Advocacy

Coaltopia – Coal Industry Revival Backfires On Climate

Writing for High County News, Ray Ring reports on unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India, that coal-export schemes have ignited:

The opponents want thorough evaluations that weigh all the impacts, with public hearings around the Northwest that would give time to speakers like Kimberly Larson, a staffer for Climate Solutions, a Washington group that advocates for wind and solar power.

“The coal companies need a new market for their drug,” she says, “just like we saw with tobacco companies,” which emphasized overseas sales when health warnings and taxes eroded their U.S. customer base.

Industry, however, prefers narrow evaluations — a local hearing that only weighs the construction of a new dock, for instance. And industry is optimistic: In the last few weeks, a couple of companies leased additional Powder River Basin deposits — with their eyes fixed on Asia.

Writing for the Daily Kos, Matt Wuerker falls for coal industry deception (much deception comes from a difference in perception) and encourage readers, at least in the Pacific Northwest, to think likewise. There are two grievous errors in the thinking he promotes.

While criticizing the coal industry for using a local focus, the Daily Kos article, “Our Happy Future as a Coal Corridor,” also emphasizes a local focus that lessens the focus on the total impact upon life on the planet as we know it. A quick view of current economics, and the average reader would see the need to export coal to Asia.

The second grievous error relates to the first. Wuerker wants the Daily Kos reader to see such harm in being a coal industry “corridor.” This provides coal industry representatives an opportunity to respond that this worry is wrong because the coal is going elsewhere for burning — some place other than the Great Pacific Northwest — some place in Asia, where electric power plants suffer less harassment by the government about producing CO2 emissions than the coal industry has to worry about in our country. (Sarcastically italicized.)

Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will rise again next month as it has since reporting started. Not just in the atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest, or wherever you are as you read this. The concentration reported in a frame on the right hand of this weblog front page is a global average. While it is a possible problem to transport the product through where you live to make money, it is not the major problem. The major problem is encouraging greater use of a product that, in the future, is leading to the end of life on this planet as we know it. Yes, one planet — this Kos critical post is avoiding a focus on Big China, other than repeating the cartoon. Instead, it attempts to ask readers to think critically about life on our planet.

OWS Movement

This puts the climate change movement in something of a quandary. Should we largely ignore the OWS Movement and continue with climate change activism as before? Simply abandon the climate issue for the time being in the hope that OWS will lead to changes that make dealing with climate politically easier? Try to do both?

Pursuing our own agenda will almost certainly mean we are marginalized and ignored by the mainstream and the bulk of the progressive movement. Throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement means the climate issue gets framed within the terms of that struggle, which is limiting to the point of being almost useless.

Granted Klein discusses the need for a far more fundamental agenda than is currently being articulated, one that would indeed put us on the right course to deal with climate change meaningfully. However, the bulk of her speech is about comparing OWS to the anti-globalization protests of a decade ago with observations about what mistakes were made then and how they might be avoided now. Perfectly legitimate and needed, but hardly a speech about climate change action.

Klein’s title is quite correct in that it isdown to us – the 99%.” The powers that be have demonstrated all too clearly that they will not take any meaningful action on climate change until it is far too late, if then. However, absent from the article is any discussion of what it is that we 99% are going to do. Not that it would be possible to articulate that in one short Guardian piece, but the fact is that it is left totally in the air.

Is it the premise that the occupations will lead to meaningful change, and if so, how exactly? Insomuch as the occupations do not seem to be connected to critiquing the amount of wealth we get by destroying the Earth (or the Developing World),exactly what change are we expecting? Realistically, at best the occupations may lead to some reforms in some mechanisms of wealth distribution within parts of the Industrialised North, but that’s probably about it. As such simply throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement does not seem a viable option.

So what are we, the 99% who must take up the task of actually solving the climate change crisis, to do?

Occupy Madrid: By JoeInSouthernCA

It seems to me that notwithstanding my apparent critique, the Occupy movement offers an opportunity as well as a challenge. As ever, the important task of educating the broader public, including our fellow progressives, about the realities of the climate crisis remains paramount.

The Occupy Movement is an opportunity to educate our fellow activists about those realities, as well as make ourselves available to be educated. To form meaningful alliances and coalitions we have to truly understand the concerns and needs of the various social justice movements. We cannot hope for meaningful cooperation and coordination if we do not deeply appreciate what those communities need and want.

At all costs we must not attempt to simply use the Occupy Movement to try to co-opt other peoples issues. Our desire to integrate our causes into a realistic and meaningful strategic plan for social change must be a sincere one. To do that we must listen at least as much as we speak, if not more so.

We must also educate by example. We will earn their respect and attention when how we live moment to moment demonstrates how seriously we understand the immediacy of the climate crisis to be. Equally we must live our lives in accordance with what they have to teach us about their issues and concerns. That is the only thing that will convince them of our commitment to justice and equity, and that the issue of climate change is fundamentally about climate justice.