Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story

The president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever

 
Illustration by Victor Juhasz
December 17, 2013 9:00 AM ET

Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”…Read the full story here!

Bill’s writing is dynamic and on-point as always!

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-and-climate-change-the-real-story-20131217#ixzz2nltco46f

The Things that Matter

The things that matter

By Ryan Anthony Schlaff 10/16/2013

Thought I’d remember, but nearly forgot,

So I talk of it now, More often than not.

That the things that matter most in our lives,

Aren’t about the things that money can buy.

The things that matter aren’t found at a store,

No matter how bad you think you want or need more,

Money can’t replace good conversation, laughing, joking and love,

These things matter, and they’re ours free, sent from Above.

…The things that matter…, you realize once they’re lost.

You can work your life away for the money, but your relationships, it will cost.

It’s all about LOVE…  For each other, Our Earth, learning while living this journey-

Living compassionately happy and free without worry.

It’s about Doing what you know in your heart to be good,

If it makes you feel right inside, help.  You know that you should.

Yeah, I’m just one voice, this fact is true.

But You are YOU! And, that makes us two.

Three will become four, and five and then six,

Many more will come too, and join up in the mix.

Then… There’ll be more help for the problems we’ll solve.

Together we’ll continue to learn more, live healthier, and evolve-

To know that we are not hopeless.

The answers are within us,

Why settle for the old ideals we know that aren’t working

Why settle for a future that’s cloudy, polluted and murky-

when together we can forge our ideas into greatness…  Start, A-New.

Peacefully we can,, and we will…  This is true.

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Representative Democracy & The Government Shutdown

Google national parks

For anyone that uses Google today you’ll see that they are commemorating the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park. Ironically and I think intentionally, this highlights the sorry fact that for anyone wanting to visit one of the over 400 national parks and museums today, they are all closed today and will be as long as this self-imposed gov. shut-down continues. Same goes for our food inspections, the EPA will shut down almost entirely, and 800,000 federal “non-essential” employees will get sent home without pay. The reason? Because we don’t have a separation of corporation and state in our government and a few radicals in the house and senate are doing the bidding of big business. Our “representatives” give billions in tax breaks each year to big oil as they cut funding for food programs and after school programs for kids. “Our representatives” decide that it’s ok to be the only country in the developed world to not to label GMO foods because it’s bad for business. “Our representatives” attack programs that help people afford to be able to go to their doctor(Obama Care) so we can maximize profits for the pharmaceutical and private healthcare companies.

Members of congress are letting ideology and their obstructionist agenda that boils down to, “let’s oppose everything the black president is in favor of” get in the way of them actually representing the people they were elected to serve. The systems that allows unlimited funding to get dumped into our political process and election cycle(Citizens United) results in manipulative fear mongering media that results in the majority of people being duped into voting for politicians and measures that will never actually represent their interests. This is one example of what “we the people” get when we get lulled asleep by our comforts and let what we see on TV dictate how we think, what we care about, and who we allow to represent our interests.

What happened to service? What happened to democracy and a gov. of the people, by the people, for the people? It’s going to take a lot more people making the conscious choice to think for themselves and turning to one another instead of turning on the TV, if we are going to fix the systemic issues plaguing our country and planet.

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Oil & Water Don’t Mix Rally » Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands

Oil & Water Don’t Mix Rally » Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands.

St. Ignace, MI – On Sunday hundreds gathered at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace for Oil and Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes. Folks came from across the midwest and arrived by bus, car, and bike to amplify our voices as a part of the collective citizenry concerned about the dangers of dirty energy and tar sands in North America. The focus of the rally was to come together to challenge the threat that two 60 year old pipelines carrying dirty tar sands oil through the Straits of Mackinaw poses for our Great Lakes, the greatest source of fresh water on this planet…

Detroiters Turn the Petcoke Trucks Around

Supporters and members of Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS) block a truck hauling petroleum coke to the controversial storage facility and docks along the Detroit River Monday June 24, 2013.

6/24/13 DCATS Press Statement

To whom it may concern:
Monday morning, we the people issued and enforced an eviction notice to those involved with the illegal dumping and storage of the hazardous tar sand waste known as petroleum (pet) coke on the Detroit River. DCATS and community members stood their ground, blocking several double trailer trucks from piling their cargo onto the uncontained mountains of pet coke on Rosa Parks. Our victory came by standing united against the unsustainable and unjust practices that continue to put profits before people and planet. The tremendous outpouring of community and local government support in this matter makes it clear: the citizens of Detroit will no longer stand idly by as our city is treated like a toxic dump.

However, we understand that this is just the beginning of a much larger struggle happening across the continent. While we celebrate this victory, our demands remain clear. No community should be forced to bear a toxic burden that merely benefits a handful of billionaires—in this case, the profiteers of the Marathon refinery where this byproduct is produced, the owner of the storage site Matty Maroun, and the Kochs who profit from the sale of this excessively polluting fuel. Our actions will continue and gather support, as we work assiduously to further educate and empower the public. Every single human being has the right to clean air, safe water, and environmental justice.

Sincerely,

DCATS

Supporters and members of Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS) block a truck hauling petroleum coke to the controversial storage facility and docks along the Detroit River Monday June 24, 2013.

Partial Media Round-up from the Weekends Events:

Global March Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto
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CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY WE MARCH

Saturday, May 25, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Eastern Market
2910 Russell St
Detroit, MI 48207

Meeting at the GAZEBO north of Alfred St and Shed 5

We are 1 week away from taking the streets and standing up against a morally corrupt corporation that thinks it is above the Laws of Nature and is using its power to influence our democracy. We the People will march and rally in Detroit as a part of a global day of action to make our voice heard among the global cry for justice!

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Join the event mailing list by Clicking Here

Register free tickets through link above.

You May Also Sign Up for the Event with Food & Water Watch Here

Costume & Sign-making Party May 21 from 5-8pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/131782823682245
BEE busy … we’re putting together a presentation!

WORLD-WIDE DAY OF ACTION
===================
Actions around the world are being organized in protest of Monsanto. You can see hundreds of activities through these websites:
http://march-against-monsanto.com/
http://occupy-monsanto.com/
http://occupymonsanto360.org/

ABOUT MONSANTO
============
MONSANTO is the world’s largest developer of Genetically Engineered crops and Genetically Modified Organisms. Their heavy handed reign of our food industry has put the world at its knees and sadly many people still don’t know who this corporate behemoth is.

Have you ever eaten food that you found didn’t have the taste you remember from the past… it is just kind of bland, yet the food LOOKS good, actually VERY GOOD LOOKING. But it is empty of flavor, and nutrients as well. Monsanto has developed crops that grow fast, event when the herbicide ROUNDUP is sprayed on them. Yes – these specially modified seeds can grow even when poisoned!

Many of these crops if left to bear seed result in sterile seeds, known in the industry as terminator technology. This forces the grower to buy new seeds each season rather than work in a traditional manner that would have one season’s crops create the seed for the next. Thousand

s of thousands of farmers who followed traditional methods were convinced to buy into Monsanto’s seeds unwittingly destroying their farmlands, and economy for planting from season to season. Biotech Cotton in India in 2005 was blamed for what has been termed the “Seeds of Suicide”, claiming thousands of lives of frustrated, bankrupt farmers.

There are many sources of information about Monsanto, which will be post on the wall and added as links at the bottom of this event description. We encourage the community to share information with each other!

News Bits
======
March 27 2013 – ‘Monsanto Protection Act': 5 Terrifying Things To Know About The HR 933 Provision
http://www.ibtimes.com/monsanto-protection-act-5-terrifying-things-know-about-hr-933-provision-1156079

3 Minute Video on Why We March: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LICQCxq1FqU

DOCUMENTARY
=========
The World According to Monsanto
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-world-according-to-monsanto/


March Against Monsanto

EARTH NIGHT: Be Part of the Free Global Screening of “Do the Math”

UntitledPlease watch this trailer & consider being part of the World Premier of the free film screening of Do the Math: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-zfinOCgRQ0

Earth Night: Do The Math Film Screening

Sunday, April 21, 6:45 PM
Central United Methodist Church – 2nd Floor- Free Parking in Church Parking Lot on Corner of Woodward and Elizabeth
23 E Adams Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Event Description

CUMC Green Team, Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands(D CATS), and PlanIt4Planet are hosting the premier of the film, Do The Math this Sunday, April 21st at 7PM. Check it out this Sunday in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and across Michigan and the planet. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. Film starts promptly at 7PM.This film follows the inspiring and illuminating “Do The Math Tour” that sold out venues in each of the 20 cities across the Country that it stopped in during the month-long tour, culminating in a 50,000 person rally and march in DC. Come celebrate the awakening of a generation and the birth of the fossil fuel resistance on the eve of Earth day. The film will be followed by a live streamed panel that includes many of the prophetic voices you will hear throughout the film. Parking is free in the church parking lot.

Here is the link to the Detroit Screening: http://act.350.org/event/do_the_math_film/4470/signup/?akid&zip=48226

Detroit Among 130 Buses Heading to D.C. for Historical Climate Rally

 fMedia Advisory for: February 17, 2013

Contact: Joshua Achatz, 1-586-246-2035, Jobaloon@gmail.com, Jarret Schlaff, PlanIt4Planet, 1-313-444-8428, Jaschlaff@gmail.com

Michigan Represented Well Among the 130 Buses from 30 States across the U.S. Heading to D.C.   

On Sunday, February 17, buses from Battle Creek, Detroit, East Lansing, Traverse City, and two from Ann Arbor will arrive in D.C. to join tens of thousands of Americans calling on President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL project and lead America forward on climate action. This movement is about transcending partisan politics and demanding that our representatives in Washington value and protect the welfare of their constituents and our planet over fossil fuel interests.

We applaud the President’s remarks during Tuesday’s State of the Union where he expressed the need to power beyond the dirty fossil fuels of the past toward renewable clean energy alternatives for our future. The President explained, “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…if congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Upwards of twenty thousand Americans from across the country who share that sentiment are expected to participate in the “Forward on Climate” Rally outside the White House, making it the largest climate rally in U.S. history.  Rally participants are demanding that President Obama take bold action to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels like coal, oil, natural gas and tar sands; to cement his presidential legacy and address the climate crisis.

**ATTENTION NEWS MEDIA: Reporters are invited to interview activists before they board the bus leaving from Detroit to DC at 9:30pm Saturday February 16th. Contact jobaloon@gmail.com and jaschlaff@gmail.com. **

Who:  Michigan citizens for a thriving, just, sustainable future

What: Forward on Climate Rally for President Obama to take immediate action on the climate crisis, by rejecting the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Where: March from Washington Monument to the White House, Washington D.C.(Bus leaving from  SW corner of the Southfield Civic Center at 26000 Evergreen Rd Southfield, MI 48076

When: Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12-4PM

Why: We share the President’s sense of urgency on the need for bold climate action

  • 2oC: The amount, according to international consensus, that we can raise the global average temperature above preindustrial levels and still maintain a so-called “safe” climate, beyond which all bets are off
  • 565 gigatons: the amount of CO2 scientists agree we can still pump into the atmosphere and hope to remain below the 2oC threshold. At current rates we will blow through this threshold in under 16 years
  • 2795 gigatons: the amount of CO2 contained in the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves, which the fossil-fuel industry shows every intention of extracting and burning

 More Information:

An ancient Native American saying by Chief Seattle sums up what this movement is all about, “We don’t inherit this land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Valerie Jean, an outspoken advocate for renewable energy and community based solutions to climate change, who is a proud Detroit mother of 5 and recent grandmother asked, “Is it really too much to ask to have clean air to breath and clean water to drink for my children?…We should not be putting profit before people. It’s that simple!”

Esperenza Gailliard, an Indigenous activist with the Idle No More movement, riding on the Detroit bus, explained that the protection of Mother Earth is a large part of their culture. The refining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada has polluted the water and destroyed the lands affecting many First Nations people of Canada. Esperenza said, “Without clean water we as humans have no way to survive. We must have clean water to drink, to wash, to manage our daily lives and this is one of the most important reasons why I and my children are taking an active role in climate protection… our voices must rise, be heard and understood in order to fight the corruption of materialism that has eaten away the natural laws of living and brought materialism and destruction to our doorstep. We choose life, and hope others will join us. “ #IdleNoMore

Jessica Miskena, a young activist with the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3 explained why it’s important not to get caught up on investing time and money on “bridge fuels” as we transition into a clean energy economy. “We don’t live harmoniously with our earth anymore. The worldwide disaster at Fukushima is a wake-up call to end our indifference to toxic unstable energy. Nuclear is an uncontrollable killer that will continue if we turn a blind eye while the industry takes advantage of life. There is absolutely no beneficial need to build any more reactors, like the proposed Fermi 3 in Monroe MI, when we have clean technologies ready to implement.”

###

Detroit Stands with the Tar Sands Blockade

By Jarret Schlaff

Occupy Detroit is organizing an action on Monday January 7th at 1:00 PM at the Chase building in Downtown Detroit following a national call by Occupy Denver for a day of solidarity actions to raise awareness and mobilize in support of the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas.

images (1)J.P Morgan Chase was selected as the target for the protest because they are one of the main financiers of the Keystone XL Pipeline and also are heavily invested in the project. In an open letter last October to Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Rain forest Action Network’s(RAN) Executive Director, the late Rebecca Tarbotton, expressed her “concern” about the banks having been underwriters for a $1 billion TransCanada bond and having each bought $295 million in the transaction.

Occupy Detroit is calling on J.P Morgan Chase to divest from the Keystone XL Pipeline and to stop funding climate change. We all have the power to be responsible citizens with our investments. If Chase is not representing the people and planet’s best interests, those that have accounts with them should make the conscious choice to divest from Chase and take their dollars elsewhere.

There are countless reasons why groups like Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace, NRDC, RAN, and the Keystone XL Blockade, to name just a few, are involved in the fight against the Canadian tar sands. Here are a few of the reasons many of us came together to speak out against against the Keystone XL pipeline:

Majority of Facts courtesy of Tarsands Blockade.org

1. CLIMATE CHANGE – NASA’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline“a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” Hansen has said that if all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere it would mean “game over” for the planet.

Carbon Tracker initiative and IEA say Keep 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground by 2050 to avert climate disaster

8243507516_67c633797f2. SPILLS – All pipelines spill. According to TransCanada the Keystone 1 pipeline was predicted to spill once every seven years. It spilled 12 times in its first year and it has spilled more than 30 times over its lifetime. The Keystone XL pipeline is built to spill, and when it does it will have a devastating effect upon employment and the economy, according to Cornell University.

The oil firm Enbridge ignored warning signs for more than five years along its 6B Line, and when it spilled in July of 2010 in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River it caused the most damaging onshore oil spill in US history.

HannahandFairchildatKeystoneprotest.medium3. EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE – TransCanada has intimidated landowners along the pipeline route into signing contractual agreements for their land. TransCanada fraudulently steals land from private citizens through eminent domain.

A recent Texas Supreme Court case ruled that the application process for common carrier status, the status that allows private companies to seize property, does not not conclusively establish eminent-domain power.

TransCanada has indicated that up to 700,000 gallons of tar sands crude could leak out of the Keystone XL pipeline without triggering its real time leak-detection system.

4. WATER CONTAMINATION – The Keystone XL pipeline threatens Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer which supplies drinking water to more than 12 million people living across 60 counties in drought-stricken East Texas.

The pipeline’s cross-border section also threatens the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the western North American region, upon which millions of people and agricultural businesses depend for drinking water, irrigation and livestock watering.

Currently one of Occupy Detroit’s very own is down in East Texas right now on the front lines supporting the Tree Stand Blockade to halt construction of the pipeline. More details about the Tar Sands Blockade can be found here.

Detroit to Texas: United Against the Tar Sands

Planit4Planet Joins DC Protest Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Planit4Planet Joins DC Protest Against Keystone XL Pipeline

What: Detroit Solidarity Action For The Tar Sands Blockade: National Day of Action Moving Beyond FOSSIL FUELS for a sustainable future

Where: Meeting at the Statue in Campus Martius. Protest at Chase Bank, Downtown Detroit
611 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI

When: Monday January 7th 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Why: We are all in this together

Following Monday’s action there will be a conference call to debrief and explore future plans for building an alliance or connecting into existing coalitions of groups and individuals in Detroit and beyond willing to tackle the interconnected issues facing us all. This conference call will be followed by a meeting/potluck the following Friday. Details are as follows:

Detroit/Metro Planning against Fossil Fuels for the safety of our planet and future generations.
Friday, Jan. 11 @7pm
1-213-226-0400
Conference code #273839
Potluck Planning Meeting:
Friday, Jan. 18th @7pm
Where: TBD

For more information call 1-313-444-8428

DO THE MATH TOUR: The Next Phase of the Climate Movement

domath

Cue the math: McKibben’s roadshow takes aim at Big Oil

The following is written by Wen Stephenson , a former editor at The Atlantic and The Boston Globe, and has written about climate and culture for the Globe, The New York Times, and Slate. On Twitter: @wenstephenson. It is cross posted from Grist. 


Rae BreauxBill McKibben onstage at the University of Vermont, Oct. 13, 2012.

It was game time. The Saturday night crowd on the Vermont campus was festive, boisterous, pumped. People cheered and whooped when told that one of their heroes, climate activist Tim DeChristopher — serving a two-year federal sentence for his civil disobedience opposing new oil and gas drilling in Utah — would soon be back on the field.

When the man on the stage, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, said it was time to march not just on Washington but on the headquarters of fossil fuel companies — “it’s time to march on Dallas” — and asked those to stand who’d be willing to join in the fight, seemingly every person filling the University of Vermont’s cavernous Ira Allen Chapel, some 800 souls, rose to their feet.

McKibben and 350, the folks who brought us the Keystone XL pipeline protests, are now calling for a nationwide divestment campaign aimed at fossil fuel companies’ bottom line. Beginning with student-led campaigns on college campuses, modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, they’ll pressure institutions to withdraw all investments from big oil and coal and gas. Their larger goal is to ignite a morally charged movement to strip the industry of its legitimacy.

“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability,” McKibben tells his audience. “You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”

I was there in Burlington on Saturday to spend some time with the 350.org team, watch their run-throughs, and attend the night’s show, a sort of “dress rehearsal” for the 20-city Do The Math tour, officially launching in Seattle on Nov. 7, the day after the election. The tour builds off of McKibben’s Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” which appeared in July and is one of the most widely read pieces in the magazine’s history. Buzz is clearly building, and not just in McKibben’s home state of Vermont. The Seattle show is sold out. The Boston show, on Nov. 15, sold out in less than 24 hours and has moved to a venue three times larger, the Orpheum Theater, with 2,700 seats. (Full disclosure: McKibben sits on Grist’s board of directors.)

Part multimedia lecture — with video appearances by 350.org allies like Naomi Klein, James Hansen, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu — and part organizing rally, with a live musical performance, the Burlington event gave a taste of what’s to come. The tour will “evolve,” with different elements and onstage guests along the way — for example, Klein and filmmaker Josh Fox, of Gasland fame, will join McKibben onstage in various cities. Although it was a little rough around the edges on Saturday night, nobody seemed to mind (McKibben was playing, wisely, to his hometown crowd). The basic structure and central message of the show were well in place — and, just as important for 350′s objectives, the organizing wheels were well in motion.

As 350′s Matt Leonard, serving as “tour manager” for Do The Math, explained it to me, the tour isn’t simply about “getting butts in seats” for a lecture or concert (thus the relatively low emphasis on the musical guests in each city, most of whom are yet to be announced). It’s about getting “the right people” in those seats. “This isn’t just for publicity and outreach,” he says. “We’re putting tremendous effort into making sure students, community leaders, college trustees, and influential decision-makers are a part of this event, because they are the ones that will turn this from a talk into a hard-hitting campaign.”

Sure enough, there in Burlington, students at UVM and other area colleges were already talking up divestment campaigns. Elsewhere in New England, a student-led divestment movement, spearheaded by the network Students for a Just and Stable Future, is off and running — at Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, Amherst, the University of New Hampshire, and a dozen other campuses. Similar campaigns are being discussed on campuses around the country. And on Saturday night, McKibben told the crowd that Hampshire College in western Massachusetts, the first to divest from South Africa in 1977, is the first school in the nation to move toward divestment from fossil fuels.

This is real. And it’s just getting started.


Clearly, McKibben and 350 know their audience for this tour, and it’s not simply the general public. Far from attempting to communicate climate science to the uninformed, or disinformed, in a lowest-common-denominator way, Do the Math is about lighting a fire under the movement, rallying the troops, and mustering forces for a major new offensive — what the Do the Math website bills as “the next phase of the climate movement.”

Before heading up to Burlington, I asked McKibben what that means. “Fighting Keystone,” he told me by email, “we learned we could stand up to the fossil fuel industry. We demonstrated some moxie.” But, he added: “We also figured out that we’re not going to win just fighting one pipeline at a time. We have to keep all those battles going, but we also have to play some offense, go at the heart of the problem.”

The Rolling Stone piece and McKibben’s Do the Math lecture leave no doubt what the heart of the problem is. Drawing on a widely circulated report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a group of U.K. financial experts and environmentalists, McKibben shows that the fossil fuel industry’s known reserves contain five times the amount of carbon needed to raise the planet’s temperature more than 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels — the point beyond which, according to international consensus, all bets for a livable climate are off.

As McKibben points out, we’ve already burned enough carbon to raise the global thermometer almost 1 degree C, with disastrous effects. At the current rate, we’ll have burned enough additional carbon in the next 16 years to propel us over the 2-degree line this century. To prevent that from happening — to slow the process down and ultimately stop it — the fossil fuel industry would need to commit to keeping 80 percent of its reserves in the ground, forever, and help bring about a rapid shift to clean energy.

Obviously, given the sheer amount of money at stake — many trillions of dollars — the odds of anything like that happening under current political conditions are nil. McKibben is arguing that, if there’s any hope at all of preserving a livable climate, those conditions must change decisively. And they can — but only if and when enough people understand the simple climate math and realize that the fossil fuel industry is prepared to cook humanity off the planet unless somebody stops it.

Far more than money is at stake. At risk, the Do the Math presentation makes clear, are countless human lives. The most affecting display in Burlington was a show of faces of people, all around the world, who are already suffering the impact of climate change — in Kenya, Haiti, Brazil, India, and Pakistan, and many other places, including the United States. Projected on the screen behind McKibben, they’re a powerful reminder of the human face, and cost, of global warming.

Likewise, this tour, and the movement it aims to galvanize, are about far more than math. They’re about justice and injustice, right and wrong — what you could call the moral equation.


The tone of the climate movement is shifting. Maybe it all goes back to 2009 and 2010, and the failure of Copenhagen, the collapse of climate legislation in the Senate, and the disillusioning, infuriating lack of climate leadership by Barack Obama. You could feel it in the air then — a palpable sense that the system itself was hopelessly paralyzed and corrupted, and that politics-as-usual would never be enough to save us. With a kind of desperation, but with history as a guide, people began talking and writing in earnest about building a grassroots movement based on something more, something broader and deeper, than all the lobbying money and the corporate-style, K-Street-friendly communications strategies. A movement built on something more like moral outrage.

McKibben’s tone has changed markedly as well. There were hints of it in those brutal opening chapters of Eaarth, released in the spring of 2010, where he surveyed the planet’s damage and the almost certain ravages to come. And when the watered-down-to-nothing climate bill died in the Senate that July, he let loose with a much-quoted broadside headlined “We’re hot as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” As though finally venting emotions long suppressed (he’s a native New Englander, after all), he wrote with trademark but now seething understatement: “I’m a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday school teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: This is fucked up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy.”

Still every bit the soft-spoken, self-effacing speaker — and still witty, even laugh-out-loud funny, on stage – McKibben has both darkened and toughened his message. It’s as though, as a man of faith, he’s discovered his “prophetic voice.” (In all seriousness, you should hear him preach sometime. He knows how to use a pulpit.) He may not thunder — that will never be his style — but he’s become, I want to say, a sort of Jeremiah. (I’m sure he’d reject the comparison.)

McKibben seems to have remembered a basic truth of transformative social movements: that they’re driven not merely by positive visions — much less any simplistic, poll-tested “win-win” market optimism — but by sheer moral outrage at some deep, intolerable injustice. The movements that change the world are moral struggles.

At a key moment, maybe the key moment, in McKibben’s Do the Math talk, he plays a video clip of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson at the Council on Foreign Relations in June. McKibben eviscerates him in a darkly comic back-and-forth that would make Jon Stewart proud. Tillerson, having made news by acknowledging that climate change is real, and that warming “will have an impact,” goes on to express confidence that “we’ll adapt.”

“It’s an engineering problem, with engineering solutions,” intones the onscreen Tillerson — who, as McKibben notes on stage, makes $100,000 a day.

“No,” McKibben replies. “It’s a greed problem. Yours.”


On Saturday, after McKibben, Leonard, and the rest of 350′s small production crew ran through the Do the Math script in the empty, echoing, freezing-cold Ira Allen Chapel, I tagged along with them for lunch a short walk from the UVM campus. Over soup, basmati rice, and lentils, McKibben and I had a chance to talk, and I asked him how the idea for the tour had been born.

It all goes back, he said, to that seminal 2011 report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative in London. When McKibben and friend Naomi Klein, a 350.org board member, read the U.K. report early last spring — and saw the numbers — they both realized the implications.

“It exposed a real vulnerability of the fossil fuel industry,” McKibben told me, “because it made clear what the outcome of this process was going to be if we continued.”

There was a long pause. “There’s always been this slight unreality to the whole climate change thing,” he continued. “Because most people, at some level, kept thinking — and rightly so — Yeah, but no one will ever actually do this. No one will actually, knowingly, destroy the planet by climate change. But once you’ve seen those numbers, it’s clear, that’s exactly what they’re knowingly planning to do. So that changes the equation, you know?”

Without making any apologies for the fossil fuel industry, I noted that the people who built the industry didn’t set out to wreck the planet. It’s an incredible historical accident that we ended up in this position.

McKibben nodded. There was, of course, “a sound historical reason” for the development of fossil fuels. “But that sound historical reason vanished the minute Jim Hansen basically explained, 25 years ago, that we’re about to do in the Earth. And now that we’ve melted the Arctic — it’s well under way — at this point, it’s outrageous, is all it is.”

That sort of gut-level outrage, I suggested, is very different from the sort of positive messaging we’ve been told will motivate people to act on climate.

“There’s been an endless discussion over the years, among people in the climate community, about the right framing or messaging, or whatever,” McKibben told me. “I’ve never paid that much attention to it. Because I’ve always had fairly good luck getting people to listen simply by saying what seemed obvious to me — each time we got a new set of facts, explaining it, setting it out.”

That raised my eyebrows, I admit. Then came the kicker: “Now we have the new, and in some ways, the most important set of facts since the original science around climate. This stuff on who owns what, in terms of reserves — it’s the Keeling Curve of climate economics and politics. These are the iconic numbers for understanding where we are now.”

So can divestment, I asked, be an effective strategy? Can it generate enough economic leverage to make a difference?

“I think it’s a way to a get a fight started,” McKibben said without hesitation, “and to get people in important places talking actively about the culpability of the fossil fuel industry for the trouble that we’re in. And once that talk starts, I think it does start imposing a certain kind of economic pressure. Their high stock price is entirely justified by the thought that they’re going to get all their reserves out of the ground. And I think we’ve already made an argument that it shouldn’t be a legitimate thing to be doing.”

In other words, as in South Africa, as with Big Tobacco, there’s economic leverage in the moral case?

“Absolutely.”

What, then, I wanted to know, is the “theory of change,” right now, in Bill McKibben’s mind?

“It’s not a question of coming up with the right set of policies,” he said. “Nobody’s really come up with a new set of policy stuff for 20 years. We just haven’t ever tried the things that the economists all told us to try, because the fossil fuel industry got in the way. So it’s about figuring out what power is in the way.

“Look, our job as organizers, our most important job, is to take the next step — throw a big rock in the pond, see what ripples it creates, and then figure out how to surf those and how to launch the next one. We think that if we’re able to explain to people what the fossil fuel industry is doing, it will weaken their position — weaken it morally, politically, and economically. And that will make more things possible than are possible now.”


For all the cheering and whooping, the real emotional climax of the Burlington show came midway through, when musical guest Anais Mitchell sang a devastating, solo-acoustic cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” With images of this summer’s epic flooding in the Philippines on the screen behind her, Mitchell’s performance not only evoked the civil rights, antiwar, and early environmental movements of the ’60s. Her high, piercing vocal also captured the sadness and fear behind McKibben’s numbers. It was cathartic, I think, for the audience. It certainly was for me.

But McKibben’s presentation, and the whole Do the Math show, evokes much more than those emotions of sadness and fear. It also articulates what had been missing from climate advocacy, at least in public, for so long — that sense of outrage.

And yet, if anything, the show doesn’t punch hard enough. It spells out the new carbon math, and it shows us those human faces, but it never really spells out what science tells us are the all-too-likely impacts of runaway warming. It doesn’t paint the nightmare vision of the planet today’s children and future generations could inhabit if the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers have their way — what Joe Romm aptly calls “hell and high water,” and what McKibben himself already portrayed in Eaarth. New research suggests that 400,000 people are already dying around the world each year from the effects of climate change, a number that could well rise into the millions. The show could lay such numbers — such math — at the industry’s feet.

In fact, there’s another Dylan song that might be a better, more fitting, anthem. “You that hide behind desks/I just want you to know/I can see through your masks,” Dylan sings in “Masters of War.” Only now, instead of the bomb-building military-industrial complex, it’s the planet-burning carbon-industrial complex Dylan could be addressing. “You’ve thrown the worst fear/That can ever be hurled,” he practically spits. “Fear to bring children/Into the world …”

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

Some of the hardest, toughest, most prophetic song lyrics ever written. And if I have any advice for McKibben and my friends at 350.org, I’d humbly suggest that’s exactly the kind of thing we need. Maybe not Dylan; we need newer voices. But we also need that fierce moral indictment — pointed where it belongs, at the perpetrators of the crime unfolding against humanity and the Earth.


Full disclosures: Bill McKibben is a member of the Grist board of directors. Wen Stephenson serves on the volunteer working board of Better Future Project, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass., that works closely with 350.org, and he helped launch the volunteer grassroots network 350 Massachusetts, in which he is active.

Original Article may be found at: http://grist.org/climate-energy/cue-the-math-mckibbens-roadshow-takes-aim-at-big-oil/