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People vs. Polluters December 22, 2009

Posted by Morgan in astroturf, bonner and associates, chamber of commerce, copenhagen, naked fraud.
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There are more people to blame for failure in Copenhagen than… sensational cliches to start blog posts with.  Obama probably negotiated his ass off during his 9 hours in Denmark, but he didn’t do enough legwork beforehand to set himself up for success.  China blocked any sort of requirement, goal, target or accountability mechanism, even though it is and will remain the largest greenhouse polluter.  The US Senate didn’t pass a climate bill in time.  The list goes on.

Yet some guilty parties are actively trying to mess the process up instead of just not doing enough: powerful fossil fuel and business interests are working against the interests of the people in the struggle for a senate bill and in the negotiations for a treaty. As Ricken Patel from Avaaz said about Copenhagen: “one group was cracking open the champagne – the polluting industry lobbyists.”

Even before the dust had settled or the last negotiations had stopped, the DC Action Factory used its last few hours as a group to deliver Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming to every single senate office and Roland Burris (D-IL) in person. Maybe we didn’t do enough to expose the dirty energy campaign to hijack the senate, but hopefully final hours as an Action Factory are a sign of big things to come.

Mr. Burris probably shouldn’t have stopped to talk to us, because it didn’t make him look good at all. Even without knowing what an astroturf suit with a coal lobby name-tag symbolizes, you would think any senator with an instinct for self preservation (all of them?) would be wary. Instead, Julie said we had a book for him about how dirty industry has spun the science on global warming.Burris  saw the coal lobby name tag on David’s astroturf jacket and said, “You know, we have a lot of coal in Illinois, and we need to burn that coal.” Ouch.

AcFac’r Tom Owens, from western PA, jumped in at this point to say that he came from a mining town that exemplifies how the coal industry is taking the miners out of mining. If Senator Burris thinks that coal is going to create jobs in his state, then he has clearly fallen for the lies perpetuated by industry PR campaigns.

Burris left us with some words of thanks for being idealists and doing the important work, but we left him with something more powerful: A book that screams scandal from the cover to the last page. Even a 5 minute glance at Climate Cover-Up will show all but the most jaded corporate hack that global warming science has been mutilated by fossil PR spin.  It details how citizen opposition to climate legislation is bought and paid for the same way they convinced people cigarettes were harmless. Burris, I hope you enjoy your holidaze, reading about how you and the Senate were duped by some of the dirtiest industries in the world.

The Avaaz Action Factory has pushed back on corporate trickery, helping to expose astroturf operations and raising awareness about the dire threat posed by dirty industry. When Bonner and Associates got caught forging letters to congressmen before the key house vote, the AcFac showed up the same afternoon calling out their fraud and putting them on the front of HuffPo (not in a good way.) Ed Markey (D-MA) hauled Jack Bonner before a congressional panel to grill him and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity on their lies and deceit. The AcFac was there in astroturf suits, even shaking Bonner’s hand for all the great astroturf work he’s done.

But its a lot bigger than that. Bonner’s firm is small fry compared to the forces behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries and more.

I was thrilled to read Avaaz’s email today, sent out to its 3.6 million members around the world.  It captures the anger that I feel about COP15, and clearly lays out the next steps.  Avaaz is going to take the Chamber of Commerce and other powerful industry loggies head-on.  For a teaser, they closed with this:

In our journey together as the Avaaz community, we’ve taken on dictators in Burma and Zimbabwe, promise-breaking politicians in Europe and North America, and the forces of extremism in the Middle East. But the Chamber is in some ways the most powerful and dangerous opponent we’ve faced. Some have advised Avaaz to stay quiet about this, to protect our own organization. But with danger comes opportunity, and if people power can defeat even the most powerful corporate lobby in the world, we’ll send a much broader message, that a new world, the one we all seek, is on its way.

Acknowledging and fighting corporate power where it directly blocks the change that people want is crucial.  We can remove the roadblocks to climate action, build powerful alliances between people’s organizations of all kinds, and really get at the root causes of our unjust, polluting system.

Lets brainstorm some actions to target corrupt corporate lobbyists and hit the ground running next year.

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