Supporters greet the.People's Climate Train in Colfax, CA (credit:: John Foran)

Diary of the People’s Climate Train; Day one to seven


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Days 3-5

Day 6

Day 7




When it comes to climate change, there’s so much to process. Every day for me is a bit like this. Corresponding with like-minded people, learning about new books and sometimes reading some of them on-line, reading the ,attest climate news and analysis, trying to update a vast and growing climate archive of all of this, planning courses on “Earth in Crisis” or “Climate Justice” (the two I will teach this fall starting in a few weeks).

But today is different. Today is notable because a new journey begins…

This morning, I boarded a train full of 120 climate activists of all stripes, ages, nationalities, colors, genders, and perspectives for a rolling four day three night workshop, skillshare, training, conversation, and party across the US from the Bay Area in California to Penn Station in New York.

I’ll do my best to provide a semi-regular snapshot of each day’s discoveries, amidst everything else that is going on.

We are answering the call put out this spring to convergence in New York City for a People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21, an effort to bring as many people out into the streets demanding climate justice as possible, to have some effect on the global summit meeting of world leaders convened by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon two days after that, on Tuesday, September 23.

It is a magnificent coming together form below of North America’s movements, with over one thousand organizations signed on and estimates ranging as high as 200,000 people out on Sunday in New York alone, which would make it a historic event, and hopefully one that has some impact on the course of history as well.

I’m on the train because it feels like the place to be this week. I’ve got a video camera that I’ve had a couple quick lessons on to try and memorialize this journey, this blog space I hope to reflect on it as well, and a host of climate related tasks on my work desk, which at the moment is at a spacious table in the café car.

As we passed through the Sierra, I heard that the smoke wafting in the air was due to a fire burning in Yosemite. It turns out that there is a second fire, 60 miles east of Sacramento, that we are seeing the smoke from. It’s eerie outside – like a dim mini-solar eclipse, or a gloomy winter’s day. This is what happens in the middle (or is it still the beginning?) of a “five-hundred year drought” – that is, a drought that should occur in California about every 500 years. Except that the latest climate science is saying that we can expect more than one of these in our lifetimes now. Here’s what Cornell University professor Toby Ault says about it: “The risk of a decade-long drought is normally about 50 percent, but with climate change it goes up to about 80 or 90 percent, according to our results. And for a multiple-decade-long drought, a megadrought, the risk is normally in the order of 5 to 15 percent, but with climate change it goes up to between 20 and 50 percent for a lot of the Southwest.” Three years on, with no end in sight, and with 58 percent of California in “exceptional drought,” the most severe category in the book.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the people’s climate train was forced to stop due to the dangers posed by a drought-induced wildfire in northern California?

I read a lot, and I keep coming across words said better than I could, creative and fresh – all of us trying to find the words or images that will wake people up.

So I’m going to close this post with some of the words passing through today, a seminar of snippets from the age of climate disruption, threatening to morph into the age of climate chaos.

Here’s what Tom Englehardt, keeper of the indispensable website, says about the march, reflecting on marches of previous decades against nuclear energy:

At some future moment, wouldn’t it be sad to say that humanity’s greatest achievement was to exploit to the fullest two energy sources — the atom and fossil fuels — capable of destroying the basis for our lives on this planet, and potentially much other life as well? What a strange possible epitaph for humanity: what we burned burned us….

No single march, of course, will alter the tide — or perhaps I mean the greenhouse gases — of history, but you have to begin somewhere (and then not stop). And to do so, you have to believe that the human ability to destroy isn’t the best we have to offer and to remind yourself of our ability to protest, to hope, to dream, to act, and to say no to the criminals of history and yes to the children to come.

Yesterday, September 14, three of the organizers of the march — Eddie Bautista (executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance), La Tonya Crisp-Sauray recording secretary for the Transport Workers Union Local 100), and climate hero Bill McKibben (co-founder of wrote a piece for TomDispatch, titled “Why We March: Stepping Forth for a Planet in Peril.” Here are their reasons:

More than 1,000 groups are coordinating the march — environmental justice groups, faith groups, labor groups — which means there’s no one policy ask. Instead, it’s designed to serve as a loud and pointed reminder to our leaders, gathering that week at the United Nations to discuss global warming, that the next great movement of the planet’s citizens centers on our survival and their pathetic inaction….

We’re tired of winning the argument and losing the fight. And so we march. We march for the beaches and the barrios. We march for summers when the cool breeze still comes down in the evening. We march because Exxon spends $100 million every day looking for more hydrocarbons, even though scientists tell us we already have far more in our reserves than we can safely burn. We march for those too weak from dengue fever and malaria to make the journey. We march because California has lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater to the fierce drought that won’t end, and because the glaciers at the roof of Asia are disappearing. We march because researchers told the world in April that the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to melt “irrevocably”; Greenland’s ice shield may soon follow suit; and the waters from those, as rising seas, will sooner or later drown the world’s coastlines and many of its great cities.

We don’t march because there’s any guarantee it will work. If you were a betting person, perhaps you’d say we have only modest hope of beating the financial might of the oil and gas barons and the governments in their thrall. It’s obviously too late to stop global warming entirely, but not too late to slow it down — and it’s not too late, either, to simply pay witness to what we’re losing, a world of great beauty and complexity and stability that has nurtured humanity for thousands of years.

There’s a world to march for — and a future, too. The only real question is why anyone wouldn’t march.

Naomi Klein’s long-awaited new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, came into my possession today. Well, it almost did. It’s not scheduled for release till tomorrow, September 16, and at you can’t even see into the table of contents, heightening the anticipation. However, train mate Zach Rosenblatt, the force behind the Santa Barbara chapter of System Change Not Climate Change, managed to obtain a copy yesterday in a San Francisco book store (proving what we all already knew about the hipness of the Bay Area). While he was napping (this will be increasingly common on the train), I quickly skimmed ahead to the conclusion.

The book ends with an anecdote. She was in Greece, about to interview Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the new Greek leftist party Syriza (an acronym for the Coalition of the Radical Left), and asked for some advice on what to ask him. Someone came up with: “When History knocked on your door, did you answer?” As NK says, it’s a good question for all of us…

Welcome aboard!

Here’s the climate train’s website:

And here we are on Facebook:




Climate Train – John’s Journey to the New York City Climate Convergence

September 15-22, 2014

Day Two:  Just How Did We Get Here?

As much as anything else, this trip is a chance to meditate and think about our situation.  We seem to be at a moment whose urgency and fatefulness are becoming clearer to increasing numbers of people, all over the world.  And for those of us who have been thinking in this way for a while, the feelings go ever deeper.

A case in point is Naomi Klein, the Canadian activist and public intellectual who has traced the contours of globalization and then its crises in two books, No Logo (2004) and The Shock Doctrine:  The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2008), widely read by global justice advocates and a critical public over the past decade.  A bit like myself, she had a wake-up moment in Copenhagen at the 2009 UN climate summit.  The call I heard was that of the global climate justice movement, passionately expressed by so many people there, and introducing me to such climate heroes as Mohamed Nasheed, then president of the Maldives who drew the world’s attention to his people’s plight by holding a cabinet meeting under waterI’ve just recalled that it was Naomi (we’re more or less on a first name basis in this movement) presided over a hilarious mock award ceremony that “honored” such distinguished corporate and global criminals as big oil, the lobbyists, and the ineffectual, or worse, uncaring political elite that was assembled in the conference halls.

Naomi’s alarm went off from looking up at the inability of these elites to deliver the treaty that they had virtually promised the world in advance they would do in Copenhagen.  Their failure was absolute, and spectacular.  The wealthy countries and rising economies, symbolized respectively by the United States and China, would not sacrifice economic growth for anything – not for the 44 small island states who faced the annihilation of their homes, not for African nations whose people’s agricultural subsistence was at stake, not for Latin America, whose left-leaning leaders Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez openly took the United States to task as an enemy of humanity.  In that moment, Naomi Klein realized that there was not going to be any savior(s) from above in this crisis, and that climate was at the center of a brewing perfect storm of crisis.

She began research that would lead five years later to the publication today of This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate.  Here’s how she puts one of her central conclusions:

The bottom line is what matters here:  our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.  Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life.  What the climate needs in order to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources;  what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion.  Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden.

You’ll have to go to page 21 for the details, and read the whole book to see where she takes the story.  The political bottom line is that capitalist globalization, which marked its rise in 1988 with the first big neoliberal trade deal, between Canada and the United States (her country and mine), is irreconcilably at odds with the climate change that has resulted from its own practices to the point where in the same year of 1988 NASA climate scientist James Hansen would testify before Congress that the climate was changing and that action had to be taken starting then.  It was a colossal case of “bad timing,” to say the least.  Or perhaps, of two ships passing in the night, each heading in an opposite direction, oblivious to the existence of the other.

Twenty-one years later in Copenhagen, in the midst of a near collapse of the global economy brought on precisely by the operation of a triumphant neoliberal capitalism, world leaders took no action on climate.  And now, five years on from Copenhagen, after having given themselves the leisure of a four year time line to negotiate a new climate treaty in Paris in 2015, they are no closer to the right kind of deal than ever.  It’s as if nothing has changed in a quarter of a century.

The fault is not in us, the ninety-nine percent, but in the one percent that the 2011 Occupy movement drew our attention to, and the links between a faltering global negotiations process and the stranglehold of global political and economic elites in the United States.

A piece just published by U.S. ecosocialist Chris Williams, titled “We need system change to stop climate change” points this out:

So more than a year ahead of negotiations that are supposed to map out and finalize a global deal on significant emissions reductions – which in any case were not due to come into effect until five years later – we already know the outcome: there will be no specific limits on emissions or targets for setting them; nothing will be enforceable and whatever happens will be merely voluntary; and the U.S., the biggest polluter in history, will be the major obstacle.

The “impassable barrier” of the U.S. Senate, more than half of whom are Democrats at the moment, means that 100 people – the majority of them millionaires, 80 of them male, 93 of them white, 85 identifying as Christian, with an average age of 62 and an average of more than 10 years in the same job – are holding hostage 7 billion people, millions of species and the climate stability of the entire planet.

Is it any wonder that a recent Princeton study, titled “Testing Theories of American Politics,” affirmed what many Americans already know:  The United States of America is not a democracy in any meaningful sense….

Williams quotes environmental journalist Lisa Friedman on the state of the negotiations:

In interviews with former negotiators and longtime observers of the U.N. climate negotiations, not one person expressed confidence that the sum of countries’ targets will be enough to keep rising global temperatures below the internationally agreed 2-degree-Celsius “guardrail” between dangerous and extremely dangerous warming.

“If that were the case, it would be a stunning surprise. I don’t think anyone expects that,” said Joy Hyvarien, executive director of the U.K.-based Foundation for International Law and Development (FIELD).

Friedman’s piece continues: 

“If the numbers don’t add up, it’s not a political failure only. It’s a physical failure,” said Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, told ClimateWire earlier this year. “If you want to get to New York and you only get to New Jersey, you failed, right?”

For Chris Williams, “Not only do ecosocialists see the problem of climate change as related to an entire social and economic system that needs to be confronted – because we are talking about requisitioning $10 trillion in wealth held by fossil fuel corporations alone – but our vision for that alternative also has to be holistic. It must make the connections between different struggles and unite the forces capable of making such a vision a reality.”  Chris and I are part of the same new organization called System Change Not Climate Change, and along with many, many others are trying to pull together the pieces of the climate justice movement under the kind of radical banner for climate justice that Klein’s analysis suggests, and that the climate itself seems to be warning us to do.

As Naomi Klein tells us, the starkness of the climate crisis that is dawning on us, haltingly and all too slowly, in fact changes everything, and the time to take action is now, right now, today.

The questions that stare us in the face are what action to take, and how do we take it?  Many answers are in the air, and many movements are in motion.  For the strategic North American location at the center of the problem, the People’s Climate March in New York on Sunday, September 21, will show a portion of this creativity, this diversity, and demonstrate the possibility of these movements coming together, from all corners, and then linking up with movements all over the world.



Climate Train – John’s Journey to the New York City Climate Convergence

September 15-22, 2014

Day Three  What Now?  Climate Justice starts with Social Justice


Bad news department

New figures show last month was the warmest August on record around the globe. According to NASA, West Antarctica saw hotter temperatures of up 8 degrees Celcius higher than normal, 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This year so far is the fourth hottest on record.



Brentin Mock, “Black church leaders rev up for climate justice” 16 Sep 2014,

It’s a common misconception that churches haven’t been doing their part in the green fight — and black churches in particular. Your John Birch and Alan Keyes Christians notwithstanding, that’s not entirely true.

Katharine Hayhoe, a leading climate scientist, works with evangelical Christians on the issue. Rev. William Barber’s Moral Movement counts promoting environmental justice among its 14-point agenda. Ditto for the Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice in New York, who’ve been working on food, energy, and climate issues for years now. In fact, the environmental justice movement was initiated by a 1987 report commissioned by the United Church of Christ religious denomination.

The tradition continues. In D.C., Rev. Lennox Yearwood has been leading flocks to the climate change struggle through his work not only as a minister, but also as president of the Hip Hop Caucus, which uses the culture to spur youth into  political activism. Rolling Stone called him one of the “New Green Heroes” last year. He co-authored a Huffington Post op-ed last with Climate Crisis Solutions President Tom Weis last week calling for a “Zero Emissions Manifesto for the Climate Justice Movement,” challenging world leaders to commit to complete carbon neutrality at the upcoming UN Climate Summit.

Out of Chicago, where city leaders are trying to shake the “Chi-raq” label bestowed upon their city because of all the gun violence, there’s Rev. Otis Moss III, a newcomer to the climate struggles, but fully committed. He heads Trinity United Church of Christ, one of Chicago’s largest churches (and President Obama’s former faith home), which hails from the aforementioned United Church of Christ denomination that helped birth the EJ movement. Over the weekend, Rev. Moss assembled his congregation for the Faith in Place to educate members of the community on local climate change impacts and to whip up support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Rev. Yearwood on climate justice and racial equality:

“Once you get how serious [climate justice] is, you know it’s not just about equality but about existence. There are other issues to deal with concerning equality, like how you are treated by the police, racial profiling, and that’s all important, but the deal with climate change is whether we exist or not. This is why the People’s Climate March will be a game changer for the climate movement. It will change how we talk about the issue.

“Like with you, I would read your blogs and think, ‘You know what, the climate movement is not as diverse as we’d like.’ But at the same time, why are we waiting for anybody to invite us to the table? This is our planet, our water, our air, why are we waiting for anybody to say we that we can be a part of this?”

Rev. Yearwood on the upcoming People’s Climate March and whether marches matter:

“Marches definitely matter. They’re critical for us to come together for organizing and networking, but the more important part is when people stay in touch after the march. It gets people to continue to push things forward, either through direct action or creating new public policy. They also help people to connect the dots between various issues. We have to use this march strategically, and we’re doing that by shining a spotlight on the UN Climate Summit, to bring awareness to the world about this problem, and I believe that will help the long-term goals. I hope this march will spawn other marches.”

Rev. Moss on the role of black churches in the climate fight:

“We believe that this is part and parcel with our relationship and our commitment to Jesus Christ. Our ‘creation care’ ministry says that God has deemed us stewards of the earth — not to have dominion over the earth, but to be stewards. We are leasing space on earth, and God has entrusted us to care for his creation. Issues of climate change and environmental justice directly impact the African-American community. We are adversely affected, with higher rates of asthma, and the dumping of chemical waste in our communities, so developing sustainable communities with low carbon impacts is important to us.”

Rev. Yearwood on how Hip Hop and black churches arrived at the climate conversation:

“We have come into the climate movement not to be the black people’s representation for the climate movement. We are sharing this planet with everybody else. We have a stake to keep this planet running the way it should run for the next generation, and in some respects we have more of a stake, because we’re the worst and first hit when disaster comes through. We appreciate what the people at Sierra Club, NRDC and 350 do, but if they weren’t having this conversation, we’d still be having this conversation.”

 [JF:  bit of humor here] Rev. Moss on renewable energy within the church:

“Here at Trinity, we are integrating solar power into our church so that we can not only be saved by the Son, but also powered by the sun.


JF:  Test quote of the day.  Who said we need to see “pollution for what it is–war against nature, war against people, against the race itself, against the unborn.”  Was it a) Bill McKibben, b) George Bush, c) Vandana Shiva, d) Huey Newton, e) Rebecca Solnit, f) Naomi Klein?  If you said d) Huey Newton, you are right.  As Chris Williams points out:  “Huey P. Newton, a leader of the Black Panther Party of the 1960s, firmly believed–following Karl Marx–that environmental problems were an outgrowth of capitalist economics and, as such, had to be taken up as a central part of the Panthers’ program.”


Hi John,


Your posts will initially show up on the front page of the website, until a new post replaces an old one.


If you want to direct people to a space where all of your posts will be archived, you can use link:

Friday and Saturday’s events

NYC Climate Convergence: The Warm Up to People’s Climate March

Anastasia Pantsios | September 16, 2014


As environmental activists pour into New York City for Sunday’s People’s Climate March, expected to be the largest climate action in history, some climate advocates will already be there participating in the NYC Climate Convergence, a conference advocating for “people, planet and peace over profit,” Sept. 19-21. EcoWatch will be live streaming many parts of the event courtesy of Stop Motion Solo, so if you can’t get to NYC, be sure to stay-tuned to EcoWatch.

Many climate activists will be in New York before Sunday’s People’s Climate March for the NYC Climate Convergence, two days of speakers, workshops, panels, performances and meet-ups.

Organizers of the Convergence are billing it as an “alternative summit” intended to strengthen and grow the environmental movement by addressing the underlying social and economic causes of the climate crisis and including all types of voices, not just those of the select world leaders attending the UN Climate Summit in NYC next Tuesday. Panels, workshops, performances, meet-ups and speeches will be taking place all over Lower Manhattan, engaging artists, activists, communities leaders, academics, writers and artists as well as ordinary citizens from all over the world, exploring how a more just society and climate protection go hand in hand.

“After 19 years it’s clear that the UN climate change negotiating process is broken,” said Pace University physics professor Chris Williams, co-founder of System Change Not Climate Change, one of the groups organizing the conference. “A profound shift in emphasis and action toward confrontation with the priorities of corporations, neoliberalism and the political bankruptcy of world leaders is required.”

There are too many events for us to list—or for a single person to attend. But you can access a full schedule here. Here are a few highlights.

The opening plenary takes place Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue. Speakers include Bolivian water rights activist Oscar Olivera, Philippine trade union leader Josua Mata, hip hop artist Immortal Technique, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project Anne Petermann, Nastaran Mohit from the New York State Nurses Association and Erica Violet Lee from indigenous peoples justice movement Idle No More.

Bread and Puppet Theater, started more than 50 years ago to combine social and political activism with avant-garde theater, will perform its Anti-Tar Sands Manifesto Pageant, described as “an outdoor pageant with caribou, the tar sands monster and Christopher Columbus,” on Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. at El Jardin Del Paraiso Community Garden on East 5th, between avenues C & D.

The closing plenary on Sat., Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., also at St. Peter’s Church, will feature noted Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein, whose new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate sums up the conference theme. She’ll be joined by 2014 South African community organizer Desmond D’Sa, Olga Bautista from the Southeast Side Coalition against Petcoke and Jaqui Patterson from the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

Day 4?  Controversies and Heresies

Exhibit A:

Like a Dull Knife: The People’s Climate “Farce”

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Quincy Saul, Truthout | Op-Ed

The People’s Climate March promotional photo. (Photo: NYC Light Brigade / People’s Climate March via Facebook)

In the lead-up to any large-scale protest, it is useful to bear in mind the potential dangers and drawbacks of such an endeavor. On the eve of what is being advertised as “the biggest climate march in history,” we might reflect on Malcolm X’s experience of the March on Washington, as recounted in the Autobiography of Malcolm X:

“Farce in Washington”, I call it. . . . It was like a movie. . . . For the status-seeker, it was a status symbol. “Were you there?”. . . . It had become an outing, a picnic. . . . What originally was planned to be an angry riptide, one English newspaper aptly described now as “the gentle flood”. . . . there wasn’t a single logistics aspect uncontrolled. . . . They had been told how to arrive, when, where to arrive, where to assemble, when to start marching, the route to march. . . . Yes, I was there. I observed that circus.

Of course, not everyone present concurred with Malcolm X about the March on Washington – and even in a top-down format, one hopes the upcoming march could draw much-needed attention to the climate movement. The question is: At what cost? In this vein, what follows are a few reflections on the buildup to the September 21 People’s Climate March in New York City, to provide some concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and propose some solutions.


The climate justice movement has an expiration date. If the tipping points in the earth system are passed, and the feedback loops begin their vicious cycle, human attempts at mitigation will be futile, and climate justice will become an anachronism – or at worst a slogan for geo-engineering lobbies. Thousands of scientists have come to consensus on this point, and many years ago gave us a deadline: A carbon emissions peak in 2015 followed by rapid and permanent decline.     

In other words, we have roughly four months to work for climate justice. The world is literally at stake; all life on earth is at risk. Never has there been a more urgent or comprehensive mandate.

Even the guardians and gatekeepers of the ruling class, from politicians to scientists, are forthcoming on this point. Listen to Al Gore: “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” He said that in 2007. It is in this context that we must seek to better understand and analyze the People’s Climate March.

“An Invitation to Change Everything”

The People’s Climate March has a powerful slogan. It has world-class publicity. But the desire to bring the biggest possible number of people to the march has trumped all other considerations. The results are devastating:

No Target: The march is a U-turn through Times Square, beginning at a monument to genocide (Columbus Circle) and ending . . . in the middle of nowhere. Here in New York City where the ruling class of the whole world has made their diverse headquarters, the march will target none of them. The march will not even go near the United Nations, its ostensible symbolic target.

No Timing: The United Nations will convene leading figures from all over the world – several days after the march. The march does not coincide with anything, contemporary or historic.

No Demands: Again, to attract the largest number of people, the march has rallied around the lowest common denominator – in this case, nothing. Not only are there no demands, but there is in fact no content at all to the politics of the march, other than vague concern and nebulous urgency about “the climate,” which is itself undefined.

No Unity: While a large number of people are sure to converge on Columbus Circle on September 21, the only thing they will have in common is the same street. The revolutionary communists will link arms with the Green Zionist Alliance and the Democratic Party, and compete with Times Square billboards for the attention of tourists and the corporate media.What is the binding agent for this sudden and unprecedented unity? Fifty-one years later, the words of Malcolm X still ring true: “the white man’s money.”

No History: Instead of building on the momentum of a decades-old climate justice movement, this march appears to be taking us backwards. Here’s what Ricken Patel of Avaaz, one of the main funders of the march, said to The Guardian: “We in the movement, activists, have failed up until this point to put up a banner and say if you care about this, now is the time, here is the place, let’s come together, to show politicians the political power that is out there on there.”

It is as if the massive mobilizations outside the United Nations meeting in Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011) never took place, let alone the literally thousands of smaller, more localized actions and gatherings for climate justice. At all of these gatherings, activists convoked the world to demonstrate the power of the people, under banners which were far more radical and transformative than anything we have seen so far for this march.

No Integrity: The invitation to change everything has been permitted and approved by the New York City Police Department. This permit betrays a lack of respect for the people who will be making sacrifices to come all the way to New York City to change the world, and a lack of integrity among those who want to change everything, but seek permission for this change from one of the more obviously brutal guardians of business as usual. This lack of integrity sets up thousands of earnest souls for an onset of depression and cynicism when this march doesn’t change the world. This will in turn be fertile soil for everyone and anyone hawking false solutions.

No target, no demands, no timing, no unity, no history and no integrity amounts to one thing: No politics. The whole will be far less than the sum of its parts. The biggest climate march in history will amount to something less than Al Gore.

In discussions over the past month with a wide range of people – UN diplomats, radical Vermonters, unionists, professors, liberal Democrats, etc. – the same thing has been repeated to me by everyone: “If we get a huge number of people, no one will be able to ignore us.” “The mainstream media will be forced to cover it.”

So what is being billed and organized as The People’s Climate March, and An Invitation to Change Everything, turns out to be a massive photo op. The spectacle of thousands of First World citizens marching for climate justice, while they continue to generate the vast majority of carbon emissions, brings to mind the spectacle of George W. Bush visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So what are we left with? James Brown knew, when he said: “You’re like a dull knife; Just ain’t cutting. You’re just talking loud; And saying nothing. Just saying nothing. Good luck to you; Just allow you’re wrong. Then keep on singing that; Same old money song . . .”

So What Are We Going to Do About It?

This is not the place to complain, but to propose solutions. If we are unsatisfied with this march and its leadership, we have to provide an alternative. As James Brown knew, we “have to pay the cost to be the boss.” Here are some suggestions for starters:

  1. We are going to stop lying to the people. This is the primary and cardinal rule of revolutionary politics. To invite people to change the world and corral them into cattle pens on a police-escorted parade through the heart of consumer society is astoundingly dishonest. From now on, we will stop lying to people. Climate justice requires nothing less than a global revolution in politics and production; it requires a historic transition to a new model of civilization, which will demand great sacrifice and creativity from everyone.
  2. We are going to stop making demands of anyone or anything but ourselves and each other. The powers that be are deaf, dumb and deadly, and we will waste no further time trying to pressure or persuade them. We are going to stop speaking truth to power and start speaking truth to powerlessness. Either we are going to become the leaders we have been waiting for, starting now, or we are going to resign ourselves to the inevitability of catastrophic climate change and the sixth mass extinction.
  3. We are going to return to the source. This means three things: (A) Return to the common people from the delirious heights of symbolic protest politics, with dedication to concrete local work, to divorce food, water, shelter and energy systems from capital. (B) Return to the livelihood and wisdom of our ancestors, the indigenous peoples of every continent, who have lived for thousands of years in harmony with nature, and who still possess the knowledge and skills to restore balance. (C) Return to the sun – a second Copernican revolution and a heliocentric energy policy. Either we return to a subsistence perspective that has prevailed for the majority of human history, or all future development of productive forces must be based exclusively on solar energy.
  4. We are going to get arrested! The only thing that we can do to meet the deadline for climate justice is to engage in a massive and permanent campaign to shut down the fossil fuel economy. But we have to do this strategically, not in the symbolic cuff-and-stuffs that are a perversion and prostitution of the noble ideals of civil disobedience and revolutionary nonviolence. So we are going to shut down coal plants; we are going to block ports, distribution centers and railway hubs where fossil fuels are transported; whatever it takes to keep the oil in the soil. We’re going to put our bodies between the soil and the sky. So let’s make sure that the call to “Flood Wall Street” on September 22 is the “angry riptide” it should be, and not “the gentle flood.”
  5. We are going to join the rest of the human race. For 200 years too long, citizens of the United States have been parasites and predators on the rest of the world. To prevent climate catastrophe, we are going to leave our imperial hubris behind, and join with the revolutionary ecosocialist uprisings that are sweeping the global South.


The Peoples Climate March – nowhere near where the leaders are meeting

Posted by Felix Dodds

Saturday, September 13, 2014


As someone who has been active at the UN climate negotiations, and co-directed the successful multi-stakeholder group to get water into the UNFCCC, I was really pleased to see the posters and promotions for the New York Climate March. 

I thought I would have a look at what is billed the largest climate march ever which is happening in New York on September 21st. I assumed that it is somehow linked to the Secretary Generals event and so would pass right next to the UN. 

To my utter surprise and dismay the march will go n where near the UN where of Heads of State are meeting on September 23rd but as far away on the island as possible.

The march starts at Central Park West between 65th and 86th streets and moves not eastward when it gets to 42nd street towards the UN (1st Avenue) but westward to 11th street. I doubt precious civil rights or peace marches would have agreed to this. If Martin Luther King had had to be as far away as this march is from the White House I think it would have taken him over the Potomac River in Washington. 

Any great march is supported by a host of great and less great speakers. So I then looked to see who were the stars to speak at the rally were. 

Who would be our Martin Luther King speakers? Who would inspire us to work on the issue over the coming months? Who were going to challenge the Heads of State to set targets on CO2? Where are the workshops to prepare us? Where are the meetings organised with the member states who would in the following days be discussing climate change? Where are the rallies in important Senate seats? Because to ratify anything agreed in Paris next year there will need to be 60 members of the Senate prepared to support it. In fact where is a strategy? 

Again to my dismay I couldn’t find a rally or any of the above at the end of the march instead you are meant to ‘network’. REALLY!!!! Clearly in the minds of the people organizing the event its not an urgent issue.

I have to say this looks like a HUGE HUGE missed opportunity. I would have to say if I was in the opposition I would be laughing at this. As I am not I’m just sad and very disappointed. If this is the best we can do then I don’t’ think we will succeed.


DAY 3 – 5

Climate Train – John’s Journey to the New York City Climate Convergence

September 17-19, 2014

Days 3 through 5

We Show Up

The whole journey is posted at

If you’ve only got three minutes today for this, maybe the best place to start is with this video, titled “Mediations in a Climate Emergency”…

Train news

We arrived, tired but happy, at Penn Station in New York City last evening (Thursday, September 18), around 9:30 p.m., three hours late.  Rumor has it that the delay was caused by some crude oil train/s;  Amtrak does not own the rails in the eastern half of the country and the contract they signed to use them gives freight priority rights.  We passed endless rains composed of oil in open boxcars and gas in those ominous looking cylindrical tankers all the way across the country.

On the train

The last two days on the train – from somewhere in Colorado, descending into Denver from the Rocky Mountains, stepping outside in Omaha, my mother’s birthplace, for her at 4 a.m. in the morning (I happened to wake up then), passing through the autumn corn fields of Iowa, arriving for a six hour layover in Chicago, then boarding again at 10 p.m. for the 24 hour ride into New York City – have been a continual learning experience for me, and I imagine, pretty much all 170 of us (50 new people having gotten on along the way).

There was a moving workshop in the Grand Hall at Union Station in Chicago, with people from communities of color taking the floor to talk about their issues with the environment and with the movement, followed by a group of white train riders who had volunteered to speak after them.  No videos allowed, but I wish I had audio-recorded it – it was far-ranging and powerful.

On Thursday, on a new train from Chicago, I got very busy – recording interviews for the video short “Climate Train” (not coming to any cinema near you soon), talking with people, attending a couple of the workshops that have been going continuously all four days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and giving one myself.  On this train, with less common space, these took place in the middle of one of the climate people’s cars, so we had to listen hard and speak up. 

My workshop was titled “System Change Not Climate Change,” attended by perhaps 30-40 people within earshot.  Howard Ehrman gave a more eloquent pitch after me, putting the whole situation in very strong and plain terms.

I spoke for ten minutes (we were timed with a bell) and here are the notes I scribbled for it just before doing it:

Climate Train talk:  “System Change Not Climate Change”

Main message:  the Climate Justice Movement is global, it’s part of a network of other movements for social justice, and it has a history, an affinity, a relationship with a number of other movements that are important and good to know about.

So, part of this talk is about history

The second thing is that we recognize there are a lot of approaches within the CJM.  So, I want to talk about one of those that I have been involved with, the ecosocialist movement in the U.S.

The history of 21st-century movements for radical social change includes some inspired movements and inspiring moments  – the Zapatistas, the global justice movement, the Arab Spring and Occupy in 2011…  These are all different from the great but flawed social revolutions of the 20th century in Mexico, Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and elsewhere – which were brave and history-making uprisings made by the acts of broad coalitions of people (most often led by guerrilla armies, socialist parties, or religious authorities)  that achieved in all cases substantial social justice but ended mostly in undemocratic, stifling societies controlled from above (or in the case of Nicaragua and Allende’s Chile – were democratic but undermined by intense U.S. intervention).

The new movements of our century – the Zapatistas, the global justice movement, Occupy, and Arab Spring among many others –  aim for comparable deep social transformation of governments and economies, but they have proceeded as they intend to go on – non-violently, horizontally, democratically, creatively, joyfully, and without end, and they keep alive the possibility of liberation everywhere.

The global climate justice movement comes out of all of this, and it just might become the biggest, broadest social movement ever assembled.

And it has the potential to change everything!

Ecosocialism in one sentence is about trying to achieve participatory democracy, ecologically sustainable ways of re-organizing the economy, and socialist – basically meaning we share – communities.

There is a new, U.S.-based ecosocialist organization that I belong to, called System Change Not Climate Change (the brilliant slogan unveiled in the streets of Copenhagen during COP 15 in 2009 – and you can learn about us at:

SCNCC is part of the Global Climate Convergence (which includes the Green Party and others and has a full day and a half of workshops here in New York tonight and tomorrow (Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20, 2014) across Manhattan.

I’ll be part of a panel there organized by my climate comrade Richard Widick, called “What Now for Climate Justice:  Proposing Radical Inside/Outside Strategies for the UN Battle of the COP” and will report on Saturday’s events in my next post.


Preparations for the Weekend Begin

I’ve been writing about Naomi Klein’s new book since getting on the train, and sneakily reading it whenever my train mates Zach or Cristina fall asleep…

Is This Changes Everything the book that will change everything?  It probably has a good a claim as any to that title (pun intended).  If you want to start this huge climate weekend with some deep background, catch Naomi’s appearance on Thursday on Democracy Now!, then go and get the book.

Here’s the show and the below the link is Amy Goodman’s introduction to it:

As the United Nations prepares to hold a one-day global summit on climate change, we speak to award-winning author Naomi Klein about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.  In the book, Klein details how our neoliberal economic system and our planetary system are now at war.  With global emissions at an all-time high, Klein says radical action is needed.  “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis,” Klein writes.  “We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe — and would benefit the vast majority — are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.”


Here’s the way System Change Not Climate Change is approaching the march:


The show starts Friday at 7 p.m. NYC time and you can watch it live!

NYC Climate Convergence: The Warm Up to People’s Climate March

Here’s where to go to check it out, and below that some material from the website:

The full schedule is at:

EcoWatch will be livestreaming many parts of the event courtesy of @StopMotionsolo, so if you can’t get to NYC, you can tune in starting at 7 p.m. East Coast time at:

Finally, here’s an overview of the Convergence, of which I am a part:

Friday and Saturday’s events

Anastasia Pantsios has the details of the two plenaries on Friday and Saturday evening:

The opening plenary takes place Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue. Speakers include Bolivian water rights activist Oscar Olivera, Philippine trade union leader Josua Mata, hip hop artist Immortal Technique, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project Anne Petermann, Nastaran Mohit from the New York State Nurses Association and Erica Violet Lee from indigenous peoples justice movement Idle No More.

The closing plenary on Sat., Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., also at St. Peter’s Church, will feature noted Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein, whose new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate sums up the conference theme. She’ll be joined by 2014 South African community organizer Desmond D’Sa, Olga Bautista from the Southeast Side Coalition against Petcoke and Jaqui Patterson from the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

Organizers of the Convergence are billing it as an “alternative summit” intended to strengthen and grow the environmental movement by addressing the underlying social and economic causes of the climate crisis and including all types of voices, not just those of the select world leaders attending the UN Climate Summit in NYC next Tuesday. Panels, workshops, performances, meet-ups and speeches will be taking place all over Lower Manhattan, engaging artists, activists, communities leaders, academics, writers and artists as well as ordinary citizens from all over the world, exploring how a more just society and climate protection go hand in hand.

“After 19 years it’s clear that the UN climate change negotiating process is broken,” said Pace University physics professor Chris Williams, co-founder of System Change Not Climate Change, one of the groups organizing the conference. “A profound shift in emphasis and action toward confrontation with the priorities of corporations, neoliberalism and the political bankruptcy of world leaders is required.”

So everyone, stay tuned and keep your eyes and thoughts on New York City all this weekend and into next week!

– John


Photo:  Bill Billings




This Changes Everything – John’s Journey to the New York City Climate Convergence

Day 6:  Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Eve and the Event


“We have critical mass.  We are at critical moment.  We have critical momentum.”

– Jill Stein

I have to devote today’s post to the Plenary I attended on Friday night.  I’ve been to many of these events, but still, I wasn’t prepared for the eloquent passion and emotional charge of the speakers.

I’m just typing up my notes of each of the talks, as I recorded them by handwriting [much of this post is verbatim speech in indented quotes, otherwise it is paraphrased.] Here we go.

The Green Party’s presidential candidate for 2012, Jill Stein, was the facilitator of the meeting.  A physician, a visionary thinker, and masterful coalition-builder, she was one of the initiators of the Climate Convergence, a crucial co-organizer of the People’s Climate March. 

Opening prayer

Tom Goldtooth, a veteran climate justice activist, set the tone:  “We’re here to re-take Manhattan.  And we’re not asking for $24 or some beads back.”  Three hundred indigenous people will be leading the march on Saturday, the front lines in the front ranks.

Josephine, a water walker and water carrier who has walked around all of the Great Lakes in defense of the human right to water, gave the invocation prayer:

The way you would take care of your mother and grandmother is how we will take care of Mother Earth….

Creator gave all of us – all colors – an awesome responsibility to care for Mother Earth….

The Sun is our grandfather….

We honor the young people of the Earth.  We honor of the water.  We – indigenous women – carry that water.  We are united like every droplet of water.  We are all one – we are not separated by anything.

We are here to speak to the powers that be, the corporations.  To ask, what are you/we going to do about it?  The words of the water are intermingled with the trees and the wind.

In humility I stand before you.




Speakers, from left to right:  Oscar Olivera, Erica Violet Lee, Jill Stein, Anne Petermann, and at the podium, Nastaran Mohit.  Photo:  John Foran

Anne Petermann

Anne is a co-founder of the Global Ecology Justice Project, and was the last person hauled out of the Occupy protest that took place on the last day of the COP 17 UN climate summit in Durban in 2011, for which she was barred from all future UN summits.  She told us:  “The U.N. is this dysfunctional group of people who get very little done except for what their corporate masters tell them to do.”

She was radicalized at the 2007 COP meeting in Bali, where she saw the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the body under which the negotiations are conducted] adopt the REDD mechanism [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation], over the strenuous objection of every indigenous civil society group that was present. 

She added that the conferences are incredibly boring and tedious.  The media in Bali just sat in the media tent, sweating, hoping for something to happen that they could report as news, “trying to figure out how to spin things into a decent story.”

CJN! [Climate Justice Now!] was born in Bali as a result of what she witnessed there, inspired by the indigenous protests.  For several years, CJN! was the radical wing of the global climate justice movement.  In Poznan, Poland, at the 2008 COP 14, they started calling the U.N. “the World Carbon-Trading Organization” [WTO], and after seeing some 1,500 corporate lobbyists there, some of them in the national delegations, CJN! put out a “Radical New Agenda to Advance Climate Justice.” It was they who issued the pivotal manifesto “System Change Not Climate Change” in Copenhagen in 2009, of which she said “Copenhagen will be remembered as a historic event for global movements.”  [JF:  I completely agree that this was the most significant outcome in Copenhagen.]

Anne was banned “for life” from attending the COP after refusing to end the raucous and emotional occupation of the corridors in Durban, “which was, quite frankly, OK with me.”  The next year, in Doha in 2012, “They said I could come back if I apologized, which I’m not inclined to do” [as she pointed out Doha, in Qatar, is is where the WTO immediately fled to after they were shut down by the highpoint protest of the global justice movement in Seattle in 1999].

Her final remark:  “Direct action is the antidote for despair.”

Felipe Coronel, aka Immortal Technique

The hip-hop artist and activist Felipe Coronel, an Afro-Peruvian immigrant to Harlem, New York, gave us one of the best political speeches I have ever heard (it’s interesting how many musicians and poets and artists and actresses and writers can do this so well).  You had to be in the room to hear how profound he was.   He recounted how a Maori elder in Aoatearea [also known as New Zealand] had once taken him aside and imparted this wisdom:  “The natural habitat of human beings is not a block of metal and concrete.”

We’ve been fed the idea that the Earth belongs to us while in fact we belong to the Earth….  Are we civilized barbarians? [he reminded us that pre-feudal Europe was organized in tribes like the Picts and Celts who worshipped nature, “not some god-like king”].

[Of the COP]:  “Every single action of theirs is in direct conflict with what it means to be a human being.”

Capitalism is schizophrenia – when a corporation goes into a country, they’re not looking for a “free market,” they’re trying to set up a monopoly.  They’re just as afraid of capitalism as they are of socialism.

We refuse to have our ideologies [those of the dominant culture] pre-baked for us…

I know people who ae “progressive” about everything … except immigration, who are progressive about everything … except Israel/Palestine, who are progressive about everything … except gay rights.  We have to put that aside.

We need a pro-active activism [not just a series of defensive maneuvers].

He ended with his lyrics to “Sign of the Times” which ends “Live for the revolution instead of dying for it.”

Imagine the Word of God without religious groupies
Imagine a savior born in a Mexican hooptie
Persecuted single mother in a modern manger
You’d crucify him again like a fucking stranger

Tears of the anger are worth more than diamonds or rubies
Imagine being locked up since juvie
Imagine changing your life and still going out like Tookie

Imagine niggas talking shit when they never knew me
Imagine a movie that depicted the pain in your life
Like them kids in Afghanistan chasing a kite
For most of the world that’s what it’s like

Imagine if the woman you suppose to love for the rest of your life
Is set to marry someone else at the end of the night

They say you fight the greatest jihad in your heart and your mind
And fight the hardest when you start from behind
So I dreamed the impossible all the time
Fuck a Masonic design—America’s future is mine
Repeat that to yourself cause if culture’s a crime
Them numbers tatted on your arm aren’t too far behind
They can only conquer you after they’ve murdered your mind
So rise up motherfucker like the sign of the times
I feel my body weakening but my spirit is fine
Ready to go to war with devils at the drop of a dime
And fight with my rebel army until the stars are aligned

Nostradamus was a white man’s prophet
Who predicated European supremacist logic

Because the pilgrims and Conquistador columns
Killed more innocent people than Hitler and Stalin
I guess the fortune-tellers skipped an antichrist or two
Brother, give this to the OG’s doing life with you
And pray for the problems with the Pope psychology
So the Vatican will offer an apology (for what?)
For destroying the people’s
liberation theology
Snatching the spirit of Jesus from people in poverty
Business decisions like keeping people in prisons
But had the opposite effect: incarcerating religion
That type of crooked politics imposed on a populace
Is obvious if you read the
Northwoods documents
Forget the compliments for what I recorded
And live for revolution instead of always dying for it
Remember a bullet can never stop me
My legions are led by the spirit Haile Selassie, watch me
Even if I’m shot in the
chakra I will prosper
Doppler effect bumping music out a helicopter
Telling the
Persians, “Dig up Zoroaster
And tell them I came back as the son of the Ahura Mazda
Fish out the Philistine Dagon from the shores of Gaza
And call Quetzalcoatl flying over La Raza
This is my message to the older gods
I’ll sacrifice you all to the Revolution like the Romanovs
Lost in the desert like the Hebrews of Israel
The blood clot system tried to kill me like sickle-cell
But I survived and I’m alive to fight another day
Cocooned in a coma, I can still hear my mother pray
Sister crying out to God, “Please let my brother stay!”
Walking towards the light but something’s pulling me the other way

Rise up young brother
It is not your time to die…

Erica Violet Lee

Erica is from Saskatchewan, and has been a youth leader for the indigenous coalition Idle No More since its founding in 2012.

Some of us have lived our lives in “the gap” [I think this is an allusion to a feminist writer who speaks of a space of exclusion].  Look at this gap, honor it, acknowledge it.

Many Americans and Canadians have this idea of Canada as a peace-loving, social welfare, environmentally-friendly place.  I’m here to destroy that idea.

Idle No More is a grassroots resistance to racism, stereotyping, the high rates of indigenous suicides.  “It’s not out to stop one bill, one government, one politician because they will always be another one after it.”

There is a saying that a nation isn’t conquered until its women are lying on the ground….  We are still here.  As an indigenous woman, choosing to get up in the morning, to take up space, to have a voice, is a revolutionary act.

Canada has become one of the wealthiest nations on the planet by exploiting the resources of indigenous peoples.

Though she acknowledged Immortal Technique is a tough act to follow, she, too, finished with a poem she had written and delivered on July 19, 2014 at a rally for Gaza in Saskatoon, Canada:

We’re half the world
but carry the rest of it on our backs

We both live in occupied territories
But what can I know about you
Half a world away from me

You and me, we know violence
The pain of our mothers
The memories of this land

We share a history of being moved
moved again
taken from our homes
and wondering if we’ll ever go back

We’re shared sleepless nights telling
telling again
the stories they tried to take from us
and trying to remember the ones they did

You and me, they see us as passive and weak
Disposable and unintelligent
Pawns and prizes in the politics of men

As if those boys simply sprung out of the ground

You and me
We’re the ones they run over on their way to the revolution
But we’re the ones who hold it down at home
Hebron via 20th Street
Because we know that even with guns going off in the background
Children still have to be fed

So this is for Amal
a 17 year old girl shot by an IDF soldier
while reading a book on her porch
And this is for Einav
the girlfriend that solider went home and killed two years later

Tell me again about your revolution

This is for Anna Mae,
A Mi’kmaq activist executed point blank on Pine Ridge
Her body left in the snow to freeze
The voice that had grown a little too strong

Tell me again about your revolution

This is for the women in refugee camps
The 53%
forced to endure labor and give birth in the dirt

Tell me again about your revolution

This is for the women who never left their houses
until the day they were carried out

Tell me again about your revolution

This is for the women who are raped
and told that speaking out will dishonor their community
abortion is a crime
So it’s best to suffer in silence

Tell me again about your damn revolution

You and me
We’re the ones who lead the charge in the streets

Intifada and Idle No More
And we won’t fight only to return home as servants

So this is for the Arab women who fund girls schooling
And for the girls who have the courage to learn

You and me

We’re the nation

And this is for the mothers and daughters
leading movements from Gaza to the grasslands

You and me
We’re the resistance

And this is for the women
who are told not to speak
not to write or read
not to dream or feel
but do it anyway

You and me
We’re the revolution


Nastaran Mohit

Nastaran is a labor organizer in New York who has worked with domestic workers, care workers, and the state nurses association, as well as participating in Occupy Wall Street.  Her speech was tough-minded and powerful:

Why does climate seem so far and distant an issue?  I never thought of myself as an environmental activist.  I’ve worked in the anti-war movement.  I want us to remember the marches of 2003 [against the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq] as we gear up for “the largest climate march in history.”

 I was transformed into an environmental activist by Occupy Sandy [born in the wake of the November 2102 hurricane], which set up a clinic in the Rockaways [an 11-mile long peninsula of New York with a very poor community infrastructure].  Coney Island, Red Hook, Staten Island were all ignored by the federal government, the state government.  Thousands of people came to help.  We saw first-hand, right in our own backyard, the horror that climate change could wreak on our communities.  It was a first opportunity for Occupy to connect with poor and marginalized communities.  This revolution is going to be led, front and center, by frontline communities.

I’ve been going to rallies since I was twelve, or younger.  I don’t want to be going to them in ten years, or even five.  The younger generation knows it’s going to take more than words.  We’re going to have to go into places where we are uncomfortable.

We need to be very honest and very real with each other about who is funding, who is leading, who is siphoning off the energy of the People’s March.  And we have to be aware of the corporations and the big environmental organizations who are afraid of a very big anti-capitalist movement.  This march is not acceptable if we are not challenging capitalism.  Capitalism is completely opposed to our survival as a species.

How do we bring this framework to our work in the climate change movement?  All of our movements are interconnected.  If we want to build a movement, we have to move out of our single-issue silos, our comfortable movement spaces where ae always talk to people like ourselves.  The Rockaways know what climate change is.  With 65 percent unemployment before Sandy hit, they just don’t have the privilege to go to the university, or to a panel like this.  We don’t have to go to the Keystone, or the tar sands, or New Zealand, just go to the Rockaways and ask, what can I do to help?

New York City today has no system in place to do any better than they did with Sandy.  Why have they closed hospitals and made cuts to services?  With climate injustice, we have a massive transfer of wealth across the East Coast.

Look right in your backyard and ask:  “Am I willing to be uncomfortable, am I willing to do this work, am I willing to work in these communities?”

I was coming here on the subway and an older white man announced the march, and people clapped.  At first I was happy, but then I thought, how many people clap for the subway entertainers, who are mainly people of color? – it made me angry to think of that.

Bridging these divides – labor, the environment – is what we have to do.  As we near the two year anniversary of Sandy, I want to implore all of you to get involved locally, to walk hand in hand with communities that are not as privileged as we are.

Oscar Olivera

The Bolivian trade union activist Oscar Olivera played a significant role in uniting urban workers, rural farmers, and middle-class environmentalists in the Water Wars which saw the ejection of Bechtel and other foreign companies from the country between 2000 and 2003 after the government had allowed them to privatize Cochabamba’s water supply.  He was very funny, energetic, and humble.  He spoke in Spanish, and had a wonderful translator (whom he also poked fun at), and started by saying “I asked Jill why I was the last speaker.  She said:  ‘Because you are five feet tall’,” getting a good-natured laugh at Jill Stein’s expense, one of the first laughs of the evening.  He went on:

My grandparents used to greet each other in an interesting way in the morning:  “Don’t be a liar.  Don’t be lazy.  Don’t be a thief.”  It’s a common way of greeting each other in our community.  If we all did like them, it would be a better world.

I come as a bridge form the South to the North to deliver a message:  for over 500 years, we have always resisted, and we continue to do this.

In Cochabamba, we beat the right-wing, the government, the military, the World Bank.

Today, like fourteen years ago, we are gathered together to encounter each other, to look each other in the eye.  And to fight an enemy more powerful, more invisible, than other times – climate change. 

I am here to propose a challenge:  when the water was privatized there was a law passed with over 600 articles, and the people didn’t understand it.  Our biggest problem was how to make this simple and clear for them to grasp it because one of the biggest impediments to action is lack of information.  How is this going to affect people’s lives?  Will people better understand climate change as CO2 in the atmosphere, or as a shortage of things like water?  We have to find the simplest language to communicate.  We have to build words that will mobilize people.  That’s our first task:  talk to people simply.

People see ice caps dwindling, their rivers drying up, their lands contaminated, their children getting cancer.  That’s what climate change is.

Our second challenge:  how do we organize ourselves?  The Coordinadora [in the Water Wars] was completely horizontal, without parties, without bosses, without employers, without leaders, where the people made decisions.

We have to have new means of organizing against the corporations that are threatening our environment.  The only way to prove to our leaders that we exist, the only way they will understand us is by us organizing, getting out in the streets, to let those at the top know that we exist.

When I hear about the struggles of people in Detroit, I say “Cochabamba is in Detroit right now.”

We have to understand that the power is in us.  Every 4-6 years we go out and give a blank check to those on the top, even in Bolivia and Venezuela, where we have progressive leaders, in places where the government emerged because of the struggles of people.

Sometime we hear very beautiful speeches [from Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Brazil since 2005] but the reality is very different.  In Bolivia we’re going through a very difficult experience, and we’re learning from that experience.  We have lost to some extent our ability to make decisions.

Politics, for us, is the collective capacity to make decisions about today and the future.  The biggest challenge today for the peoples of the South, of the North is how can we start to build our world with our own hands, how can we live together with respect, with love, with solidarity, how do we live in harmony with nature, how do we “live well,” as our governments speak of?

Cochabamba threw out a transnational corporation.  What can we do so that transnational corporations stop pillaging the earth?  So that our snow caps don’t disappear?  So that our rivers don’t dry up?  So that our farmers don’t have to move to the city?

This is not just a problem for the people of the South to solve.  It is above all a problem for you.  This is where the WTO is, the corporations, the biggest military in the world.

This is a shared responsibility for all of us – that’s the biggest challenge today.

Oscar said that because Erica and Felipe finished their talks with a poem, he decided to read something “I wrote a few minutes ago, inspired by all the speeches.”

Today a handful of women, men,
elders, youth, workers, unemployed,
and homeless are gathered here –
all of us here with rebelliousness
and dignity
deciding to overcome our fear
with honesty and joy,
committed, not only to exist
but to re-exist.
To overcome sadness
with joy,
with a smile,
anguish and desperation
with hope.

We pledge to be like water
transparent and in movement.
We promise to be like children,
joyful and creative.
We promise to believe
that the power is within us
without bosses, leaders, and parties
to work together
until we win!




Light Brigade display after the plenary.  Photo:  John Foran

Sunday, September 21, 2014


To find a People’s Climate Rally near you, go to:




Special Live Broadcast: People’s Climate March  

Tune in this Sunday, Sept. 21, when Democracy Now! will broadcast live via our website from the People’s Climate March in New York City, part of a global mobilization in advance of a U.N. special session on climate change. Watch the livestream from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET via



If you want to reads all of my posts on this week of climate action, you can use this link:





This Changes Everything – John’s Journey to the New York City Climate Convergence

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Day Before the March:  Four Anti-Capitalists and Bill McKibben


“Nothing passes the U.S. Congress without the approval of the oil companies and Wall Street.”

– Bernie Sanders

  “We need to reach the point where politicians fear us the way they fear oil money.  But it’s not going to be decided by politicians, it’s going to be decided by us.”

– Bill McKibben

“We need to weave together this movement from all our movements and then we need to get bigger than that.”

– Naomi Klein

 “We’re now at the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.”

– Chris Hedges

 “Sisters and brothers, history is calling on us.”

– Kshama Sawant

“We cannot exist without hope. And we need even more than just hope to solve a problem as monstrous as the one we are facing – we need extravagant hope.”

– Leehi Yona


Saturday, September 20, was like a giant climate change university and training session across New York City.

There were dozens of workshops organized by the New York City Global Climate Convergence in five locations, including a community garden, churches, and colleges, and I participated in one, called “What Now for Climate Change?”

I also attended a large gathering in the evening to listen to Chris Hedges, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Kshama Sawant, and Bernie Sanders at a forum called “Climate:  Which Way Out?”

Afternoon Program:  “What Now for Climate Justice?  Proposing Radical Inside/Outside Strategies for the UN Battle of the COP”

In the afternoon, I facilitated a workshop that Richard Widick and I had organized.

There were about 35 people in attendance, and true to his word, Bill McKibben popped in and sat in the back, just listening.  Of all the things he could have been doing at that hour, for him to come to listen to us seems a bit remarkable to me, and I want to make it crystal clear that for me, Bill McKibben is a climate justice hero, one who has written incisively, spoken eloquently, showed up literally endlessly, and tirelessly out-organized almost everyone in terms of creatively building a U.S.-based mass movement for climate justice that continues to grow and move in more radical directions at every level.

Am I in awe of him?  No.  He’s too humble and I’m by nature it seems immune to following anyone, however awe-some they might be.  But I respect and admire and love him for what he has done, that’s for sure.

But enough about Bill (for now).

The idea of our workshop was to invite everyone at the Global Climate Convergence to bring and present their ideas at a participatory action panel. 

All contributors were asked to answer this question:

What strategies and tactics should the climate justice movement adopt, both inside and outside the U.N. negotiations (known as the COP, or Conference of the Parties), to create maximum pushback against the status quo of unfettered carbon-fueled capitalism, and to ensure that the United Nations’ next universal climate treaty, to be adopted at the COP 21 Paris talks in December 2015, leads the world away from its current destination of global climate apartheid and toward climate justice? 

On the day, we heard short 2-3 minute (OK, in some cases this lasted up to five or six minutes) presentations by some very passionate, smart, and dedicated advocates of radical climate justice, including Michael Dorsey, Patrick Bond, Kathryn Leuch (for Lidy Nacpil), Jim Shultz, and Anjali Appadurai.  I read written contributions sent in by Brian Tokar, Eddie Yuen, and Leehi Yona.

To insure maximum participation among those present, I decided on the spot to ask people to pair up with a neighbor – “if they weren’t too uncomfortable” doing so – to discuss the question of just what to do about these awful U.N. climate negotiations, and the ensuing noise reached levels that surpassed the dozens of times I’ve asked students to do so in my classes at UC Santa Barbara – people were really engaged, and, I think, disappointed when I called them back to order after about ten minutes – they had more to say!  I guess they weren’t too uncomfortable…

As expected, we didn’t figure out what to do, but many promising ideas were aired, which Richard and I will bring out in the report for Lima;  please contact me if you want to get a copy when it’s ready.

I’ll close the account of the panel with some excerpts from Leehi Yona, a 20-something activist from Canada whom I’ve gotten to know at the COPs in Doha and Warsaw, and always has something to say that moves me.

These are Leehi’s words:

What a loaded question. When I was first asked to answer it, I struggled. I see and interact with climate change from many points of view – as a community organizer, as a budding climate scientist, as a policymaker-in-training, as an amateur sociologist, as an American student, as an Israeli, as a Canadian, as a representative of future generations. How could I possibly condense these viewpoints into two pages?

If I could pull some key thoughts, I’d break it down into these nine words: vision, outrage, hope, humanity, storytelling, celebration, interaction, mobilization, and power. These thoughts by no means encapsulate all I have to say about this question, but it brings to light some short, important personal realizations I’ve had in my climate justice work.


What is a vision? A vision is the broader imagination, the future we can see within our grasp. A vision is boldly optimistic, ambitious, dream-like. Of course, our vision is vitally important in determining our decisions. Above all, we need to be driven by a vision, not a goal. This understanding is crucial. Our motivations for our work – the things that govern what we do – should be huge, and hopeful, and even unrealistic at first. That is fine, because they are visions – they shouldn’t be solutions that would work within the systems we currently have, but solutions that transcend beyond these very systems. They should be wildly idealistic, because even the most idealistic of visions have been achieved in history with a little faith.


Where is the outrage? Seriously, where is it? We need more outrage! We need to convey the urgency of this problem, the way we feel it sink a heavy weight onto our hearts. We need to make others – particularly those in power – feel the suffering, feel the heartbreak, feel the injustice, feel the outrage that global warming stirs. The time has passed to temper our anger; we cannot and should not subdue our burning fire that energizes us to find the solutions to this climate challenge.


This outrage cannot survive without hope. We cannot exist without hope. And we need even more than just hope to solve a problem as monstrous as the one we are facing – we need extravagant hope, the unwavering and fervent belief that we will rise to the occasion and find a solution to the climate crisis. Yes, we can be critical (we must), yes, we must have outrage – but we must never lose sight of our vision, lose sight of hope. To do so, to allow our cynicism and pessimism to consume us, would be condemning ourselves to failure by default. We must couple our urgency with active hope.


We must remember that climate change has a human face. Global warming is not about rising sea levels and extreme weather events – it’s about Ula who lives in the Maldives and doesn’t know where her children will live, Olivia who lives in a First Nations community and doesn’t know what’s in her drinking water – it’s about these people on the front lines.

Acknowledging our shared humanity when speaking about climate change is also about acknowledging that some communities are disproportionally affected by climate change compared to others. This particularly includes communities of lower socioeconomic status, people of colour, and women. We need to make sure that these voices are amplified within our movement, so that the most common face speaking about climate change isn’t that of affluent white men. Let’s bring more humanity into our movement by striving to have a real anti-oppression model of leadership.

Storytelling and Power

This humanity is why we need storytelling. Numbers and data don’t really work when it comes to motivating people to act on climate change – but the stories of those suffering climate injustices do.

An important element to acknowledge when it comes to climate change is the third dimension of power. This dimension of power is one that isn’t directly exerted upon a person, one wherein consciousness is manipulated. The third dimension of power here is one that is exerted upon us by broken systems of governance and fossil fuel companies that make us believe that sweeping change isn’t possible or feasible when it comes to climate action. But this isn’t true. We do have the power to change things – we must re-write the narrative we’re being given, the narrative that is being told. Storytelling is vital.

Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network once told me that youth have the power to bring the future into the present. We must do this through storytelling. We need this framing to bypass the human exemptionalism that is wreaking havoc on climate progress.


I cannot stress this enough. Celebrate! Celebrate every little accomplishment worth celebrating. Celebrate your colleagues, celebrate your volunteers, and most importantly, celebrate yourselves and the collective work you are all doing. We rarely celebrate in this movement – we move forward too quickly. As soon as we’ve finished a march, as we’ve done whatever needs to be done – we move on to the next task at hand. We rarely celebrate the beautiful thing we’ve just done. Of course, this behaviour makes sense, considering the urgency of climate change – but it is unsustainable!



When we’re working on effecting positive change, it’s important to nurture our relationships with each other, and with nature. Many of us may lose sight of this. Think about it: for those of you working on organizing this march, what did you spend most of your time doing? You were most likely, just as I was, glued to your computer, to social media, to various screens that disconnect us both from each other and from the very planet we’re trying to save. That needs to change. We need more direct, face-to-face interactions and conversations with the people who matter – with everyone.


There are frequently such marches and rallies that take place… yet usually, the end outcome is that people go home and after a few days ask themselves, “Well, now what?” Now, we must mobilize! Too often such gatherings are plagued by a lack of concrete demands or next steps. Let’s make sure our demands and asks are clear.


As I mentioned earlier, power dynamics are entirely at play when it comes to global warming inaction. We must recognize these sources of disempowerment and target them directly to shift it back to the people.

Like I said, these words do not encompass all I have to say – but I do believe that they can bring us closer to building the movement we need for real climate justice.

Thanks, Leehi, for your wisdom, and your joyful work…

*          *          *

Evening Program:  “Climate:  Which Way Out?”

Saturday evening I attended the big-name plenary, pictured above.  It was a decidedly anti-capitalist gathering – all the speakers but Bill McKibben so-identified pretty explicitly. 

When I arrived, more than an hour before the event, the line went around three sides of a New York City block.  As I walked to find the end of it, I realized I was never going to get inside, no matter how big the hall was.  As I trudged toward the end of the line (which was not in sight), I heard someone call my name, and I was then attached to a group of young activists who had spent the day at the Youth Convergence, and through this miracle, I got a spot in the hall.

In the end, I actually got a third row chair in the aisle, as it turned out, next to Rebecca Solnit, one of my writer-activist heroes.  Tongue-tied as I was to meet Rebecca for the first time after exchanging a few e-mails over the years, I acknowledged this but managed to tell her that “You often write what I feel,” and that I had experienced this feeling many times, ever since I first read the opening lines of Hope in the Dark.  I was too shy, and she was too tired, so in the end we shared a quiet half hour together, and that was enough for me.

As I did for Friday night, I took some notes on what was said by the speakers.  There is also a Dandelion Salad video of the evening here.  You can listen for an hour and forty-five minutes or read what follows for the highlights as I wrote them down.  Here we go.

Bernie Sanders

The only socialist in the U.S. Congress, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, opened with a pretty basic talk for those of us – and there were more than a few – who are ecosocialists.  One interesting point that made me think was that “dealing with global warming is going to cost a lot of money, but not dealing with it is going to cost a helluva lot more.”  Finally, someone who is willing to acknowledge the cost, very refreshingly.

I say this because there’s been a lot of optimistic liberal commentary lately – most recently by Paul Krugman in the past week, but also by some influential climate economists such as Lord Nicolas Stern, author of the aptly named Stern Review:  The Economics of Climate Change back in 2006 (you can read all 662 pages at, that conversion to a low carbon economy based on renewable energy is not going to actually cost much, maybe something on the order of about 1-2 percent of global GNP.  I find this incredibly deceptive and wrong-headed, and believe that it is being touted as a way to convince us all that not only can the worst be averted as climate change rolls on, but that it’s going to be relatively easy to do so within a capitalist economic framework, even if it requires a revolutionary shift in mindset and hitherto unknown political leadership and will in the global North.

Krugman’s piece opens:

This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?

I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.

I don’t think so.  These reports are by the same global cadre of pro-capitalist economists (almost a redundant qualifier) who put it forward either because they don’t want to scare economic elites or the government of the North, or, because, well…  they don’t understand capitalism’s growth imperative, its profit imperative, its resource-devouring imperative.  Krugman does make the valid point that there is good growth (in the sustainable future) and bad growth (the kind we have now).  It’s true that if we took out all the spending on the military, downsized the useless advertising industry, reformed the health care sector so private insurance and professional greed didn’t drive up costs exorbitantly each year, got rid of the billions of dollars wasted on subsidizing fossil fuel and the all the industries that run on it (including agriculture, aviation, the private car, and so on) and re-invested this money in a massive public transit revolution, green building and energy-efficient retrofitting, and effective, smart, low cost health and educational systems, plus a whole new way of growing food and making things, there would be a boost to the global basket of goods and services, and lots of jobs in the bargain.

But how does anyone think we are going to get there, in the time frame that matters, without something akin to radical social transformation (let’s call it a successful movement for radical social change)?  Um, and what about the finite number of natural resources of all kinds that are not even extractive fossil fuel industries – like fresh water, healthy soils, living oceans, forests, oh, and a livable atmosphere? 

Why would we consider what I have just described anything resembling actually existing capitalism as we have always known it (much less the particularly virulent strand of neoliberal capitalism that we have been living under as long as we’ve known about the climate crisis)?  And how would we do any of this without the biggest social movement the world has ever seen? 

Perhaps all of these people who think that economic growth measured in ever-rising increases in GNP and dealing with climate chaos are compatible should take some time off and read Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, and don’t forget to read the subtitle:  Capitalism vs. the Climate.

What were we talking about?  Oh, yeah, Bernie Sanders opening remarks.  “Nothing passes the U.S. Congress without the approval of the oil companies and Wall Street.”  He reminded us in no uncertain terms that millions lost their jobs, homes, health care “because of the unbelievable greed of a billionaire class who couldn’t care less about our children or the planet” and that “The only way this is going to stop is what we are doing tomorrow – take to the streets” and that real change “can only happen if millions of people get involved in politics.”

But what kind of politics?  The existing political system in the U.S. is not equipped to handle the demands of millions of people, and there is no party for them to vote for (other than my beloved Greens, of course), who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell (or a glacier’s chance in 2030?) of coming to power here.  Or do they?

Bill McKibben

Another Vermonter, Bill McKibben, started out where Bernie left off, by telling us that we had missed “the most important applause line in Bernie’s talk: ‘I just spent some time in Iowa.’”  And Sanders is apparently exploring a run for the presidency in 2016 – you heard it first here, and I got it from the horse’s mouth.

Back to Bill (whom I’d sooner vote for, if he’d run for something):

It’s an open question whether we’ve started in time.  The science is dark and hard.  And I’d be lying to you if I said anything other than that.  Business as usual – leading to warming of more than two degrees Celsius – is probably the most unjust thing that has ever happened.

Tomorrow, expect people to come out in 170 countries around the world.  The pictures coming in already are beautiful to look at.

It’s not that we’re going to the U.N. appealing – we’re not.  We’re expressing our frustration and our anger.

Wear blue on Monday – the idea is to flood Wall Street.  People will be acting powerfully.  This has to continue in the months ahead.

Someone recently sent me a copy of the trade journal Pipeline World [!] and a major CEO said “We’ll never be able to build another pipeline in peace again.”

We need to reach the point where politicians fear us the way they fear oil money.  But it’s not going to be decided by politicians, it’s going to be decided by us.

None of this will be easy or simple.  I really like the slogan for this march “to change everything we need everyone.”

[The noise we’ll make] is the burglar alarm on the people who are trying to steal our future.

Take that frustration and anger and mix it with the joy and hope that comes from rubbing shoulders with other people.

It’s both an obligation and a privilege to be around right now and to be involved in the most important place in the world [meaning perhaps NYC on the 21st or the U.S. as the belly of the beast in general].

Naomi Klein

Naomi started with a passage from her book:

“The climate justice fight here in the U.S. and around the world is not just a fight against the [biggest] ecological crisis of all time,” Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), explains: “It is the fight for a new economy, a new relationship to the planet and to each other, for land, water, and food sovereignty, for Indigenous rights, for human rights and dignity for all people.  When climate justice wins we win the world that we want.  We can’t sit this one out, not because we have too much to lose but because we have too much to gain….  We are bound together in this battle, not just for a reduction in the parts per million of CO2 but to transform our economies and rebuild a world that we want today” (TCE, pp. 155-56).

Naomi asked:  “Why haven’t we done it?”  She makes the “bad timing” argument:  that the same year that James Hansen testified about the reality and danger of climate change before Congress, Canada and the U.S. signed the first free trade agreement that launched an avalanche of neoliberal assaults on our lives.  “The problem is that this ideology is directly at odds with what we need to do to deal with the problem.  The climate deniers understand this.  Because if the science is right, then we have to break every rule in their idiotic handbook!”

Chris Hedges

Chris was, I felt, at his best, exuding outraged and passionate intensity.  He paused to say that we all owe Bill an incredible debt, a generous gesture that I hadn’t expected of him.

Then he got warmed up:  “I want to talk about power.  We are no longer a functioning capitalist democracy with a liberal class.”  He harkened back to Ralph Nader’s remarks at the first Earth Day, observing that the Democrats had given us no new significant environmental legislation since the early 1970s.

The old liberalism that functioned as a safety valve no longer exists.  Obama serves corporate power [perhaps it was a coincidence but Bill McKibben seemed to choke just as he said this].  Clinton destroyed liberalism.  The right has become insane.  Obama has done nothing to undo the Bush administration on war, extraction, surveillance, referencing The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy

Hedges went on and on about his disgust with the Democrats at a pace far beyond what I could possibly have kept up with in my notes.

To appeal to the Democrats is to throw our energies into a black hole.  They’ve sold out the citizenry to corporate power.  Both parties have done and will do nothing to stop the ravaging of the planet.

The Democrats will violently shut down dissent with force.  The laws are in place.  On Monday [at Flood Wall Street] the face of the corporate state will show itself.

We will have to view the state and the Democratic establishment as antagonistic to real reform [at this point, Bill McKibben looked down].

“We’re now at the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.”

Kshama Sawant

Kshama’s talk had some great turns of phrase, such as her reference to the “rapacious oil vultures” and her opening words themselves:  “Sisters and brothers, history is calling on us.  To answer that call, we have to make sure that tomorrow’s protests lead to social structural transformation….”

Our message on Sunday must be clear.  If you are not yet organized, join a group – labor, environmental, socialist….

The so-called free market can’t end this addiction to fossil fuels, and certainly not in the time span we have.  It cannot coordinate the massive public investment that will be required.

She called for public ownership of the giant fossil fuel corporations:

You cannot control what you do not own.  We will need to deploy many strategies and tactics.  Our movement must be guided by the interest of people and workers.

We won the highest minimum wage in the country in Seattle by demanding it.  God knows what we would have won if we had started out with what we were told was acceptable.

We must approach the climate crisis in the same way.

Only a new party based on workers, young people, environmentalists, and labor will be able to do this…

When she praised Bernie Sanders as an alternative to Hillary Clinton, Bill McKibben seemed to smile in approval.  And she laid out a program for him to run on:  cancel; student debt, tax corporations, get single payer health care.  Someone shouted “You should run!”

A recent poll showed 68 percent of Americans want a third party, according to Kshama.

She ended by invoking Rosa Luxemburg’s words, uttered in 1916 that the future would be one of “socialism or barbarism” [the full quote is “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism”] and updated this to “The future will be one of climate chaos or a beautiful, just, sustainable future!”

Q and A

“What do you – Bill McKibben – want the newspapers to say on Monday, in light of the strong words you’ve heard today?”

Bill said that the New York City organizing committee had chosen eight spokespeople to talk to the press, and he thinks they’ll do a pretty good job, probably without using ideological language.  “All I know is that organizing stuff is hard.  We’ll keep doing it.  I think civil disobedience is a pretty good idea.  I think it’s a better idea to do things than to talk about them.”

“How would you define ‘success’”?

Chris Hedges:  “The power of gathering in a march is that it has the capacity to radicalize people, and gives them a sense of empowerment.  A lot of people criticized Occupy for having no demands.  I think they had a pretty clear demand:  to undo this corporate coup.  This is a system that has to be broken.  As Václav Havel said, we have to live in truth, to expose the bankruptcy of the corporate elite.”

Naomi Klein:  “This has already been a tremendous success.  The city feels occupied by people talking about these issues.  The most exciting thing is that this gives us the potential to establish a movement of movements.

We are in climate year zero.  We need to turn things around by the end of this decade.  Can we weave together all our movements and supercharge them with existential urgency?

Let’s articulate a positive vision so that people can get over their fear.  We need that fear and a sense of somewhere to leap to.  We need to weave together this movement from all our movements and then we need to get bigger than that.

I think eventually, with a push from below, yes, a global climate treaty can be achieved that is fair.”

When Q and A was interrupted for the breaking news that the de Blasio administration had just announced that New York City would cut its greenhouse gas emissions from public buildings by 80 percent by 2050, people actually laughed, presumably because they knew that all pledges to do so and so by 2050 from politicians just left the hard work to someone else, much later, when it will be far too late to matter in the way that actions undertaken now matter.  As even the New York Times editorialized about this “commitment”:  “But there is not going to be any 89-year-old, 10-term mayor named  de Blasio declaring a local victory in the battle to save the planet.  This is a long march to a distant goal.”

Bill McKibben had the last word (that I recorded, anyway), a clarion call to battle and a prefiguration of the two days that would follow this glorious evening:  “They have all the money so we have to find some other currency to fight them.  And that’s why the march will be beautiful and what happens Monday down on Wall Street will be beautiful.”

*          *          *

It was a great night:  getting a seat against all odds, finding myself next to Rebecca Solnit, listening to four passionate, smart, angry, articulate anti-capitalists and Bill McKibben, who, it was announced on September 24, has won the Goldman Environmental Prize, given each year to one person from each continent, “for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.”

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On Sept 19, 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, climate activists gathered for a rally and civil disobedience outside Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels wave of actions resulting in multiple arrests. Activists demand Bank of America to “Defund Climate Chaos and Defend Human Rights” Photo: Erik McGregor (CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

Let’s Save Each Other

Let’s Save Each Other

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan. Used with permission