‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie

[by Jeremy Brecher, original posted at the Nation.com]

In an era in which our political system is dominated by plutocracy, grassroots social movements are essential for progressive change. But too often our movements find themselves at loggerheads over the seemingly conflicting need to preserve our environment and the need for jobs and economic development. How can we find common ground?

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership… What’s to Review?

[Our own Bonnie McKinlay spoke recently at a rally to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement that could be approved by Congress without any public debate. If you’re not familiar, Bonnie’s words are are great introduction to what’s at stake.]

I’m here to talk about climate and TPP.

To speak on climate I would review the most recent information — latest science, latest fossil fuel extraction plans, on-going droughts… species loss.

To speak on TPP’s effects on climate, what’s to review? Most of the contents of the TransPacific Partnership are secret. Eleven nations and the U.S. Congress are asked to sign a secret trade agreement that they are not permitted to share with their constituents. This eliminates any opportunity to voice our views on the specifics of the trade pact. The TTP is so secret that our elected representatives must approach it without recording devices of any kind, including paper and pencil.  They are permitted no open debate on the TPP. However, 600 corporate representatives, such as Monsanto and the American Petroleum Institute, have full access to the document. We don’t know much about the TPP. What we do know comes from WikiLeaks and the disastrous history of NAFTA. Read more

Eugene City Council votes to begin divestment

On Monday, January 13th, the Eugene City Council unanimously voted to alter the city’s investment strategy, to divest of all Eugene’s holdings in fossil fuel companies! The initiative was brought to the council by Mayor Kitty Pierce.

Later that week, the OPB radio show Think Out Loud covered the legislation, which is available for listening here (after the jump), and on the OPB website.


Philippines brunch fundraiser this Saturday

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation, 350 PDX is hosting a BRUNCH FUNDRAISER as our community comes together around this climate calamity. Please join us this Saturday to aid in the ongoing relief efforts for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines:

Please join us this SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16th, brunch will be served between 10:00am-2:00pm at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, 1704 NE 43rd (by NE Broadway, near Sandy Blvd), Portland 97213. We will also have a couple of special guest appearances.

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“Draw the Line” day of action with Kathleen Dean Moore

Photo credit: Marguerite Hall, margueritehall@ymail.com

Photo credit: Marguerite Hall, margueritehall@ymail.com

In her speech to the environmental coalition rally against the Keystone XL pipeline in Portland Saturday, September 21st, philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore took aim at the fossil fuel industry.

She called it out for trying to externalize its shame onto people who use its products. “We are not the enemy,” she said. When you consider the shady actions this industry is taking to keep people dependent on its products, she said, the appropriate response is moral outrage.

The 400 member audience responded enthusiastically to Moore’s words, interrupting often with applause. She announced that she is stepping down from her professorship at Oregon State University to devote herself to climate activism. She has written books on the moral implications of climate change.

“The climate crisis is a moral crisis,” she said, and it’s time for people to stop giving up in despair or hiding behind blind optimism and start accepting their role as responsible persons faced with difficult choices. Read more

Summer Heat / Columbia River Climate Action

Photo credit: Alex Milan Tracy

Photo credit: Alex Milan Tracy

On Saturday, July 27th, Summer Heat came on strong in the Pacific Northwest. More than 800 engaged citizens gathered at Vancouver Landing in Vancouver, WA, to make a big display, symbolically blockading the Columbia River against planned fossil fuel export terminals in the area. The Northwest is quickly becoming a hotspot in the fight against expanded usage of fossil fuels. Our region is poised to play a pivotal role with projects that could release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. If we stop these terminals that means they can’t ship it. If they can’t ship it, they can’t sell it. That means it stays in the ground.

350 PDX was one of many organizations that brought people into the action. Activists traveled from Corvallis, Eugene, and Salem in the south, and Seattle, Bellingham, Astoria, Hood River, and the Tri-Cities to the north, to have a peaceful day of workshops and speaking, culminating in a show on the river and along the I-5 bridge.

It was a beautiful and energizing day, and a great step in building this movement to quicken the end of the fossil fuel economy that threatens our way of life.

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler addresses divestment

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, speaking on Think Out Loud on June 27th, fielded a question from 350 PDX’s own Victoria Leary on the potential for divesting the state from fossil fuels. He discussed the intracies of working with Oregon’s $80 billion worth of investments, many of which are in mutual funds and indexes. But the market is moving towards renewable energy, and Wheeler, who as Multnomah County Chair helped put together the 2009 Climate Action Plan, supports moving into these investments.

Listen to the segment

Fossil fuel divestment is vital for our climate

Today, president Obama outlined his long-awaited strategy to deal with climate change, an array of ambitious goals including cutting carbon emissions, increasing usage of renewable power sources, and advancing efficiency in buildings and industry. He also called for American citizens to get more engaged in the fight against climate change, “Invest, divest, make yourself heard.”

350 PDX, the Portland, Oregon chapter of 350.org, an international grassroots campaign dedicated to solving the climate crisis, reacted to the President’s call for action. “We are very excited about the president’s plan. Already we have been working to highlight solutions locally that are responsible, both for our environment and our economy. With President Obama’s leadership, our nation has a new set of real, attainable goals to move forward towards a strong, clean energy economy,” responded 350 PDX organizer Kevin Fitzgerald. “As Portlanders who are committed to leaving a safe planet for future generations, we call upon our state to listen to our president and take bold action and immediately commit to shifting themselves away from stocks, bonds or investment funds that are tied to fossil fuels.”

Divestment from fossil fuels has long been seen as an ethical imperative, to build social pressure against fossil fuel companies’ continued extraction of carbon from the earth. Evidence is now growing that divestment is a smart choice in maintaining strong portfolios as well. Prior to the president’s speech, which called for the Environmental Protection Agency to set forth carbon emission regulations on existing power plants, stock prices for coal mining companies fell sharply.

In addition to promoting divestment from fossil fuels, 350 PDX is working to oppose planned coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. In his speech today, President Obama says, “I’m calling for an end to public financing of new coal plants overseas.” In response, retired teacher and 350 PDX activist Bonnie McKinlay questions whether it makes sense for the Pacific Northwest to allow the transport of coal through the region. “Such transport is fraught with numerous health and environmental impacts and clearly doesn’t mesh with President Obama’s carbon reduction goals as defined in his speech today.”

According to Bill McKibben, one of the world’s leading Climate activists and founder of 350.org, the math is simple: we can emit roughly 500 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and remain below 2°Celsius of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that industries now have in their reserves would result in emitting over 2,700 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times that amount.

350.org is named after what scientists say is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. Our atmospheric concentration of CO2 recently passed the milestone of 400 parts per million and continues to rise at an alarming rate.

Oregon’s climate is already changing due to increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The average annual temperature rose by 1.5°F over the last century and changes in snowpack, streamflows, and forest cover are already occurring. Oregon faces the economic and emergency preparedness challenges brought on by more frequent extreme weather events, floods and forest wildfires, reduced supply of stream water vital to its agriculture and hydroelectric power plants, and challenges brought about by a rising and more acidified sea.

“Our president just sounded the alarm and gave us some hope,” commented 350 PDX activist, scientist and mother Adriana Voss-Andreae. “If we want to keep our planet and our region safe for our children, we must keep fossil fuels such as coal in the ground and stop investing in the very companies that are devastating our climate.”

Portland joins over a dozen US cities pursuing divestment

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Portland’s in! Mayor Charlie Hales helps Portland join over a dozen US cities pursuing divestment from fossil fuels, urges state to follow suit

PORTLAND, OR—Just two hours after members of 350 PDX, the local chapter of Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org, urged the Portland City Council to divest any funds it may have tied to fossil fuel companies, Mayor Charlie Hales announced his support for fossil-fuel divestment in Portland and urged the state of Oregon to follow suit during a keynote speech for UN World Environment Day. This announcement adds Portland to a growing list of more than a dozen US cities committed to total divestment over the next five years.

350 PDX was delighted by the news after having worked hard over the past few months on building momentum for divestment through a grassroots effort that included signature gathering for a petition directed at the Portland City Council and direct contact with city council members. 350 PDX organizer Adam Brunelle expressed his group’s excitement: “Given that our atmosphere recently reached the dubious milestone of 400ppm of CO2, we are thrilled not only that our Mayor recognizes the urgency of the issue, but that he also recognizes fossil fuels as risky long-term investments.”

“Why take this seemingly risky investment strategy?” Hales offered. “Because [NOT] doing it is the truly risky move. The vast majority of fossil fuel assets are owned by 200 publicly traded companies. Eventually, these companies will burn through their entire reserves. We don’t know when that will happen, but by definition, we know that it must.”

“By acting locally,” Hales declared, “we can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition, and that loosening our dependence on fossil fuels will increase our quality of life.”

350 PDX citizen activist Dr. Adriana Voss-Andreae, a mother concerned for her children’s future, commented: “The message is loud and clear: If it is wrong to wreck the climate and the planet, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We thank the Mayor for hearing our message and showing bold leadership by asking our state to do the same.”

“The City,” Hales said, “must urge the Oregon State Treasurer, the Local Government Investment Pool and the Oregon Investment Council to divest of all state holdings in fossil fuels.”