McKibben: “It’s So Great We’re Occupying Wall Street Because Wall Street Has Been Occupying the Atmosphere”

Bill McKibben’s remarks to Occupy Wall Street at Washington Square Park Saturday.  Video at the end. in the New York Times there was a story that made it completely clear why we have to be here. They uncovered the fact that the company building that tar sands pipeline was allowed to choose another company to conduct the environmental impact statement, and the company that they chose was a company was a company that did lots and lots of work for them. So, in other words, the whole thing was rigged top to bottom and that’s why the environmental impact statement said that this pipeline would cause no trouble, unlike the scientists who said if we build this pipeline it’s “game over” for the climate. We can’t let this pipeline get built.

On November 6, one year before the election, we’re going to be in DC with a huge circle of people around the White House and they’re going to be carrying signs with quotations from Barack Obama from the 2008 campaign. He said, “It’s time to end the tyranny of oil.” He said, “I will have the most transparent government in history.” We have to go to DC to find out where they have locked that guy up. We have to free Obama, because there is some sort of stunt double there now. So on November 6, I hope we can move, just for a day, Occupy Wall Street down to the White House and get them in the fight against corporate power.

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.

I spend a lot of time in countries around the world organizing demonstrations and rallies in solidarity. In the last three years at, we’ve had 15,000 rallies in every country except North Korea. Everywhere around the world, poor people and black people and brown people and Asian people and young people are standing up. Most of those places, don’t produce that much carbon. They need us to act with them and for them, 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.

Thank you guys very much.

— Bill McKibben

Here’s the video via Treehugger. I asked McKibben why they repeat all the words, and he answered, “It’s the ‘human microphone’ at work. The police have denied them any kind of sound sytem, even bullhorns, so this is how you get the speech out to a large crowd.”

16 Responses to McKibben: “It’s So Great We’re Occupying Wall Street Because Wall Street Has Been Occupying the Atmosphere”

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Philosophical and Pragmatic Juncture?

    It seems to me that this problem should be the focus of more and more serious, explicit discussions, and asap:

    The presidency is normally held by one person, for four years or perhaps eight. And presently, we seem to be in a sort of funk, with many people (too many) assuming that voting for one of the main two political parties is the only “realistic” way to go.

    Yet the present situation suggests a fast-approaching decision-point, because it’s quite possible that that one person and his party (in this case, for example, President Obama) could do, or at least say he’ll do, just barely enough to keep dedicated climate-concerned Democrats on board, without doing anything genuinely serious to even make a small dent in the sorts of concerns being expressed by Occupy Wall Street. The concerns being expressed by Occupy Wall Street must be addressed by changes that are much more fundamental even than the changes necessary to begin addressing climate change, and certainly much more fundamental than the sorts of small incremental changes being imagined at this point in time by anyone in the Democratic party that I know of.

    So what will it be? To vote for President Obama if he seems to promise small-to-middling changes aimed at barely beginning to address climate change, even though it seems most likely that he’ll continue to accept most of the status quo that creates the deep problems being expressed by Occupy Wall Street? To vote for him largely because the Repubs would be even worse? To vote for him even if he approves Keystone XL? OR INSTEAD, is it time now to begin to realize that more fundamental changes ARE indeed called for?

    In my view, if the Occupy Wall Street movement sticks with Obama it will bring about its own defeat, and it will make itself largely irrelevant except as a pawn of sorts, a political plaything, to move the present administration slightly to the left (whatever that means), which means the administration will pretty much continue all those aspects of the status quo that are bringing about our main problems. Put another way, the Occupy Wall Street movement will, or at least may, have a very slight impact, but it WILL defeat its larger purpose and genuine “reason for being”, if it jumps on board with the Obama administration.

    Thus a decision-point is approaching. Build a genuine movement that demands the sorts of deep, big reforms necessary — and they are DEEP and BIG — or else vote for the Dems, no matter what they do or don’t do, for fear that the other side will be worse, and by doing so stay mired in going virtually nowhere, fast?

    There is a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that is worth thinking about here:

    “The superior mind will find itself equally at odds with the evils of society, and with the projects offered to relieve them. The wise skeptic is a bad citizen; no conservative; he sees the selfishness of property, and the drowsiness of institutions. But neither is he fit to work with any democratic party that ever was constituted; for parties wish every one committed, and he penetrates the popular patriotism.”

    — From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay ‘Montaigne; or, the Skeptic’, as quoted from The New York Times

    So far, just about the worst news I’ve heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement (which I otherwise applaud) is that it is apparently supporting some upcoming labor event aimed at supporting President Obama’s mediocre and insufficient jobs bill. My complaint isn’t that OWS and labor are working together; that much is good, of course. Instead, it’s this: If OWS starts supporting weak and insufficient policies, leaving the impression that it can be satisfied by those, it will defeat itself before it even gets going.

    I don’t see any real way around the question. A decision-point is fast approaching. What will OWS become: a pawn in someone else’s game, or a genuine and badly needed game-changer?

    Be Well,


  2. Peter Mizla says:

    Jeff, after your great post, I can see what A UCAL Berkeley education is worth.

    I agree totally with you.

    From ‘Economist’s View’

    Rather than focusing on fiscal stimulus, Republicans will make good on their pledge to get government out of the way. After all, it’s supposedly government that is preventing firms from investing.

    The result will be a Libertarian’s dream economy–AKA dog eat dog. The rich and powerful will gobble up everything of value, legally or not. But the wave of mergers, acquisitions and criminal dispossession will do nothing for the economy, but lots for Wall Street.

    Oh, there will be stimulus–taxes cuts for billionaires and elimination of corporate income taxes. But the promised stimulus won’t happen, since the multiplier for tax cuts on the wealthy is virtually non-existent.

    But should Republicans get lucky, despite their best efforts, and preside over a growing economy, inflation will quickly be triggered as demand for oil quickly bumps up against tight supply, causing prices to spike. Following that, the economy will tank again as consumers wallets get quickly tapped out by higher prices.

    So, if Republicans win in 2012, they will be defeated massively in 2016 by a another phony populist Democrat, like Clinton or Obama, whose agenda will be virtually indistinguishable from the Republican he replaces.

    Let’s hope that Occupy Wall Street can have an impact. Otherwise the coming decade will make the last decade look like paradise lost.

    I may add- Greenhouse gases keep rising no matter who assumes office. Obama has been the Manchurian Candidate- the mantra of Hope & Change now seems laughable.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Keep going, Bill. We’re with you and all of your friends.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Why Do These Koch Industries Neighbors Have Cancer? (VIDEO)
    Our ongoing Koch Brothers Exposed video investigation has discovered something so tragic it will haunt Charles and David Koch for years to come.

    Is a Koch Industries factory getting away with murder?

  5. prokaryotes says:

    “Millionaires March” Stops By Chez Murdoch

    Hundreds of protesters marched through New York’s wealthiest zip codes today and chanted outside the homes of some of the city’s richest men.

    The scruffy band of demonstrators took their “Millionaires March” to the homes of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, conservative billionaire David Koch, financier Howard Milstein and others.

    The rollicking three-block-long procession, which included a drummer and jazz band, swung past million-dollar homes on Fifth and Park Aves., drawing a massive police presence and curious glances from onlookers.

    The march was organized by three community organizations under one umbrella – Strong Economy for all, United for New York and the Working Families Party.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    The only good news about the KOCH BROTHERS is that they are not into nuclear energy.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    The Koch-ing around is far from over
    Remember that Koch Industries report Greenpeace released a couple of weeks ago, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine”, exposing the funding of climate denial by the fossil fuel industry? Well, it has surfaced in the news once again.
    Reuters carried the story today under the headline ” Murderer, liar, fraud, traitor” about Koch Industries and other climate change deniers, such as ExxonMobil. They oppose climate change science because of concerns about the multi-billion dollar costs associated with carbon trading schemes and clean energy policies. In an attempt to greenwash themselves Koch Industries says on their website that all they are trying to do is to “encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases”. If that is the case, why are the companies US $50 million being quietly funneled to front groups which deny climate change?

  8. John Tucker says:

    OWS is incredibly important as a collective realization of the flaws of capitalism (even I put ¨unregulated¨ in there as a qualifier and removed it), something previously you were not really allowed to question in this country.

    Its already a success. And spreading.

    Wall Street domino effect hitting Britain ( )

    A more collective and responsible approach to economics is becoming reality.

  9. John Tucker says:

    The expectations for the Obama administration probably were not realistic to begin with without sea changes out in society.

  10. Raul M. says:

    Exclusionary practices in society.
    Does excluding the climate from the environmental study lay the foundation for a extensive bait and switch scheme in society?
    The bait is that power is good. And the switch is having to wear more clothing and sunglasses to protect skin and eyes.
    The bait is that having a beautiful home is good.and the switch is that it will need to be built underground to be safe from the weather.
    The bait is that nutritious foods from all over the world is good and the switch is that the farms will need to be protected from the weather also in the beautiful new underground home.
    The bait is that you may do even all of such but the switch is that it is to much to understand.

  11. Raul M. says:

    The birth of Points of Light being personified in society and the parallel use of exclusionary criteria?
    Doctorate Thesis in the study of social sciences?
    Do exclusions of influencing factors by short term choice really parallel the laws of light waves in the personification theories?

  12. Raul M. says:

    Does the personification theory (Points of Light) follow practical application of a photon that is absorbed by an object causing an object to become excited and when becoming more excited than it’s surround then emitting energy? How closely do we follow a free personification units use of their knowledge of the laws of light in their attempts to personify a higher way?
    Could it be that living on Earth within the Laws of nature it becomes a personification through the use of indefensible exclusionary practices?
    For through the Laws of nature we will all be reduced to the forms of protons and such over time but through the loss of so much that we are comprised of today we won’t be we anymore and to personify that reduction of forces we really do leap beyond our means.

  13. Richard D says:

    Tar-Sands Protest in London from Tuesday

    cheers, R

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Actually, Obama is the ‘Tel Avivian Candidate’ as his appalling performance at the UN, in vetoing Palestinian statehood, once again shows, for the umpteenth time.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Press TV, John!!?? You’ll get yourself on a ‘watch list’ or the ‘no fly’ list, don’t you realise? I used to watch Press TV, but was put off by their habit of having both sides represented in debates, and by the infuriating politeness of their talking-heads, who simply refused to yell at their guests. Just not on.