Obama must make climate top priority

Normally we don’t print news releases from environmental groups or anybody else verbatim. But this one from Friends of the Earth — not your average DC Beltway green group — is the best take we’ve seen so far on how the newly re-elected president of the world’s biggest polluter can stop obstructing and start leading action on the world’s biggest challenge. — Ed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama has been re-elected to his second term as president. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica had the following statement in response:

“Congratulations to President Obama on his re-election and thanks for his acknowledgement in his acceptance speech of the ‘destructive power of a warming planet.’ It is ironic that the outcome of a campaign so marked by the climate silence of both candidates would be definitively influenced by Superstorm Sandy, but history will show that the winds of Hurricane Sandy blew President Obama back into office.

“The devastation caused by this superstorm paints a stark picture of the type of destruction we can now expect unless the president enacts an ambitious and visionary policy to reduce climate pollution. The public was largely impressed by the president’s response to the storm and in re-electing him to office, they have given him the great responsibility to implement a climate policy that will seek to stop future Sandy’s.

“President Obama has won his new term while the recovery of Sandy is still in process. For the families who have seen their homes washed away and the businesses that must rebuild from scratch, President Obama must make climate change the top priority for his new administration.

“Swift and strong climate action is necessary to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and adapt to the new reality of rising seas and melting ice, superstorms and crippling drought. President Obama should use his mandate to:

  1. Repudiate the “all of the above” energy strategy and host a high-level climate change summit of national leaders including business leaders, cabinet officials, and local politicians. The goal of the summit is to agree on a national plan for short-term and long-term courses of action to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy and to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  2. Reduce emissions from the electricity sector by implementing robust regulations on existing power plants using current Environmental Projection Agency authority under the Clean Air Act, by making sure that new regulations preclude the construction of any new coal plants in this country, and by putting a price on carbon.
  3. Reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other infrastructure projects that would bring tar sands oil and other dirty fuels such as liquid fuel to market through the United States and to move us away from our dependence on dirty oil.

“If President Obama seizes this moment and leads the way, Friends of the Earth’s members and activists will be there to support and amplify his actions.”

Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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  1. James R. Martin says

    Obama certainly will not make the climate crisis a higher priority than the “mainstream” (corporate) media does.

    Read this:

    Has The Media Failed In Covering Climate Change?

    One does not get a sense that we’re facing — or addressing — a climate emergency in any of the mainstream media here in the USA. Some will say, “Yeah, but it’s all on the internet,” but what are people talking about in the streets, in the cafes, at the workplace? Are they talking about the fiscal or the physical cliff?

    They’re talking about bulls**t, that’s what. Nonsense and bulls**t. Isn’t it amazing that America is a land of utter commitment to distraction and delusion?

    What will it take to wake America up?

  2. Bernd1964 says

    Sorry but I can’t support the attitudes of Mr. Pica at all because the United States of America is an absolutely corrupt entity today. His congradulations go to a man, who is responsible for drone wars, depleted Uranium use, the signing of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), the bailout of the financial elite, the tremendous carbon burning of the biggest army of the world and much much more insanity.

    Since the Act of 1871 (US became a corporation) and the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 (Dollar ruled by a private central bank, the FED), the US has become an evil imperial power reigning the world with debt and death. Elections in the US and other Western countries are fake events where everything is steered and settled by men behind the curtain (secret societies). Todays politicians in meaningful positions are nothing but puppets of a criminal globalist banking cartel.

    The fiat money system is owned and steered by super-rich globalist banking cartel, it is a fraudulent system designed to suck wealth from the common people by taxation to give it to those aristocratic elites who own the planet. There is no fair carbon taxation possible within a fraudulent money system because the powers that be who control the money system own the world. Under the current money system carbon taxation would be a fee payed by average citizens for living on a privately owned planet.

    Until we change how money is created and how it works we will change nothing for the better with regard to environmetal and social questions. The criminal global banking cartel, consisting of 6 privately owned mega-banks, must be disempowered before we can start to build a less destructive sustainable human future.

    • says

      Dear Bernt — You make many good points. I’m not sure what act of 1871 you’re referring to, but we’ve written before about the history of how corporations tried and finally succeeded to capture the US government in the period after the Civil War, particularly from the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 which has been interpreted to mean that corporations qualify as people, to the final nail in the coffin, the Citizens United case of 2011 which decided that rich people can give unlimited secret money to politicians.

      We fully agree that the US federal govt has become more or less a plutocracy and that President Obama is as guilty/helpless (we’re not sure which) on many issues (particularly foreign policy and military) as Mitt Romney or any other man in his position today would be.

      At the same time, we also feel that on other issues, particularly energy and the environment, Obama has more room/desire to maneuver. Despite some bad policies (eg, supporting coal), you can’t deny that Obama has also done good things (support for clean energy and conservation) and he has the potential to do many more. Is the US still the world’s worst nation on pollution? You bet. Will we be transformed into the best nation overnight? No chance. Is making the US somewhat less bad the best that Obama can hope to do? Perhaps.

      In the end, it’s not all-or-nothing. Obama’s far from perfect. But he’s who we have right now, and, barring the end of corporate control in Washington (not likely soon without either a revolution or collapse of society), Obama is much better than the alternative. We should continue to push him to do what’s needed to fight climate change.

      • James R. Martin says

        To understate it, I’ve lost confidence in the possibility of necessary social transformation through what I’d like to call “politics as usual” (PAU). PAU seems to be a small moon orbiting Businesss As Usual (BAU), which seems to be a satellite of the much larger planet, Outragious Delusion — a planet with a carefully controlled global propaganda system (GPS) wherein decisions require a statistical majority before anyone can begin to enact them.

        Okay, that’s overstating the decison thing. In reality, small minorities can begin to enact many decisions without garnering support from 50+% of the community. And that’s where I hold out the most hope for the necessary changes. (Necessary if we want to have a decent planet to live on, etc.)

        It’s time for us to acknowledge that the majority of people are presently unwilling, unable, or otherwise not committed to leaving the gravitational fields of PAU, BAU and Outragious Delusion (OD). And this is why PAU cannot and will not alter from its commitment to BAU and OD. (Pronounced “odd,” as in “Isn’t it odd that this is really happening?!”) If folks have a plan to dislodge the current orbital trajectories, I’m all ears.

        Meanwhile, I’m going to encourage us all to try another path. Let’s focus on strategies for change that work like natural systems — e.g., wildfires, the spreading of dandelions, the spread of cultural innovations…. Oh, and speaking of wildfires, how about a campfire analogy. Let’s say it has been raining for days but you really need to have a camp fire. What do you do? You go about searching for little scraps of fine, dry fuels lying about under dense trees or rock overhanngs. These fine dry fuels will light more easily than the fine soggy fuels, but that heat can help dry the moister fuels. That’s called potentiation, the creation of conditions of possibility. With time and effort one can get a small fire going in this way, which will itself potentiate the burnign of small twings. One does not get to the big soggy logs right away. Those are kept beside the small — but growing — fire, where they slowly dry out in the radiant heat of the small fire.

        Getting a majority to suddenly adopt a leap out of PAU / BAU … before implementing necessary change in small but growing waves and ways is asking for the impossible. What we need to be doing is creating conditions of possibility under these rather soggy conditions. To some great extent, that means applying resources like time and money, thought and passion, desire and hope where they can be effective immediately, outside of politics as usual — out on the edges and peripheries, in the nooks and crannies….

        Oil tankers, being vast, make only very slow turns. Washington DC proves to be rather like such giant ships under the force of momentum. The people, however, in small bands fewer than a national majority, are stealthy and swift, agile and imaginative, creative and limber.

        • Erik Curren says

          James, I love your firewood analogy. That sounds about right, that we can’t expect much change from big systems like federal govt until public opinion changes first. And while I don’t see any harm in green groups calling on Obama to make change even if they know he’s unlikely to do so, I do agree that Transition minded folks would be best advised to put most of their effort in smaller, local efforts that have a chance to become models or inspiration for larger efforts. Slow and steady will win the race?

          • James R. Martin says

            Thanks Erik.

            Unfortunately, the two major fossil fuel issues (peak oil / … net energy and the climate emergency [not climate change!, emergency]) require extraordinary change quite swiftly, so I’d not advocate for “slow and steady”. But yes, I do think “smaller, local efforts” are the key to success, both in terms of political action and what I’d like to call direct action. Direct action, in this sense and context, would be any group or individual action which directly implements a way of life which is largely free of fossil fuel use and dependency. My favorite example of such an endeavor would be ecovillages — whether or not they are called such. Intentional communities in which people collaborate to enable and enrich a basically post-carbon culture and economy are urgenetly needed everywhere. To my way of thinking, communities of this sort are the dry, fine fuels (per my earlier analogy) laying about under rock overhangs.

            My hope and dream of living in such a community got shelved after a number of failed attempts to begin. But I’m taking the project off the shelf now, and dusting it off — after learning that Arctic sea ice is expected to disappear in summer in a mere four years. Presently, I live in a small casita (in Santa Fe) which is heated with natural gas. It’s a rental, and there is virtually no insulation in the thing (the low rent made it attractive), so my partner and I have to use a little electric space heater in our bedroom to be comfortable. Anyway, I can’t live like this any more! I want to cut my own contribution of greenhouse gasses as close to zero as possible. And that means I need to live in a dwelling which makes use of solar thermal for interior comfort in winter. Neither the city nor the land lord will quietly stand by as a retrofit the casita, so it’s back to looking for land … and trying to figure out how to escape the limitations of county zoning … and all of that.

            My hope is to create with others a small intentional community … off grid, where we self-provision most of our own food, shelter, etc. I’m convinced a very high quality of life is possible beyond the fossil world.

  3. Erik Curren says

    James, good for you for wanting to start an intentional community and do your part to cut greenhouse gases. There’s no more powerful argument for changing our lifestyles than seeing somebody who’s already done it. Best of luck to you! Meantime, in our area, in my role as a city councilman in our city in Virginia, I hope to help our local govt become more friendly on the kind of zoning and regulation issues that you mention.

  4. James R. Martin says

    ” … I hope to help our local govt become more friendly on the kind of zoning and regulation issues that you mention.”

    Thanks for that, Erik! Every local step forward–wherever it may be–in allowing for “alternatives” or exemptions in zoning, land use, and building codes for green purposes is valuable and important. Such successes build momentum and inform the public of the need for much needed changes in this department. Most Americans are unaware of the fact that most current zoning regulations, for example, basically outlaw the “mixed use” type which allows for multiple dwellings on rural and extra-urban lands.

    I often wonder if some of these regs were adopted by most US county govs for the purpose of getting rid of “dirty hippy communes”. Whatever the case may be, very few local governments allow the sort of “alternative” communities which cluster small affordable or owner-built dwellings together on land which may also be used for food production / horticulture. Land is almost ubiquitously zoned either “agricultural” or “residential,” etc., and severely limited in how it may be put to use. This usually results in a very high financial hurdle of the sort that most self-provisioning do-it-yourself-ers can’t leap–if they want to do it themselves with others in an intentional community. (For fun, try Googling the phrase “ecovillage zoning” to learn of a small movement for change here.)

    City gov can improve in this area, too, of course–though I know less about that because all of my research has been geared toward rural, county lands — which tend to be much more financially feasible — if only they’d let us build a few casitas or cabins on a plot!

    The US (and North America, generally) needs a coordinated and well-organized movement to transform municipal, county and state regulations such that alternative, low-impact, green communities can be accessible and affordable.

  5. James R. Martin says

    BTW –

    As it stands, zoning issues are handled on a county-by county basis throughout the country (unless there are exceptions I’m unaware of in some state/s). Funny, isn’t it? Perhaps a mechanism is needed to allow states to transform zoning in a less burdensome piecemeal way?

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