Friday, October 2, 2015

Went Down to the Demonstration

Eight climate activists gathered in front of the Calumet Refinery in Great Falls Montana last weekend as part of the Flood the System escalation. Calumet refines Alberta tar sands "bitumen", and the signs held by the protesters demanded "clean energy jobs" and a recognition that climate change was a threat to our collective future. The good citizens of Great Falls that drove by our intersection mostly appeared...anxious. They generally avoided meeting our eyes or rolled theirs and snickered, half embarrassed at such a public display and half put out at being "confronted" by something political. There were a noticeable number of older cars and hard looking people, the kind who have worked their lives away and scraped by in a harsh, windy environment. The only person who actually engaged me in conversation was a security guard who didn't know what "tar sands" were and confused weather with climate (believed in was "cyclical") When I said there was consensus among climate scientists that warming was real he said "if you believe scientists, you would have to believe in evolution." End of conversation, but at least he was curious. To affect public opinion on this issue is to go head to head with many dominant ideological narratives, such as religion, nationalism and "democratic capitalism". On a less abstract level, one also goes up against well funded trade lobbies, "free market" councils, foundations, and associations including the Chambers of Commerce. Then there are the libertarian "think tanks" and the corporate media. All quite aware of the threat climate change poses to their carefully constructed cultural apparatus. But hey, no one said it was going to be easy! It will require strategy and smarts and IMO this means giving up on small street-corners in the outlying periphery and concentrating/consolidating in places where direct action can have a real, movement-building impact.

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