March 29, 2004
Also published April 8th on http://www.truthout.org
Global warming is a far bigger threat than global terrorism, according to Tony Blair’s chief scientific advisor, David King. Global warming is likely to lead to economic catastrophe and wars over diminished resources according to a report commissioned by that group of flaming liberals, the U.S. Department of Defense.
The unelected president of the United States, following the lead of ExxonMobil, denies the danger of global warming – just as disgruntled insiders say he did with al Qaeda. The vast majority of Americans think corporations have too much influence in their government and that the environment should be a bigger priority. A Hollywood movie called “The Day After Tomorrow,” which opened yesterday, depicts the earth after disastrous global warming. This issue is hot and not going away. Are you listening, Senator Kerry?
Those of us who want to slow global warming should have two goals right now. One is to pressure Kerry to make shifting toward renewable energies a prominent focus and to help Kerry get elected. Protecting the environment should not be presented in political discussion as a side benefit of reducing dependence on foreign oil or of an initiative to create new jobs and develop new technologies, though it can be both. Rather, the goal of ending global warming should be given the priority that, in retrospect, preventing an attack by al Qaeda should have had in the presidential election of 2000. This threat is far more serious and far better known, and the incumbent’s position on it is clearly opposed to that of most Americans. And I see no reason why Kerry cannot make standing up to the agenda of ExxonMobil look sufficiently macho to fit the image his advisors believe he must maintain.
Our second goal should, in fact, be hurting and influencing the ExxonMobil corporation. This company does not just represent the worst in the history of American monopolies. It is not just the company responsible for the largest oil spill in history, which it has neither cleaned up nor paid for – as documented in a recent Nation magazine article. ExxonMobil is not just the largest oil company on the planet, doing more than any other to create global warming through the burning of fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is not just a company dedicated to continuing its exclusive focus on oil, steadfastly resisting any diversification into less harmful energy sources.
More importantly, ExxonMobil is the leading funder of bogus science and disingenuous lobbying aimed at convincing government officials, if not the public, that global warming – like evolution – is “only a theory.” ExxonMobil spends millions on misleading propaganda every year and has led the way in sabotaging international attempts to address this crisis. ExxonMobil was one of George W. Bush’s chief contributors, and he announced that the US would abandon international agreements to address global warming as soon as, although not before, he was in office.
The leading public interest group pressuring ExxonMobil to change its ways is, of course, not our government. It’s Greenpeace. Greenpeace, like ExxonMobil, is international, and the activist group has been putting pressure on ExxonMobil around the world through a variety of creative strategies. In May 2002, Greenpeace released this devastating report on ExxonMobil’s junk science and political influence.
Greenpeace began campaigning with the goal of forcing ExxonMobil to support the Kyoto treaty aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions. In May of 2003, Greenpeace volunteers staged a colorful protest at ExxonMobil headquarters in Irving, Texas, that included several tiger costumes, a poster displayed from the roof, and blocked entrances preventing employees from reporting to work. The protesters believed they were engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience for the sake of the planet their children and grandchildren would live on.
Things turned ugly when police assaulted and pepper sprayed the activists before arresting them and holding them for two days in jail. Things turned surprisingly worse when they charged 36 people with felony counts of rioting and/or engaging in criminal activity. And just in case that didn’t deter people who care about the future of their world from speaking out, a Texas judge granted ExxonMobil a nationwide temporary injunction against Greenpeace, preventing Greenpeace activists from demonstrating near any property in the United States with the ExxonMobil logo on it.
This case, which is still pending, is part of a disturbing trend of heightened criminalization of free speech and public protest, which also includes the U.S. Justice Department’s prosecution of the entire Greenpeace organization in retaliation for a peaceful protest by two Greenpeace activists who boarded a ship smuggling illegal mahogany from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The statute being used by John Ashcroft’s agency in that case had previously not been heard of for more than a century.
While Greenpeace’s hands are tied, I’d like to propose that the rest of us help out. Go to www.dontbuyexxonmobil.org and sign up for the newsletter and download the activist kit. Stop buying gas or anything else from ExxonMobil. Hold teach-ins, and stage demonstrations at Exxon gas stations encouraging people not to stop there for gas. Do so now, because ExxonMobil is looking around for a new CEO. Whether the company decides it needs a CEO willing to join the 21st century may depend on whether we make our voices heard. Whether ExxonMobil changes its ways may significantly impact what the Earth looks like at the end of the 21st century.