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Peace Activists' Best Hope? The Sunrise CLIMATE Movement

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Introduction: Connecting the Peace and Climate Dots

Let's start by facing a crucial fact: both major U.S. political parties love war. In fact, they love it so much that they're completely willing to sacrifice a livable climate--and human existence with it--to their militaristic aims. Manuel Garcia's incisive, cut-to-the chase article, underlining how U.S. elites' love of military domination (which both major parties simply reflect) is the death knell for any effective climate action, should be required reading for all peace and climate activists.


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At least for all who take these life-or-death issues seriously enough to demand timely, meaningful action. Like, say, before the end of recorded history.

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Let's face a second crucial fact: whether as separate issues--or as properly connected--our elites (and the major parties and corporate media who reflect their agendas) don't give a flying frack about peace or climate. This fact is clearly illustrated by their deafening silence about the twin apocalyptic threats of nuclear war and climate Armageddon throughout the midterm election campaigns. A silence which Noam Chomsky rightly brands "moral depravity."

When elites (and their political and media lackeys) wish to bar all policy action on an issue, they simply shroud the issue in silence. And blather endlessly about distractions--like Trump's purported collusion with Russia--to crowd the far more serious (but taboo) issue out of media space. That the peace and climate issues have been given the silence-and-distraction treatment is compelling evidence they are taboo issues our elites don't want discussed, much less acted on.

What I hope I've established so far is that peace and climate are tightly interconnected life-or-death moral issues, both subject to political and media conspiracies of silence and distraction, that our ruling elites have overwhelming vested interests--contrary to humanity's interests--in not acting upon. What follows is that peace and climate activists have an overwhelming vested interest in joining forces (and making a huge public stink) on these tightly linked life-or-death issues, now tabooed from mainstream political discourse. As the real adults in the room, peace and climate activists must play regent to the willful, destructive, "child king" of our ruling elites, overruling their edict that everyone must overlook their unspeakably reckless acts of juvenile vandalism. While the planet literally burns.

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The only important strategic question, for peace and climate activists desperately savvy enough to join forces, is whose issue should take the lead as the banner issue. I'll argue here that it should be the climate issue, but framed not merely as a call for climate action but for climate justice, where world peace is rightly viewed as an absolutely critical precondition for addressing humanity's climate emergency.

So my case here depends partly on arguing that climate justice--which includes peace--is the master moral and political narrative of our times. But even more importantly, it depends on highlighting a potent newsmaking force for climate action--and latently for climate justice and peace--already on the ground: the Sunrise climate movement.

Sunrise, by its strategically savvy targeting of Democrats, is already modeling for climate justice and peace activists the correct way to make a big, newsworthy stink. And its call for a "Green New Deal" is implicitly not merely a climate but a climate justice program necessitating (by its funding requirements alone) a huge scaleback of U.S. militarism. In short, the Sunrise Movement, now mainly a climate movement, is a potentially an enormous Trojan horse for smuggling the climate-justice-and-peace agenda inside the halls of power (where Sunrise has already begun to arrive). Climate justice and peace activists would be foolish--tragically foolish--to look such a huge gift horse in the mouth.

Climate Justice: Master Narrative for These Apocalyptic Times

As life-or-death issues ignored by our elites, peace and climate have been in natural--and deeply unfortunate--competition for activist attention and campaign building. After all, hundreds of thousands of people suffer or die globally due to perverse elite policy on both issues, and either nuclear war or runaway climate change alone has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it, perhaps entailing total human extinction in the bargain.

It would be a fool's errand--and a needless one--to convince peace or climate activists that the competing (but intimately linked) issue is more important. Fortunately, we have a master narrative--climate justice--that leads with the issue with greater promotional "legs" (our climate emergency) while insisting on peace as an absolutely essential precondition for addressing that emergency. Intelligent current activism, in my view, involves supporting the biggest newsmaking movement--the Sunrise Movement--that approximates having a climate justice narrative (its call for a Green New Deal) while nudging Sunrise closer to a full-bore climate justice narrative. Above all, by insisting on a vast scaleback of U.S. militarism as essential to its Green New Deal aims.

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(In that regard, journalists Sonali Kolhatkar and, even more importantly, Naomi Klein have performed an immense public service by promoting the Sunrise Movement--and showed penetrating political insight by proclaiming Sunrise "a glimmer of hope on the horizon for climate justice" amidst the uniformly dismal stream of climate news. One can only hope progressive and leftist opinion leaders are insightful enough to follow Kolhatkar's and Klein's lead--and mine--in taking up cudgels for the Sunrise Movement. Precisely while nudging it to fulfill its vast climate justice potential.)

But, before further arguing why Sunrise is peace and climate activists' most promising horse to ride to victory--ultimately, humanity's victory--I need to explore why the climate issue has greater promotional "legs" than the peace issue. (But please remember, as I make my case, that I'm endorsing the climate justice narrative, where climate leads, but peace follows immediately behind; if Sunrise pushes for its Green New Deal without pushing for peace, its efforts are guaranteed to fail.)

Betting on Climate, the Horse with Natural "Legs"

Pretty obviously, the U.S. public is not nearly as concerned with either climate or peace as humanity's looming apocalypse warrants. Again, most of the blame lies with our ruling elites--especially our political and media elites--and their self-serving, morally depraved conspiracy of silence about these life-or-death issues.

But, amidst our public's dangerously low concern about peace and climate, there's strong reason to think the climate issue is growing political "legs" and, compared to peace as a single, isolated issue (which neither should be), will continue to run faster and faster.

First off, there's the already mentioned newsmaking climate protest by the Sunrise Movement, a miracle of politically savvy timing and great political luck. With the astutest conceivable political timing, Sunrise chose to launch its protest of likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just as both Democrats' recapture of the House from Republicans and Pelosi's own contentious quest to become Speaker were making national news.

It's hard to imagine peace activists finding such a propitious moment for a comparable protest; and even if they had, it's hard to imagine them offering such an appealing package as the Green New Deal tied up with the ribbon of peace rather than climate. As Naomi Klein's fittingly titled book and film This Changes Everything amply prove, climate action has an inner logic that points inevitably toward a comprehensive program of climate justice--in many ways, a populist program a majority of Americans already desire. If there's any current ground to fault Sunrise (and remember, the movement is young in more than one sense), it's for failing to emphasize how intimately its alluring domestic Green New Deal is linked to a foreign policy of peace.

But beyond Sunrise's impeccable political timing and the inner climate justice logic of effective climate action, there's a deeper reason to embrace climate as the horse with stronger political "legs": nature itself is irrefutably making the climate action case. Whether it's unprecedented California wildfires or statistically improbable megastorms striking every few years, nature itself has become climate activists' most effective ally for curing the climate change skepticism of everyday people. As a result, 70% of Americans now believe climate change is happening, and 58% believe it's caused by human activities.

The case for peace, depending on the purely human whims of warmakers and how successfully they manage public opinion, has no such effective advocate as nature itself. By elites relying on a professional military for their warmongering--giving a piddling minority of Americans personal "skin" in the peace game--peace activists are at a serious disadvantage compared to climate activists who have increasingly frequent natural disasters as "up close and personal" persuaders.

And peace activists' serious disadvantage is compounded by not having a professional expert lobby. While social scientists study war-and-peace issues, and there are academic courses called "Peace Studies," there's simply no professional field called "peaceology" in the same sense there's a professional, credential-giving scientific field called climatology. Social science disciplines, however legitimate their aims, simply lack (probably by the more complex nature of their subject matter) the sheer quantity of evidence-based results--and consequent greater credibility--of the hard sciences.

Simply by publishing peer-reviewed papers hardening the existing climate change consensus, climatologists automatically serve as advocates for the climate activist cause. And, precisely because their hard-science studies have such profound human consequences, many climatologists (most notably, NASA's James Hansen) feel a compelling moral obligation to become climate action activists. Both by the nature of their research and its life-or-death moral implications, climatologists constitute a professional climate action "lobby" peace activists can only impotently envy and will probably never have.

Finally, climate as an activist issue has the overwhelming advantage of an increasingly scary, short-term action timetable. While nuclear war could end human civilization as we know it in just a few hours, there's no clear timetable for required action, and there is a 70+ year history of humanity surviving the nuclear holocaust threat (though few people are aware how closely we've skirted catastrophe).

For all these reasons--the newsmaking success of Sunrise, the popular appeal of a climate justice "Green New Deal," the superior persuasive power of the climate cause, the scientific "lobby" supporting it, and the compelling urgency of the climate timetable--peace activists should cede the lead role to climate justice activism and back (rather than enviously try to rival) Sunrise. But only conceived as a full-fledged climate justice movement whose success depends absolutely on peace.

Conclusion: Sunrise as History-Making Spearhead of the REAL Resistance

All successful political organizing--whether movement or electoral--is about communicating a narrative, and cognitive scientist George Lakoff is right (as is the Poor People's Campaign) that the winning narrative needs to be a moral narrative. For me, the climate justice narrative (as sketched, say, by Naomi Klein or David W. Orr) is the definitive moral narrative for our potentially apocalyptic times, the most comprehensive moral "umbrella" for building an activist resistance coalition. One resisting precisely the moral depravity of our pro-war and anti-climate ruling elites.

For me, the best candidate for a real resistance movement--one resisting not just Trump but the corrupt, morally depraved system that gave us Trump--is one with a full-bore climate justice narrative. If no such movement exists (our current case), the best solution is an on-the-ground movement that approximates a climate justice narrative and shows potential to be nudged in that direction. Initially, my prime candidate for the real system-changing was the Poor People's Campaign (PPC), whose moral agenda of fighting poverty, racism, militarism, and ecological devastation (Martin Luther King's original "three evils" wisely updated with an ecological fourth) makes it implicitly a climate justice movement.

But the collective moral evils produced by politics require a political analysis and not just a moral narrative; theologian Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society--which influenced Dr. King--is especially perceptive in analyzing the collective moral evils produced by political actors not necessarily so evil when acting merely as individuals. (Almost needless to say, Niebuhr's analysis has much to tell us about the many surprisingly decent people who follow Trump.) While I had reservations from the get-go about the PPC being the long-awaited real resistance movement, what eventually soured me on the PPC (despite its implicit climate justice agenda) was how it left its moral criticism hanging in a political void, without any analysis fingering the political actors responsible for the collective moral depravity.

Black Agenda Report's Bruce Dixon framed this criticism well when he upbraided the PPC for its "lack of any political endgame beyond the call to 'vote like never before.'" Dixon's BAR colleague Glen Ford brought us even closer to grasping why the Sunrise Movement--and not the PPC--is now the best candidate for spearheading the long-overdue real resistance when he wrote, "The Democratic Party is the primary mechanism that suppresses progressive thought and action in the United States" (boldface emphasis mine).

Yes, yes, a gazillion times yes!--and by targeting specifically Democrats for their climate foot-dragging, the Sunrise Movement has proven itself almost infinitely superior to the PPC as the long-awaited real climate-justice-based resistance. And peace activists--for the reasons previously stated--need Sunrise as much as Sunrise needs them.

(Article changed on December 2, 2018 at 21:34)

 

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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he actively seeks (more...)
 

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Daniel Geery

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Well said as usual, Patrick. Problem is that, barring divine intervention, there is no conceivable way back from the short road to human and planetary extinction that we've put ourselves on over the past several decades.

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 2, 2018 at 10:30:04 PM

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Thanks for the compliment, but your pessimism strikes me as possibly excessive. Granted, a certain amount of climate harm is already baked in, but as far as my layman's grasp of the science goes, I think we're warranted in believing we can still save civilization itself, trillions of dollars, and--most importantly--hundreds of millions (maybe billions) of lives by timely action.

I think Trump's extremism (and Republican extremism with Trump as covering distraction)--especially on climate, has a silver lining: it's serving as a wake-up call launching previously tabooed discussions and increasing, NEEDED radicalism. That Elizabeth Warren is now openly criticizing U.S. militarism is a very promising sign of the times. Not that I altogether trust Warren (she probably cost Bernie the Massachusetts primary by not endorsing him), but she's probably reading the political handwriting on the wall--perhaps to win support for a presidential run from Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement, and younger voters generally.

Relentless pressure on the Democrat establishment strikes me as by far the best strategy available, and that the Sunrise Movement has arisen to apply it--in the name of a voter-tested Green New Deal policy package, fills me with hope I had practically abandoned. EVERY sane person--peace activists above all--needs to support Sunrise and encourage it in escalating radicalism against the Schumer-Pelosi Democrat leadership.

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 2, 2018 at 11:08:00 PM

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I hope to hell my pessimism is overly excessive. But I've read and seen all too much to believe otherwise, and I have trouble living in a state of dishonesty. The main reason (of several) that I pulled my name off the ballot for Federal Senator in Utah this year (as an independent) after several months of wavering back and forth, is because I refuse to offer false hope.

Meanwhile, I strongly encourage any and all actions that might conceivably save this miraculous but rapidly deteriorating planet. I ponder them daily and listen carefully to folks like Paul Beckwith.

For any person or group to think that politicians might conceivably come up with a viable answer that they know little or nothing about in the first place strikes me as lunacy. The same might be said of most climatologists at this point, though clearly not all. I'm well aware of many of the more serious climatologists and scientists around the planet putting major effort and thought into this.

The exceedingly dim light I sometimes think, or like to think, I see on the distant horizon is for all governments of the world to abandon ALL military expenditures post haste and put them into the real war that we are engaged in, namely learning to work with nature rather than exploiting her.

Pointing out there are NO known fixes to our dire situation strikes me as critical to encouraging humans to actually get serious rather than flapping their lips. Though I suppose if we did a little more lip flapping we could power a few windmills, particularly in the Washington D.C. area. :-(

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 2, 2018 at 11:33:21 PM

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I've heard the name Paul Beckwith but have not really followed his work. I get the impression he's an extreme outlier in his level of pessimism (which does NOT prove that he's wrong). Just for some beginning insight, I Googled him and instantly arrived at the following Quora discussion of his work. At minimum, it confirmed my impression that he's a highly controversial outlier.

A HUGE problem that I find with climate doomers like Beckwith is that he had better be right, or he's doing an IMMENSE amount of harm. Not being expert enough myself to decide the controversy, I go more with the less pessimistic consensus, since it's NOT a self-fulfilling prophecy of inaction and doom. Without evidence sufficient to convince his expert peers, I steer clear of the self-fulfilling prophecy of inaction and doom fostered by Beckwith. If he's right, we were at least noble in the efforts we made while being mistaken. I DON'T feel cheated of a good life by trying to take action; I'm not sure that anyone knows the best use of one's time while passively waiting for civilization to end.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 12:05:11 AM

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See paulbeckwith.net. I like him because of his style and his optimism, to the extent it is possible.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 3:44:46 AM

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But I don't think differences over "to the extent it is possible" can be swept aside; that's the KEY question here. If Beckwith is right that it's too late, there's ZERO reason to act and act fast. If we CAN make a HUGE difference, we who know that will get properly militant and radical about it.

As I said, Beckwith had better be right, or he's doing HUMONGOUS harm to humanity, whatever his good intentions, good nature, and personal optimism.

In circumstances where NONE of us know the full truth, I prefer to go with the climatologist consensus, which is NOT obviously irrational and carries no risk of being a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom, where we failed to act in time because we WRONGLY believed there was nothing left to do.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 12:41:43 PM

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There is a tab on his homepage titled "solutions."


The more I see of Paul, the more I respect him, as appears to be true of legions of his followers. He is a grade A teacher and brilliant at explaining complex concepts.


I am all in favor of long shots; aim for the stars and you just might hit the moon.


Paul is to the IPCC as Stephen Gould would be to Mike Pence and other creationists, imo. I can only encourage others to spend some serious time on Paul's site and videos.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 4:16:05 PM

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I promise to look, but his skepticism about saving civilization scares me.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 4:23:52 PM

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I do understand, I assure you that.

I looked over the Sunrise site quite closely and see a lot of talking and talking about talking, with zero info on the major issues. E.g., I just posted this link that came across my news feed a short while ago click here

Some months back I had lunch with Tim Garrett, a respected climatologist at the University of Utah. He calculated the volume of CO2 that we need to remove from the atmosphere to get back to 1750 (pre-industrial) levels. He said it would be the height of the Mormon Temple, I think 220 feet, spread out over the western states.

I did some calculations on what that volume would be on a neutron star, with its extreme gravity (these are "back of the napkin" calculations), and it came out to 1.9 liters! To be filed in "interesting facts."

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I'm sure you know the Green New Deal was first proposed by the Green Party. No credit has been given to the Greens for bringing it before the public. This makes me suspicious. It needs to look like the original or it's not the real thing.

s.org/organizing-tools/the-green-new-deal/

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I have no fear of giving the Green Party full credit for the Green New Deal. If I didn't do so in my article, it's specifically because it was already quite long, and I didn't want to it make it longer by discussing points that weren't crucial to my main argument.

The sad point about being a Green Party supporter is that all sound strategy is based on acknowledging you're SCREWED in a system rigged against third parties. For example, because the Republican Party is so criminally insane about climate--with a desperately short timetable--the lesser-evil argument is stronger than ever. We MUST keep Republicans out of office, even if it means choking back our vomit and voting for Democrats. Because this argument is objectively valid (even so strong a leftist as Paul Street now makes it), I see ZERO hope for Greens overcoming the lesser-evil argument anytime soon. And note that I who say this voted for both Jill Stein for president and Howie Hawkins for NY governor; I felt safe to vote my real (Green) preference because I live in the safe blue state of NY.

If Greens think the Sunrise version of the Green New Deal needs improving, strategically your best hope is to support Sunrise and pressure them to improve the product. I say this because--again, in a system rigged against third parties--Sunrise was able to do more to promote the Green New Deal in the few hours of the Pelosi protest than Greens could after several YEARS of trying. Totally unfair but completely true; sound political strategy is based on knowing how the world works rather than expecting it will treat deserving people fairly.

Finally, I think the best hope for Greens as a party is to pressure Sunrise to push for ranked-choice voting. I think doing so would help BOTH the Green Party and Sunrise, because it would give Sunrise a viable threat of voting Green when Democrats stiff them on the Green New Deal. I think Sunrise should do what I urged a hypothetical "Rats' Revolt" to do before Sunrise came along: accuse Democrats of electoral extortion because they won't end the "criminally insane Republican" threat by passing ranked-choice voting into law.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 12:25:38 PM

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Sorry, but I still think this is more controlled opposition which we definitely DON'T have time for. Judging from past experience, this Sunrise movement if it attaches itself to the Democrats will hollow out and water down the Green New Deal to the point of irrelevance.


I would rather take down this imperialist beast from the outside than try to reform it from within. Things can change in a big hurry given the right circumstances. We are working to make the Green Party organization ready to take over when that time comes.


If you want 4 more years of Trump, vote lesser evil.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 10:23:52 PM

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Patrick Walker

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(Member since Apr 20, 2013), 20 fans, 126 articles, 6 quicklinks, 1628 comments
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Reply to Lois Gagnon:   New Content

I think it's totally false to accuse the Sunrise Movement this early--and based on no evidence whatsoever--of being the controlled opposition. One thing you forget is that, as a young movement, Sunrise has prospects of being SHAPED by its supporters. Naomi Klein saw that, so she praised the movement only in the course of an article cataloging how untrustworthy Democrats have been and how likely Pelosi and her ilk are likely to offer them lip service and table scraps when it comes to the Green New Deal. My own praise for Sunrise came amidst a thorough denunciation of Democrats.

The best way to turn Sunrise into a sheepdogging controlled opposition is for it to have NO Green supporters. Fortunately, Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance, long affiliated with the Green Party, is taking no such suicidal attitude toward Sunrise. Given the comments I see under most pro-Sunrise articles, I fully expect most Greens to commit the "born to lose" suicidal gesture of writing off Sunrise.

As to your comment "If you want 4 more years of Trump, vote lesser-evil," it's simply dumbass blind partisanship without a shred of evidence or argument. The logical consequence of voting for Democrats--as I SHOULDN'T need to point out, is that DEMOCRATS win the election. Voting Green TAKES votes from Democrats--which is precisely why Democrats don't want people doing it.

BTW, don't be so stupid to accuse me of WANTING Democrats to win. I'm only pointing out the logical consequence (a Democrat, not Trump, becoming president) of everyone voting for the lesser evil (Democrats).

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 11:37:29 PM

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Michael Eisenscher

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There is much to agree with in Patrick Walker's argument, except that his proposal that peace advocates use "climate justice" as a Trojan Horse to bring peace into the equation is not the solution to bringing an anti-militarist element into the struggle.


He correctly notes that the struggle for peace/against militarism is critical to the climate struggle because of the military/war's environmental footprint on the planet, and because resources spent on militarism should be spent instead on addressing the climate change challenge.


What he fails to address is that the military-industrial complex (MIC) and fossil fuel sector (FFS) are inextricably linked. A struggle against neither can be successful without a struggle on both fronts. The struggle against militarism needs to be explicit so that the interdependence of the two is made clear.


To borrow from the slogan of the September 8th Rise movement (which he ignores in his enthusiasm for Sunrise), we must rise for climate, jobs, justice AND peace. (The leadership of Rise resisted including peace as an explicit demand. Peace forces nonetheless mobilized and had a visible presence in the hundreds of demonstrations that took place that day.)


Another reason why climate justice should not be used as a cover for interjecting peace demands is that there is an existing environmental justice movement that includes frontline and other communities (most often of color) impacted by pollution that seek to expose and defeat environmental racism as critical to dealing with climate change. Their demands should be recognized and supported for their own sake and not as camouflage for peace issues.


This is the argument I think Walker should make:


"Peace is a climate goal because it is a climate necessity. War is an environmental nightmare that pollutes and contaminates wherever it is fought, while contributing substantially to the carbon load of the planet. The US military is the single largest consumer of fossil fuels and emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. It serves as the global enforcer for fossil fuel interests. To achieve a sustainable energy economy, therefore, we must also demilitarize our foreign policy and end interventionist wars. As we abandon fossil fuels, we must protect and meet the needs of frontline and other heavily impacted communities, while assuring the welfare of workers in both fossil fuel-dependent and military-industrial jobs, and military personnel impacted by an end to our aggressive foreign policy."


I will have more to say about this than is permitted here in an article I will submit on this topic soon.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 3:19:19 AM

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Patrick Walker

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(Member since Apr 20, 2013), 20 fans, 126 articles, 6 quicklinks, 1628 comments
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Reply to Michael Eisenscher:   New Content

In the argument you say I should have made, there's actually NOTHING I disagree with. And I DID cite the close linkage between the MIC and fossil fuels right at the beginning of my article. Or rather, I let my link to Manuel Garcia's article do it for me, since he had already done such a superb job and I had a different argument--related to Sunrise to make.

If I didn't mention Rise (and other worthy movements), it's because of the basic unfairness of reality I mentioned above in my response to Lois Gagnon. Sunrise may or may not be the morally worthiest movement, but it got my attention--and Naomi Klein's--because it did something strategically brilliant: it confronted Pelosi (and the Democrat leadership generally) at a vulnerable and newsworthy time. And it had the IMMENSE good luck of having Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez--the hottest of hot news items--join the protest. The perfect storm for getting national news coverage, something no other climate or climate justice movement has achieved.

Next, there are TWO senses of climate justice, a narrower one based simply on doing justice to frontline communities and a broader, related one viewing climate justice as the broad array of policies needed to address our climate emergency in a way that's fair and minimizes EVERYBODY'S suffering--what Naomi Klein is getting at in This Changes Everything and the basic logic behind the Green New Deal. I personally embrace BOTH senses of climate justice; which one I emphasize depends on which audience I'm addressing. In addressing OEN readers, I'm assuming I'm addressing a public a bit more like the U.S. general public socioeconomically than like frontline communities (most of whom are too poor and struggling to read alternative progressive media. For the general public, the "bag of goodies" in the Green New Deal is the best way to sell both climate action AND peace. If I were speaking to frontiline communities, I'd use an emphasis more like yours.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 1:15:47 PM

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Patrick Walker

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Reply to Michael Eisenscher:   New Content

One added point, that I didn't get to make in my previous comment because of my own limitation to 2000 characters.


This is NOT a team rivalry between activist groups, and the surest path to defeat and typical leftist ineffectiveness is to treat it as one. I'm not so much concerned with Sunrise per se as I am with a HUGE coalition--whatever it calls itself--joining in the same brilliant strategy and tactics, based on a Green New Deal, that Sunrise has launched. I don't mind at all if Greens or other climate justice and peace groups refine the set of demands with their own concerns.

My crucial point is the urgency of building a coalition around the Green New Deal that relentlessly confronts Democrats. Everything thing else is just detail.


Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 1:28:08 PM

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Michael Eisenscher

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Patrick, I don't think there are any fundamental differences between us ... but there are some differences in emphasis, interpretation and nuance.

To you point about a broad and narrow definition of climate justice, the problem I see is two-fold - first, I don't think you meant this explicitly but your response regarding audiences deserves some reconsideration. We don't only talk about racism when addressing people of color, or sexism when addressing women, or xenophobia when addressing immigrants. We ought to be talking about fundamental principles without putting filters on them for audiences we address.

Second, conflating a critique of militarism with "climate justice" renders it opaque if not invisible, just as talking about nuclear weapons is rendered opaque if inferred but not discussed under the category of "peace". Militarism needs to be addressed directly. As a problem that is integral to the challenge of climate change, inextricably intertwined and interdependent with fossil fuel interests. It is not just another feature of the broader issues that can be categorized under the umbrella term climate justice.

I am sensitive to this distinction because of my work as national coordinator of US Labor Against the War (2003-2015), trying to get the labor movement to understand that anti-militarism and anti-imperialism ARE labor issues and union leaders should stop running away from them. In the same respect, environmental movement leaders have also run away from challenging militarism as integral to the challenge of climate change.

Finally, one other organization we should consider is 350.org, which has play a pivotal activists role on climate change.

Thanks for your important work on this issue. We are wrestling with an octopus and need all the help we can muster to defeat itit.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 3, 2018 at 6:31:32 PM

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Patrick Walker

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(Member since Apr 20, 2013), 20 fans, 126 articles, 6 quicklinks, 1628 comments
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Reply to Michael Eisenscher:   New Content

Food for an interesting--and much longer--discussion here.

Let me begin with the simplest point. I've found over the years the same problem with 350.org I've found with the Poor People's Campaign: too many compromising ties with Democrats when, as Glen Ford insightfully wrote, "The Democratic Party is the chief mechanism blocking progressive thought and action in the United States." What impressed me--extremely--about Sunrise was its willingness to confront Pelosi, a key member of the Democrat leadership. Even Bill McKibben has expressed regret for how much he trusted Obama. If both 350 and the Poor People's Campaign wish to achieve their goals, they need to get behind what Sunrise is doing.

As to making moral appeals, this is a complex question. A key principle of traditional rhetoric is to know your audience and appeal to their self-interest. A movement gets little media space (fighting to get it is WHY we have movements in the first place), so it has to use the space it has to make the most effective appeals. The Green New Deal appeals to BOTH audience self-interest and moral altruism; that's what makes it an effective appeal. Just laying out the moral claims of another group is NOT the way to win supporters; psychological researches like Jonathan Haidt show that people tend to be primarily self-centered, and where they ARE altruistic, it tends to be toward their own identity group, making a lot of politics a matter of GROUP selfishness. Reinhold Niebuhr, whom I mentioned in my article, covered a lot of this ground in the 1930s. That's not to say people can't be motivated to do the right thing, but the levers that need pulling are SUBTLE.

Finally, there's NOTHING opaque about saying, "With our excessive, wasteful, and immoral military spending, we can't pay for a Green New Deal. And if nations are at each other's throats, we'll never have the cooperation needed to effectively address climate change." That strikes me as simple and clear.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 4, 2018 at 11:05:38 AM

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Patrick Walker

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(Member since Apr 20, 2013), 20 fans, 126 articles, 6 quicklinks, 1628 comments
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I'm curious whether any of my faithful readers have heard David Swanson's interview with Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, where Swanson discusses a letter from 100 activists and public intellectuals to Bernie Sanders, challenging him about his repeated failure to discuss our militaristic foreign policy. Here's the link: https://blackagendareport.c...

This has suggested to me my next article idea: "How Does Sunrise Top Its Pelosi Act? Protest Bernie Sanders." By taking on progressive icon Sanders over his failure to call out U.S. militarism, Sunrise would 1) get HUGE news coverage, 2) promote proper funding of a Green New Deal and global peace as a precondition of climate cooperation, and 3) strike fear into the heart of Democrats that NO target is safe (look out, Liz Warren!).

Whadda y'all think?

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 4, 2018 at 12:58:26 PM

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