Climate Action, Part 5: Press On!

This is the last in a series by William Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.

The point of this five-part post has been to offer a few ideas on the questions that many environmental leaders are asking right now: Is the climate battle lost? Where do we go from here?

Despite the adrenalin rush the Tea Party and other conservatives are feeling, the real battle is not between European-style socialism and mythical free-market capitalism; or between libertarians and progressives; or between Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck.  It’s a struggle to improve the lives of the world’s poor, to redefine growth and wealth, to conserve priceless natural capital, to find a balance between national sovereignty and international collaboration, to fully accept our interdependence with the biosphere, to overcome our cowardice about change, and to end our sociopathic disregard for the consequences of our actions on other people and generations. Global climate change is a battlefield on which all these issues are being fought.

A single act of Congress would have made the fight easier.  Instead, climate deniers are on the march again, threatening not only to stop progress on America’s transition to clean energy, but also to roll back the progress we’ve already made. That makes the Nov. 2 election more than a protest over politics in Washington; it’s also a referendum on America’s morality and our generations’ commitment to the future.

Despite the deadlock in D.C., some powerful new market forces are appearing — including growing climate risks for corporations and those who invest in them.  But we also need a peaceful and powerful uprising in the streets, on the web and in the marketplace.

We need to show everyone in our electoral chains of command that they have an unnegotiable mandate to meet climate change head-on, that their political careers depend on taking action, and that if economic transformation means inconvenience, hard work and sacrifice, we are willing.  If this seems politically na¯ve, so be it.  I believe in surprising and unexpected successes.

We need to take this to the streets because if our leaders won’t lead, we must.  We need Mandelas and Kings, and more people like the guy who blocked the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.  We need to be mad as hell, be the force, be the change, be whom we’ve been waiting for.  America’s next great socio-economic revolution is waiting to be born. In fact, as we know, it’s way, way overdue.

– William Becker

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12 Responses to Climate Action, Part 5: Press On!

  1. Jim Groom says:

    What a horrible thought. Unfortunately, very true as well. The country is stuck on hold and with the possible make-up of the congress, after today, only adds glue to the problem.

  2. We need to take this to the streets because if our leaders won’t lead, we must. We need Mandelas and Kings, and more people like the guy who blocked the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

    As I said in a moderated comment on another thread:

    Please, please, stop thinking of the climate movement as Obama’s movement. Think of it as your movement!


  3. Tim says:

    Is the climate battle lost? Eventually, the evidence will become so obvious (yes, I know, it is already obvious) that the side of reason and science will “win” the argument. It is all a matter of how much damage the planet and future generations will have sustain before that happens.

    What will it take? A news broadcast from the North Pole in open water?

  4. David Smith says:

    George washington lost most of the battles that he engaged during the revolutionary war, but he won the critical battle in Virginia and won the war of our independence. We must do the same.

    To the streets! Our activism and debate must be removed from the political arena.

  5. spiritkas says:


    I think in effect we might end up like the chinese with ‘special zones’ of economic growth. Honestly we’ve had an unenforeced era of that since WWII or longer. Parts of the south haven’t seen any major input of money since reconstruction and the founding of the TVA. Much the same can be said that we’ve had economic programs designed to disrupt and change the balance of wealth in the middle of the USA.

    I say fine, deal with reality as it is. Let California and Oregeon and Washington state be the hotbeds they’ve been and will continue to be. Let those ideas slowly drift east and settle in cities like New York and Boston and Providence and Philedelphia.

    What is is and what will be will be. Let’s go nutz with crazy enthusiasm where we can win because whatever stock of awesomee and fearsome technologies and economies emerge from the western US will only become diluted down on the national scale. So let that stock solution be as high in concentration of good ideas and good programs as it can be.

    I’m interested to see the agricultural revolution of the mid west once the oil prices get so high and unstable and the demand for a truly stable and giving food supply that meets our needs creates a dominating market force to grow things other than corn and soybeans.

    The global and national scenes are deadlocked. Any additional effort on those fronts are indeed wasted. The main battleground will be in the states. Anything is possible at the state level, the oil companies will outspend you, but on a small enough scale, it is possible to inform voters. (I hope, we’ll see if prop 23 in CA goes down in flames or not)



  6. Bill R says:

    Obviously there are opportunities for action everywhere. The unsustainability of our current trajectory is not only written in the greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere. Climate activists can still fight at the local and state levels in states more friendly to carbon taxes or other regulation.

    We need to broaden our discussion about what a transition off of fossil fuels is about: It’s not just climate change ( and although this may be the most long-term urgent reason for the transition, it seems easier for many to deny because it seems incremental, or happening elsewhere) —this is about the end of cheap fossil fuels and what we will do next. It’s about the coming water crisis, about desertification, about the dangers of industrialized mono-cropped agriculture.

    This crisis is also about our economic system which demands quarter on quarter growth to achieve employment, and the fact that our economics currently depends on consumer demand to continually grow, and that this demand needs cheap credit. Our economic system demands consumption of the biosphere. I remain unconvinced that we are going to decouple economic growth from consumption of resources… even the electronic services on our computers demand energy-intensive computer chip production and massive server farms.

    There will be no shortage of signs going forward that our current arrangements are unsustainable. Climate activists need a broader language to draw connections between our other problems to demonstrate how this problems are linked. We cannot only fix this issue with renewable energy. It will take cultural change, a new economics, technological change, a better educational system, and sacrifice.

  7. Alteredstory says:

    I think part of the problem is that according to some people, as a matter of principle, it’s NOT about helping the poor, or redefining growth and wealth, and focusing on those things just makes you a bad or at the very best misguided person. Hopefully those folks are in the minority, but they are also of a temperament where sticking to their “principles”, even in the face of hell and high water, is easier than admitting they were wrong about so huge an issue.

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo! Well put! Thanks Bill! Your statement here is uplifting, and it builds upon the Giants’ win last night!

    (Now if I could only find my slippers?!)

    I’ll only add one thought:

    You mention “questions that many environmental leaders are asking right now”, including “Where do we go from here?”

    Any environmental leaders, climate-cause leaders, leaders in the energy transition movement, or etc. who want some well-considered observations and suggestions about “what to do next” should please give me a call or let me know the next time they’re in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Cheers for now,


  9. J A Turner says:

    To me, it means greater personal sacrifice and ramping up individual efforts towards sustainability. Inflict death of a thousand cuts on polluting industries by not patronizing them. Garden. Fix things instead of replacing them. Optimize your life to need less and to consume less energy, water, and resources in general. Shift your priorities away from consumerism. Help your friends and relatives get through college instead of buying stuff for yourself.

  10. Solar Jim says:

    “America’s next great socio-economic revolution is waiting to be born. In fact, as we know, it’s way, way overdue.”

    Sounds like a Second American Revolution. This might require an update of founding documents. Perhaps one of these might be called The Declaration of Interdependence.

    Multiple developing crises of corruption in one way or another leads to transformational change. Let us make this one where the people, of the people by the people and for the people, have a chance for sustenance, rather than the pervasive plutocratic raiding of national treasuries for ecocide behavior based on arrogance, ignorance and greed.

    This said as a corrupt fed prepares to print more $trillions for investment banks (oxymoron). Down with American Plutocracy. Remove all monied interests from governance, including paid lobbyists of private and foreign interest. We do not live in “America” until justice is restored from decades of corruption of process (by both “parties”).

  11. Dan B says:

    Insurance companies will creatively cancel enough policies because of “excessive risk” that the so-called “Freepin Free Market” will stall.

    Maybe then the Free Market’s defenders will re-read Adam Smith and notice they didn’t notice that Mr. Smith put morality at the core. They thought that “morality” was only about sex. Too bad, too late. Now it’s about your children suffering heat waves, floods, droughts, and more.

    They’ll all be moving to Oregon where the forests will burn so it will be seen from the moon. There will be no escape no matter how rich.

    The only choice is between a 21st Century “Clean Green Economy” and insanity.