Future Hope column, September 30, 2007
By Ted Glick
He looked like the fool he is, the liar, deceiver, hypocrite and evil man that he is. That’s how TV coverage showed George Bush speaking at his sham “major emitters” climate conference at the State Department on Thursday and Friday. There he was, acting as if he had the credentials to lead the world in the make-or-break battle to immediately slow and, over time, stop and reverse global heating.
Comments by delegates from the 16 countries invited to this conference, as reported in news stories, were mostly tepid, downright dismissive sometimes.
The climate movement had something to do with this. Interactions with some of the non-U.S. delegates and pro-climate Congressional legislators beforehand, press conferences and media work helped. Also critical was the action by about 75 of us on Thursday morning. Just before the delegates started arriving, we marched up to the main State Dept. entrance with a big “Bush: Wrong Way on Global Warming” banner and scores of similar signs. We stretched ourselves across the entrance and made it impossible for the delegates to get in without sensing our strong feelings, seeing our signs and hearing our non-stop chants. They felt our anger and disgust with this latest effort by the Bushites to prevent forward movement on the climate crisis.
And for two hours we didn’t stop chanting, not once. “Bush is a criminal.” “No war, no warming.” No more hot air, we need action.” “Renewable energy now.” And more, on and on. Finally, the police moved in to arrest 50 of us.
This was an historic action for the climate movement in the USA. With its nonviolent militancy and its numbers, it was an example of what we need to keep doing, getting bigger and bigger. Greenpeace, as the major group, as well as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, U.S. Climate Emergency Council and Oil Change International are to be commended for an excellent initiative.
One thing, one very immediate thing, the Next Big Action, has got to be the No War, No Warming October 22nd nonviolent civil disobedience action on Capitol Hill. For both the climate movement and the peace and justice movement, this is a logical next step following a busy month of September. Congress needs to know not just that people are outraged, but that we are organizing ourselves to nonviolently disrupt their maddening business-as-usual—Pentagon/coal/oil/corporate-influenced business-as-usual!!!
And beyond that are the UFPJ Oct. 27 regional mass peace/justice demonstrations, the Step It Up local actions on Nov. 3rd, the big Power Shift conference of thousands of young people Nov. 2-5 and actions on December 8th, the third International Day of Climate Action. All are important.
But for both the anti-war movement and the climate movement there’s a big tactical question we are facing due to the failure of the Democratic-led Congress to so far do anything of real substance—anything!—to either get U.S. troops out of Iraq or to start the urgently-needed shift from an economy dependent on fossil fuels to one all about conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.
Some in both movements look at this situation and think that what we therefore need to do is to focus on electing more Democrats next November, and particularly to elect a Democrat to the White House.
Others may want that to happen but think we should remain issue-oriented and activist, bringing political pressure to bear on candidates running for office from whatever party to get them to take strong and solid positions on our issues. They’ve pretty much given up on the possibility that we can get much of anything passed of substance in 2008 because of Bush’s veto pen.
And then there are others who certainly want the Republicans out of the White House and as many progressive Democrats and independents as possible in Congress come January, 2009, but who believe that either the war crisis or the climate crisis, or both, are so urgent that we have to be very wary of getting caught up in the whole electoral scene. They—we actually, because I’m in this group—believe that, indeed, to the extent to which we keep up the “street heat,” keep out there agitating and demonstrating and sitting in and fasting and taking action on these critical issues, to that extent will we be most effective both short- and long-term. And we just might be surprised by what happens in 2008.
I think it’s going to be hard to budge Bush on the war. All signs point to a rigid, unbending determination to keep as many troops in Iraq as possible until Bush’s successor arrives in the hope that it will be difficult for that successor—if he/she wanted to—to fundamentally change the oil imperialistic policy. It may be, however, that polling which shows the Republicans being wiped out because of their support for Bush/Cheney’s war could lead to pressure to force Bush to make some adjustments.
For the climate movement, however, I think it is more possible that we could get some positive developments legislatively in 2008 from Congress that Bush would have a hard time refusing to sign in a Presidential election year. This could come to pass if the activist groups in particular within in the climate movement do not dissipate most of their energy into electoral campaign-related work but, instead, keep focused on bringing maximum pressure on Congress to take strong action now.
It’s unlikely that what this Congress would pass will be the kind of hard-hitting legislation we need, but given the support among many moderate Republicans as well as politically conservative evangelicals for action on the climate crisis, for “creation care,” I can see Bush being forced by political realities to “take one for the team” and sign a piece of legislation that really does begin to move us in the right direction. He doesn’t have the we-can’t-let-our-troops-die-in-vain card or the we-have-to-provide-support-for-our-boys card to play when it comes to the climate crisis.
Then next year a better Congress and better President can strengthen federal legislation as the climate movement keeps up the pressure for legislation that is actually based upon what science is telling us is needed—legislation that puts in place the basis for a deep, thorough-going, jobs-creating, peace-encouraging, poverty-reducing clean energy revolution. We can’t settle for anything less, and we need the tactics that match that need!
In the words of martyred German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed for his anti-Hitler activities in 1945, “real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”
Ted Glick is currently on the 27th day of a Climate Emergency Fast (www.climateemergency.org) and is a key organizer of the No War, No Warming October 22nd action on Capitol Hill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.