Friday, January 25, 2013

today's Peabody action: a personal bit

About to hop on down to the fun at Peabody today (starting at 11 at Kiener Plaza ... you can still make it!). Here's a personal statement I was asked to write up for the occasion. You can read the rest of the personal statements at the RAMPS website. They'll cover both Tuesday's Arch Coal action, and today's action(s) at Peabody.

No doubt that there will be lots of media coming out from MORE, RAMPS, BMIS, and some local news sources during the day. Check all that out and have fun on this moderately warmer day.

Here's the personal crap:


I came to Saint Louis for graduate school, hoping to do research that would bring about technological solutions to climate change.   Underlying this standard graduate student naivete was the far more ubiquitous and far, far more dangerous overreliance on and faith in technology. In the context of our world, where global industrial Capitalism reigns supreme and demands continuous growth and exploitation, the question "which technology will save us from climate change?" is moot. There is no fancy solar cell, or wind turbine, or nuclear whatever that could ever hope to address the crises of Capitalism.

On this day I'm going off to participate in the rally at Peabody to stand in solidarity with everyone in Appalachia, the Navajo and Hopi Nations, Saint Louis, and every other living community. I want to draw attention to the decades of exploitation that the Navajo and Hopi nations have endured due to Peabody's role in this repugnant system. I want to draw attention to the way we exploit our planet, and how that is driving us to the brink.

Will today's actions significantly stop emissions, or stop Peabody? No, probably not. Will this give people who work at Peabody or the lines upon lines of police that will inevitably be protecting Peabody's headquarters any time to pause and really consider what it is that they're defending? Almost certainly not. Will it bring a renewed sense of hope and ease and invigorate the ongoing struggle? That would be nice and I hope that happens. This is just one action and one day.

We're steadily marching towards a future that will see a 4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, if not more. This scenario at least ensures a global level of suffering and death that we've never witnessed before and can hardly imagine. At worst it means there won't be a human species any more, let alone countless other species.

The actions that I and everyone else take on this day should be judged in this context. Is today's action enough? Of course not. Is it too rash or radical? Give me a break. We will all learn from the experiences of today, and we will experience the mounting pressures, and change accordingly.

There is no hope for an environmentally just world as long as giant fossil fuel companies such as Peabody are allowed to exist. I hope that others will join in the fight against this corporation and all that it represents. Standing on the sidelines will not ensure our safety or the safety of those we care for.

Monday, January 14, 2013

climate change ennui / discussion / training

Here are some more or less direct quotes from people when I talk to them about environmental issues:

"I don't know enough." "I'm not sure what to do." "The problem is too big." "Well we're screwed anyway. Let's drink PBR and be apathetic until the climate refugees come knocking on our doorstep and our ridiculous food system falls apart." "I got mine." "I would prefer it to be 100 degrees and 100% humidity." (a direct quote from myself. winter go away.)

These sentiments and their variations are understandable given the society we live in. In order to move past these points to a place where we can take action together we're hosting a discussion next Monday, the 21st, at 7 PM in the SEIU Office (5585 Pershing Ave). If you feel as if you don't have the information needed to act then please stop on by. If you also feel as if you aren't empowered to act, that the problem is too big, etc., then again please come on out. These concerns are perfectly understandable, and it is sometimes useful to work through them with other folks. This isn't going to be a therapy session, but it's worth acknowledging that this world is pretty adept at making people feel not empowered and not in control.

Other upcoming activities ...

The MORE-RAMPS-BMIS Winter Action Camp has an intensive two-day training this weekend that you can still sign up for. This will be an excellent opportunity for people who want more skills in tackling environmental issues. The organizations involved will bring their experiences from working and living in Saint Louis, Appalachia, and the Navajo and Hopi Nations and will blast you with all sorts of knowledge and skills. This really is a rare opportunity and I would highly recommend attending if you can!

And for those that are interested in more spectacular things ... There are some particular local corporations that are guilty of a great deal of environmental devastation that are no doubt gearing up security measures and having chats with local law enforcement. While police lines protecting corporations that are culpable for the most violence and destruction in this society is passé, there may be some fun surprises in store for those that keep their eyes peeled in the upcoming days. January is for having fun!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

STL Climate Change Year in Review - Drought, Cease-and-Desists, and Acción!

Hello everyone.

Have you enjoyed your nice turkey dinners? Have you enjoyed / endured your families? Have you done away with your ironic Christmas sweaters and steeled yourself for the reality of the new year? Time for resolutions and reflection and etc.!

2012 was a bit of a doozy for climate change shenanigans. Globally we had the Doha climate talks and record high carbon emissions, nationally we had many environmentalists nearly weep with joy since Obama was still physically capable of speaking the words "climate change" (acting on it appropriately still a different matter), regionally we suffered from one of the worst droughts in US history, and locally Saint Louis still reigns supreme as CO2 Emissions HQ.

Also locally, concerned groups and individuals have continued to hammer at Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company, for its unique role as a perpetrator of climate change. Unions and environmental groups took aim at the tax-dodging polluter at its shareholder meeting as part of the 99% Spring. The city-wide sustainable future ballot initiative has taken off, and 2012 also saw the first concerted targeting of institutions in Saint Louis that provide cover for or legitimize what Peabody does. The message is that cities are not havens or playgrounds for powerful, polluting corporate interests.

Lots-o'-laughs, bit of police state and corporate intimidation, and new strong relationships formed ... but what's the point? How do you know you're doing anything useful? Well one way to measure success is by the reaction of the interests you are opposing. Peabody Energy was nice enough to acknowledge in the kindest terms (by way of a cease-and-desist letter) the work that a number of people in Saint Louis have been doing:

It's hard to interpret this cease-and-desist letter as anything other than a glowing review and so we were delighted to accept it. Because they are so supportive, Peabody should know that "disruption of its annual shareholders meeting, vandalism of one of its billboards, ... and an untruthful claim" regarding one of its "philanthropic partners" is just a preview of what's headed their way this year. Until they take the keen business advice given to them by some disruptive shareholders of not existing, then their continued exploitation of people and the planet will be brought to light in potentially unflattering ways.

Of course Peabody is really just a collection of legal documents, folks collecting paychecks, and executives capable of the normal sort of cognitive dissonance-enabled death wishes needed in order to satisfy their shareholders while avoiding reality. The struggle is broader than a handful of corporations, and there will be plenty of discussion to go around on how best to address climate change (see below for such opportunities). Anyone can get involved!

So what's some stuff going on right now??!?....

The STL Sustainable Energy Future Ballot Initiative is on its way to collecting the requisite number of signatures to get on the next ballot for a city-wide vote. No longer will giant extractive industries (or their lobbyists and lawyers) be able to get tax breaks from a city that needs to get its head on straight about who should benefit from such tax breaks. There are signature-gathering caravans heading out regularly so if you'd like to get involved then contact Arielle at

MORE, RAMPS, and BMIS are jointly hosting a Winter Action Camp this month. You can still register for a two-day intensive training open to the public on January 19th and 20th (contact for info). In addition to this intensive training there will be a community-wide discussion on January 21st at 7 PM at the SEUI Office (5585 Pershing Ave) to address what should be done on the ground to confront climate change. This discussion will go beyond the usual suspects of what's generally offered as a solution to climate change and allow for people to get informed and get empowered.

On a personal note, because climate change is the most important issue in my life, I spend a great amount of time trying to figure out how to convey my thoughts on the matter. Am I being too radical or not radical enough? Am I being too preachy or am I not being honest about what I know is at stake? Am I not acknowledging the high amount of privilege I have to be able to say and do things I think are necessary? How should I appeal to every type of person? I really don't like writing, and I hate "messaging."

I don't know what it takes to convince anyone reading this to act for the preservation of the environment. I can relate personal stories, I can give dire facts, I can share what gives me hope, but I don't know what of that will work. And so what I would ask is that you take the time to consider your actions, and constantly reassess what is best for you to do, and to be honest when doing so. I beg that you do this, because so far what we have been doing collectively as a species is not working, and we are running out of time. I have reason to believe that we can succeed, and I know that you don't have to feel powerless. You're not.