Earth Day 2013

Earth Day 1970 – 2013Image: Tee Kay

From Mike Roselle’s Facebook page “Man Without a Bio Region” – an opinion piece on the modern environmental movement. Although written specifically for the United States of America it is as pertinent to the issues with “Big Green” throughout the rest of the world as it is within the USA.

This year on the 22nd of April, Earth Day was 43 years old, and so is the modern environmental movement. Forty three years ago, we had 20 million people in the street, we changed the general direction of the US Congress, which passed some of the most visionary laws written since the Magna Carta. Since then we haven’t done dick. And in case you have not been paying attention, this movement is dead. Big Green is neither big, nor green, and is only serving now to prop up an unsustainable system with green consumer hucksterism. They peddle a lie that no one believes. Listen to our Climate Leaders, as they now prefer to be called, and you will be transported back to the day before Earth Day 1970 as if no time had elapsed. They wear the political equivalent of bell bottom hip-huggers, so out of style that they can only be worn on Halloween.

And this is the good news. If you hire someone to do a job, and they botch it, you should fire them, especially if they refuse to take any responsibility for it. I think now we can agree that they have failed, and should be putting their belongings into cardboard boxes.

I had come to this conclusion long ago, but it was really just after the XL Tar Sands Pipeline that I had seen enough. We were told that the climate movement has had it’s “Stonewall Moment” or our “Lunch Counter Moment, or, and why not, while we are at it, our “Warsaw Moment”? Our moment began, again we are told, when a well dressed, well heeled group of climate leaders were arrested in front of the White House protesting the construction of the pipeline. This was non violent civil disobedience at its best, some said. Truly historic. And just afterwards, we held the largest climate rally in the history of the USA. The numbers are still being disputed, but by Washington standards it was small, perhaps 30,000, which is but a fraction of the people employed in DC to work on environmental issues.

“They can’t be serious!” I thought, reading the Tweets from a DC jail. And of course they weren’t serious. It was non violence as (a) spectacle, an Executive Director Flash Mob, and not one of them thought that they might do anymore than a few hours on the bus before reconvening in the local bar. Because of this lack of sincerity they did a major disservice to those who did endure the truncheons, firehouses, lynchings and arrests; the jails and prisons, at Stonewall, at Selma or the other blood soaked battlefields of the Civil Rights Movement. This is hallowed ground, and claiming this mantle should require sacrifice rather than just inconvenience, and the one thing that is lacking here in Big Green is the willingness to sacrifice, to suffer, to risk everything, even your life, to achieve a goal that demands nothing less.

The story of Stonewall and Selma are well known. The story of the “Night of Terror” less so. When Alice Paul was arrested in front of the White House in 1917, she and 97 other women, some members of Washington’s high society, were sent to the notorious Occoquan Workhouse where they faced appalling conditions, strip searches, and after staging a hunger strike, beatings and forced feeding. The resulting storm of bad publicity was such that President Woodrow Wilson called for the release of all suffrage prisoners. The suffragettes still picketed Wilson every day, even in the cold of winter.

On January 10, 1918, Wilson declared his support for the Susan B. Anthony Amendment and the next day the House of Representatives passed it. Still the Woman’s Party never ceased picketing lest Wilson forget that (the) National Women’s Party meant business. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment and women claimed their right to vote. Picketing a President during a war was a militant thing to do, and very unpopular with voters, who were then 100% male, but it worked, because it exposed the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom in Europe when half of the American population was still disenfranchised.

Environmentalists in the US for the most part constitute a privileged class of Americans who are asking others to make sacrifices they themselves refuse to make while enjoying a lifestyle undreamed of by the average Earthling and much better than most other Americans. Some of the perks include clean and healthy food, vacations in exotic locations with high carbon Martinis and large homes. Where their children go to good schools, have health insurance, 401k’s, and can even write off their bar tabs. Nothing wrong here. But if we are trying to reach people for whom this dream is as illusive as owning a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard, we should not be surprised that so few are listening, and fewer still are willing to take the streets. While it’s true that climate protests are getting bigger, and that they are spreading, they are no where near the 20 million people who turned out for Earth Day in 1970, and they are mostly white.

I think it’s time we demand the resignation of all of our climate leaders. That would be the honorable thing (for them) to do. Get an honest job. What is needed most now was what we started in 1970, an Ecology Movement. Ecology is a branch of Earth Science and Environmentalism has become a Religion. The difference between an Environmentalist and an Ecologist is that an Ecologist understands what the Anthropocene Era(AE) is and an Environmentalist doesn’t. Extinction events have come around every few hundred million years or so and the AE is the sixth one in the three (plus) billion year history of life on Earth. It has only been 60 million years since the dinosaurs went extinct, through no fault of their own, and now here we are again, only this time one species will be responsible for the extinction of 80% of all the others.

Environmentalists assume we are going to survive the Anthropocene, so they don’t seem to give it much thought or at least they rarely talk about it, even though an enormous amount of scientific evidence contradicts this. Tipping points that were identified back in the 1970’s have been reached, creating circumstances under which climate change becomes irreversible. Yet even without climate change we were heading into the (end of the) Anthropocene head-on through the process of converting wild lands for agriculture and industry mainly through human actions such as deforestation, irrigation, overfishing and toxic waste. Given a stable climate, Homo sapiens might have rode this one out, but on a much hotter planet this gets very tricky. Ecologists understand this, and so do a lot of other people. But not Big Green.

So the good news is that a real Ecology movement is now possible. We need to acknowledge were we are, and what must be done. Big Green will never do that. We need to drastically curtail all forms of consumption, and that must include the military budget. We must start from the beginning, and get it right this time. Back in 1979 Earth First! proposed such a movement. We believed, even back then, that the environmental movement had lost its way. It had become professionalized and more concerned about access to power than speaking truth to power, more concerned with compensation than confrontation and very uncomfortable with the science. This would all be tolerable if we were getting somewhere, but we are not. We spend billions of dollars every year on failed climate campaigns that (have) rejected the idea that power comes from the grassroots. Earth Day 1970 had a small staff, a small budget and very big ideas. Today, that has all been turned on it’s head. Isn’t it time to admit it?

Originally published on Facebook – Man Without a Bioregion
Read the Original Article


  1. Alison Maltby said:
    16 May 10:25 am

    I have long thought that people love to say they are “Environmentalists” but apart from perhaps recycling, they actually do not do anything. In fact they actually do things against the environment thereby enforcing my belief that they are only paying lip service to the idea of Environmentalism.

    Mike’s analogy that Environmentalism is more a religion than an activists movement sits well with me.

  2. Stephen said:
    18 May 9:04 am

    It has never sat well with me that I am often lumped into the category of the “environmental movement” with everyone else from someone who recycles their excess packaging through to true activists.

    More and more when I hear people talking about environmental issues I wonder what they are actually doing about the issues. It even happens that someone in a group will interrupt and say “Don’t mind him/her as they are an environmentalist.”

    Which is when I am prompted to ask what it is they do to be bestowed with this title. More often or not they basically do nothing other than recycle, if convenient, and spread the words of someone else as they do not really have their own opinions about the subject. Just like a good religious person they can often quote chapter and verse very well but that is where their environmentalism ends.

    I attend blockades, go to anti-csg meetings and protests, I even spent a week in an anti-logging camp in the Upper Florentine Valley in Tasmania.

    I also regularly contribute, financially to grassroots campaigns that are actively do something towards their goal.

    Environmentalism is a religion and environmentalists its Pastors. The Wilderness Society of Tasmania is a classic example of an environmental movement that has moved away from its grassroots and goals to protect the wilderness and into religion, think of it as the Vatican if you will, and it has plenty of Pastors sprouting its gospel all the while collecting funds to pay wages to employees that do not listen to the needs of the environment or the discarded grassroots members.

    Mike is right, “a real Ecology movement is now possible”.