Why #occupy is an environmental issue
The occupy movement is spreading, and in more ways than one. It’s spreading across the globe — by October 11 occupytogether.org could boast of 1273 occupy events planned worldwide. But the movement, united under its slogan “We are the 99%”, is also reaching out to, and involving, other established social movements.
Environmentalists and climate campaigners have linked up with Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. Hundreds of climate activists joined a 5000-strong march there on October 5. Their message was well received by other protesters.
Justin Haaheim, an organiser with 350.org, told environmental blogger Russell McLendon that the march “was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in a long time in terms of the environmental movement.
“I was surprised by how much there was a really common message among all the protesters. It would be really easy for something like that to have a million different messages, but it was encouraging to see that the environmental message was very widespread and very meshed in with the broader Occupy Wall Street movement.”
The coming together of the two movements is a good sign because there is no way out of our ecological crises as long as the world’s richest 1% keep control over the economy and our political systems.
Climate writer and activist Bill McKibben said in an October 10 speech to protesters in New York the global 1% is the biggest environmental problem.
He said: “The reason that it’s so great that we’re occupying Wall Street is because Wall Street has been occupying the atmosphere. That’s why we can never do anything about global warming. Exxon gets in the way. Goldman Sachs gets in the way. The whole fossil fuel industry gets in the way.
“The sky does not belong to Exxon. They cannot keep using it as a sewer into which to dump their carbon. If they do, we’ve got no future and nobody else on this planet has a future.”
McKibben spoke of the climate justice movement in the Third World, which is leading the fight against dangerous climate change. “They need us to act with them and for them,” he said, “because the problem is 20 blocks south of here. That’s where the Empire lives and we’ve got to figure out how to tame it and make it work for this planet or not work at all.”
In Australia, occupy protests will take place in several Australian cities from October 15. The politics and demands of the Australian events cannot be set out in advance. Part of the occupy movement’s success is to first bring people together and then work out the movement’s shared goals in an inclusive and democratic way.
But, as the Occupy New York declaration says, we live in “a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments”.
The recognition that 99% of us share a common enemy, and that we must organise together to challenge injustice, is a central dynamic of these protests. Like in the US, there’s every reason to think that Australian environmentalists can find a place in the occupy movement.