The Skywriter

Weekly Round-Up 8/6/10: Enviros finger-pointing and the state of the climate (VIDEO)


Weekly Round-Up 8/6/10: Enviros finger-pointing and the state of the climate (VIDEO)


This week started with ire over the Senate's delay in bringing a climate bill to vote before the Senate recess. And the week ends with... ire over the Senate delaying in bringing a BP accountability and efficiency bill to the floor! The Senate can't even get 60 votes to pass a small, "no-carbon capping" bill with number of non-controversial measures that easily passed bi-partisan Senate subcommittees, like Home Star? So, the Senate packed it in for the month, claiming they'll take it up again in September. C'mon! Founder and 1Sky ally Bill McKibben elegantly – and with the right touch of profanity – drove that frustration and anger home in his editorial that made rounds this week. In his call to action, McKibben claims that despite all the evidence towards a burning planet, the politicians did nothing, calling it a "total defeat, no moral victories." McKibben laid out three steps to create real change to solve the climate crisis: talk about global warming, ask for what we want to create change, and start the movement. I won't quote directly, go read the piece in its entirety instead. It's required climate reading for the week.

So, with no bill at all, the blame game started: organizations, journalists, and bloggers began pointing fingers at themselves and at everyone. They especially pointed at enviro groups, claiming the greens dropped the ball in bringing true grassroots power to the table. Tom Friedman's New York Times piece and posts in Grist and Politico touched on the topic.

It's a sobering view for many in the movement, including the folks here at 1Sky, when we look at the last two years and ask ourselves if we did enough. Thankfully, Dave Robert's piece points that it's the Senate that's broken, not the groups:

Yet environmentalists pulled together a huge coalition of businesses, religious groups, military groups, unions, and social justice groups. They got a majority of U.S. citizens on their side, as polls repeatedly showed. And – here's the kicker – on the back of all that work, they got a majority of legislators in both houses of Congress on their side. In a sane world – and in other developed democracies – that's what success looks like.

It makes me feel better, but I suspect others feel differently. Some even questioned if there was a movement. In their Grist piece, authors Kelsey Wirth, Rockefeller Family Fund's Larry Shapiro, and Greenpeace USA's Philip Radford put it bluntly on why the grassroots failed to help deliver a strong bill (Note: Rockefeller Brothers is a 1Sky donor and strategic partner):

We failed to build a social movement equal to the task. In the absence of a real climate movement, we are likely to continue to see even inadequate half-measures fail again and again. Only a broad-based social movement around climate change can get the job done, fueled by the same passion and underpinned with the same moral conviction that characterized the historical movements that ended slavery, promoted suffrage, secured civil rights, and mandated a cleaner and healthier environment.

Alexa Jay at Science Climate Watch discussed the movement's messaging issues in her review of the Netroots Nation conference panel "Environmental Conflict and Climate Change: The Grassroots vs Big Green." She discusses the panels' back-and-forth on whether big green tamped down the movement with big budget concessions. She details the session and offers her own viewpoint on messaging to grow the movement:

While these messages-the need to tear down our old energy infrastructure and the need to build up a new one to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable society-are clearly not mutually exclusive, I'm interested in how they can be integrated with the fundamental message of what we are doing to our climate system. The Obama administration made a political decision to focus its climate and energy messaging on green jobs, i.e., offering positive-message solutions, perhaps out of fear of alienating people with climate change 'doom and gloom.' But those messages can and should be mutually reinforcing, and we need them to be to find a truly compelling way of communicating the human impact of climate change and what we can do to fight back.

So, while the blame game and contemplations wrap-up the week, 1Sky is still at work defending the Clean Air Act and starting up August events calling on our senators to be accountable for our climate's future. And in case you weren't looking, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) released their State of the Climate in 2009 report this week. The big take-away: the oceans are getting warmer and the last decade was the warmest on record. Wow, if the movement needs a story and a compelling way to communicate urgency, that did it. Download the report and watch the video.


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