'Off/On': Climate Leaders Present Next Bold Phase for Global Action
'There are no single-issue movements any more: the fight for climate justice is a fight for social justice.'
Nearly 2,000 people attended an evening event in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday night (with thousands more joining online) in order to hear 350.org explain the strategy and thinking behind the next phase of the group's ongoing international climate campaign, including a series of actions leading up to the UN climate summit in Paris later this year — as well as a bold vision that goes well beyond.
Under the banner "Off & On"—shorthand for the idea that the climate movement intends to "turn off" the fossil fuel industry while "turning on" the 100% renewable energy economy—the live-streamed event featured prominent 350 leaders—including board member Naomi Klein, co-founder Bill McKibben, and executive director May Boeve—alongside other key allies from the international climate movement, some of whom appeared on stage and others who spoke to the audience remotely.
Described as "part science lecture, part concert, part political rally," the event was a kind of singular follow-up to the group's 2012 'Do The Math' tour which helped popularize the idea that a large majority of the world's known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if humanity hopes to avoid the very worst impacts of planetary warming and climate change.
With the UN Conference of the Parties conference (COP21) set to begin at the end of November, the campaigners made it clear that though the high-level talks—which aim to secure a global agreement for world governments to curb emissions and otherwise address the crisis—remain important, the real battles for climate justice and system change are not likely to be solved in Paris.
"We’re laying out a strategy that we think can have a profound impact on our politicians, while keeping power in the hands of the people, so we can create the change we need to see," said Boeve. "This show marks the start of a campaign to supercharge our movement and take the fight right to the source of the problem."
According to McKibben, 350 and its allies are "going to use mass action and divestment to keep turning off dirty energy, and turn on cheap, clean renewable power all over the world." Their roadmap, he said, leads beyond "the Paris talks and straight to one of the biggest days of resistance we’ve ever engaged in."
Cynthia Ong, founder and executive director of the Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), a Borneo-based group which co-hosted the event, was among the speakers who spoke passionately about the need for the climate movement to continue its focus on social justice while challenging the fossil fuel paradigm and championing progressive shifts of both economies and energy systems. "The world is waking up to climate change," Ong said. "There are no single-issue movements any more: the fight for climate justice is a fight for social justice." And, using a phrase that became parlance during last year's People Climate March that drew more than 400,000 people to New York City, she added, "If we’re going to change everything, we need everyone."
For his part, the Hip Hop Caucus' Rev. Lennox Yearwood championed the coalescence of various social change movements and the directives climate activists should draw from previous struggles. "The long history of social change should give us some guidance, and some optimism," he said. "Jim Crow, apartheid: they seemed as mighty as the fossil fuel industry does right now. It seemed like they’d be with us forever. But as people changed the zeitgeist—with civil disobedience, with divestment, with organizing—those old institutions began to crumble."
Speaking later, Klein repeated one of the key messages contained in her best-selling book, This Changes Everything, by stating the task of solving the climate crisis is "not a technological problem" but one of "too much corporate power." She added, "As we move to a new energy paradigm we need to move to a new world too: one that takes justice seriously."
Watch the entire event here:
Twitter was also active during and subsequent to the event as users responded to its ideas and the articulated plans for the future: