“The corporations won’t get out of our democracy until we the people get back in,” says Annie Leonard in her new video on big money in politics.
So keep fighting for renewable energy, green jobs, healthcare, safe products, and top-notch public education. But save some energy for the battle of our lifetimes. A battle that can open the door to solving all of these things. It’s time to put the corporations back in their place and to put the people back in charge of our democracy.
As in The Story of Stuff and other films in that series, in her most recent animated short Leonard makes a confusing issue easy to understand, showing why a technical point about campaign finance deserves our attention.
Citizens United is a big deal
The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United freed corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates on the premise that, since corporations qualify as people, the government can’t abridge their First Amendment right to free speech. In this case, “free speech” = “Matterhorn-size piles of corporate cash.”
Since then, big money in politics has skyrocketed, with consequences including the GOP takeover of the House in the fall and the election of Tea Party governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin with more than $40 million in money from the evil Koch brothers.
Leonard reminds us that all the work we do on almost any issue won’t amount to much unless we all deal with the umbrella issue that affects everything else, corporate control of politics.
Ten easy green tips that won’t do squat to fight climate change
We already know that no amount of eco-friendly tips that you can do at home will amount to a hill of beans if governments don’t take real action against carbon pollution on a national level.
Doing paper not plastic, screwing CFLs into every socket in your house and getting cash for your clunker may help you save money and feel better. And if many people cut pollution in their own lives, there’s a network effect. But without binding global agreement to cut carbon pollution worldwide, any pollution you cut will just be added by someone else, whether in China or in Cincinnati.
The only thing that will matter for climate change is to, as NASA’s Dr James Hansen says, 1) shut down all coal plants that don’t capture their carbon and leave crappy fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas in the ground untapped; and 2) make it more and more expensive over time to emit carbon into the atmosphere (for example, through a carbon fee and green check), both starting very soon.
You can’t do either of those at home. There’s no quick and easy tip to implement a carbon tax from your bonus room or stop hydrofracking from your twitter account. You need your government to do them on a national level. And then you need your government to agree with all the other major polluters to do them worldwide.
And like it or not, that requires politics.
Peak oil needs government too
The same with peak oil. You can ride a mule-cart to work, replace your garage with a Victory Garden and heat your home by burning organic local switchgrass harvested by hand, but it won’t do much to stop global oil depletion. If you don’t use the oil, somebody else—whether in India or Indiana—will.
There’s no way to stop oil depletion.
All we can do is slow it down enough to give ourselves time to ramp up alternatives — a little clean energy and a lot of conservation. And as the well known Hirsch Report told us, for the smoothest ride down the energy curve, we should’ve started getting ready 20 or 30 years ago. But we didn’t. So our ride will surely be bumpy.
Now, if you think the whole thing is going to hell anyway because people are too stupid/lazy/stubborn to prepare for the coming peak-ocalypse, then you’ve probably already de-camped to a razor-wire compound in the Rockies with a 200-year supply of pork n’ beans and enough shotgun shells to turn King Kong into Swiss cheese.
All I can say is, good luck with that. Maybe that whole Rambo bit will help you tough it out when the sh*t hits the fan politically.
But climate change doesn’t care much about razor-wire and shotgun shells.
I’m with Ben Franklin on this one: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
And smart-but-not-cynical guys like Richard Heinberg and Bill McKibben agree that we can all avoid the worst if we start to prepare now.
Big Oil and Big Coal want their free speech
So what’s stopping us from preparing for peak oil and starting to really fight climate change? It’s not lack of certainty. Despite huge confusion among the public stoked by Fox News and Koch-heads, science on climate is crystal clear. And geology on peak oil is just as clear, since the International Energy Agency declared last year that conventional oil (what we call “real oil”) peaked in 2006.
No, the debate is over. The roadblock to preparing for a world with less oil and coal is the power of Big Oil and Big Coal, which don’t want us to cut back on their products or their increasing profits. So whenever the White House or somebody in Congress has the temerity to propose any kind of policy, no matter how timid, to save energy or ramp up renewables, it’s nearly always shot down or watered down by Big Oil and other nasties working through their armies of lobbyists and puppets in Congress. And to add insult to injury, dirty energy is still scarfing up $70 billion a year in subsidies.
Subsidies, for an industry with wild profit margins? That’s corporate socialism!
Watch the video: The Story of Citizens United vs. FEC: Why Democracy Only Works When People Are in Charge. Then do keep working on clean energy or efficiency or a carbon tax or whatever part of the peak oil and climate change responses jazzes you up.
But also make some time to work on getting corporations out of politics. This is key.
Why not join the movement for a Constitutional Amendment to declare that corporations are not people? It may be our best shot to remove the biggest barrier to an energy policy with any chance at all to avoid climate hell and peak oil collapse.
– Erik Curren, Transition Voice Magazine