It’s always something between very exciting and very nerve-wracking to be a couple days out from a major action or, in this case, a couple of days of action, wondering how it’s going to go. I’m constantly thinking, whether I want to or not, of the things that could go wrong and what back-up systems do we have if they do.
But when it comes to the mass demonstration of thousands that will take place this Sunday in DC to Stop Fracked Gas Exports, and the cd action the next morning at FERC, the federal agency that is essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the gas industry wants, I’m confident that all of the months of work and organizing was worth it, however things end up.
For one thing, the work our coalition of 50 or so groups has done for this action has definitely put the issue of fracked gas exports out there as an issue that the Obama Administration can’t sweep under the rug. Between the press coverage we’ve already gotten and what will come, this action is having that impact.
It is also bringing together local, state, regional and national groups fighting fracking, fracking pipelines and compressor stations, fracked gas exports and climate change, and by doing so we are educating lots of people about the destructive and dangerous lifecycle impacts of fracking.
Finally this action will help to build the fighting spirit of lots of people for a world where wind, solar and other renewable energy sources are dominant. It will strengthen the movement for a world where justice is more than a word or something that is sometimes done, where, indeed, it is an organizing principle, along with love, of human society.
If you can get to the National Mall down by the US Capitol by 12:30 on Sunday, please do so! It’ll be hot, but you won’t regret being there to hear some great speakers and music and to march together to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC. It’ll be a spirited and colorful march with drumming, creative chants, great props and banners and a determination that will be palpable.
What do we want? Jobs! How do we want them? Wind and solar!
Hey Obama, hey FERC, Let renewables do the work!
For more info on the Sunday action go to http://stopgasexports.org.
For more info on the Monday morning cd at FERC go to https://sites.google.com/site/july14takeaction/
“O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.”
Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again, written in 1935
I always have contradictory feelings about July 4th. On the one hand, it is the day that the 1776 Declaration of Independence was issued, an essentially anti-colonial call to action against the British Empire. It is a revolutionary document. The preamble, in particular, doesn’t pull its punches:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
But this document, speaking of contradictions, has this to say in the very last point enumerating the specific oppressive actions taken by the British government: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
The practice of chattel slavery for people of African descent was widespread in the American colonies. And it still was 76 years later when Frederick Douglas gave his famous “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” speech:
“What to the American slave is your 4th of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
And women in 1776 and for another 140 years had no right to vote, in addition to all of the many other ways that a patriarchal, male-dominated culture abused and subjugated them.
Today, in 2014, chattel slavery and legal segregation have been outlawed, the US government’s shameful treatment of Indigenous peoples historically has been somewhat moderated, and women have the right to vote and are increasingly winning victories toward full equality. But even with our first President of African descent, institutionalized racism, sexism and inequality are far from eliminated.
In addition, our rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are severely impacted and compromised by the fact of rule by the much-less-than-the-1% over the rest of us and the fossil fuel industry’s continuing hold over most Republicans and some Democrats in the federal government. Indeed, with the deepening of the climate crisis and spread of extreme weather events, the entire world’s right to a decent future is threatened by the power and wealth of the dirty fossil fuel industry and its corporate and government allies.
The concluding verses of Langston Hughes’ powerful “America” poem, 80 years after they were written, make clear what we must be about, what we must pledge to do this July 4th weekend:
“Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!”
Al Gore has written an important article, “The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate,” published June 18 in Rolling Stone magazine. The subhead of the article: “It’s time to accelerate the shift toward a low-carbon future. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-turning-point-new-hope-for-the-climate-20140618
It’s a comprehensive piece whose primary point is that the clean energy forces are winning: “We are witnessing the beginning of a massive shift to a new energy-distribution model – from the ‘central station’ utility-grid model that goes back to the 1880s to a ‘widely distributed’ model with rooftop solar cells, on-site and grid battery storage, and microgrids.”
Coal, oil and gas, Gore believes, are in deep trouble, while wind and solar are growing rapidly, in large part because of the major drop in prices for them that the world has seen over the past half-decade or so.
Al Gore seems to be coming down firmly against all fossil fuels, not just coal and oil. Here’s what he has to say about shale gas drilling and fracking: “This year, Citigroup reported that the widespread belief that natural gas – the supply of which has ballooned in the U.S. with the fracking of shale gas – will continue to be the chosen alternative to coal is mistaken, because it too will fall victim to the continuing decline in the cost of solar and wind electricity.”
Gore sees the need for government to intervene if this shift is not to slow down: “We have the policy tools that can dramatically accelerate the transition to clean energy that market forces will eventually produce at a slower pace. The most important has long since been identified: We have to put a price on carbon in our markets, and we need to eliminate the massive subsidies that fuel the profligate emissions of global-warming pollution.”
He concludes by giving this response to the very big question: are we too late? “Is there enough time? Yes. Damage has been done, and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future. Each of the trends described above – in technology, business, economics and politics – represents a break from the past. Taken together, they add up to genuine and realistic hope that we are finally putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”
Gore is not the only person who has been saying or writing along these lines in the last year or so, but for someone of his stature to do so is no small thing, and he has done a very good job of putting information and analysis together in a readable, accessible format. For him do so now, to give people around the world hope that we can eventually replace fossil fuels with renewables based primarily on very concrete developments in the world’s energy systems, is a real morale boost.
Saying that, I do have reservations about some of what he has written.
-I’m in the midst of organizing towards the first-ever national march against fracked gas exports, happening July 13 in Washington, D.C. (http://stopgasexports.org) The call is to Stop Fracked Gas Exports at Cove Point and Beyond. Instead of expanding fracking via the building of export terminals to ship gas to Asia and Europe where prices are higher, we are calling for a halt to the gas rush and a Renewables First! energy policy.
I hope Citigroup’s projection about wind and solar preventing the rise of gas as an alternative to coal is accurate, but I question if that is the case right now. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, is currently processing 14 proposals to build export terminals along U.S. coastlines. Two have been approved so far, with a Cove Point approval in a couple months a distinct possibility. The Obama Administration, at the same time that it is proposing carbon regulations for power plants and Obama is giving stirring speeches about the need for action, continues to publicly support the dramatic rise on his watch of US oil and gas production, and they continue to take steps to advance the export of fracked gas, coal and oil from the U.S.
-This leads to my second main reservation. Although Gore mentions the divestment movement and the importance of citizen activism, reading this article it would be easy to believe that the primary reason for these hopeful developments is the drop in the prices of solar and wind WITHOUT a reference to the work that climate activists have done over the last decade or so. Thanks in no small part to their work, there are state Renewable Energy Standards in about 30 states that mandate a growing amount of renewable energy in a state’s power generation, a definite factor in the growth of renewable use. The climate movement through its grassroots organizing, its actions and demonstrations, its work with the media and more has built broad-based political support for the shift to wind and solar. And the movements against mountaintop removal and new coal plants, the tar sands and their pipelines, fracking and offshore oil/gas drilling have showed staying power and won victories.
Given the power and wealth of the fossil fuel industry—3 of the 5 largest US corporations are oil/gas companies, and 5 of the 10 internationally are—we can’t slacken up with the absolutely essential movement-building to fight their power over not just Republicans but Democrats in Washington.
-Finally, about “democratic capitalism,” which Gore briefly references both to support the need for more democracy and for reforms of capitalism given the “corruption of the system by obscene amounts of money” and “growing levels of inequality worldwide.” It is good to hear him making these calls for such reforms, but it seems to me that since it is big business capitalism, the system which dominates the world, which has a great deal to do with the mess we are in, we need to be open to considering other possibilities.
I’m reading Thomas Berry’s “The Great Work.” At one point he calls for the world to “move from our human-centered to an earth-centered norm of reality and value. Only in this way can we fulfill our human role within the functioning of the planet we live on. We might begin [to achieve this] by recognizing that the life community, the community of all living species, including the human, is the greater reality and greater value. The primary concern of the human community must be the preservation and enhancement of this comprehensive community, even for the sake of its own survival.”
It seems to me that, as we prioritize a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, we must also be about building alternatives to the dominant values and institutions based on greed, me-first and power-over-others. We need new ways of doing business, making government decisions and working and living together that move in the direction Berry calls for. Fortunately, from what I can see, that work, particularly on local levels, is well underway, also.
There is, indeed, future hope.
Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com.
The Climate Action Network International has organized an international fast in solidarity with Yeb Sano, the lead climate negotiator for the Philippines at the 19th United Nations Climate Conference in Warsaw, Poland. He said in a speech there Monday, on the first day of the conference, that: “In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”
I woke up on Tuesday to find my mind and heart focusing on the Philippines and on Yeb Sano’s action. I was pleased to learn that CAN International had taken this initiative in support, and I’ve decided to join their fast in solidarity with him, eating no solid food and consuming only liquids for as long as his fast continues. Others may want to join and fast for a day, a few days or until the end of the climate conference.
Already, on the second day, I’m experiencing what I’ve experienced on other long fasts–how not eating food brings me closer to, keeps me from forgetting, suffering humanity, right now those in the Philippines.
But I am undertaking this solidarity fast with Yeb Sano and the people of the Philippines not just because it is personally the right thing for me to do right now. I’m doing so in the hope that others will join in this action. Large numbers of people around the world fasting with him, demanding that the nations of the world get serious about the deepening climate crisis, could have some impact on what takes place in Poland, and it can help to build a stronger international climate movement.
I will also be contributing money, money I will not be using for food, to the rescue and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines.
There are moments in history where, all of a sudden, unexpected events and actions move humanity forward. We need to be alert for such moments. I’m hoping this is one.
(Contact Ria Voorhaar, CAN International’s communications director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information or to join the fast.)