Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Climate Solutions Forum

On October 1st to 4th community members and students will be hosting the Climate Solutions Convergence at Washington University, a space designed to discuss how to address the environmental dangers we currently face. It will be a time for coming up with real solutions ourselves instead of depending on the ones so often handed out to us by corporations and politicians.

The urgent need to come together and face these problems head on is clear when reflecting upon some of this year’s past events...

In the world of coal...

... 23 Massey-employed miners were killed in one of the worst mining accidents in the history of the United States. They were working for a company whose CEO boasts of his unflappable commitment to worker safety despite his company habitually not adhering to workplace safety violations meant to prevent such accidents. You can watch a great video of him clothed in the American flag standing in front of another much larger American flag explaining that climate change is a load of hooey concocted by a bunch of Environmental Extremists. Mountain top removal and the destruction of Appalachia continues apace with Arch Coal securing another permit to add onto their existing 15 permits to eradicate mountains and subsequently plant some nice little trees or maybe establish a golf course on the ruins as a show of its environmental concerns. But you know... Coal Keeps The Lights On™.

In the world of oil...

...we witnessed the greatest environmental disaster in US history unfold before our eyes. The tar balls and the birds and the dolphins and the fish destroyed by the spreading slick as it made its way through the gulf were all on display for nearly a solid month. We got to hear the stories of whole communities who had their livelihoods stolen from them and we got to reel at the notion that so many of the very same affected people had to then rely on BP and offshore oil drilling jobs to support themselves even as these very things were devastating the communities they lived in. We realized there was basically nothing we could do about this and we felt the paralysis that that entails. And this is just a taste of the costs we’re incurring by our utter dependence on oil to live in this society. Unless you’re in the middle of the woods and stark naked there is almost never a moment when you could look around and see something that wasn’t there thanks to oil.

In the world of solutions...

...the onslaught of products designed to Green your modern life continues unabated. You got your Green Laundry Detergent. Green Chic. Green Bottled Water. Green SUVs. Green TV Channels. Green Banking. Green Thinking. Green Living™. So Go Green you slob and do your part in purchasing the country sustainability. Hope you can afford the available “solutions” (you have a job right?).

Some people have even been so gregarious as to let us in on the good news of Green Coal! Coal is Green of course because all that nasty CO2 that’s emitted can be taken care of by the planetary equivalent of sweeping untidy messes under the rug: carbon sequestration. Well at least that’ll be the case whenever the technology to do that safely and without actually just generating more CO2 in the process becomes available. Until then we’ll just have to let the globe get a little messier while we find enough of the appropriate rugs scattered across the planet to shove all of our filthy CO2 under. But in the meantime coal is Clean… I mean Green.

In the world of authority...

...the year has given us plenty of insightful peeks into the realm of environmental oversite. It’s been a reminder that perhaps allowing the very industries that create environmental disasters shouldn’t be the ones that decide whether they’re doing a good enough job at adhering to regulations. The year has also given us one of the greatest examples of global failure, thanks in no small part to United States politicians and industry, to do anything constructive towards climate change, the Copenhagen Accord. (Okay so this technically happened in late December last year.) One of the things the year simply wasn’t able to provide us with was any sort of climate legislation whatsoever. But congress members may have just been too busy with compromising legislation to death, meeting with some of the best-paid lobbyists the wealthiest industries on earth can provide, and discussing how much we should fear the brown people that lurk in our midst.

In your region, now...

... Washington University will be hosting the Symposium on the Global Energy Future, an event that in many ways represents all of the above problems and more. To say that the Symposium will be coal-heavy is obvious from looking through the schedule. That’s to be expected, Saint Louis is home to Peabody and Arch Coal, the nation’s 1st and 3rd largest coal companies respectively. They, along with Ameren, have provided 15 million dollars in funding so that Washington University can be at the forefront of “Clean Coal” technologies. So Washington University allows itself to be used by coal companies to perpetuate the myth of clean coal. When Peabody and Arch are both represented on the board of trustees of Washington University and Fred Palmer, the Senior VP of Government Relations for Peabody, earnestly invokes “Climate Gate” in a public debate about coal you have reason to be dubious about the university’s supposedly strong concern about environmental issues.

Clean Coal is certainly an egregious example and it makes for a very easy, and very valid, target. But further at the heart of this Symposium is the notion that technology and research coupled with industrial backing and national leadership is the way out of the mess we’re in. So long as we can do the research needed and shove it into the hands of some multi-national corporation or spry young entrepreneur then the worst effects of climate change can be mitigated. If we could just get our hands on some revolutionary technology then we’re home free. That and some political will strong enough to make significant changes. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The world of the present and the future...

It’s time to realize that we cannot wait for the future to be decided for us. There is no politician or corporation or technological breakthrough waiting in the wings to lead us into a truly sustainable future. We have to start thinking how we can do this for ourselves.

The Climate Solutions Convergence will be a space to learn about the real consequences of pursuing a future where coal , political expediency, and corporate greed remain the orders of the day. It will be a space to talk about how students and community members can work together towards a truly sustainable and just future. And it will be a space to learn about what people are already doing in the community to bring about such change.

We invite you all to come the Convergence. Whether you would like to just stop by and see what’s going on, participate, or volunteer to help out all are welcome. If you've got ideas or experiences to share, this is the place to share them. This is the place to come together and see that people truly are powerful and that we do not have to wait for anyone or anything to create something wonderful.

See you all at Washington University from October 1st to 4th!
(a schedule of all events will be posted at that website tomorrow morning!! so check back then!)

Climate Action STL
Green Action

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