Thursday, November 19, 2015
Back to the Demonstration
The loose coalition known as Flood the System organized another protest this week, this time with a specific, local target in mind. Washington Companies is headquartered in Missoula Mt and its founder and owner Dennis Washington is a native son. They make money in lots of ways but shipping coal by rail to points west is a big one and as our rally took place a mile long train loaded with the dirty fuel chugged beneath the overpass we stood on. Some believe this makes Dennis a climate criminal. I prefer profiteer. A difference without a distinction? I don't think so. The loose coalition I mentioned consists of Rising Tide, a national organization with a quite radical critique ( see earlier post Sept.23 2015). They developed the Flood meme. There were also local groups Blue Skies, 350.org, campus divestment, Transition Town, and others I am probably missing. Each with a different comfort zone around the anti-capitalist critique, so that the language employed in signs, speeches and demands becomes a terrain of internal struggle. Even within the organizing circle there were differences over strategy and tactics in the effort to stop the extraction, shipping and burning of fossil fuels. For instance; is it possible to start with a slogan such as Washington Needs a Green Business Model! and generalize it into a more radical critique with structural implications? We are told we must "meet people where they are" and often this means folks new to the climate movement, folks who have not been exposed to language around white supremacy, patriarchy, or eco-esocialism and who might find it threatening. But if we don't get to the roots of injustice, if we don't challenge hegemonic narratives and ideologies, we may serve as tools to legitimize and perpetuate the very systems we oppose. We may simply end up, as Rising Tide puts it, with "solar powered sweatshops". There is no easy solution here. So as we call Dennis a "profiteer" we call into question the larger question of profit itself. If we can interject the notion of "externalities" we can call into question the rationality of energy markets. If all we do is get more wind and solar in the state's energy mix, Dennis can buy himself another yacht and we buy ourselves a little more time. This also raises the question of how "we" "interject" anything; the mainstream media only covers the superficial aspects and a national "dialogue" or "conversation" is a convenient fiction. Social media? Larger spectacles? Waiting for another "super-storm" so we can shout at the top of our lungs?