The sentiment comes from an article Wen Stephenson wrote for The Nation magazine a few years back and it is exponentially more relevant today. The whole exercise is designed to brainwash school kids into thinking picking up trash addresses the issue of Nature and Our collective relationship to it. It is an all too easy step from there to click-tivism and seeing your mailbox crammed with fundraising letters from the enviro-nonprofit Complex.
If you pay attention to such things you might have seen the latest Senate Energy Bill, supported by both of Montana’s distinguished statesmen. It “streamlines development of energy projects” and “establishes a pilot program to ease permitting obstacles for gas and oil drilling”. The “all of the above” energy policy of the Obama administration designed to Make America Great Again.
The very next piece on NPR (Liberal capitalist radio where I heard about it) described all the money the Feds would be pouring into Bull Trout recovery because its habitat is being mangled by climate change. What was missing (always) was any commentary as to the insane disconnect. This is the normalizing process, like picking up trash on Earth Day or re-cycling your plastic.Within the act is embedded a reassuring we-have-this-under-control continuity. Next years Earth Day plans are already being made.
“We are in a kind of climate emergency now,” struggling to stay below 1.5°C of warming, to avoid radical climate destabilization . No current policies keep us anywhere near this goal: We are barreling towards double that temperature, leaving us with a broken world. This has to change, and we have to lead: We have to Break Free from Fossil Fuels!  This global climate movement initiative aims to shut down the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects and support the most ambitious climate solutions.
In the Northwest, we are breaking free by taking on the region’s biggest carbon bomb: the Shell and Tesoro refineries at March Point in northern Washington. Combined, these facilities refine 47 percent of all the gasoline and diesel consumed in the region, and produce the largest, unaddressed point source of carbon pollution in the Northwest. They are an integral part of the system that we must change – within years, not decades.
Join us for regional mobilization and a mass action outside these refineries on May 13, 14, and 15, to demand that we Break Free from Big Oil and speed up a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy. By land and by sea, we will stage creative and inspirational sit-ins, blockades, and kayaktivism. For people who prefer to not engage in civil disobedience, support roles and general opportunities for participation are essential to this action. NRRT and allied carpoolers, caravaners, and protesters risking arrest or not are traveling from Missoula, Moscow/Pullman, Sandpoint, and Spokane to Anacortes for this Break Free Pacific Northwest mass action.
We hope that you can play a part in this powerful movement moment. Plans are coming together quickly: In just the last month, 2,000 people have signed the pledge, 400 are willing to engage in civil disobedience on the sea or land, and 30 groups have joined as coalition members.
Break Free from Fossil Fuels is about more than one action. It is about accelerating our movement to take on and defeat the fossil fuel industry and the political powers behind it. It is time to shift the public narrative off fossil fuels to the possibilities, necessity, and urgency of a rapid and just energy transition. We encourage you to join us, as we together #breakfree!
This issue of a “Just Transition” has come to the forefront as the climate movement begins to be taken seriously by both labor and capital. The painful reality is that the necessary shift from fossil fuel energy to sustainable energy will be disruptive for everybody. Sorry. Guess we shouldn’t have waited till it was a crisis to start planning. But that’s capitalism for you. Permanent crisis. We can pretend there will be a seamless, just transition to a new “green capitalism” where everyone has jobs and wealth or we can admit that, as Robert Jensen puts it “we will need ways of organizing ourselves to help us live in a world with less energy and fewer material goods.”
At this very juncture, our Canadian friends are grappling with the same difficult economic and political implications, in what is perhaps a preview for us here in the US. A document called the Leap Manifesto has roiled the New Democratic Party and forced the entire nation to see there are some hard choices (and struggles) ahead. In unflinching terms, the Manifesto lays out the science and the timeline. It says “no more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure”, which doesn’t go over so well in Alberta, home of the Tar Sands. They want to build pipelines, and by they, I mean the corporations, the workers, and the politicians who want to be re-elected (including NDP Premier). You know the argument by now: jobs, the “economy”, slow transition, etc.. Sound at all familiar? Reality bites.
The Leap coalition, with a strong youth contingent, pushed hard to have the document (some principle authors include Avi Lewis and wife Naomi Klein) accepted into the party platform and though the agreement reached was to continue the debate, the issue was contentious enough to bring down the party leader. Conservatives mock the proposal as “utopian and idealistic” and say it will hurt workers and the economy. Of course unchecked climate change will result in ecocide and social chaos but whatever.
To fund the transition, the Leap proposes taxes; taxes on transactions, taxes on wealth, taxes on carbon. Opponents want hard and fast numbers of what all this “costs”, what the “price” will be. And it is here that the climate movement faces its own crisis. How it answers that question is the most critical juncture we face; will it reject this Market language and logic and propose a totally new framework- or will it try to mitigate and mollify Capital using the same failed logic which got us here in the first place. This is an ideological struggle of the first order, of historical magnitude, and it is now in play. The only Just Transition is one that abandons Market logic altogether. Neither the cost nor the price nor the value can be calculated in dollars and cents.
We have been away from the blog for some time and since the last posting, NRRT, like everything else in the universe, has gone through some changes. Since that last anti-coal export action in conjunction with Blue Skies and 350 Missoula, we held a rally at the headquarters of Washington Companies headquarters to shine a light on their complicity in the fossil fuel economy. Along with Re-invest folks and others, we will keep the pressure on Washington to do right by its workers by planning ahead for the end of coal export.
And on that topic, Arch Coal- now having filed for bankruptcy- has also withdrawn its permit application for the Otter Creek coal tracts. Which also means no more proposal to build a rail line up the Tongue River. Both of these bits of news are awesome; development of those massive coal tracts would have been horrendous for the climate. But Arch is still digging coal (despite the bottomed out spot price) and still shipping it west through Missoula. The outdated, polluting Colstrip plant is still spewing CO2 and while King Coal is limping slowly toward his grave, Montana politicians (from both sides of the aisle) and labor unions still bow in fealty to this relic of a by-gone era.
In order to help build a powerful climate movement that can defeat these fossil fuel industries, their government sponsors and their powerful ideological grip on American culture, NRRT is combining forces with 350 Missoula and others to join the Break Free from Fossil Fuels Pacific Northwest Coalition. A massive action is being planned for May 12- 15 in Anacortes WA, site of two refineries and hub of Baaken oil-train transport. Through a blockade and mass civil disobedience we will shut down March Point and deliver a strong message that the end of this destructive fossil fuel based economy is in our sights. This action is in conjunction with actions planned throughout the country and the world. This is where we need to be so please help if you can. Stay tuned.
Two community members, Lee Van de Water and Shannon Curry, locked their arms together and refused to move for the mile long coal train. With other participants, Lee and Shannon were able to hold space on the tracks for an hour, preventing it from moving towards its west coast destination. After refusing to leave and going limp, both were cited and released for trespassing.
Actions against coal train traffic have taken place twice before on railroad property in Missoula, in March and August of last year. Thursday’s action was an escalation of nonviolent tactics over those past actions.
This coming Wednesday, September 2nd, we will be facilitating a training, presentation and discussion in conjunction with Seattle Rising Tide about Flood the System. There will be a presentation of the graphic narrative created by Rising Tide North America, a tool used to explain how we can rapidly grow the grassroots climate movement while making it accessible to people fighting for all other forms of justice (social, political, economic). It is a grand effort to connect all of these struggles in a coherent way. There will also be a brief training on Non-Violent direct action and how it plays a role in this effort. The training will wrap up a with a localized discussion of the issues we face in Montana and how/when we can take action.
Please consider coming to this presentation. It will take place from 5-8 pm in the large meeting room of the Missoula Public Library. There will be snacks and drinks provided.
Thanks, and hope to see you there!