Getting Back on the Streets is Going to Be Fun!
3/21/23 Bank Protest is Gathering Momentum By the Hour
The photos above—by Brooke Anderson—are from last week’s “art build” in the Bay Area, where Third Act activists from around the country gathered to work under the direction of David Solnit, one of America’s premier arts activists, to make materials for the big banks protest planned for the palindromic 32123. (March 21 for you Europeans!).
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In an interview this week, Greta Thunberg points out that the pandemic took many demonstrators off the streets for a long time. It’s not been entirely true in this country—see, for instance, the brave resistance to the Line 3 pipeline that indigenous activists spearheaded in the upper Midwest. But she’s right that
obviously, we had to stop doing everything that we did. That halted the momentum. And as you say, we know now that people are worried. It might not show on the streets because we still have to regain that momentum.
On the first day of spring, however, we’re going to be back out in force. The big map at Third Act shows we’re closing in on 50 demonstrations, at least three of which will feature non-violent direct action outside the branches of Citi, Chase, Wells-Fargo and Bank of America. There will be Alaskan activists cutting up giant credit cards with chain saws, and ocean advocates cutting up credit cards against the dying coral reefs of the Florida Keys. Rebecca Solnit—America’s great essayist, and also David’s sister—will bear witness from the fire-scarred forests of her native California. Not to give too much away, but if all goes according to plan some of us may be arrested from rocking chairs.
And the best news is that everyone else is joining in—even (or especially) people who haven’t quite reached the Third Act age of 60. The wonderful people at Stop the Money Pipeline—a consortium of 200 groups around the country—sent out a special alert this week, reminding people that Valentine’s Day is a great day to break up with your bank! The Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous—a day before he officially started his new job—gave a great talk highlighting the importance of taking on the banks as a climate strategy, and committing the Club to throwing down on March 21. Jane Fonda announced yesterday that she’ll headline a national hype call about the protests on March 14, a week out from the big day. It’s going to be lit like a solar panel at midday.
Oh, and if you had any doubts about whether or not it makes sense to go after the banks, one more Associated Press headline from this week kind of makes the case: Major Banks Support Rainforest Oil Projects Despite Problems. The “problems” in this case include that it’s in a war zone, that it will doubtless cause massive local damage…and of course that it will pour carbon into the air, overheating an earth where rainforests are already in grave danger of turning to savanna. And yet Citi, Chase, and others are lining up at the trough.
We need to stop their endless bankrolling of fossil fuel expansion. HSBC, largest bank in Europe, announced in December that they would no longer fund new oil and gas fields like this. We need the American banks to follow suit. It’s not easy—this is the capital in capitalism—but it’s key. Some people are closing out their accounts and cutting up their credit cards—but the real point is simply to be making a big noise so that Americans understand the link between cash and carbon.
A little more art to get you psyched. But please please figure out a way to pitch in on 3.21/23. It will matter!
In other news from the world of climate and energy:
+More on that must-read interview by David Wallace-Wells with Greta Thunberg. She has always been sagacious, but in ever-deeper ways. Here’s my favorite lines:
I still think that we have to hope for the best in people. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being an activist these last five years now, it’s that many, many people want to do good. Most people want to do good. But in “our society” or whatever — Our Society™ — people don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to do good because we are raised with a sense of needing to make a career, needing to achieve this and that. And under those circumstances, of course, people are going to fight for themselves, they’re not going to strive for the common good, especially not for people living on the other side of the world, unfortunately.
+An important and meaty essay from Robert Kuttner about the promise—and the peril—of implementing the Inflation Reduction Act and other parts of the Biden agenda that could be described as “industrial policy.”
Making sure that different agencies and programs are not operating at cross-purposes and that it all adds up to a coherent whole;
Engaging the private sector without producing windfall profits, gratuitous subsidies, or failed ventures that become grist for Republican we-told-you-so investigations (viz. Solyndra);
Putting tough performance standards into these grants and loans to achieve other progressive goals, such as support for union labor and climate justice;
Connecting industrial policy to workforce policy, so that there is a rendezvous between needed specialists at every level and newly created jobs;
Streamlining permitting and environmental reviews, so planned facilities come to fruition without endless delays;
Reconciling the bold climate goals in these several programs with the practical disruption of the environment caused by, say, solar farms and power lines; and
Harmonizing our new industrial policy with foreign policy and trade policy, notably with our European allies, who see U.S. industrial subsidies as violating trade rules at their expense.
+A not-too-miss listening session next Friday on the emerging petrochemicals industry in Appalachia, which is turning out to be one more racial justice nightmare. Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, who is emerging as a key player in this saga, will be joined by Bishop Marcia Dinkins of the Black Appalachian Coalition
+Net zero cannabis is a good idea, and not that hard since…the stuff actually grows outdoors. I mean, they call it weed. Here’s the scoop from Maine’s most responsible grower.
+Even the EV makers are pointing out that EVs alone won’t cure what ails us:
Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Rivian’s chief sustainability officer, says the findings from the report weren’t necessarily surprising. “What’s most sobering, is you cannot just do one or two things,” she says. “This is about, in a very positive way, holding ourselves as an industry to task.”
+It’s not just Paris and Amsterdam: the Philippines built 500 kilometers of new bike paths last year
Scores of commuters who used to rely mostly on public transport turned to cycling as a result of the pandemic. And many stuck to their bike even after mass services resumed. With more and more cyclists converging on main roads, it was necessary for the national government to think about solutions for accommodating the growing number of bikes and ensuring all road users can get around safely.
+A truly important report from Thea Riofrancos and colleagues about lithium mining—and about the prospect that we won’t have to do as much of it if we somehow can break Americans of their habit of driving everywhere in large cars. I’m not sure it’s possible, but it would have many many benefits:
Through urban renewal programs, the
construction of the interstate highway system, subsidies
for suburbanization, and other policies, the United States
largely destroyed and rebuilt its cities in the mid-twentieth
century in ways that created highly racialized urban
geographies characterized by segregation, car dependency,
and urban sprawl.The injustices and damages wrought
by this process have been immense, and the process is
implicated not only in the climate crisis but an array of
other major social and economic problems. Our most
ambitious scenario would entail a near inversion of this
transformation over a similar time horizon. Such an
inversion could bring manifold social benefits—as well
as reduce harms from minerals mining and likely speed
up the timeline of decarbonization.
Meanwhile, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, setting its doomsday clock closer to midnight than ever before, has a pro-and-con account of permitting reform
+ Afterglow is a new collection of short stories from many fine writers imagining different climate futures. You’ll find examples of what the critics are calling ‘hopepunk’ and ‘solarpunk!’
+Of all the no-brainer ideas, converting to electric schoolbuses has to be high on the list. No idling diesel engines, plenty of time during the day to recharge the motors at a central location, and…two teachable moments a day. David Roberts describes the possibilities in his invaluable Volts podcast
And speaking of no-brainer ideas, could we please start emulating the new French law and covering parking lots with solar panels?
In France, the government believes solar canopies could generate up to 11 gigawatts of renewable energy, or the equivalent power of 10 nuclear reactors. That’s around 8 percent of the country’s entire electrical output.
+In case you think elder activism is confined to the Third Act types in the States, here are some Aussie anti-coal activists explaining to a judge that they’d ‘rather die in jail than in a nursing home." Those of you who enjoyed our epic non-violent novel The Other Cheek will feel a hit of deja vu reading the account in the Guardian
“Are you worried about the prospect of three years in jail?” a reporter asked one outside court.
“No,” John Sheridan, 81, replied. “I won’t live that long.”
+Notes from a more innocent day: Sam Verhovek reflects on the last Boeing 747 to roll off the assembly line, and on the new challenges facing long-haul aviation:
In fact, the biggest challenge facing the aviation industry today isn’t how to move passengers around better. The existential question for airliner manufacturers and airlines alike is whether they can do it in a way that’s better for the planet. Aviation takes a frightful environmental toll, and for most of us, the single most significant thing we could do to fight climate change is simply to stop flying. The industry is working hard on solutions, but aviation remains one of the most difficult activities to decarbonize, for pretty obvious reasons…Today’s airplane designers should use the story of the Boeing 747’s success as inspiration for the great task they now face of building an airliner that’s not only fast and affordable and safe but green as well.
+Josh Fox with an important piece on the fight to save the Peruvian Amazon from Big Oil:
The Achuar have fought off five different oil companies trying to enter their territory in just the past four years. Nelton Yankur, the Achuar Federation’s president has used every trick in the book to keep them out. He has mounted a full-on campaign of shame against the country’s oil company, PetroPeru, traveling to New York City to try to convince financiers not to set foot in his territory. If he loses this battle and international finance gives PetroPeru the money to drill, his tribe is in for decades of contamination, sickness, degradation, and despair. If he wins, he preserves the most diverse place on Earth, and we all get to breathe the oxygen that his way of life has provided for centuries.
+BP’s annual energy outlook indicates that at least on the rhetorical level the European oil companies are a step ahead of their U.S. counterparts
The carbon budget is running out. Despite the marked increase in government ambitions, CO2 emissions have increased in every year since the Paris COP in 2015 (bar 2020). The longer the delay in taking decisive action to reduce GHG emissions on a sustained basis, the greater are the likely resulting economic and social costs.
+For the first time ever, wind and solar supplied more of Europe’s electricity than any other source in 2022.
+Youth climate activists announced plans to blockade the White House Correspondents Dinner in late April to draw attention to the Biden administration’s apparent decision to permit the Willow oil complex, a remarkable boondoggle in the fastest warming part of the world. I wrote about it last week in these pages, but if you want more on the plans, here’s a good account from Inside Climate News
The final environmental impact statement, published Wednesday by the BLM, recommended limiting the scope of the project to three well pads initially containing more than 200 wells, with the possibility for adding a fourth pad later. ConocoPhillips had proposed drilling from five well pads.
But the changes would not meaningfully alter how much oil ConocoPhillips would ultimately pump, a peak of more than 180,000 million barrels per day, or more than 600 million barrels over the project’s 30 years of operation. Over that period, the Willow Project would release about 280 million metric tons of climate pollution, equal to running 2.5 average-sized coal power plants for that entire three decades.
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