Some post-California thoughts on the election

1- Bernie Sanders just *didn’t* drop out…

but he’s just delaying the inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to vote for the man – he embodies a lot of the fundamental things we need to embrace – but we’re talking about an upset in a corporately-controlled political party. If he had taken the nomination, it would’ve disproven some of the things he stood for, ironically. What he and his supporters did was completely unprecedented and they should be proud of that. The fact that they won so many delegates is still something to be hopeful about.
2- There are A TON of things I dislike about Hillary Clinton (just as there are with Barrack Obama), but I will vote for her for two reasons: 1- She’s a woman. When there are no good policy-based choices, at least there’s something to be said about finally having a woman as president. Today’s children would benefit from seeing that. May they grow up without (or with fewer of) the moronic ideas about gender that we grew up with. And 2- She’s not Donald Trump.
3- There are a lot of things to be said about Donald Trump, just as there are a lot of things that Donald Trump has said, and in both almost none of them are good. At this point, if you don’t grasp how dangerous he and the movement behind him are, then I probably won’t convince you (and neither will anyone else).
4- I can’t wait for the scholarly papers and think pieces about the Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash group in the coming years. We live in interesting time, and it’s cool to see the future of politics and communication happening in front of you (even if it is generally obnoxious). Doubt it? Give it a couple years and check back in.
5- Speaking of “Bernie or Bust,” I think that there is a time and place to vote with your conscience, but this is not it. Several people have made this point before, but not voting against Donald Trump while also not having to worry about how his policies will affect you is not the best way to use your privilege. (This is me saying I’m not telling people of color and other minority groups how to vote)
6- above all else, I think that grassroots activism is an incredibly important tool for making change. There are quite a few (young) Bernie supporters that weren’t politically active before, that have spent the last months knocking on doors, phone-banking and meme-making that will spend the months after Bernie drops out in comatose-like depression. That’s totally valid, but let me make two requests: go vote against Trump on November 8, and don’t waste all of the epic networking you just spent the last six months building. I can’t think of any meaningful progressive action taken by a president over the last 50+ years that wasn’t caused by pressure from activists. Presidential elections may be a million times sexier than organizing at the local level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not critically (and more) important. With today’s issues – chiefly, climate change – this world needs all the help it can get.
7- I remember September 2011. OWS really felt like a revolution (and it was, in a sense). Most people today would say that Occupy was a failure, that a bunch of jobless hippies camped out in parks, that they never had demands, that it was all a waste. Most of those curious observers that became passionate occupiers all across the country know that’s not true. What OWS accomplished wasn’t concrete policy changes or officials elected. I covered student activism for two+ years and have talked with tons of environmentalists all around the state. One of the near universal things these driven, passionate individuals have in common is an “Occupy story.” People become really political for different reasons. What matters is that they are really political.

Apocalyptica Interview

Finnish cello-fronted metal band Apocalyptica played the NorVa on May 17, 2015. I got to sit down with Eicca from the band to talk about their new album and vocalist.

Note- a lot of my interviews are kind of lengthy, however, there were some scheduling issues and we had to keep it brief.

 

In Response to “Weigh the Costs with the Benefits”

Lynchburg’s newspaper, the News & Advance came out in support of a $2 billion natural gas pipeline that will run from West Virginia, through Virginia and eventually to North Carolina.

 

This is why we shouldn’t support it:

In Response to “Weigh the Costs With the Benefits”

Sean Davis

Seeing my hometown newspaper come out in favor of Dominion’s proposed pipeline to bring natural gas through Nelson County to Hampton Roads and beyond was heartbreaking.

Especially just months after seeing a derailed crude oil train send flames 80 feet into the air along the James River¬.

 

That that event didn’t kill a single person, I believe, is a complete miracle and other communities have not been so fortunate.

As someone that’s been following the environmental movement and covering actions against the expansion of fossil fuels, I really thought that the train derailment would be a wake up call for many in the area.

It presented such an extreme image. People would have to ask questions– why was crude oil from North Dakota being shipped through Lynchburg of all places? Why weren’t the safety regulations in place to prevent this? Had this happened anywhere else?

It’s seemed that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. As soon as the fires burned out and the images were uploaded to social media, we just accepted that it was a freak accident- both random and unpreventable.

Almost a month to the day before the derailment, Sierra Club Virginia released a statement citing recent oil train incidents in the US and Canada. Sierra Club Virginia director, Glen Besa, said in a statement, “These trains are travelling through Lynchburg along the James River through Richmond and on to the York County facility on the York River. We’re concerned that a train derailment could result in an explosion and the loss of life or an oil spill that could jeopardize our drinking water supplies and the environment.”

Turns out they were dead right. Maybe we shouldn’t dismiss their concerns about this pipeline so quickly.

“We share some of their concerns for environmental impact of the construction phase,” the News & Advance Editorial Board claims, as if the only environmental risks are from the construction. “We must look at the bigger picture… the $17 trillion, energy-driven U.S. economy,” it continues.

First of all, the “bigger picture” is the planet and the future of its inhabitants.

There is no debate that climate change is happening; only a failure of the media to accurately portray facts and science to the American people, and the incredible success of fossil fuel lobbyists and propagandists to paint a scientific consensus as a massive hoax perpetrated by hundreds of thousands of scientists from around the world in order to… get increased funding(?).

The real debate is how we are going to deal with rising seas, catastrophic flooding and increased drought while cutting emissions, not whether or not we can pretend we don’t have to.

Second, the article fails to acknowledge the “bigger picture” that is the pivotal fight in this country, and beyond, over energy policy. There really isn’t middle ground. As much as “all-of-the-above” sounds nice, it’s not progressive enough.

We have a choice– either full ahead over the cliff of environmental negligence and intergenerational tyranny, or a full stop, and a change of course to a more just, sustainable future.

That fight encompasses people from across the continent- from indigenous communities in Canada, to ranchers in Texas; from the low-income urban communities that tend to get hit most directly by environmental pollution to community-owned wind farm co-ops in the Midwest; from West Virginia residents fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining to Washington residents fighting against proposed coal export terminals.

And it includes the fight in Nelson County.

Much of that fight to date has been over the controversial natural gas extraction process known as “fracking.” At best, it’s extremely water and energy intensive and it’s effects simply haven’t been studied enough, and the adequate regulations haven’t been put into place(or have been removed such as the “Halliburton Loophole” which exempts fracking companies from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act).

At worst, it destroys the health of people nearby wells and pipelines, contaminates drinking water and aquifers, turns idyllic wilderness to moonscape and causes earthquakes.

We know now too, that natural gas is not the clean “bridge fuel” the industry touted it as.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that “the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.” Accounting for that, “total greenhouse gas emissions… are nearly identical to coal,” according to the Sierra Club.

The natural gas plant in New Brunswick, which would be connected to the pipeline, “would emit as much carbon pollution annually as half a million cars,” according to a report by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Full disclosure, the author is a CCAN fellow). The report also notes that in the company’s most recent 15-year plan, proportionally, there will be no increase in clean energy.

Some, I’m sure, will argue that moving towards clean energy is not feasible, or that the economy wouldn’t be able to support it. Indeed the original article asks, “Would opponents of the pipeline want those homes and businesses in Virginia using electricity from coal-burning power plants… [or the] plant in New Brunswick to be burning coal or carbon-emitting biomass fuel instead?” as if there just isn’t any other option.

Instead of investing $2 billion into this pipeline, Dominion should instead spend that money on renewable energy sources including developing its offshore wind program. Last year the company won the lease to over 112,000 acres off the Virginia coast, but has only slated to build two 6-megawatt turbines.

The entire area has the potential to create 2,000 megawatts and power over 700,000 homes!

The cost of solar energy has plummeted recently- by as much as 60% in two years– making it a viable option as well. Our neighbor to the south, North Carolina, is now behind just California in solar growth, while we rank 26th, with no utility-scale solar production.

A move to clean energy would create tens of thousands of jobs as well, and we’re already seeing that across the country where there are now more jobs in clean energy than in coal. Studies show that just developing offshore wind would create 10,000 jobs while the pipeline will create a negligible amount of permanent jobs.

The idea that we can face the defining issue of this generation head on is not just a pipedream. Our shift away from fossil fuels is inevitable, and the sooner we embrace it, the better- for jobs, for those already experiencing the effects of climate change, for the planet as a whole, and for our posterity.

The same people that will make unspeakable amounts of money from this pipeline and the extraction of natural gas, are the same people that knew DOT-111 tanker cars were unsafe for Bakken crude oil transportation, and still decided to use them to ship unfathomable amounts of oil through large population centers every day.

They are the same people that are destroying West Virginia by literally leveling mountains and valleys, leaving the communities there perpetually impoverished and dependent on an industry that has actively exploited their cheap labor for decades.

They are the same people that convinced us to go along with their oil and gas “boom” without the proper regulations in place, without even the infrastructure to handle it, in the name of energy independence only to ship these same extracted fuels to the coast for export to other countries.

One Time Some of My Friends Got Arrested at the White House

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the protest pictures I posted a couple weeks ago from the #XLDissent protest in Washington D.C.

Why did they get arrested? What were they Protesting? What is The Keystone XL Pipeline?

The funny thing about KXL is that if you know about it, you probably already have a very strong opinion about it. It’s very polarizing, and yet if you haven’t heard of it, it sounds like an oddly specific thing for so many people to be so worked up about.

Protesters await arrest in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. Sean Davis
Protesters await arrest in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. Sean Davis

On March 1, 2014 I joined members of the ODU EcoReps organization, as well as the ODU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, as they traveled to the nation’s capital. It was one of my favorite VSEC road trips because we didn’t leave until noon.

I was still late.

They were making the trip up to join with just under 2000 other student activists to rally and march against the pipeline. The event was called #XLDissent (hashtag included, it’s 2014 duh).

While it wasn’t the biggest protest against KXL, many have claimed that it was the biggest act of student civil disobedience since the Vietnam war.

Instead of explaining why so many young people are angry about seemingly this one little thing, I’ll let them explain…

Jugal Patel is a junior at ODU, majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. He works with CCAN and contributes to The Borgen Project.
Jugal Patel is a junior at ODU, majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. He works with CCAN and contributes to The Borgen Project.

 

Erin Fagan is a Senior at ODU, majoring in Marine Biology. She's the VSEC founder as well as a campus rep and committee member, the EcoReps event coordinator, a Greenpeace community coach, and she's associated with a ton of other campus and environmental organizations I don't have room to list.
Erin Fagan is a Senior at ODU, majoring in Marine Biology. She’s the VSEC founder as well as a campus rep and committee member, the EcoReps event coordinator, a Greenpeace community coach, and she’s in charge of or part of a ton of other campus and environmental organizations I don’t have room to list.

What was XL Dissent?

Erin: “XL Dissent was the first event in the long line of anti-kxl protests/marches/rallies (after Tar sands Action, NOKXL, and Forward on Climate, as well as some smaller ones) that was organized by, and facilitated nearly completely by students. It was an opportunity for students to demonstrate that we aren’t taking this sitting down, and that we are willing to put our bodies on the line in opposition of KXL, and to prove that we aren’t just fighting for, but fighting with people from frontline communities.”

So whats wrong with the pipeline?

Erin: If the pipeline is approved, it would carry over 800,00 barrels of tar sands oil through Montanan, right by North Dakota, through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, down to Houston and Port Arthur, every single day. Although we’re told this is for the U.S., it would definitely be China-bound.

This would spell absolute disaster for not only ecosystems, but all of the communities along the way. These communities are largely those of indigenous people, communities of color, and low-income communities who are being taken advantage of.

A part of the Keystone Pipeline already exists… All of the terrible things people hear are not just rumors or speculation. They are based on whats already been happening.

During the six-month study conducted by the State Department, there were 1,692 pipeline “incidents…” this rate has not slowed down. We know that we can expect regular leaks and spills everywhere that pipeline exists.

The safety regulations are sub-standard at best, and not at all worth the 38-42 permanent jobs that we would get, in an economy of 322 million people.

We could be creating more and more permanent clean energy, technology and engineering jobs.

“I have been involved in this particular cause since 2011, and it is a fight that I will be involved in until the end.”

Jugal: As a scientific consensus, fossil fuels such as the tar sands oil contribute significantly to the problem of climate change. Unless the burning of fossil fuels is phased out to make way for clean and renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar problems that we’re already seeing with the with the climate will continue to worsen.

Therefore, it is necessary for our generation to do all it can to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline- or else we are risking the future of the planet.

Why did you zip-tie yourself to the White House gate?

Jugal: Those who face the worst effects of climate change are those who have done the least to produce it. The lives of people within developing nations and future generations are at stake if action is not taken. It is for this reason that I hope to make the strongest political statement possible: that my generation is very serious about environmental problems and that we intend to address them. Acts of civil disobedience have been integral to correcting injustices throughout history and I fully intend to be a part of the movement that makes the world a better place to live.

How was the experience?

Jugal: Because of weeks of communication between organizers and DC police departments, the experience was very smooth. The police are fully aware of the role that civil disobedience plays into politics and understood that our nonviolent political action was justified.

The most favorable aspect of the experience, from my perspective, was getting to know the other activists risking arrests. Many of us were stuck at the white house fence for up to 5 hours, so it was plenty of time to get to know each other! 

Explain your protest sign.

Erin: Martin Luther King Jr’s quote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I chose this because I can never stress enough how important it is to understand how everything is connected.

It may seem like this is happening so far away, but the destruction of vital ecosystems and resources (water?!), the suffering of fellow human beings, and the human-caused extinction of animals along the way all relate directly back to us.

KXL is Pandora’s Box. Once we begin to become reliant on this dirty form of oil, it will be infinitely harder to stop using it.

This social/environmental injustice that may seem completely disconnected from us is really threatening the entire planet in every way.

How did this thing come about, and how did you get involved?

Erin: I started organizing for Virginia about a month in advance, recruiting not just at ODU and Norfolk, but across the state as well. The idea for XL Dissent came from the historic 2011 sit-ins and rallies which played a huge role in drawing attention to the issue and breaking the, then, consensus among politicians.

After the State Department’s January report that the tar sands and pipeline would not negatively impact climate change, it was time to be more innovative and begin escalation and radicalization.

There was a lot of planning and organizing that went into this event to keep it under control and nonviolent, why is that?

Erin: With a march of this size, it is still very important to be respectful. DC sees plenty of non-peaceful protests too, so letting them know what’s going on and working with the police instead of against them (they’re doing their jobs, after all), ensures not only that residents who know what’s happening will not be scared, but it protects the safety of the protesters.

A huge group is intimidating, and more so when they are unexpected, so we try to avoid a scenario where we could be physically harmed for no reason.

The arrests were planned because it was important to make history. There are lots of small arrestable events that happen here and there, but unless something about them is different and innovative, no one ever hears about them. Planning ahead increases the chances of reaching goals like this.

Had it not been permitted, we never would have made it to the White House– we would’ve been kicked off the streets at the beginning, and anyone who didn’t obey would’ve been in jail under entirely different circumstances.

It is important that these events remain non-violent because we do not want to be made into the “bad guys”. If we use scare/intimidation tactics, harm people and their property, or make people feel unsafe in any way, we’re becoming a part of the problem, being hypocritical, and only gaining negative attention, which would be very well-deserved.

Why do you believe protesting and nonviolent direct action are an effective means for change?

Jugal: In a democratic political system, it is more than necessary for direct action to be a fundamental aspect of popular involvement within the political process. History has proven time and again that significant change for the better can occur with protest.

In a society where the institution of business has monumental political influence, the perspectives of people from lower socio-economic classes are often neglected—resulting in widespread injustice. Therefore, popular protest and direct action is necessary to allow for democracy to fulfill its intentions.

Erin: NVDA is absolutely effective, but not by itself. We still need to meet professionally with politicians and “make nice”. We need to find common ground with shareholders and decision-makers. We need to focus on educating people, and most of all, involving those in frontline communities–anything that we could say to convince someone would be dwarfed by what they have to live with every day.

NVDA is a means of campaign escalation, an issue is not getting the attention that it needs, or when it is not being taken seriously. We need people to take on these different roles so that we cover all of our bases. An arrestable action of this type is usually the first step in radicalization and escalation, which draws attention to the issue to reach more people. Historically, these events are often able to sway politicians’ opinions.

What similar actions have you been a part of?

Erin: I’ve been involved in at least a dozen large rallies/protests (“large” meaning over 1000 people), with the largest being Forward on Climate last February (50k people! Largest environmental rally in history).

While this was not the largest, the energy of the mass arrest was very unique. It felt much more drastic, because nothing like this had been done for the last few years (and even then, it was over a couple of weeks). Each time, I find myself re-energized and re-inspired to work on bigger campaigns and causes, both here in Norfolk and on a larger scale.

The most important thing about events like this is that we ride this new energy and take advantage of our enhanced motivation to make waves.

Finally, what’s happening at ODU, and what would you like to see happen?

Erin: ODU’s environmental group EcoReps has been growing rapidly since the introduction of VSEC. With this change, EcoReps is making the move from passive action to direct action, and demanding real change from ODU.

Other groups, such as the Marine Bio Student Association, Social Entrepreneurs Council, and the Environmental Health Club, are all taking a new, special interest in environmental aspects that relate to their core values.

I will be working on plans to increase our STARS rating 🙂 (currently bronze, booo). Ultimately, my larger goals for ODU are for them to form a permanent, full-time sustainability board, to get a divestment campaign off the ground, and for ODU to join the other universities who have demanded that Aramark take on more sustainable policies.

More important than this, however, is how we get there.

The reason this hasn’t happened already is because there’s a huge lack of student accountability and and a surplus of apathy.

If more students at ODU demand action from President Broderick, the Board of Trustees, shareholders, and high-donating alumni, then they would take us seriously. They do want to make their students happy, but not nearly enough students are demanding change. It’ll take more voices and more action for them to be be convinced.

Jugal: With discoveries in regard to just how vulnerable the city of Norfolk is to sea level rise from climate change, the ODU community is beginning to become much more active politically.

I hope to see this continue and expand because Virginia’s political system is currently very environmentally negligent. Students also have much more political power than they may feel at times, so it is very important that we continue to organize and get involved in the political process.

If we fail to do so, the problems that we face both in the present and the future risk being unaccounted for.

On the Phil Robertson Situation

Because I’m from a Southern, semi-rural suburban community, my Facebook news feed was ripe with anger today, concerning the suspension of Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson, from A&E over comments he made in an interview for GQ concerning homosexuality. Most of the statuses and comments expressed anger at the fact that this seemingly negligible situation was receiving front page coverage while more meaningful stories of substance were being ignored. The rest, for the most part, were frustrated at what they perceived as a violation of free speech on the network’s part.

The first thing I want to address(before you decide this is irrelevant and click out) is the importance, or lack of importance, of this story- as a supposed nation of free people, forged by the blood of hundreds of thousands, arguably millions, we should certainly be upset about a violation of our inherent rights. But I think there’s another reason. Members and allies of the LGBT community, know that the language Robertson used, and the biblical paraphrasing he used to sort-of justify it, is problematic, blatantly homophobic, and dangerous to certain individuals.

So was this a violation of free speech? (un)Fortunately, this kind of thing happens frequently enough that there have been substantive discussions already. To be brief, it is not- Robertson retains his right to speak about whatever godly or ungodly things he wants to, and to be sure, this event will open up many more avenues and vehicles for him to do so. Duck Dynasty boasts an audience of 14 million, and I would assume the vast majority of fans will not change their opinion of the show, or the family, based on what A&E does. If anything this will boost merchandise and book sales much like firearms every time the media discusses gun control. Where some people get… confused, is in the fact that Robertson cannot speak on one single network, but if speech on any given network were guaranteed to all American citizens, TV would probably be even worse than it already is… but who’s to say?

So uh, whatever Sarah Palin.

There are enough examples in recent memory of actors, personalities, commentators, etc being vilified by groups across the political spectrum including campaigns to get them removed or for their sponsors to drop support, to say this is just the “tyranny of the left” as one Facebook commenter put it, is partisan and lazy.

If anything, this does show the absolute control media organizations and their producers have over programming and what the public actually sees, especially on “reality” shows. I think that that is something to be discontent with, but to only recognize it in this one instance is ludicrous. For many free-market conservatives that might be angry, perhaps A&E’s seemingly ruthless actions can serve a glimpse into “tyranny” brought upon not by a government, but by a business entity.

So what did Phil Robertson say? I actually went and read the full article, and I gotta say, the vast majority of it was.. entertaining kind of. Coming from where I do, I can easy relate to the family and their way of life. I know these kinds of people. I’m related to them. I work, learn, dine, and drink beer with them. Robertson talks about god and nature in an interesting way, although I doubt he would be one to bring up that whole “stewards of the Earth” thing in relation to environmental degradation, overpopulation, or climate change, but hey.

When asked about what he saw as “sinful” in relation to modern America:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Ok so this is sort-of expected as a lazy, bible-ly, anti-gay answer: Compare all relationships that aren’t between one strong, married man and one virgin-until-married woman to mindlessly having sex with anything and everything with a pulse, and by the way, they’re totally hopeless. It’s thoughtless and degrading towards completely normal, loving, devoted, monogamous people.

As a side thought though- I like that he includes “the greedy, “the slanderers,” and “the swindlers,” in the group of people not going to heaven. (Watup Wall St., DC politicians and lobbyists, and psychopathic corporate asshats). When one of the Dynasty sons come out as gay and they have to deal with it christly, maybe I’ll like this guy… No wait nevermind.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying?”

How does this even come up in conversation?

This will be the killer soundbite clip on The Daily Show tomorrow night.

C’mon bro! You gotta love the pussy bro! How can you not love pussy bro!? Nothing else is pro-bossible!

Here’s where we can all agree- This is blatantly homophobic in that it otherizes and therefore dehumanizes LGBT people, not based on a religious text, but on the only thing Robertson thinks defines gay men. This is the stuff of ignorant and insecure bullying that literally destroys and ends lives.

I don’t want to say that Phil Robertson is Hitler leading a holocaust against a certain type of person- although in the article, he blames Nazism, as well as Pearl Harbor, Communism and islamism on a lack of Jesus… We don’t need to talk about that right?

It’s more complex than that, and this is where people will lose what I’m conveying.. This country has an incredibly shameful history of mistreating “other” people: creating an “us versus them” narrative where we are the righteous chosen and the indians, or blacks, or immigrants, or poor, or gays are not even human. The poor deserve poverty because they are lazy. The blacks deserve Jim Crow, slavery, or prison because they are insufficient. Women are too feeble-minded to vote, own land, or speak. Gays brought God’s plague- HIV/AIDS- upon themselves and therefore we should ignore their suffering and do nothing while they face terrible afflictions and death, just as we did in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

We forget that we are all one family- not just based on religion, but on common humanity. Christ said to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love even our enemies.

 So where do Phil Robertson’s statements fit into this?

Robertson has stoked the fire of indifference and hate towards the LGBT community with his words. As painless as they may feel to you, this is fodder for insecure young people to bully, tease, and dehumanize any kind of different person. The suicide rate of gay teens is five times higher than their peers. Is this “what Jesus would do?” Is this your idea of God’s love? Literally bullying people until they kill themselves.

Although kids that bully are not innocent, they’re only a product of their parenting, and of the larger society. This statement is just one little potential piece of the puzzle that is a person’s worldview.

I’ve often heard “christian” people repeat the phrase “we hate the sin, but love the sinner.” And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but its almost always in defense of a statement or action that is homophobic. If religious organizations want to even appear like they care about LGBT people, they have to acknowledge what groups like Westboro Babtist Church do, and what their own organizations and policies have done, and say “This is wrong. We are completely against this.” And frankly I don’t see that very often.

Edit note- I have to wake up in 6 hours and have Bronchitis. Hopefully I’ll edit/finish this tomorrow… If not, don’t be a dick.

Powershift 2013

After two days back in Virginia- waking up after a full night’s sleep, sitting through classes that don’t inspire me or make my blood boil, and being surrounded by people that could give a fuck less about fossil fuels, sustainability, or environmental injustice- I can say that Powershift was actually really great. And I say that with a healthy distrust for big (even environmental) organizations headed by white men and/or more-mainstream liberal organizations like moveon.org.

So first off, Pittsburgh. I’m sorry, I just always thought you would be dirty, at best. This city is fantastic! I saw some of the coolest architecture I’ve ever seen there, as well as a really thriving arts scene. I don’t actually know much of anything about local politics, but they were apparently the first city to ban fracking, as well as exhibiting a number of progressive, green infrastructure projects. The convention center itself is actually the first green convention center in the world and featured many encouraging elements such as hundreds of solar panels on the roof, and an impressive recycling/composting system. This really is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to as well.

Also Anti-flag is from there…

The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
IMG_1289
The Allegheny River at sunset

The first night we missed the keynote speeches, but spent hours walking around looking at the different tables, talking to the people from different organizations. They ran the gamut of encouraging Pittsburgh tourism to ending capitalism…

It was really encouraging looking at the different groups of young people, from literally all of the country, sitting, talking, exchanging ideas, spreading awareness. There were mohawked punks and long-haired, bare-foot hippies and stoic indigenous representatives, and faith leaders, and radical anarchists, and average-looking students. There were green tech executives and ex-coal miners. There were artists and rappers, and occupy-era social media legends. It was a really great moment of “aha! these are our people!”

I really liked that none of the panels or speeches involved proving climate change or skepticism(save for the panel on how to talk to CC skeptics). As a movement, a nation, and as humans in general, the sooner we stop giving legitimacy to fossil fuel industry-backed “skeptics” and disinformation, the better. (if you disagree with that, that’s a whole-nother post..) I was also pleased to see a lot of the focus on impoverished communities and indigenous peoples fighting tar sands, fracking, pollution, environmental degradation, etc- important voices that are, too often, not represented. Being more inclusive and less white/middle-class was also a major theme, although the ability to pay for the registration and travel still reinforced that trend…

I missed it, but during one of the keynotes an indigenous woman was cut off during a speech. I don’t know if it was a time issue or something more nefarious, but it seemed to highlight the divide between the big-box environmental groups and the more radical, smaller ones. During a speech by a, black, ex-Obama organizer, a section of the audience stood up chanting “The EAC (Energy Action Coalition- the main organizer of the event) doesn’t stand for me!” There was at least one speaker that resigned in a show of solidarity.

Similarly, somebody put up a banner in front of the snack bar that read “Don’t support Coca Cola,” and promoted local, sustainable food over the corporate, Convention Center-contracted company. In one of the panels I attended on capitalism and the climate, one of the panelists- a more radical, indigenous organizer- broke away from the pack and argued against using solar cells because they are made from copper, which is just as destructive as other extractive processes. This was really interesting because it blew up one of the two big paths to energy sustainability that virtually everyone else was calling for.

I was kind of surprised more instances of protest within the conference didn’t occur, with such a huge variety of people, organizations, and opinions. That being said, many of the speakers and workshops surprised me too- there were(really, really good/ productive) anti-oppression workshops that focused on male privilege, white privilege, and class divide as well as panels on ending capitalism and what to do if you get arrested protesting. It wasn’t all just a “lefty” feel-good, flower power, tree-hugging fest.

With such a huge focus on sustainability, and food, it was a wonder that nothing sustainable/environmentally-conscious was offered. Somebody brought up that Food Not Bombs had provided food at a similar, smaller, event. Somebody else pointed out that they could have had food trucks, which could’ve provided a wide range of dietary options and supported small businesses. On Saturday, a colleague and I wandered through downtown looking for anything that provided good vegan/vegetarian food for over an hour.

Maybe I just have an over-affinity for the days of Occupy, but I would really like to see something with this content, and size, happen in a more-democratic, more-egalitarian, grass-roots fashion, with no registration fees or costs, but suggested donations, allowing environmentally-minded people from every walk of life to attend. Similarly, I feel like many of the panels were not as productive as they could have been, strictly because of the time constraints.

A couple of the highlights for me were the male priviledge workshop- I don’t remember the speaker’s name, but he(and he was very adiment about not assuming a person’s preferred gender, so this shows how much I listen..) completely kicked ass. A lot of time was given to audience members voicing their concerns and ideas, and I feel like it was really productive, especially to anybody that hadn’t ever thought about sexism before; and the “Social Media All stars” and photography panels. There was an interesting panel on connecting the “School to prison Pipeline” to environmental justice that featured at least one member of the Dream Defenders- one of my favorite movement-organizations right now.

Really though, my biggest complaint is that I couldn’t attend absolutely everything.

members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood.
members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood during the Saturday keynote.
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ODU student, Tynell Johnson, with Kandi Mosset of The Indigenous Environmental Network. Mosset spoke at the Saturday keynote address.

coast to coast part 1

We were out and on the road before the guy we were leasing from came to get the key. it was a sunny, perfect day. we took one last (very long) drive down the strip then took off down I 15 towards Los Angeles. i’ve probably made the drive two dozen times, when my family lived in Vegas, but have very little memory of it.Image
i think to appreciate the vastness, the openness, and the appeal of the desert you have to experience it. how conquistadors, natives, pioneers, and gold-seekers crossed these stretches of desert on horses and on foot is beyond me.

ImageI really enjoyed the drive and the scenery. We made a food stop at Barstow Station, which was tourist-tacky and overpriced.. the town itself seems kind of interesting though. coming through and down the mountains on I15 into San Bernadino was an incredible drive, and a big change from sandy desert and black mountains. It too, is something to experience Imagewe drove around the Silverwood Lake SRA, until we found a good place to camp. After weeks in Las Vegas, being in freezing mountains with occasional snow was a shock…