Here's Chris Hedges interviewing Bill McKibben:
The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.
“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.
“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.
“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.
“The task that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie.
“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with 350.org. It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked.
“One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be, because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.
“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.
“In moral terms, it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.
“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later, we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.
“I’d like people to go to climatedirectaction.org and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself, you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.
The Complete Story at:
So, I will look at the framing, political posturing, and information flow that comes from this event in Spokane, dubbed, "state of the green economy," which is an oxymoron in any sense of the word for a city that is in constant gridlock, road tear-up/paving hell and with city leaders watching as more and more propoerties go vacant. I will be using some of what I hear in my national journal, Planning, article.
State of the Green Economy
Greater Spokane Incorporated and CLEEN/NW will host the Third Annual State of the Green Economy Event Wednesday, June 15 at The Spokane Club from 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
CH2MHILL and Avista are the major sponsors of this year's event.
A panel of clean technology industry leaders will provide updates on current successes, initiatives, challenges and future opportunities in Spokane and Washington State. Updates include information about Sustainable Aviation Fuels, the City of Spokane's Energy Project, free-market environmental policy, and the newly created Clean Tech agency, Innovate Washington.
The panel includes:
•State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown
•City of Spokane Mayor Mary Verner
•Todd Myers - Director for the Environment, Washington Policy Center
•Ross McFarlane - Sr. Advisor, Business Partnerships, Climate Solutions
•Kim Zentz - Executive Director, Sirti; member of the Washington Clean Energy Leadership Council (CELC)
Hal Calbom, host of the groundbreaking film Evergreen: The Washington Clean Tech Story, will be the moderator.
The panel presentation will conclude with an opportunity for questions. A reception immediately following provides time for general discussion and networking.
The price to attend is $10, increasing to $15 starting June 9.
About CLEEN/NW (Consortium of Leading Energy Efficiency Northwest Companies)
CLEEN/NW was formed to:
•ESTABLISH an effective, comprehensive network of Clean Technology and Energy Efficiency businesses and the capabilities necessary to grow the regional industry.
•PROVIDE information and resources to keep CLEEN NW members educated and aware of industry developments.
•ASSIST in the IMPLEMENTATION of a Clean Technology Workforce Development Strategy, partnering with K-12 and higher education around awareness and opportunities.
•ATTRACT and EFFECTIVELY ORGANIZE and ENGAGE a membership and partner base sufficient to achieve the CLEEN NW mission.
So, back to the US Chamber of Commerce's bizarre anti-science agenda:
Leo Hickman Tuesday 8 September 2009
The world's largest not-for-profit business federation has made it patently clear in recent months that it does not like the look of the so-called Waxman-Markey bill. In fact, it thinks it stinks. So much so that it is currently trying every trick in the lobbyist's handbook to scupper its legislative progress.
For example, it is currently supporting the Energy Citizens campaign, which bills itself as a nationwide alliance of organisations and individuals formed to bring together people across America to remind Congress that energy is the backbone of our nation's economy and our way of life.
On the surface, Energy Citizens has the look and feel of AN Other citizen movement holding folksy grassroots "rallies" across the US to get across its point of view. In the past week or so, it has held events in Indiana, Colorado, Florida, North Dakota, Missouri and Tennessee. On its website it promotes a "Share Your Stories" facility for citizens to post their own messages and videos. One recent example is "Shaka" from Tennessee urging the Senate to "do the smart thing and defeat this bill". The use of his first name helps to give the video that all-important "ordinary joe" impression.
But hang on: could our Shaka actually be this Shaka, the one who is listed as the executive vice president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research which is "dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee", and provides a link on its website to the Carnival of Climate Change sceptics site?
Is it really any wonder that Energy Citizens is now being cited as little more than a front for the sorts of big business/free-market lobbyists – a la the US Chamber of Commerce - who are instinctively drawn to the global-warming-is-baloney school of thinking? (for more on Energy Citizens and the rise of astroturfing, read Bobbie Johnson's blog -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/sep/07/astroturfing-energy-citizens-us).
Professional lobby groups have been bending, cajoling and manipulating public discourse and opinion in ways similar to this for decades. If they can interrupt the debate, or better still muddy or even stall it, then their vested interests can be protected and allowed to prosper without hindrance. Such dark arts have been described in the past as "manufacturing doubt".
But in an interesting recent twist, the US Chamber of Commerce is now calling for the "truth" to be outed once and for all. It is demanding that the science that underpins our understanding of anthropogenic climate change be "put on trial". In papers filed with the federal court on 25 August, it argues that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should hold a public hearing "complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect".
The LA Times, which broke the story, reported a US Chamber of Commerce official as describing the hearing as "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century", in reference to the 1925 test case that saw the prosecution of a Tennessee teacher named John Scopes for violating a state law that forbade any public school teacher from denying the Bible's account of man's origin.
"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William L Kovacs, the US Chamber of Commerce's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."
The papers filed with the federal court make interesting reading. The US Chamber of Commerce is saying that it wants the EPA to hold its "Endangerment Finding Proceeding" into whether carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to public health in public and on the record.
It says that a proceeding on the record …
… is necessary to narrow the areas of scientific uncertainty, to permit a credible weighing of the scientific evidence, and to enable submitters of proof to demonstrate the falsity of some [the EPA's] key erroneous claims.
… will narrow any uncertainty on the question whether, on balance, higher temperatures will not lead to net increases in human mortality.
… will enable the EPA to resolve any uncertainties about the impacts of higher temperatures on the conventional pollutants entitled to the greatest weight in considering the issue of endangerment.
… will permit the parties to provide any necessary confirmation that temperature increases would overall benefit human welfare and the environment, and allow the EPA to receive evidence rebutting unsubstantiated claims to the contrary.
… is the most efficient and only complete method for testing the competing claims in the record concerning extreme weather events and disease.
… is necessary because the EPA has generated legitimate concern that it has prejudged the outcome of the proposed endangerment finding, only an on-the-record process can produce a reliable and legally durable outcome.
It also argues that a "transparent, on-the-record process with no ex parte communications or political interference is required, would be manageable here, and indeed would be the best way to ensure that scientific integrity prevails".
Go to the bottom of the document and you can see that it means business: it has hired the services of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, one of the world's largest corporate law firms. As it says on its own website:
In every year since 1995, Kirkland has ranked as one of the most frequently used firms by Fortune 100 companies in The National Law Journal survey, 'Who Represents Corporate America'.
It then proceeds to list its corporate clients, which include Boeing, BP America, Dow Chemical, General Motors, McDonalds, Raytheon and Siemens.
Far more pertinent, though, is a quick look though the membership list of the US Chamber of Commerce itself. It claims 3m small businesses as members, but also boasts some big household names on its board, including Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar Inc, IBM, Accenture, Eastman Kodak, Lockheed Martin, Deloitte, FedEx Express, Fox Entertainment, The Carlyle Group, Rolls-Royce North America, and US Airways.
Do all these companies really want to be associated with such a trial? Possibly not, as it happens. It appears that not all of the board members are happy with the US Chamber of Commerce's public position on climate change. Back in May, a group of members including Nike and Johnson & Johnson publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the US Chamber of Commerce's increasingly strident stance on the issue.
According to Politico.com --- http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22101.html
Johnson & Johnson asked the Chamber to refrain from making comments on climate change unless they "reflect the full range of views, especially those of Chamber members advocating for congressional action." Meanwhile, a Nike spokeswoman said her company has also been "vocal" with the Chamber's leaders "about wanting them to take a more progressive stance on the issue of climate change."
It's highly tempting to call the Chamber's bluff on such a trial and say "bring it on". It sure would be fun – and deeply revealing – to see who it would call as its expert witnesses. But the reality is such a trial would provide the distraction and delay it so evidently craves. What the proposed trial does provide, though, is a sobering reminder about the combined might and resources of the forces that are now working so hard to scupper any meaningful action on reducing emissions.