While many have criticized the corporate co-opting of the People’s Climate March, there’s no denying that hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets makes a powerful statement, albeit one without any tangible demands. Portland’s own action was nowhere close to the scale of the march in New York City, yet felt nonetheless impressive.
Yesterday, some 6,000 people assembled in Tom McCall Waterfront Park to listen to an array of speakers talk about the need for swift action on climate change caused by greenhouse-gas induced global warming. Some spoke from their hearts. Some spoke for their re-election campaigns. You can imagine who was more convincing.
Climate ride group shot of PDX Bike Swarm.
While the volunteers and organizers who devoted their time to the People’s Climate March deserve much praise for trying to manifest a One Big Tent model of social movement building, thier Hope & Change messaging brand was irresistible for Democrats funded by fossil fuel polluters to speak on behalf of the movement. Even worse, they were straight up invited to attend.
To state this is a harmful conflict of interest should go without saying, but based on the rounds of applause governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain received, our Big Tent has a learning curve to overcome.
An unscripted banner drop by Portland Rising Tide.
Truly, no climate solution will ever come from atop via the white men in power. Inviting them to the table might make us think we’re engaging in prestige and access, but such politicians honestly do not give a shit what you think. They give a shit about money, and you don’t have enough to give them to matter. The people who do? They’re the ones profiting from petroleum. They’re the ones raping the planet.
As president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Tom Chamberlain has sought more carbon spewing fossil fuel terminals, more traffic sewer freeways, and more paving of carbon-absorbing wildlife habitats. As governor, John Kitzhaber also tried forcing more freeway sprawl on Portland despite knowing better, voted to increase state logging by 70%, and has allowed illegal, explosive oil trains through Portland’s backyard. Inviting these men to speak about climate justice is reckless and insulting.
Leaving the planned route to take the streets.
I don’t normally criticize organizers of any action, but this shit matters too much. We can’t afford to be co-opted and pacified by monied interests who talk the talk only to stifle our outrage while lying to our faces about their own records of deliberate climate destruction.
Thankfully, there is a growing supply of kickass activism happening here in the PacNW. We are a climate bomb corridor, a choke point for fossil fuel exports across the Pacific – and choke we must. We need to stop listening to politicians and start Shutting Shit Down all by ourselves. This isn’t a critique, it is an imperative.
Signs that don’t mince words. Carbon kills.
Thankfully, at the Portland PCM there were enough organizers outraged by the scripted presence of Kitzhaber and Chamberlain that the route for the rally was effectively hijacked, going off the damn sidewalk and into the street where it belonged – where thousands marched through safely corked intersections thanks to PDX Bike Swarm.
It’s truly laudable what the organizers of the PCM have done, but it’s a Hallmark greeting card invitation to those uninvolved at best, albeit likely a necessary one. The crisis we face isn’t going to be solved by marching down the sidewalk. It isn’t going to be solved by corrupted Dot ORGs like OLCV. It isn’t going to be solved by corporate sponsors. It’s going to be solved by rebels and resisters unconcerned with ego and branding. We will sacrifice reputation for results.
True leaders of a movement.
What is required, if we want a planet worth living on, is an utter and complete rejection of capitalism as status quo. You’re going to have to change your life, big time. Begging Obama or whomever to fix shit for you is lazy and disingenuous.
The People’s Climate March was a good action as a statement, but it’s pure ceremony. Nothing is going to change by purchasing a permit and playing by the rules. The only thing that changes the status quo is breaking the law, and hopefully when enough newcomers are comfy marching down the sidewalk we’ll be able to progress to the point of having tens of thousands ready to break the law, every day, until something actually changes. Failing to seek such goals puts all our lives in danger.
See you in the streets.
Full photo album of PDX PCM here.