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On Nov. 23 about 130 students from Yale and Harvard ran onto the field after the half-time show at the annual playing of a rivalry so iconic it’s simply called The Game. They unfurled banners calling on the two prestigious, almost unbelievably wealthy universities to divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt. I was one of a handful of baby boomers who joined them.
Divestment would help de-legitimize the fossil fuel industry, which is doing everything in its power to obstruct the transition to renewable energy that is so desperately needed to prevent climate disaster. Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, urgently needs debt relief. Thus, the overall theme was “climate justice.”
To me this action was right in line with my involvement over the past five years with Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been fighting to stop the expansion of fossil fuels, especially fracked “natural” gas, which the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) routinely approves, and to call for FERC’s conversion to FREC – the Federal Renewable Energy Commission. Gas leaks methane at every stage of production and use, which makes it not a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future as industry and politicians have touted for years, but actually a dirty fuel than can be worse for the climate than coal.
Since becoming active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, I have participated in an untold number of protests, but this was perhaps one of the most impactful. Time will tell if the global media coverage will help move Harvard and Yale to divest these holdings from their endowments ($39 billion for Harvard, $29 billion for Yale). But the action has already had an impact on me.
After we sat down in mid-field and prevented the second half of the game from starting, hundreds more students (and some others) flooded onto the field to join us. It was a beautiful sight. We chanted ’til we were hoarse: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!” The game announcer pleaded, “Out of courtesy to the players and the fans, please leave the field. The game must go on.” The absurdity of prioritizing a football game over the survival of life on earth as we know it was not lost on us. I wonder how many people in the stands noticed.
Climate scientists say we have until 2030 to reduce the emission of global warming gases enough to prevent irreversible climate chaos. The students know they are facing a changed, diminished and very scary world. Despite the exuberance and joy we all felt in accomplishing our goal of reaching the field and unfurling our banners, the overall feeling is one of trepidation. But also a fierce resolve.
I love these young people with all my heart. I love their commitment, their love for each other, their welcoming elders like me into their bold, creative actions. I love that one of the organizers said we might have to run onto the field and asked me if I could run. You betcha I could.
After 45 minutes, police threatened to arrest those who didn’t leave the field, and most did. Fifty of us stayed and were detained, charged with disorderly conduct. Our court appearance was the morning of Dec. 6 – the same day as another round of powerful and well-attended youth-led climate strikes. How fitting.
This is part of a letter I sent in reply to a form letter from the New Haven Climate Movement.
We have already gone over that cliff called climate change. It has changed, and many will die from it.
Oil, gas, coal, timber, and cattle corporations currently run the world their own way and humans continue to breed in overwhelming numbers despite climate change, bad politics, dire poverty, and growing pollution. Try telling your fellow humans to stop reproducing or to just cut back. I wouldn’t try either.
Essentially, we are doomed as a species to suffer massive losses and very soon. Disease, coastal flooding, mass extinction, loss of diversity, dangerous weather threaten us. I have read many books about these global problems. Also, this country, the most violent and the most weaponized, continues to arm psychopaths and sociopaths of which there is a multitude. As poverty grows, so will crime.
But you ask what I will do as mayor in the here and now —
I will fight the utility companies and promote solar power.
I will support Planned Parenthood and parenting education.
I will encourage mass transit and bicycles.
I will work with the state to improve bus routes and schedules.
I will demand more jobs and service from YNHH.
I will publicize our disastrous air pollution.
I will create more parks and gardens.
I will take over blighted lots and buildings for the city.
I will increase home inspections by LCI.
I will increase hazardous waste removal and recycling service and improve the city dump.
I will demand more $$ from Yale Corp. as well as more academic participation in trying to save NH
In 2003, political strategist Frank Luntz wrote a confidential Republican Party memo on what he called “the environmental communications battle.” In that memo, Luntz advised Republicans to change the words they used to meet their ends. “The scientific debate is closing but not yet closed,” he wrote. “There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science,” Luntz proposed using the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming.” His reasoning: “[W]hile global warming has catastrophic communications attached to it, climate change sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”
Like it or not, Frank Luntz had a point. When I was growing up in New England, “climate change” meant the changing of the seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Today, in the midst of increasingly alarming scientific studies and giant storms, the necessary response has been diminished by this widely-accepted softening of the words we use to describe the dangerous reality that stands before us. Language matters!
I recently reached out to two leading and widely respected ecologists, Paul Hawken and Bill McKibben, to get their input on the mainstream usage of the benign phrase “climate change.” McKibben now uses the far more potent phrase “climate chaos.” Hawken believes the proper term is “climate volatility.”
One thing is abundantly clear―it’s time to change the words to meet the peril! As Confucius said: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
Would you join us in replacing the use of the all-together benign phrase “climate change” with variations of more grave language? Consider the following alternatives: climate crisis, climate catastrophe, climate disruption, climate upheaval, or even global warming. Whatever choice of words, we should stop using “climate change.”
by Jeffry Larson, PAR Subscriber, CT Green Party member
Tweed Airport astride the New Haven-East Haven city line has long been an environmental concern to its neighbors because of the noise and pollution it creates. So they have organized a group, stoptweed.org, to limit the airport’s adverse impact. Unfortunately, they have been dismissed as NIMBYs by the corporate and academic jet-setters who find Tweed a convenient amenity.
The City of New Haven has recently abrogated its agreement to limit the length of the runways at Tweed Airport, and, with the state’s permission, plans to increase air traffic there. So, in addition to more local noise and pollution, there will be an increase in the amount of jet fuel emissions–one of the worst greenhouse gases–being poured into the atmosphere.
Tweed is a low-lying shoreline facility, vulnerable to rising sea levels: this would be one of the risks of a proposal hastening catastrophic climate.
Last fall the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued another report on the state of climate change. Denialists predictably dismissed it as “alarmist.” Even climate change activists take its conclusions as somehow assuring us that we have 12 more years to mend our fossil-fuel ways. But the IPCC has been severely criticized by actual researchers for being consistently overly cautious and loath to emphasize the real urgency of our plight. We do not have a guaranteed 12 years to forestall or mitigate climate change. Some leading scientists even believe we’ve already passed the carbon budget turning point.
Apparently, no environmental group or politician or journalist has expressed concern about this. They need to join with local grassroots groups. It is the jet-setters who are the NIMBYs here. As the director of Transport & Environment, one of the mainstream anti-aviation groups in Europe, says, “Air travel is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet.”
Ask your local elected officials, environmental groups or reporters why they are not raising questions about this proposed increase in our carbon footprint.
On Oct. 10, 2017, Bill McKibben, the environmentalist and founder of 350.org, spoke to a large crowd at Woolsey Hall, New Haven, on “Simply Too Hot—The Desperate Science and Politics of Climate.” (See video link below.)
He began his talk declaring that there is almost universal consensus on climate change and global warming. Recent earthquakes, flooding and large-scale fires attest to the dangers caused by global warming. The U.S., Europe and Asia, among the major creators of climate change, are downsizing their use of fossil fuels—just not fast enough.
Scientists and others have known and warned for 30-40 years about the dangers of the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer due to fossil fuel extraction and use. In the 1970s Shell Oil scientists confirmed the dangers of a looming global warming disaster, but Shell, instead of acting on their own scientists’ warnings, publicly went the opposite way, denying climate change. President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s put solar panels on the White House; Reagan tore them down.
McKibben concluded that we’ve lost 40 years in our struggle against fossil fuel industries.
Are we past the point of no return? No one knows.
The Paris Accords definitely don’t go far enough—fast enough. When Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Accords stating he was the President of Pittsburgh, not Paris, the mayor of Pittsburgh phoned Trump that Pittsburgh was going 100% renewable as fast as possible.
Individuals can also fight the giants to get alternate renewable energy sources. While not everyone can get solar panels (they are now way down in cost), each of us can pressure local governments to acquire community solar panels, wind turbines, etc., to meet community energy needs. We can individually divest our money from banks and stocks and bonds that fund the fossil fuel industries.
We can protest by marching and rallying to push our cause. Already protesters all over the world are putting their bodies on the line to interfere with fossil fuel extraction and pipelines.
As part of a nation majorly responsible for creating this problem, we should be creative and more active in this fight to preserve the planet.
At his alma mater, Harvard, McKibben tried in vain to get the wealthy university to divest from fossil fuels. The Yale Corporation also refuses to divest even as several colleges work on information to counteract global warming and even when the stock value of fossil fuel industries decline. Members of universities can protest by getting arrested. (McKibben recommended that older and financially secure individuals, such as tenured professors, might go this route.)
The task, the challenge for us all, is to speed up this anti-fossil fuel trend. Make it a priority. Write to your local newspapers. Publicize, publicize, publicize. Note: there was very little coverage of McKibben’s talk in the Yale Daily News and none in the New Haven Register as far as this writer could determine.
This Chubb Fellowship Lecture featured Bill McKibben, an author and environmentalist who, in 2014, was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the “alternative Nobel.” He is a founder of 350.org. More about Bill McKibben and the Chubb Fellowship at: http://chubbfellowship.org.
[On Oct. 26, the House of Representatives voted in favor of Dominion/Millstone. This bill now goes to Gov. Malloy. Call (800) 406-1527 and Demand that he not sign it. Call your legislators! (Find their number on this website in the sidebar.) Let them know what you think of their preferential treatment to the demands of the Dominion.]
Two current energy questions—Millstone and offshore wind —are linked, and how CT responds in the coming months will impact the state’s workers and communities, as well as the region’s electric grid, for decades to come.
Tell legislators: Protect Millstone’s workers, not its shareholders. Recently we published an op-ed that lays out a vision for resolving the ongoing “debate” about the Millstone nuclear plant with a long-term strategy to protect the plant’s workers and communities and to replace it with renewables (including offshore wind) when it does eventually retire.
Last month, the Senate passed a bill designed to give Dominion Energy (Millstone’s owner) a special deal, even though the out-of-state corporation has produced no evidence of economic hardship and has made no commitment to remaining open even if they get such a deal. The House may take up the measure in the coming week.
Tell them to REJECT any special deal for Dominion Energy that doesn’t require a long-term commitment to Millstone’s workers and communities.
Offshore Wind: Clean Energy & Jobs for CT
On September 20, more than 60 labor, religious, environmental and business leaders gathered at IBEW Local 90’s union hall to learn about the potential for local jobs and eco-nomic development from the regional push for offshore wind.
As neighboring states aggressively pursue development of offshore wind resources in federal waters off the coast of New England, CT must act quickly to catch up and secure a share of the economic benefits for our ports and coastal communities.
More than 130 people from 60+ towns across the state endorsed our statement about the need for offshore wind to be included in the Comprehensive Energy Strategy. We look forward to working with all these allies to build a broad-based offshore wind campaign in the coming months.
Christian Parenti gave the Mark Shafer talk for Promoting Enduring Peace on Nov. 17 and talked a lot about events that upended his ideas for strategies to avoid climate catastrophe. He tried to be upbeat about humanity and environment, saying that human and other species routinely shape the natural world and that it can be a good (he gave as an example how Native Americans would burn forests to increase soil fertility and eliminate pests like ticks).
He said humanity as a whole has all we need to turn the corner on climate: first, the technical know-how to get off fossil fuels; second, the cash ($3 trillion sitting idly in bonds and other such paper owned by the super-rich); and third, a way to make fossil fuel use too expensive by using the executive branch power of regulation.
I had interviewed Parenti a week before the election for The Struggle Video News on point #3 and he made a convincing argument that the government could “euthanize” fossil fuel production without a carbon tax and without approval of Congress. It could be done by the Environmental Protection Agency fining companies producing global warming gases. He says many court decisions have backed this up.
This all was thrown off course by the presidential election. Parenti says he assumes the new president will attempt to gut the regulatory state and starve the EPA. So we have to resist. “Standing Rock is the model. People have to attack these infrastructure projects in every way, with their bodies, with sit-ins, peaceful protests, lawsuits and with deals.” He referred to Native Americans in Bellingham, WA, who at first wanted a coal export terminal on their land, but ended by working with environmentalists instead. They killed the project after finding a different one that would create jobs.
That makes the Dec. 3 climate march in Hartford quite critical (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information). It’s a way to show that we’re not giving up and that we will reject the science denier’s march to climate suicide. It’s directed at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his foolish methane projects as well as Trump and his love of unbridled development.
Action also needs to be directed at Obama. He has almost two months left in office and he can do a lot just by Executive Orders. He can go to Standing Rock, show solidarity. He could even put in federal troops at Standing Rock just as LBJ did in Alabama. He can settle the lawsuit inspired by James Hansen and filed by young people who realize the government is liable for destroying their future. He can do more. He can act now.