Mobilizing The Masses In Defense Of
The Planet: Change You Can Act For
By Frank Joseph Smecker
23 September, 2009
With the entire planet at stake, why would anyone want to sit out on the sidelines and watch while the most crucial decision-making is about to take place? Before the adjournment of 2009 arrives for all of us, the world’s most influential and powerful individuals will be assembling more than once to discuss the economic and ecological future of the entire planet.
Later this week – September 24th through the 25th, the G-20 Summit will be taking place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The world’s most powerful players from the twenty most powerful industrial nations will be convening down on the “green-engineered” David L. Lawrence Convention Center to discuss the recent financial collapse, as well as the economic implications climate change has on globalization.
Then, later this year, from the 7th to the 18th of December, many of the same power-players will be flocking to Copenhagen to discuss global warming and climate change. Calling it the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15 – quite the apropos acronym-cognomen), global elites will be engaging in discourse with regard to finding a solution to climate change, alongside setting up new treaty mechanisms that will replace the futile Kyoto Protocol that is due to expire in 2012.
Culpability falls on the shoulders of the world’s elite
It has long been understood that globalization is a post-modern extension of colonialism and early empire building. It has been behind every act of genocide perpetrated upon the indigenous the world over. It facilitates the centralization of wealth into the hands of a ruling elite minority at the expense of human and nonhuman lives. This is not democratic, no matter how rhetorically spun. In most cases, those who praise globalization are the ones directly benefiting from it. The facts are the facts: in 1960 US corporate CEOs "received forty times the average worker's salary; today they receive over three hundred times what the average worker does...Between 1983 and 1995, the bottom forty percent of US households lost eighty percent of their wealth; the top one percent of US households now owns forty percent of all wealth."  In fact, most US households are in debt. As it stands, ten percent of the US has attained three-fourths of all real estate, corporate stock, and bonds. Another report finds similar data: "2% of the world's richest people own more than 50% of the world's wealth, while the poorest 50% of people own 1%. And the income of the 225 richest people in the world is equal to that [the cumulative wealth] of the poorest 2.7 billion..."  As regards global economic relations, the more global trade there is, the higher the Third World debt. There is a colossally larger wealth gap between the First and Third Worlds then what exists within the U.S.
Globalization is often backed with approachable terms like free trade. But we all know the free market is not nearly half as benign as the word ‘free’ attempts to present it to be. Freedom does not serve an imbalanced distribution of wealth; especially when wealth is an explicit expression of power. Freedom does not serve sanctions enforced upon those countries that refuse to cooperate with the world’s largest financial institutions. Freedom does not serve any exclusive closed-door meeting guarded by black-clad, armored police armed to the teeth with rubber bullets, pepper spray, batons and other weapons of perverse brutality.
Many of us are now aware that free trade is a euphemism used to obfuscate the myriad accounts of theft and murder perpetrated by transnational corporations in collusion with governments, bank-rolled by the world’s major financial institutions. Does anyone really believe that the land upon which the global trade of resources is based upon was vacant upon discovery? That the land was just handed over voluntarily in exchange for some Nike™ tees and Coke™?
Is it any surprise that Pittsburgh is taking extreme measures to shield G-20 delegates from mobs of dissidents? The steel city is ushering in thousands of additional police, including the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol its three rivers. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, “The city has fewer than 900 police officers but is seeking an additional 3,100 temporary officers, including 1,000 state-police officers. The state's National Guard, which has more than 2,000 troops in a nearby brigade, is on alert for possible activation.” And the cost of all this hired muscle? “The cost of all this extra security could hit $19.5 million, according to the mayor's office. The federal government is providing $10 million, Pennsylvania $4.3 million. Expected costs include $2 million for personal-liability insurance for all police officers and $1.2 million for food and water.” 
What this evidently illustrates is that government provides the imperial muscle while financial institutions and their transnational corporate progeny privatize profits and externalize costs, i.e. steal. It is, as it always has been, the state’s role of auteur to direct the theater of terror – making sure no one steps out of line, lest industry and production be encumbered by popular demand.
Charging the world’s elite with crimes against life
It’s not just the theft of land, resources, and earned wages the elitist triumvirate is accountable for, but also omnicide. Global warming and climate change is perhaps the most threatening specter we face in our day and age. But even if global warming were not happening, the industrial culture would still be killing the planet. Species extinction at a scale never before seen, would still be occurring. With most of the large fish removed from the planet’s oceans and 95 percent of the world’s original tapestry of forests clear-cut, sustainability of the planet’s diversity is a moot point. With every river, stream and brook in the continental U.S. contaminated with carcinogenic material, potable water is pushed further away from our lips. And even if we could sequester carbon, sulfur dioxide, and mercury from coal to burn it “cleanly” it will never be clean: mountains still have to be torn apart by dragline excavators and ammonium nitrate to access seams of coal. Dams are killing salmon and their young. Cell-phone towers are disrupting the flight paths of migratory birds. Dioxins taint the breast milk of every mother. Uranium tailings are handing out death sentences to the indigenous who have been forced onto lands being mined. And what is worse, all of this and more are exacerbated beyond comprehension by global warming.
What global warming and all of these despairing conditions have in common is they are every bit the results of industrial production. Ninety-seven percent of environmental pollution is caused by industry. Weapons of mass destruction, implemented during times of war (or, insanely enough, sometimes used as preemption to avoid war) are derived from industry. Green house gas emissions that are conducing to climate change are spewed by industry. The list of industrially stemmed problems is as long as you want to make it. And more importantly, governments, transnational corporations and the financial institutions run industry. That is the point of assemblies like the G-20.
Still, global warming is a reality and its consequences alone are grave. The melting of the world’s glacial and polar ice and the rising of global sea levels, severe flooding, drought, and the expansion of desertification are all realities we will be facing if we do not act now to halt further emissions of green house gases. It is not hyperbolic to state that our future is already jeopardized by the economic behavior favored by the world’s richest and most powerful human beings.
Saying no to false solutions
Chances are, governments around the world will end up making some agreement that will be nothing more than a “business as usual” approach to solving the world’s problems. It is the people’s responsibility to put the pressure on these individuals so that market-based solutions are not the product delivered to the global populace once delegates return to their respective countries after these summits.
Many false solutions are already being jammed down the public’s throat. Biofuels, for example, is one very dangerous fiction. With regard to biofuels, I’d like to adduce an excerpt from author Wendell Berry’s recent essay in The Progressive’s September ’09 issue:
To use our agricultural land for the production of “biofuel,” as some are now doing, is immediately to raise the question whether it can ever be right to replace food production with the production of a fuel to be burned. If this fuel is produced, like most of our food at present, without the close and loving care that the land requires, then the land becomes an exhaustible resource. Biofuel may be a product of the land and our world-changing technology, but it is just as much a product of ignorance and moral carelessness. 
Another false solution that is being embraced by government right now is the cap-and-trade model i.e. carbon trading. This method has been practiced in Europe for quite some years now, and you know what? There has been no reduction in emissions whatsoever. In a nutshell, carbon trading is a way for the rich to make profits off of global warming – to get richer as the planet burns, so to speak. 
On the other hand, The Mobilization for Climate Justice provide some key solutions:
- Drastically reducing emissions without resorting to carbon trading and offsetting or other false solutions such as nuclear energy, agrofuels, or “clean coal”, while protecting the rights of those affected by the transition
- Keeping fossil fuels in the ground
- Re-localization of production and consumption, prioritizing local markets and cooperative economies
- Decentralized utility systems and community controlled clean renewable energy
- Rights based resource conservation that enforces indigenous land rights and ends corporate control over energy, forests, seeds, land and water
- Ending deforestation and its underlying causes, imposing international sanctions and wood tariffs, coupled with a massive forest restoration effort, managed primarily by indigenous forest-dwelling peoples
- Ending excessive consumption in the North and by elites in the South
- Repayment of ecological debts owed by northern governments and resource-extracting corporations to peoples in the Global South
Next weekend marks the beginning of something big – the incipient fight to restore a planet back to health. Because the ruling elites of the world’s twenty most influential industrial nations are coming together and, because industry is irrefutably responsible for systematically dismantling the planet’s ecological infrastructure, it makes perfect sense that our actions in defense of the planet begin in Pittsburgh.
Next, on November 30th, marking the ten-year anniversary of the historic shutting-down of the WTO meetings in Seattle, many will be mobilizing for climate justice around the U.S. in preparation for yet another mass mobilization – the latter being the most crucial – organized around the COP15 (United Nations Climate Change Conference). It is important that everybody tries to plug into at least one of these events. A good starting point is to visit actforclimatejustice.org.
Wouldn’t it be really cool if every activist invested in a really snazzy business-suit? Imagine thousands upon thousands of mobilized individuals, all dapper – all suited up. The police would really have a difficult time picking out the activists apart from the officials attending the conferences.
1. Derrick Jensen. The Culture of Make Believe. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004. p. 100.
2. 2007 State of the Future as procured by the World Federation of UN Associations
4. Wendell Berry. “Inverting the Economic Order”. The Progressive, Sept. 2009 pp. 20-21.
5. For more information that unequivocally shows that carbon-trading is a sham, read: Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatization and power. Development dialogue no. 48 Sept. 2006. Published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Centre in cooperation with The Corner House.