe, planet-killing frack well, soon-to-melt reactor, and much much more.

Winning this fight for global survival will be done not with one great triumph over corporate hypocrisy and greed.

Instead it’ll require death by a million cuts, with countless small victories won day-to-day at the unseen grassroots. As the man said, this revolution will not be televised.

Manhattan’s flagship march was joined by sibling demonstrations throughout the world. By all counts millions of concerned citizens came out to say, loud and clear, that the debate is over:

Climate chaos is a clear and present danger.

It’s caused by “King CONG”—Coal, Oil, Nukes and Gas.

The corporations who threaten us all must be reorganized and held accountable. Corporate greed is no way to power an economy. Corporate personhood is an unsustainable myth. The corporate profit motive is at war with our survival.

But renewable energy, community-owned and operated, can and will green-power our Earth cleanly and cheaply, bringing jobs, prosperity, ecological balance and, in concert, peace and social justice, without which no green transition is sustainable.

The corporate profit motive is at war with our survival.And it will come to us on the wings of focused local campaigns against each and every polluting project, one at a time, through the grueling, endless hard work of an aroused and focused citizenry.

The magic of today’s New York minute was its upbeat diversity, sheer brilliance and relentless charm. A cross between a political rally and a month at Mardi Gras. There were floats, synchronized dances, outrageous slogans, chants, songs, costumes, marching bands, hugs, parents with their kids, and one very sweaty guy in a gorilla suit.

Above all, there was joy…which means optimism…which means we believe we can win….which is the best indicator we will.

This was a march of the regular citizenry, many come a very long way, at great discomfort and expense, deep into the process of being community organizers, intervenors, plaintiffs, civil disobedients, fundraisers, impromptu speakers, letter writers, and whatever else we might need to us get through this awful corporate disease.

The people I saw, interviewed and rode in on the bus with (from central Ohio; I got the last seat) are working locally while thinking globally. They are our species’ planetary immune system.

This march said we are now a mature movement with a great sense of mission, diversity and self.

We know what the problem is.

We know who the perpetrators are.

We know what the solutions are, and that they work.

Will it be enough?

Time will tell. We must, as always, fight like hell. It will be hard, to say the least.

But please, along the way, let’s have many more marches like this one.

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.progressiveradionetwork.com, and he edits www.nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth are atwww.harveywasserman.com along with Passions of the PotSmoking Patriots by “Thomas Paine.”  He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election, at www.freepress.org.

One big march, lots of little messages

September 22, 2014

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A subway advertisement from the New York City Office of Emergency Management asks, “Do you live in one of NYC’s six hurricane evacuation zones? Know your zone.” As activists piled into the train on their way to the People’s Climate March on Sunday morning, it seemed an appropriate omen.

The march’s central aim was to bring the people on the frontlines of the climate crisis to the center of global capitalism, to force the media and the world leaders assembled for the United Nations General Assembly this week to look.

The organizers estimate 310,000 people showed up, which vastly exceeded both their public prediction of 100,000 and even their higher private projections. Critics may come up with lower numbers, but the following facts are inarguable: The marchers lined up along Manhattan’s Central Park West from 61st Street to 96th Street, which is 1.5 miles. They started marching at 11:30 a.m., and the back of the crowd still hadn’t moved by 1:45. There were a lot of people.

And they were the most diverse assemblage any American protest has seen in quite some time, possibly ever. About 1,500 organizations sponsored the march, and countless other less formal groups marched together. From a U.S. “Cowboys and Indians” contingent protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, to Latin Americans up from countries like Bolivia and El Salvador protesting deforestation and fossil fuel exploration on their lands, to Indonesians fearing their islands will sink under water, to residents of New York’s own most disadvantaged neighborhoods and some of its affluent waterfront suburbs, they were all people who have a personal stake in averting catastrophic global warming.

People's Climate March
Climate Action Network International

There was no singular rally, and there were no speeches by big shots. Instead the march was preceded by a press conference with brief comments from regular people who have been affected by climate change, and a collection of small rallies for specific constituencies. The speakers at the press conference each hailed from one of the main blocs in attendance: local New Yorkers affected by Sandy, indigenous communities fighting fossil fuel exploration, islanders facing submergence, residents of coal country who’ve been afflicted by coal’s corrosive effects on the local air and water. The latter were represented by Stanley Sturgill, a retired coal miner from Kentucky suffering from black lung disease.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a woman from the Marshall Islands who is in town for Tuesday’s U.N. Climate Summit, hit on a theme echoed on many of the signs held by marchers: that there is no alternative to the Earth if we destroy it. “We only have one atmosphere and we of the Marshall Islands only have one land to call home,” she said. Or, as many of the signs put it, “There is no Planet B.”

At a pre-march rally put on by labor unions, one could see just how broad a coalition was participating in the march. Some of the unions present, like the Service Employees International Union, were largely young, female, and non-white. But there were representatives of traditional industrial labor unions holding up placards too. The United Auto Workers was there, as were a contingent of terse white men from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Asked why they were sponsors, Teamster Local 813 shop steward Charlie Morell said only, “Green jobs.” Asked to elaborate on the green jobs that the Teamsters hope to see created, he offered, “Recycling. Hybrid trucks.” You can’t argue with that.

Many of the indigenous groups were at the front of the march, behind a banner reading, “Frontlines of Crisis, Forefront of Change.” There was a headdress-wearing group from Latin America that began with an Aztec ceremonial dance and drum song. Others, including marchers from local New York economic- and environmental-justice organizations like West Harlem Environmental Action, led chants like, “Climate justice is our right / What do we do? Fight, fight, fight!” and “We want climate justice now / Listen up, we’ll show you how!”

People's Climate March
Greg McNevin

There were college students from all over the country, including 83 historically black colleges and universities. For many students, it was their first rally. “This is our generation’s movement,” said Jenise Young, 33, a doctoral student in environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “I had to come. I had no choice.”

Closer to home, the Shorefront Communities Unit held symbolic life rafts with the names of their low-lying New York City neighborhoods like Rockaway Park and Mill Basin. There were suburbanites, like the Castlowitz family from Long Beach, on Long Island, holding signs saying, “Don’t drown our town.” Ray Figueroa, marching with the South Bronx Unity group, is president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition. He was eager to discuss the importance of community gardens, which sequester carbon and provide locally sourced food, and the need for public policies to support their development and maintenance in low-income communities.

As author Naomi Klein said to Grist of the march’s impressive diversity, “This looks like New York.”

The flip side of the broad cacophony was a lack of focus. It seemed as if each group in attendance had its own, very specific demand. Much of the South Bronx group was chanting for a boycott of FreshDirect because the online grocer intends to house trucking operations in the South Bronx. Activists contend that this will aggravate the area’s high rate of asthma, and that the facility will be in a flood zone vulnerable to sea level rise.

People's Climate March
Alan Greig

There was a Free Tibet delegation, holding signs and shouting, “Protect the Third Pole” — a reference to Tibet’s extensive ice sheet, the world’s third largest after the North and South Poles — and, of course, calling for a free Tibet.

People's Climate March
Susan Melkisethian

There were opponents of various pipelines, not just Keystone but smaller ones like the proposed Northeast Energy Direct in Massachusetts. Many of the groups were complaining about the ill effects of the things that cause climate change — coal mining, fracking, trucking, deforestation — rather than about climate change per se.

Just Associates, an international organization of indigenous women, had attendees from Latin America and Asia carrying signs opposing pineapple plantations in Costa Rica and palm plantations in Indonesia. They were in town for the International Conference on Population and Development that is, like the Climate Summit, part of the U.N. General Assembly this week. “They’re destroying our forest and land, and contaminating our water with chemicals,” said Heydi Murillo of Costa Rica, referring to the pineapple farms.

woman with sign about Armenian genocide
Stephen Melkisethian
This woman was more off-message than most.

These are no doubt all worthy causes. And the march’s organizers deliberately tried to be inclusive and avoid specifics in order attract as many people from as wide a geographical range as possible. Some might wonder, though, if a march calling for everything from boycotting FreshDirect to halting the development of pineapple plantations in Costa Rica to freeing Tibet runs the risk of asking for too much and winding up with nothing.

Ultimately, the march was a successful expression of organizers’larger strategy: not to go to the wall for one specific, immediate demand — like, say, the protesters tying themselves to the White House fence to stop Keystone — but to build a grassroots movement.

“This thing was a success before we even took one step, because so many people came together,” said Figueroa. In some sense, that’s true. But in another, by even the march organizers’ own admission, the real measure of its accomplishment is yet to come. Said Leslie Cagan, the march’s logistics coordinator, “No one march, rally, or demonstration makes change. If half the people here go back and work on [climate change], if it leads to more media coverage of the issues, that’s a success.”

More by Ben Adler

People’s Climate March Photos

September 22, 2014
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More than 310,000 climate-concerned citizens hit the streets of New York on Sunday for the People’s Climate March. Here’s what some of them looked like:

People's Climate March
Stephen Melkisethian
People's Climate March
Stephen Melkisethian
People's Climate March
Doug Turetsky
People's Climate March
Susan Melkisethian
People's Climate March
Dan Alcalde
People's Climate March
Greg McNevin
People's Climate March
Greg McNevin
People's Climate March
Climate March
People's Climate March
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People's Climate March
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People's Climate March
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People's Climate March
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People's Climate March
Dan Alcalde
People's Climate March
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Climate March

The Coming Climate Revolt

September 22, 2014
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From youtube.com/watch?v=Rua7xkLceu0: Climate Change March in New York City
Climate Change March in New York City
(image by YouTube)
Chris Hedges made these remarks Saturday at a panel discussion in New York City titled “The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?” The other panelists were Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Kshama Sawant and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The event, moderated by Brian Lehrer, occurred on the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City. For a video of some of what the panelists said, click here.

We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades — whatJohn Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern — who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military — no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Currypoints out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.

We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this, Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.

The old liberal class, the safety valve that addressed grievances and injustices in times of economic or political distress, has been neutered. There are self-identified liberals, including Barack Obama, who continue to speak in the old language of liberalism but serve corporate power. This has been true since the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton found that by doing corporate bidding he could get corporate money — thus NAFTA, the destruction of our welfare system, the explosion of mass incarceration under the [1994] omnibus bill, the deregulation of the FCC, turning the airwaves over to a half dozen corporations, and the revoking of FDR’s 1933 Glass-Steagall reform that had protected our banking system from speculators. Clinton, in exchange for corporate money, transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. This was diabolically brilliant. It forced the Republican Party to shift so far to the right it became insane.

By the time Clinton was done, the rhetoric of self-professed liberals was a public relations game. This is why there is continuity from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Obama’s election did nothing to halt the expanding assault on civil liberties — in fact Obama’s assault has been worse — the Bush bailouts of big banks, the endless imperial wars, the failure to regulate Wall Street, the hiring of corporate lobbyists to write legislation and serve in top government positions, the explosion of drilling and fracking, the security and surveillance state as well as the persecution of government whistle-blowers.

This audience is well aware of the Democratic Party’s squalid record on the environment, laid out in detail in a new Greenpeace report written by Charlie Cray and Peter Montague, titled “The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy.” The report chronicles what it calls “a multi-decade war on democracy by the kingpins of carbon — the coal, the oil, and gas industries allied with a handful of self-interested libertarian billionaires.”

The Obama administration, in return for financial support from these kingpins of carbon, has cynically undermined international climate treaties, a fact we discovered only because of the revelations provided by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. It uses its intelligence agencies, these revelations revealed, to spy on those carrying out climate negotiations to thwart caps on carbon emissions and push through useless, nonbinding agreements.

The Obama administration has overseen a massive expansion of fracking. It is pushing through a series of trade agreements such as the TPP and the TAFTA that will increase fracking along with expanding our exports of coal, oil and gas. It authorized the excavation of tar sands in Utah and Alabama. It approved the southern half of the Keystone pipeline. It has permitted seismic testing for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and in parts of Alaska, a process that kills off hundreds of sea mammals. It authorized drilling within four miles of the Florida coastline, violating one of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises. This expansion of offshore drilling reversed 20 years of federal policy.

If we appeal to self-identified liberals in the establishment who have no capacity or desire to carry out the radical reforms, we will pour energy into a black hole. And this is what the corporate state seeks. It seeks to perpetuate the facade of democracy. It seeks to make us believe what is no longer real, that if we work within the system we can reform it. And it has put in place a terrifying superstructure to silence all who step outside the narrow parameters it defines as acceptable.

The Democratic Party speaks to us “rationally.” The party says it seeks to protect civil liberties, regulate Wall Street, is concerned about the plight of the working class and wants to institute reforms to address climate change. But in all these areas, and many more, it has, like its Republican counterpart, repeatedly sold out the citizenry for corporate power and corporate profits — in much the same manner that Big Green environmental groups such as the Climate Group and the Environmental Defense Fund have sold out the environmental movement.

To assume that Obama, or the Democratic Party, because they acknowledge the reality of climate change, while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. Republicans appeal to one constituency. The Democrats appeal to another. But both parties will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet.

If Wolin is right, and I believe he is, then when we begin to build mass movements that carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience, as I think everyone on this panel believes we must do, the corporate state, including the Democratic Party, will react the way all calcified states react. It will use the security and surveillance apparatus, militarized police forces — and, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the military itself — to shut down all dissent with force. The legal and organizational mechanisms are now in place to, with the flip of a switch, put the nation effectively under martial law. When acts of mass civil disobedience begin on Monday morning with Flood Wall Street and later with Occupy the U.N., the face of the corporate state will, as it did during the Occupy movement, reveal itself.

If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform, then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of … revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power.

The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.

 

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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