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Talk Nation Radio: Leslie Cagan on Climate and Peace Activism

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-leslie-cagan-on-climate-and-peace-activism

Leslie Cagan has worked in a wide range peace and social justice movements for almost 50 years: from the Vietnam war to racism at home, from nuclear disarmament to lesbian/gay liberation, from fighting sexism to working against U.S. military intervention. Most recently, Leslie was co-coordinator of the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, which brought 400,000 people into the streets of NYC demanding action on the global climate crisis. Leslie helped create and served as the National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition that grew to over 1,400 member groups. She discusses her recent activism and what we can do going forward.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Conscience of a Moderate

Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave Speth is pleasantly written but painful to read. Speth knew about the dangers of global warming before the majority of today's climate change deniers were born. He was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and advised him and the public to address the matter before it became a crisis.

Carter and the U.S. capital of his day weren't about to take the sort of action needed. Remember, Carter was despised for a speech promoting green energy and celebrated for a speech declaring that the United States would always go to war over Middle Eastern oil. Ronald Reagan and his followers (in every sense) Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama wouldn't come within 10 miles of a reasonable approach to climate.  But Speth has spent the decades since the Carter administration trying to maintain a career within the system, a choice that he acknowledges has required compromises. Now he's pushing for radical change and takes himself to be a radical because he was arrested at the White House opposing a tar sands pipeline.

Here's a photo of Speth at the White House wearing the campaign symbol of the man at whose house he was protesting (Speth doesn't discuss the uniqueness of this form of opposition).

Speth writes as if President Obama were trying to protect the planet from Republicans, in contrast to the real-life Obama who has sabotaged climate talks in Copenhagen and at other summits over the years. Speth gives Democrats a pass, promotes electoral work, pushes nationalism, and believes the world needs U.S. leadership to address climate change. I think the evidence is clear that the world would be fairly well along if the United States would just stay out of the way and stop leading the destruction.

This image is from a recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Speth's book tells a story of racist and sexist Agrarians who wanted to resist corporatism but didn't really do so; of "moderates" who blandly hinted at opposing segregation but didn't; of a Carter White House that didn't act; of a Clinton Administration that decided against even pretending to act; of a statement Speth wrote immediately after September 11, 2001, in which he took a both-and position, supporting both insane war and sane peaceful policies; and of the age of Obama in which one admits that the facts demand swift radical change while embracing lesser-evilism, not in voting but in activism and speech (that inevitable tendency being the main reason some of us oppose it in voting).

Of course I'm being unfair and Speth won't necessarily have any idea what I'm talking about. He doesn't have a chapter dedicated to nationalism, he just frames all of his proposals in terms of being a good patriot and fixing one's country -- even though the problem facing us is global. And when he worked in the Carter Administration he actually did good work and got things done. We celebrate -- hell, we practically worship -- whistleblowers who spent decades doing bad work, murderous work, before speaking out. Here's a man who did good work, who nudged things in a better direction for decades, before speaking out in the way he does now. With most people contributing little or nothing to the sustainability of the planet, and with radicals living through decades of failure just the same as moderates, Speth is not someone to criticize. And his book is quite valuable. I just want to nudge him a bit further.

Speth's account of his childhood in South Carolina is charming and wise. His account of unfulfilled dreams for the South and of undesirable Southern influence on the rest of the country is powerful. Instead of losing its bigotry, the South took on the North's consumerism. Instead of losing its consumerism, the North took on the South's reactionary politics, including what Speth calls "antipathy toward the federal government" -- I would add: except for that 53% of it that's dedicated to killing foreigners. Speth's account of the Nashville Agrarians' opposition to corporate consumerism is valuable. It's not that nobody knew; it's that not enough people acted. Of course, with my focus on the problem of war (which somehow, at best, squeezes into the last item on each of Speth's lists of issues) I'm brought back to wondering where we would be if slavery had been ended differently. I know that we're supposed to cheer for the Civil War even though other nations (and Washington D.C.) used compensated emancipation and skipped war. I know we're supposed to repeat to ourselves over and over "It's not Lincoln's fault, the slave owners wanted war." Well, indeed they did, but what if they hadn't? Or what if the recruits had refused to fight it for them? Or what if the North had let the South leave? It's difficult to bring up such questions while simultaneously convincing the reader that you know none of this actually happened. So, for what it's worth: I'm aware that's not how it happened; hence the need to bring it up. As it is, Vietnam has gotten over the war of the 1960s, and the U.S. South can, at long last, get over the war of the 1860s if it chooses to.

Speth was a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council which helped win important struggles to halt a major expansion of nuclear power, to implement the Clean Water Act, and to protect wetlands. He also did great work at the World Resources Institute. Yet, he writes, there have been countless victories during an ongoing major defeat. "Our environmental organizations have grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to go downhill. The prospect of a ruined planet is now very real. We have won many victories, but we are losing the planet." Speth recounts the perils of working as a D.C. insider: "Once there, inside the system, we were compelled to a certain tameness by the need to succeed there. We opted to work within the system of political economy that we found, and we neglected to seek transformation of the system itself." And of being a global insider: "Thus far, the climate convention is not protecting climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, the desertification convention is not preventing desertification, and even the older and stronger Convention on the Law of the Sea is not protecting fisheries."

Speth's conclusion is not entirely unlike Naomi Klein's. Speth writes in this book: "In short, most environmental deterioration is a result of systemic failures of the capitalism that we have today, and long-term solutions must seek transformative change in the key features of this contemporary capitalism." Klein quotes Speth in her book: "We didn't adjust with Reagan. We kept working within a system but we should have tried to change the system and root causes."

Talk Nation Radio: Brad Friedman on the State of War, Earth, and Democracy

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-brad-friedman-on-the-state-of-war-earth-and-democracy

Brad Friedman is the investigative blogger, journalist, broadcaster, trouble-maker and muckraker from BradBlog.com. He is a regular contributor to Salon.com and elsewhere; host of KPFK/Pacifica Radio's BradCast and the nationally-syndicated Green News Report with co-host Desi Doyen. We discuss war and peace, the environment and its destruction, and voting and everything done to prevent it. As Michael Moore says: It's a comedy!

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

 

Turn Left for Earth

I appreciate that there's more happening than just a march for the climate today on the International Day of Peace, and I get the idea that keeping the safe and obedient march-to-nowhere separate from protests actually at the United Nations where our corporate overlords are determining the rate of the earth's demise is intended to please all of the people some of the time, but I can't help wishing that the march would just turn left instead of right when it reaches 42nd Street, in order to march to the United Nations rather than to nowhere.

This is not a radical idea. A nonviolent protest march expressing popular opinion should be allowed to march to the place it is protesting. The idea that insisting on that constitutes something radical or extremist bewilders me. The New York Times refers to "protest or terror groups" as a category of people, but has a protest group ever engaged in terrorizing and has a terrorist ever joined a protest? Would protesting the United Nations at the United Nations somehow be an act of violence, perhaps purely because it would be an act of disobedience? You've got to be kidding me.

I'm in favor of mixed-use protests, not just urban developments. Don't just let the conservative marchers know about opportunities for more direct protest, but get them involved. Take a safe march to a resistance action, where its size will keep it safe and its members will be energized. Let the crowd demonstrate within sight and sound of the people it is petitioning for a redress of grievances, and let those who are ready join in disruptive protest actions.

Of course turning left in order to go where needed makes a nice metaphor for what our whole culture must do if it is to cease destroying the earth's climate. Paul Krugman figured out this week that green energy pays for itself, but he seems to imagine that therefore it will be created, as if the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel profiteers just doesn't exist. We need to turn so far left that we abandon such naiveté, stop yammering about transition fuels, abandon all talk of "peak oil" as if existing oil isn't sufficient to kill us all, and forswear all pointless pursuit of the political "center."

Naomi Klein's new book does a much better job of identifying the corrupting influence of profiteers. She also points out that the sooner we act to slow down climate change the less radical our actions will need to be. The longer we wait to take meaningful action, the more drastic our actions will have to be when we finally do something. Green energy, Klein's book makes clear for anyone who was unaware, is not failing in a marketplace. It is being killed by political corruption, loan conditions, corporate trade agreements, penalties and disincentives, and the subsidies given to the fossil fuel corporations.

Klein notes that activist movements around trade and climate have, oddly, progressed while virtually ignoring each other. Klein comes closer than most environmentalists to not ignoring another big question, that of war. The military is the elephant in the room in terms of both economics and climate destruction, but is largely ignored by activists and the broader public.

In a common delusion, the government tells the truth about war, and war is worth giving up freedoms for, but scientists lie about the climate and do so in order to (somehow) attack our freedoms. In other words, the fears of bureaucrats and of limits to plutocracy are strong but perhaps not as strong as the fear of terrorists. And the fear of bureaucrats is augmented by a fear of being insignificant, because when nuclear energy or geo-engineering is proposed as a solution, those who like those ideas also see their recognition of the climate crisis increase.

When Klein mentions the military, she first proposes that the weapons companies pay their fair share toward climate protection, and then proposes (along with a bunch of other good ideas) cutting the military by 25% -- while calling that proposal "the toughest sell." The U.S. military budget has doubled in the past decade. The idea that it can't be seriously cut is ridiculous. It is not a question of selling the idea to the public. Go back and look at the public's preferred solutions to the supposed financial crisis in Congress a few years back. The problem is in the corruption of the U.S. government.

Elsewhere Klein says that large public sector expenditures will be needed to save the climate, but surely not as large as the military. So why talk about increasing, rather than changing, expenditures? And then again, elsewhere, Klein says what we need is "wartime levels of spending," even though base military spending is about 10 times as much as war spending. Klein also cites a study suggesting that $1.9 trillion a year, or exactly what the planet now spends on war preparations, would solve the climate and various other crises and human needs.

Congress members have skipped town in order to avoid voting on war. You can find them in their districts. November 6th will be the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The two movements named in this holiday should be combined and our actions should escalate. A slight left turn won't be enough to save us.

Stop the Pipeline


 

A pipeline has worked wonders for Michigan (see above).

The U.S. Coast Guard is guarding the coasts of the Persian Gulf but says it can't help with oil spills on the coasts of the U.S.

Meanwhile Burlington, Vermont, now uses 100% renewable energy, thereby losing interest in foreign oil wars or local oil spills. Why can't other cities and states do the same? 

Because we're too busy trying to pay for the wars and build more pipelines.

There's a meeting to stop the pipeline through Virginia this evening, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, at 7 p.m. at St. Mark's Lutheran Church at Ivy and Alderman Roads in Charlottesville, Va.

See you there.

Talk Nation Radio: Kevin Zeese on Activist Media, TPP, Climate, Wars

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-kevin-zeese-on-activist-media-tpp-climate-wars

Kevin Zeese (at right in image) is an organizer at http://PopularResistance.org We discuss activist journalism, stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saving the climate, and ending the wars.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

 

After New York: Rally for Peace and Climate in DC

An interactive townhall discussion of how we get to peace

Speakers: Andy Shallal, Barbara Wien, David Swanson, and YOU

When: Monday, September 22, 11:30-1:30

Where: SIS Founders Room, American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

Food and drink provided!



War, Whistleblowing, and Independent Journalism
 
Join us for the powerful documentary Body of War (co-produced and co-directed by Phil Donahue), followed by a discussion with whistleblowers and journalists.
 
When: Monday, September 22
 
6:30 pm: Body of War film screening

8 pm: Q&A with Phil Donahue

8:15 pm: Panel
*  William Binney, NSA whistleblower
*  Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, EPA whistleblower
*  Phil Donahue, journalist
*  Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower
*  Peter Kuznick, professor of history
*  Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower
*  Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
Moderator: Norman Solomon
 
Where: American University -- Butler Board Room (located on the 6th floor above the Bender arena sports complex)

Optional: You can sign up on FaceBook here.

This event is sponsored by RootsAction.org and the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, and co-sponsored by ExposeFacts.org.

For more information on the speakers, click here
.
 
 

Nonviolent civil resistance for peace and climate at the White House

When: Tuesday, September 23, 10 a.m.

Where: Pennsylvania Ave. in front of White House.

More information.

Peace Ecology

With serendipitous timing, as a big march for the climate, and various related events, are planned on and around the International Day of Peace, Randall Amster has just published an important book called Peace Ecology.

This book bridges divides that very much need to be bridged between peace activism and peace academia, and between peace advocacy and environmentalism.  This is, in fact, a peace book for deep environmentalists and an environmental book for deep peace advocates.

Typically, I think, peace activists appear to the peace academic as a bit uninformed, ahistorical, reactive, and negative in the sense of being "against something rather than for something."

Peace academics, I'm afraid, often appear to the peace activist as uninterested in ending wars, uncurious about the evils of wars, unimpressed by the military industrial complex as a cause of wars, and altogether too concerned with the personal virtues of people who are in no way responsible for the scourge of war. It is the rare political studies academic who occasionally can be spotted opposing war or documenting the superiority of nonviolent struggle, whereas the peace studies scholars are essentially advocates of environmentalism and democracy who -- unlike other environmentalists and democrats -- happen to recognize the ginormous roadblock that militarism presents for their agenda. Or so it appears to the activist, who searches in vain for any large academic contingent giving war and war propaganda the full critique they so richly deserve.

The environmentalist, meanwhile, as represented by the larger environmentalist groups and their spokespeople, appears to the peace activist as a dupe or a war-monger, someone who wants to save the earth while cheering on the institution that constitutes its single biggest destroyer. 

The peace activist, when spotted by the otherwise occupied environmentalist, must appear something of a fool, a traitor, or a Vladimir-Putin-lover.

Amster is an academic for peace and the environment with a strong inclination toward activism. Parts of his book could have been written by an environmentalist enamored with war, but most of it could not have been. What Amster is after is a worldview within which we avert the dangers of both war and environmental destruction, including by recognizing their interaction.

War advocates would tell those developing organic communal gardens and gift economies and natural sanctuaries, and other projects that Amster writes about, that "our brave troops" are providing the safe space in which to pursue such luxuries.  Amster would, I think, tell the war advocates that their project is in fact rapidly reducing that space, that these "luxury" efforts are in fact necessary for survival, and that understanding them requires a state of mind that also condemns war as an unmitigated disaster.

"This may seem idealistic," Amster writes of the prospect of a society dedicated to peace, "but consider that it is no more so than continuing on our present course and hoping for a happy ending." 

Amster notes that the New York Times considers it "accepted wisdom" that advocates of protecting the climate must promote the idea that climate change threatens "national security."  The idea is that climate-induced disasters and shortages produce wars. While Amster doesn't say so, this is a view that has been expressed by Bill McKibben, prominent organizer of the upcoming march. If his organization, 350.org, would object each time President Obama sends another 350 troops to Iraq, it would begin taking on the biggest consumer of oil we have: the military. Such an act would be unprecedented for any large U.S. environmental organization.

Of course, in reality disasters lead to wars only when a society chooses to address them with wars, and resource abundance has led to wars as often as scarcity. Sustainability and egalitarianism, Amster argues, can encourage stability, whereas unsustainable exploitation and inequality mean instability and potentially war.  Should we work to limit the level of climate change or to limit its suffering by adapting to it? Amster points out that the same practices can often do both. One that can't, however, is war which exacerbates the problem while in fact failing to adapt to it.

Ian Morris recently published a remarkably stupid book arguing for the merits of war. In it he claimed Thomas Hobbes as a hero of peace who understood the path to peace to lie through imperialist wars and governmental monopoly on violence. Amster provides a healthy rebuttal, pointing out that in fact "civilized" governments oversee very violent societies that have normalized brutal competition by imagining it as inevitable and blinding themselves to the merits of other cultures. Amster leads us to reject Hobbes' most basic assumptions.

Amster does the same for Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. If actual human beings were mathematical game pieces driven purely by sociopathic greed and calculation, population growth and prosperity must lead to tragedy. But as human beings exhibit generosity and friendship as often as limitless greed and selfishness, it turns out not to be the existence of open commons that leads to tragedy but the privatization and enclosure of the commons -- or, rather, the abandonment of the life of the commons, that leads inexorably to crisis.

What have we got left that could be treated as commons? Amster suggests air, water, parks, sidewalks, libraries, airwaves, the internet, biodiversity, transportation, Antarctica, open-source software, outer space, and much else. And he provides examples of people behaving accordingly.

Do people developing healthy ways of living necessarily learn that bombing is not a useful response to a throat-slitting by ISIS? Possibly not. But there's another way to see the connection. Control of fossil fuels is a major motivation for wars, and wars are a major consumer of fossil fuels.  In fact it was the desire to fuel the British navy that first created the Western obsession with Middle Eastern oil.  But a society dedicated to peace would not have sought to fuel a navy or to fight wars in order to fuel a navy. A society dedicated to peace would be developing green energy and green lifestyles.

An environmental movement that wanted millions of dedicated participants would want a society committed to peace.  A side benefit would be the freeing up of $2 trillion a year globally, $1 trillion in the United States, that had been used for war preparation but now could be used to quickly end all the pretense that green energy cannot work wonders.

If you live in an area not massively illuminated at night, you can -- simply by walking around after dark -- get a sense of the human built environment utterly transformed by nature. Darkness coats everything.  And in the part of the world I live in, the sound of insects completely dominates the darkness. 

If you live in an area that has proved less desirable for non-"tragic" exploitation than it used to be, you can get a sense of what the non-human world will do to human creations if humanity takes its leave. Streets and buildings will vanish as surely as the dinosaurs. Only nuclear waste will eventually remain as evidence of our species' existence.

Unless we change.

"Save the environment" might not be our best motto, Amster suggests. More to the point might be "Save the humans."