December 13, 2010

Green Strategy Now

In the wake of the midterm elections, now that Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and will summarily go forward crushing any initiatives towards keeping the air and water clean in America, reducing our country’s global impact on climate change overall, and squashing any potential for renewable energy, smart grid technology, and domestic energy production – all in favor of lining the pockets of their friends in the oil and gas industries by forcing us to import more oil from abroad and bomb the hell out of anyone who opposes us – environmental activism groups are ever eager to win the ground war for the minds and sensibilities of voters.

The new strategy involves taking the truth to the streets, and making sure that the American public, which seems to be woefully undereducated and ignorant of climate, science, and environmental issues, gets an opportunity to hear the truth instead of the political talking points from industry that is all too ready to whine that any improvement in the condition of our planet will come at the cost of jobs or taxes.

Following the defeat, and faced with an immediate deadline for averting global catastrophe, greens big and small are going more local and becoming more confrontational. But there is wide variation in what that means.

Greenpeace, which had lobbied to improve the proposed bills but did not support them, is refocusing on local actions and alliance building, particularly against coal mining and burning. The fight against coal is one recent bright spot in the environmental struggle. For several years the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, numerous local outfits and, more recently, Greenpeace have waged a grassroots campaign using mass protest and direct action like mountaintop occupations, as well as financial and political pressure, and so far have prevented the construction of 130 proposed new coal plants [see “Cracking Big Coal,” Robert S. Eshelman, May 3]. Direct action against coal directly cuts emissions, and in so doing it supports the various regional cap-and-trade structures like RGGI in the Northeast and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), Davies points out. “Those mechanisms only work if there are some real emissions reductions,” he explains.

The Sierra Club, under the leadership of its new director, Michael Brune (who had headed the more radical Rainforest Action Network), is also redoubling its efforts against coal. The Club, which had supported Waxman-Markey and its EPA gutting before Brune took over, now considers protecting the EPA one of the “bright lines” that must not be crossed. Brune says, “Our top priority is our Beyond Coal campaign, to clean up and close down coal plants and replace them with clean energy.” Other priorities include building a movement by connecting with local activists, linking these antipollution and antimining fights to global climate issues, and working with the nascent clean-energy industry to help it become more organized and vocal.

This is important because when it comes to politics the clean-energy industry is bizarrely passive. While coal and oil buy influence, manipulate the public discourse (routinely lying in the process) and demand massive government subsidies, the wind and solar companies sit by politely.

The truth of the matter is that the environmental movement and green energy industry will need to take a much bigger stand and speak with a much louder – and hopefully collective – voice in the halls of government. The old fossil fuel industry has no intention of quieting down and giving them a room at the table, and in the absence of their voice, none of us win.

[ Green Strategy Now ]
Source: The Nation

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