Occupy Earth Day

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Common Dreams

Occupy Earth Day

Earth is melting down like a nuclear reactor. At current rates of warming, Arctic sea ice will melt away by 2030. According to the UN's environmental program, countries' current greenhouse gas emissions pledges for the year 2020 would put them on par with current global levels, not enough to prevent the planet warming by at least 2C by the end of the century. Nasa climate scientist James Hansen has described such a rise as “a prescription for disaster”, leading to an increase of droughts, floods and other forms of extreme weather. Some estimates project a rise upwards of 6C by 2100.

On April 21st and 22nd, Occupy Wall Street activists will hold a series of rallies and non-violent civil disobediences against corporate-induced climate change taking grassroots action to reclaim Earth Day from the greenwashing interests of the 1%.

Earth Day, established in 1970 to celebrate and advocate for our shared planet, has become a shopping scheme. Nowhere is this clearer than in New York City. At EarthDayNY.org visitors to the website can download a “passport to green New York” which various retailers in the five boroughs will stamp for them. Twelve stamps and passport holders could win a 40” flat screen television from Toshiba. For $10,000 corporations can show off their supposed green credentials while competing for green dollars with a booth inside Grand Central Station's Vanderbilt Hall. The event is sponsored by Home Depot, an importer of rainforest wood and by ConEdison, which paid zilch in taxes for 2011 and continues to source electricity from coal and from Entergy Corp.'s precarious Indian Point nuclear plant. Also on the corporate sponsor list—Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.

The latest environmental expert on Murdoch's Fox News, “birther” Brian Sussman, claimed this week the green movement was “concocted in the minds of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.” Paranoid for America's resources rather than concerned the future of earth, Sussman calls for increased domestic oil and gas drilling, the hoarding of water, and for 100, “100% clean” new nuclear reactors to be built in the US.

There is nothing clean about nuclear power. One merely has to look at the ongoing disaster at Fukushima. Furthermore, many corporations, such as Southern, who run nuclear plants also run coal-burning plants. Fossil fuels are used in every part of the nuclear process, particularly in the extraction and transport of uranium. Recently, Entergy Corp. paid a $1.2 million penalty to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for violating the Clean Water Act, after a transformer at Indian Point exploded in 2010, spewing 10,000 gallons of petrol into the Hudson River.

At 3pm on Saturday Occupy activists will stage a “melt-in” in Grand Central's terminal, pointing out that our planet is melting down and nuclear reactors, which also melt down, are not a solution to global warming.

Then on Sunday, Occupy activists will stage a New Orleans-style jazz funeral march for “The Death of Earth as We Know it”, commemorating the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Two years after the well blowout, the Gulf Coast remains in sore shape. Slicks of oil and stillborn dolphins float in the waters off the coast of Louisiana. On top of the 5 million barrels of oil it pumped into Gulf waters, BP spayed 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants. New Orleans journalist Jordan Flaherty noted in a Common Dreams piece Friday, “While BP says these chemicals broke up the oil, some scientists have said this just made it less visible, and sent the poisons deeper into the food chain.”

Gathering at a BP filling station in Manhattan, the mourners “for earth as we know it” will march to Union Square for a rally to reclaim Earth Day from corporate greenwashers and to bring it back to its radical roots. Corporate-induced climate change has altered Earth irrevocably. The Fukushima and the Gulf Coast disasters are but extreme examples of what our profit driven system has reaped on our environment. But there is still plenty to fight for.

Representatives of the Fukushisma and Gulf Coast diaspora will join activists involved in a variety of interlocking ecological struggles from the tar sands to fracking, from nuclear power to genetically modified food. The rally will spotlight movements fighting to ensure ecocide like that unleashed on the Gulf by BP never happens again, while acknowledging these ecological struggles exist within a common and pervasive social framework, one that is undemocratic, values profits at the expense of earth and people, leads to waste and overproduction, and is spiritually and morally bankrupt.

From Union Square activists will march to take a stand on the spot of the proposed Spectra Pipeline, a fracked gas pipeline Texas Eastern Transmission wants to build in the West Village. A well leak off the coast of Scotland, currently spewing 200,000 cubic meters of gas a day, is already drawing comparisons to the Deepwater Horizon.

If we are to avoid further ecological meltdowns, our society must move away from dirty, deadly and ecocidal forms of power—these include coal, natural gas, uranium and corporate power—and towards a sustainable world. The emerging grassroots, democratic movement of the 99% offers hope. The future of earth will not be won in corporate boardrooms or shopping malls, but in the streets.

Peter Rugh

Peter Rugh is a facilitator for Occupy Wall Street Environmentalist Solidarity and Chair of the Action Committee of Shut Down Indian Point Now! He writes for Socialist Worker and Terraspheres.com. His poems have appeared in the People's Tribune (San Francisco) and Left Curve.

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