Climate action in the age of Corona virus

It’s happened. A global pandemic crisis, which climate advocates have been warning was an ever-greater risk as permafrost and arctic ice melts, has arrived and nothing is the same in the wake of the virus. If you’re sick or caring for those who are – keep going. If you’ve got a little spare time, I’ve got 3 simple actions you can take (and a PS) right now to keep fighting climate change in the time of viral pandemic.

*UPDATE* Senators McConnell and Schumer are negotiating a corona virus response bill this evening (March 20, 2020). And, even more exciting, 16 Senators (Merkley, Booker, Sanders, Warren, Schatz, Hirono, Gillibrand, Wyden, Durbin, Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Harris, Carper, Van Hollen, Duckworth, Markey) have issued the letter pressing on Senators Schumer and McConnell to include a national moratorium on all electricity, water, telecom and other shut-offs in the coronavirus stimulus package.

Click here or use the links below to send a letter to your Senators, now updated with this info and demand!

  1. Tell the Senate to focus on economic relief for people and communities, not the biggest polluting corporations on earth.
  2. Keep your eyes on the frontlines. We’ve already seen attempts to arrest protestors, expedite fossil fuel projects, and other climate crimes during the pandemic. Start by signing our solidarity petition with the Wet’suwet’en in Canada and #ShutDownKKR.
  3. Learn about mutual aid efforts to build an emergency Green New Deal right now in our own communities. Get involved how you can with your neighbors – as our friends at ShutDownDC said: solidarity is the best medicine.

More details, updates and news are below.

And my PS is simply that this project was created to provide digital support for direct action movements fighting climate change. The direct action work is having a moment of crisis and opportunity, but the digital part is more important than ever. Stay tuned for more emails, posts, actions and asks from us in the next few weeks as we try and skill up the movement and retool out tactics to adapt to our quickly changing times.

Tell the Senate to invest in people, not polluters

As I type, the US Senate is considering a potential trillion dollar ($1,000,000,000,000) economic relief package. Initial bad ideas included direct bailouts of the fracking and fossil fuel industries. The more recent bad ideas have included a big bailout of the airline industry (who needs help to support workers, but doesn’t deserve a bailout without strings and scrutiny).

Senate champions like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (and others) are pushing back on those bad ideas, and raising questions about how to condition economic assistance on plans to pay workers, invest in communities, and more. Sanders, Warren and 14 others (Merkley, Booker, Schatz, Hirono, Gillibrand, Wyden, Durbin, Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Harris, Carper, Van Hollen, Duckworth, Markey) have issued a letter pressing on Senators Schumer and McConnell to include a national moratorium on all electricity, water, telecom and other shut-offs in the coronavirus stimulus package.

This is the urgent thing you can do now: Click here to tell your Senators to make sure any economic recovery bill helps workers and communities – not corporations and polluters.

Keep your eyes on the Frontlines

Over the last few weeks as this crisis has developed, we’ve seen authoritarians in the Trump administration and elsewhere use the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on public debate and push through fossil fuel projects. As our dear-friends at Rising Tide said earlier: We need all eyes on the frontlines.

A few examples from the last few days of authoritarianism and fossil-fueled despots acting up:

  1. Last Thursday, Senate Republicans rammed through a vote on James Danly to be a new commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Danly is the first totally partisan nominee – traditionally one Democrat and one Republican are nominated together. And more than 14,000 of us wrote demadning changes at FERC (all your signatures were delivered to each Senator before the vote) But Danly is a fossil fuel industry darling, and Senators Murkowski, Manchin and McConnell were eager for him to secure their majority on FERC, which oversees all inter-state pipelines and fossil fuel export facilities. And now we know why: Hours after Danly was confirmed FERC fast-tracked the application to build the Jordan Cove gas export terminal proposed in Oregon, which was denied a permit by one vote in February. *Update* Sad to report that less than a week after ramming through a partisan nominee, FERC did vote to approve the Jordan Cove terminal in Oregon. Read more here.
  2. The comment period on Trump’s radical plan to gut the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) closed last week, three days before Trump declared a National Emergency on corona virus. And the Trump team continues to push forward with efforts to ban science, public input, and community opposition to fossil fuel projects.
  3. The same company that wants to build the KeystoneXL pipeline, TCEnergy (formerly TransCanada), is about to start building a multibillion fracked gas pipeline in Canada. It’s set to cut right through Wet’suwet’en lands without the consent of their hereditary chiefs. In the last month, police have raided Wet’suwet’en protest camps with assault rifles, dogs, sound cannons, and helicopters.

Now, all eyes are on Wet’suwet’en — and their hereditary chiefs are urgently calling out for massive global support. KKR is in the process of buying 65% of Coastal GasLink. If we can stop the sale, we can help stop the pipeline from being builtTake a moment to sign our #ShutDownKKR petition and tell all your friends to do the same!

If you’ve already signed (more than 125,000 of us have already) check out the #ShutDownKKR: Get Your Hands Off Wet’suwet’en Lands! Toolkit for more information on how you can take action.

Solidarity is the best medicine.

In response to the coronavirus, community-based mutual aid groups are forming to support each other by sharing resources, running errands, providing financial support, and emotional care to each other. Dozens of groups have formed or been re-formed in the last few days.

Here are a few idea ideas on how you can take action for a just response to the coronavirus, from our friends at Rising Tide North America:

PS – What’s next

This is the dawning of a new age of organizing. As you’ve heard, this spring’s climate strikes, which were going to be the biggest climate mobilization in global history, are advising us to not plan in-person events and rallies.

Other networks we’re a part of, like the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition and ShutDownDC are similarly adapting their plans for big, rebellious spring actions.

When I started this project after Trump’s election, I thought we could be of service by offering digital support to direct action campaigns on climate change. Over the last few years, we’ve done a lot of that – some of it very recently as you can see from the #2 section above.

Now, as public events, gatherings and protests are canceled, there’s even more need for what we do. We’ve already started talking to our old friends at Beyond Extreme Energy about a series of webinars or live-streams that share skills for campaigning online in an era of social-distancing. We’ve got decades of experience, and dozens of examples of using facebook live, websites, call and text tools, and more to drive change and back up actions in the streets. And we intend to share what we know, learn more about what you and other groups are doing, and build a bigger, more courageous and more digitally-empowered movement for radical climate action in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned for updates later this week, and more ways you can be learn, teach and engage online.

And we intend to share what we know, learn more about what you and other groups are doing, and build a bigger, more courageous and more digitally-empowered movement for radical climate action in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned for updates later this week, and more ways you can be learn, teach and engage online.

Talk about the Green New Deal, not this Senate vote

Let’s get one thing clear about this week’s Senate vote on a Green New Deal: Mitch McConnell is a twerp.

The resolution that was voted on this week was not the non-binding Green New Deal resolution introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which we’ve talked. a lot. about.

That resolution would need to be referred to committee, where it would have committee hearings and consideration and debate – the kind of stuff that might address the concerns we and others have raised about banning fossil fuels, stopping pipelines, and the like. It also would give time and space to fill in details that are missing.

McConnell doesn’t want that debate, so he introduced this binding resolution making “it is the sense of the Senate” that the Green New Deal should become “the policy of the United States.” Like I said, he’s a twerp.

But Whatever McConnell’s shady motivations, this week’s vote was a slap-in-the-face loss to the climate community. The vote was 57-to-0, with 4 Dems, 1 Independent and every Republican voting “no” and all other dems voting “present.”

That’s especially galling because the oil, gas, & coal industries contributed more than $55 MILLION to senators who voted “no” on the #GreenNewDeal resolution – 11x more than to those who voted “present”.

It’s also hard to swallow because after 3 months of a new Congress, thousands of media stories, hundreds of lobby visits, sit ins, protests, and press conference galore we’ve actually managed to convince a majority of Americans that this is a crisis worth tackling – and tackling this way.

Which is why I’m sticking to my guns on this 198-methods strategy: We need outside action, especially direct action, that slows or stops the buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure. AND we need an inside-strategy that presses politicians and regulators to take actions (like a real, fossil-free, Green New Deal), because only big policy solutions will change the dynamic fast enough.

What’s the big deal?

Don’t get me wrong, the Green New Deal has re-shaped the debate on climate change and gotten politicians to talk about the scope and severity of the crisis in a serious way for the first time in a long time.

But the conversation is still stuck in false assumptions that will not keep fossil fuels in the ground or address the systemic racism and injustice of sacrifice zones. In the House of Representatives (outside Mitch the twerp-turtle’s jurisdiction), at least 3 committees are considering climate legislation. But all those bills, and even the actual resolution from Markey and AOC still talk about “net zero emissions” or set the timeline to end fossil fuels and nuclear power way too far in the future (like 2050 or later).

And I’m not just being a stick-in-the-mud: The decision to leave fossil fuels and nuclear on the table in the Green new Deal is shaping the 2020 conversation already: Beto O’Rourke said he supports a Green New Deal, and fracked gas, when Friends of the Earth questioned him in New Hampshire. A few days later, Sen Cory Booker said “I already support the Green New Deal. This resolution of bold vision is what we need. … And I agree with you. Nuclear has to be part of this solution.”

As a side-note, Booker was at a South Carolina town hall meeting organized by CNN that night. If he’d read the local paper, he might have seen that a few miles away another nuclear waste site was caught leaking tritium into the ground water in Barnwell, SC.

If we leave fossil fuels and nuclear on the table, what we’re really saying is that we’re ok with sacrifice zones. Because if we don’t start phasing out dirty energy NOW then they will keep building them, and people will keep getting sick, having their land stolen, and worse.

The 5 biggest oil companies (BP, Exxon, Shell etc) are planning to spend $110 BILLION on new oil & gas projects THIS YEAR (2019) & just 3% as much on clean alternatives.

Wall Street, the fossil fuel companies, the utilities, every single Republican in the Senate and a shockingly large number Democrats are committed to that same vision: another 20-50 years of drilling, spilling, pipelines, genocide, and ecological devastation.

So, now what?

The Senate vote was a sham and a stunt — not least of all because it distracted everyone (effectively) from the real action in the House where this week Nancy Pelosi introduced HR 9 . to keep the US in the Paris climate agreement.

Paris is not a panacea — It’s non-binding, like the AOC/Markey resolution. But it creates a framework to debate bills that have a lot more force and effect.

It’s like agreeing on the playing field, the rules, and saying that we’re in the game. We still need to do all the things to win (in this case stop climate change before it kills us all). And none of that will be possible if we slash our own achilles’ tendons — which is what building 12 new gas export facilities, millions of acres of fracking and drilling rigs, and millions of miles of new pipelines would do to our chances.

But, it’s a start. So this April we’re encouraging you to work on those two tracks: You can join a local Promise to Protect training stop and learn how you can turn up to stop the Keystone Pipeline, and stay tuned for updates on other actions targeting Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. At the same time, keep the pressure on Congress to keep debating climate solutions, and make sure they #KeepItInTheGround and say #nonukes as part of those solutions. A great action this week is to call your Senators and tell them to oppose Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department, David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist who is exactly as corrupt as you think he is.