Our Climate is not Your Business: Rising Tide takes the fight for climate justice to the Big Apple and beyond

After a summer long lull in actions, Rising Tide and allies have switched into high gear. With the UN Climate talks in Copenhagen around the corner, the corporate greens and their buddies in Wall St are working overtime to paint capitalism green and push through bullshit climate legislation that would do more harm than good. In response Rising Tide has set its sites on fighting the corporate greens and their market solutions.

Folks in New York City fired the first shot across the bow at the UN General Assembly where high level climate talks were taking place.  Members of Climate SOS and Rising Tide did a creative disruption of the Danish Climate and Energy Ministers talk at Colombia University. Dressed as a pirate, a man going by the name Cap’n Trade and his unnamed deck hand, took the floor to deliver a 14-foot banner representing the Waxman-Markey climate bill currently being debated in Congress. The banner depicts a two trillion dollar note, representing the size of the new market in carbon dioxide emissions allowances that would be established by the Waxman-Markey climate bill that passed the House of Representatives in late June.

The centerpiece of the banner is an image of a bewildered Al Gore, monkeywrench in one hand, compact fluorescent lightbulb in the other, debating the virtues of direct action vs. corporate solutions. Gore introduced the concept of tradable emissions allowances into the UN process in Kyoto in 1997. The bill gives massive handouts to the coal, nuke, gas, and oil industries; allows companies to buy offsets instead of actually reducing emissions, and would usher in a whole new regime of false solutions. To make matters worse the bill would only reduce emissions 1% below 1990 levels. NASA climatologist James Hansen has even gone so far as to say that this bill would “do more harm to the environment than doing nothing at all.” Yet the corporate greens are throwing millions of dollars at lobbyists to get it passed.

Cap’n Trade, a proponent of the bill, lauded its ambitious plans to loot and plunder poor communities around the world while filling the coffers of polluting industries. Before exiting the stage he proclaimed, “If these lily-livered politicians aren’t ready to do something about the climate, those scurvy activists on the streets of Copenhagen are going to make ‘em walk the plank.” We can only hope events will transpire as such this December.

The next day the same crew went out to deliver the 2 trillion dollar bill to some folks that should be familiar with it, Environmental Defense, National Resource Defense Council, and the Nature Conservancy, all major proponents of corporate friendly free market solutions and backers of the climate bill. Folks briefly took over the lobby of Environmental Defense, entered the Nature Conservancy’s office, and hung the banner off of NRDC’s flagpole.

The real icing on the cake came the following morning when activists dropped a massive banner from a bridge under which a UN motorcade was passing. The banner read “Cap and Trade is a Dead End” and caused the motorcade to briefly come to a halt. Hundreds of handbills attacking free market climate “solutions” were rained down on the motorcade as well. They read in part, “As a people, we cannot define the systematic destruction of our environment, the unprecedented extinction crisis, and oncoming impacts of climate catastrophe as a money-making opportunity. We will not forget or forgive those who mindlessly, selfishly advocate a cap-and-trade system. The False Solutions agenda of the corrupt circles of government at home and abroad will meet resistance.

Just as folks in NYC were wrapping up their shenanigans things were starting to get pretty tense in Pittsburgh as the streets were fortified with National Guard and riot police in preparation for the G20 summit Sept 24-25. The 3 Rivers Climate Convergence made a valiant attempt to set up a climate camp in Pittsburgh though due to a number of factors it just never quite got off the ground. On Sept 23 a small but lively climate march wound through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. It stopped at PNC bank, a major funder of coal, and eventually wound its way down to Point State Park where a large corporate green jobs rally was being held. We stood at the entrance with the “Our climate is not your business” and “Green jobs are enough” banners and of course the 2 trillion dollar bill banner while handing out flyers attacking green capitalism.

Sept 24 was the big, un-permitted anti-capitalist march. Around 1,000 people gathered in Arsenal park with the intention of marching to the G20 summit to disrupt it. After a half-hearted attempt by the police to prevent the march from getting out of the park, people took the streets and started heading towards the summit. The park was an unfortunately long distance from downtown and the G20. After moving several blocks, police blocked the protest from getting any further, began to fire tear gas and for the first time in the US, deployed the Long Range Accoustic Device, which emits a loud irritating sound. And so began continuous confrontations with the police until about 1 am.

People responded to the tear gas and batons with rocks, bottles and rolling dumpsters. About twenty banks and chain stores had windows smashed out as well as a police substation and cop cars. Eventually people regrouped at Schenley Park where the G20 leaders were having a state dinner at a nearby venue. Again battles broke out with police, this time protestors ranks were swelled by interested college students checking out the commotion. In all about 50 people were arrested that day.

On the morning of the 25th the Pittsburgh Resistance Project called for decentralized actions around the city. Rising Tide attempted to disrupt a press conference put on by the US Climate Action Network, a pro carbon trading coalition that is currently lobbying hard for the Waxman-Markey bill. The group includes organizations everywhere on the spectrum from Environmental Defense to Rainforest Action Network (wtf?). Unfortunately our slacker asses arrived too late to pull off our action. On the other end of the city a group of Vermont farmers and students blockaded a Whole Foods and built a guerilla garden in their parking lot. Banners in the background read “Whole Communities, not Whole Foods for ½ the people” and “Grow gardens not corporations.” Unfortunately not many other actions happened in the morning.

The afternoon saw around 4-5000 people hit the streets, this time for a permitted march organized by the Thomas Merton Center. While the crowd ranged from Tibetans fighting for their autonomy to health care advocates, the overall all sentiment was strongly anti-capitalist. After nearly a decade of tired anti-war messaging it was refreshing to be part of such a large crowd with a more radical analysis. In addition a 200 strong Climate Justice Feeder March, complete with green and black flags infused a strong eco message into the main march. The march ended without confrontation due in part to the large anarchist contingent respecting the Pittsburgh Principles which called for mutual respect for tactics at different groups events. Later that night street fighting once again broke out at Schenley Park after a crowd of about 500  came together to fight the G20 policies.

We as radical eco-defenders are facing an unprecedented assault from the forces of capital. This is no wise-use movement with their blatantly anti-environmental agenda. We are talking about the massive re-branding of capitalism as a clean green climate change solving machine. The people responsible for destroying the Earth are no longer just the multinational corporations. A whole new front has been opened by their collaborators: Environmental Defense, World Wildlife Fund, National Resource Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy and countless other corporate green groups.  These groups are so entranced with getting a seat at the boardroom table with, and so obsessed with passing any climate legislation, no matter how bad it is, that they have become perhaps our most formidable foe.

If the big greens and their corporate allies succeed in trading away the future of the planet with there carbon markets and offsets we are screwed. It is of upmost importance that we resist these corporate schemes that seek to convert all life into capital and continue to build real community solutions from the hoods to the hollers.

Rising Tide encourages everyone to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Battle of Seattle by taking direct action at the root causes of climate change. Groups around the country and world are making plans for hard hitting actions on this day and throughout the UN climate talks in Copenhagen December 7-18. Don’t go to Copenhagen, stay here and help us grow this ulcer in the belly of the beast.

Rising Tide recently released a 16 page newspaper call Deal or No Deal that examines the Copenhagen climate talks from a anti-capitalist and climate justice perspective. Contact distro@risingtidenorthamerica.org for a copy.

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