Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for March, 2007


Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Hello and welcome to this socio-environmental-political and somewhat spiritual forum.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the people of the Mountain Area Information Network who have provided this most valuable opportunity and especially to my good friends and fellow activists Wally Bowen and Richard Fireman who have manifested yet another vision on the way to involving more people in the process of making our world a better place. I feel deeply privileged to have been asked to participate in this experiment.

<>This will actually be the first Blog I’ve contributed to, although I’ve followed several since my participation in the Ohio recount following the Great Stolen Presidential Election of 2004. Although I think we have just begun to scratch the surface of the potential contained in this type of public venue, Blogs have already surfaced as a great democratizing factor in our nation and around the world. When the commercial mass media intentionally blacked-out news of the blatant election fraud in 2004, the intense blogging on the internet served as a liberating fresh wind of information that broke the silence and informed such a large segment of the population that the co-opted “mainstream” national newspapers, radio and television networks could no longer stay silent and maintain credibility. Blogs represent a revolution in the flow of information, a change in paradigm that takes the “news” out of the hands of the corporate few who control the mass media. This is the modern day Hyde Park or public square where the issues of the day are freely discussed without censorship, without control, without vested manipulation- and reach potentially millions of people. New ideas and free discussion have always been the greatest threat to the status quo and it is my intention to use this forum with that in mind, because this is not the time for business-as-usual.

Currently and since October of 2000, I’ve been the Executive Director of the Canary Coalition, a growing movement of Clean Air activists originating in western North Carolina, but now with members in 22 states focused in the Greater Appalachian Region from Maine to Alabama. While the stated mission of the Canary Coalition is simply to improve air quality resulting in a better quality of life and a healthier environment, the problems at the roots of poor air quality involve core issues of the political, economic, social and spiritual civilization within which we live. In its essence the clean air movement is not simply an environmental movement. It’s a profound extension of the civil rights movement confronting the inequities inherent in our system of living. We have a right to breathe clean air. Nobody has the right to pollute our air. The obstacles to overcome on the way to achieving Clean Air force us to confront unfair political and regulatory processes favoring powerful industrial interests and a controlled mass media owned in many cases by the same economic interests. There are social justice issues to confront as the more poor, politically and economically weak often suffer disproportionately from health and environmental degradation. And, just as the success of the racial civil rights movement will never be completely successful until the hearts and minds of all people are introspected and transformed, so will we never achieve pure air quality until every person realizes that it is our own living habits, wastefulness and consciouslessness of energy use that is poisoning our air and spoiling our world for future generations.

<>My intention in using this blog space will be to remind the reader again and again that the time for business-as-usual is past. Activists have to move beyond activity and into Movement. We can no longer set our sights at achieving only what we believe is politically possible, limiting our proposals to small incremental gains based on perceived political practicalities given the current political atmosphere in Washington or in state capitols. The scientific community is telling us in certain terms that we have at the outside a twenty year window of opportunity to reverse the human impact on climate change in order to avoid reaching a “tipping point” in which global warming will have progressed to the point of irreversible damage triggering a catastrophic series of environmental events threatening the lives of billions of people and most species on our planet.

<>The goal of this movement has to be nothing less than the creation of a new political atmosphere that will overwhelm the existing and prevailing “conventional wisdom” that so often limits the possibility of substantial progress. The new political atmosphere will have to accommodate changes on a scale that will have enough meaningful impact to substantially reduce human-made greenhouse gas production, toxic nitrogen-oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbon, mercury and other heavy metal emissions from power production, manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sources, in a breath-takingly short period of time. The new political atmosphere will have to overcome the resistance of the power companies, the petroleum lobby, the coal industry, agribusiness, the pharmaceutical industry, the corporate press and the semi-co-opted elements that have invaded parts of the established environmental community itself ignoring root purpose as nonsense is spouted promoting “clean coal” and labeling nuclear power as a viable answer to global warming. The new political atmosphere will have to be generated by a new consciousness growing within all people, emanating so strongly that it cannot be ignored, profoundly affecting the political system, overwhelming the influence of money and power brokers.

<>Massive investment in energy conservation, efficiency and education will need to be instituted to dramatically reduce per capita and total energy use by more than 50% in the next ten years, especially in America where so much is wasted. Fossil fuel and nuclear technology will have to be replaced with solar, wind, wave/tidal, biogas, geothermal and other renewable technologies- even if large corporations can’t immediately make a profit during the transformation. Impossible? It can’t be impossible if we truly intend to leave a liveable planet for our children. It is not impossible. We cannot allow ourselves to believe it is impossible. We have to build the movement to make it possible.

When the first abolitionists surfaced in early America and confronted institutionalized slavery the conventional wisdom surely labeled these visionaries as fanatics and gave them zero percent chance of success. Likewise the first women suffragettes, labor union organizers, child-labor opponents, 1950s-60s civil rights anti-Jim Crow organizers and other social movement initiators. Yet, each of these movements eventually succeeded despite the furious opposition of the most powerful corporate and political entities of their times. That’s the angle of American history we aren’t taught in the public school system. Popular movements work! The people have real power! The only time the people don’t have power is when we are brow-beaten enough to believe we don’t have power and therefore don’t act, organize and exercise our power.

The historic social movements in America succeeded despite the slow pace of communication and transportation in their times, despite the lack of access to the mass media, despite the lack of access to political institutions. Today we are fortunate enough to be way ahead of the game with far more resources to effect change than did movements of the past. In fact, most people in America already define themselves as environmentalists and possess a fair knowledge of environmental issues. Many political figures already share this consciousness. There is a healthy alternative news media and even some powerful friends within the mainstream news media. And there is the internet and the blogosphere providing a means for instant communication, networking, organizing. 

Ghandi, King, Saul Alinsky, Abbie Hoffman. Choose your guru or act on instinct. Activate, organize. Create the movement.

Hello world!

Friday, March 16th, 2007

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