Occupy Wall Street and the Environment: Global Climate Justice Day

Join us as Human Impacts Institute’s representatives explore the ongoing evolution of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the connections between the 99%, the health of our communities, and environmental well-being. Over the next few weeks, Human Impacts Institute representatives and other MobilizeUS! Campaign partners will be exploring participants’ in the Occupy Movement opinions on “What is My Vision for a Green Economy”, as well as sustainable practices at Occupy Wall Street, our progress there, involvement of other environmental groups, and more.

The Environmentalist Solidarity working group of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) organized Global Climate Justice Day this past Sunday, November 27, 2011. Strategically scheduled the day before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, this was a call from the 99% to the 1%, demanding true commitment to systemic change.

Crowds gathered in Washington Square Park for a mock trial of Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP at the time of the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Once the evidence was presented and the floor opened to objections, ‘Judge’ Ken Gale (of WBAI’s Eco-Logic) found Hayward guilty for crimes against the earth and humanity. This was just the first of many mock trials planned by OWS for injustices committed by the 1%.

BBC reporter Greg Palast provided investigative insight on this and similar situations of corporate corruption, more of which can be found in his book Vulture’s Picnic. He referred to the ‘people’s microphone’ of Occupy Wall Street as the only way to get anything out in America — the only place where his stories never reach the mainstream media.

The people’s mic was opened to all, and one person used it transmit a message from350.org’s Bill McKibbin, who was sorry he could not attend the rally because he was “on the other edge of the continent helping organize in the continuing fight against tar sands, shale gas, and other forms of extreme energy.” “One of the high points of [his] year” included using the human microphone in early October of 2011 to inform Occupy Wall Street about the Washington D.C. protest against Tar Sands. This action ended up being a “small victory in the fight against the Keystone Pipeline [that] simply could not have happened without the support of the Occupy movement.”

McKibbin made further connections encouraging Occupy in the fight for the climate justice and explained, “if we’re going to have any chance of beating global warming, we’re going to need to beat corporate power. Too many of us have been to jail this year already, but I fear many more of us will need to go before this fight ends. We can’t outspend oil companies, so we need a new currency to work in. That’s passion. That’s spirit. That’s creativity. And sometimes, that’s our bodies. We need to spend them wisely using the immense potential power of non-violent resistance” — a primary ethos of Occupy.

Chris Williams, who also spoke at last month’s Climate Justice Day and recently published an article on the Durban UNFCCC, encouraged the people to “build the movement here, in this country, in solidarity with the movements in Egypt, Spain, Greece, and now South Africa — because we have a world to win and not much time.”

Other speakers included Alice Slater of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, who spoke out against nuclear energy and hydraulic fracturing, JK Canepa of NY Climate Action Group, and Jim Keating of Rainforest Relief who emphasized the role of deforestation in climate change.

The rally participants then marched on to Liberty Square, otherwise known as Zuccotti Park, which was home to Occupy Wall Street until Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a raid under a media blackout at 1 AM on November 15th. This all but retracted from the strength of the movement, however, and the Environmentalist Solidarity group analogized this eviction as just a “small reflection of what [the 1% is] doing to our planet. They’re saying, ‘This ain’t your Square! This ain’t your Earth! But we are the 99%. There are a few more of us than them!”

By Melanie Sluyter, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern

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