Occupy’s Disrupt Dirty Power Earth Month

From New York to St. Louis to Los Angeles, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) buzzes with the awakening of spring activities throughout the United States. One of its many pending actions is to join forces with the environmental movement to launch Earth Month on March 24.

Disrupt Dirty Power will support direct actions around the U.S. and beyond to combine environmental justice and economic justice. These actions, according to its website, seek to “evict Wall Street polluters,” focusing on “dirty banks, big oil, big coal, fracking, uranium.” It claims that “the climate can’t wait and neither can we.” Initiated by an OWS affinity group called 99forEarth, the effort has been joined by environmental groups.

“The Disrupt Dirty Power campaign was inspired by the fact that political interests supersede what is best for the public,” OWS organizer Will Jesse said. “Big oil and big coal dictate what happens. It is important to do personal things, but that is not enough. We need to pressure politicians and corporations to change how they do things. We need a mass movement to do that,” he added.

The actions will start at the United Nations, which is scheduled to release a sustainability report around that time. The goal is to connect the dots between the big banks funding fossil fuel corporations, which use their huge profits to hire lobbyists and pay off government officials to write legislation that favors big oil and ig coal.

“We’ve been involved with Occupy movements here in the US, and around the world,” Phil Aroneanu, a co-founder and US Campaign Director of the large international environmental group 350.org writes on its website. “From Tahrir to Tulsa, ordinary people are turning out in droves to fight inequality and push for greater democracy. Climate Change is entering into the occupy movement in unprecedented ways, from occupiers joining the Keystone XL campaign last year, to March 24th’s Disrupt Dirty Power day of action.”

The Keystone campaign successfully mobilized thousands of people to demonstrate outside the White House, over a thousand of whom were arrested. They managed to stop, at least for now, the drilling of a pipeline to take tar sand oil from Canada to the Texas coast. It would wreak havoc not only on the ground but would be a potential catastrophe for the US. water supply, as well as release an immense amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

The effective actions by 350.org and others are examples of the environmental movement taking off its gloves to confront big oil and its governmental allies. 350.org offered a guest post online about Earth Month from 99forEarth. This action initiates a new stage in Occupy—joining forces with the grassroots environmental movement and placing the climate crisis at the forefront of the global social movement.

It calls on people “to move your money into community banks and credit unions,” because of the extensive environmental damage done by the alliance of big banks and fossil fuel corporations. In addition to personal accounts, this call extends to schools, local businesses, churches, community groups, and government agencies to move their funds. It seeks to mobilize the 99% to stop investing in dirty power and “pull the plug on banks that do.”

“We have been involved with 99forEarth since it was conceptualized a few months ago,” said Aroneanu in a phone interview. “We see government corruption as endemic. We need to take a systems approach, as Occupy does, and take it head on. Many of our volunteers have been involved with Occupy.”

In the Washington, D.C. area, 350.org will collaborate with Occupy in an End Power Madness regional action targeting Dominion Energy, a public utility that monopolizes the area and generates electricity from coal. “We plan to bring 300 to 500 people to surround Dominion in Richmond, Virginia. They use underhanded tactics, like banks do, to block environmental legislation.”

350.org has organized over 15,000 community-based actions in 188 countries, according to Aroneanu. “We share the idea with Occupy that we need to get people into the streets and hold corporations accountable for the corruption that is going on in government,” he added. 350.org plans to take on the $20 billion dollar subsidy that fossil fuel corporations receive from the federal government in future actions.

Among Disrupt Dirty Power’s targets are Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Coal, Alta Natural Resource, Citi, Chase, PB and Bank of America, which is already vulnerable. Some investment counselors say BofA may fail as early as this year. Another bailout?

Those expected in New York include college students from Tennessee and elsewhere. In addition to New York’s action, at least a dozen other places already have signed on to the campaign. As people hear about it during the month, its organizers hope that they will join and develop their own de-centralized plans. Among those actions are the following:

  • Occupy Portland’s Environment Group — walking tour of the city’s worse environmental offenders.
  • Occupy London’s Environmental Action Group—March 23 march from St. Paul’s Cathedral to make the connection between corrupt government and dirty power.
  • Vancouver’s No to Endbridge—March 26 action in coordination with First Nation peoples against the exploitation of Alberta’s Tar Sands.
  • Vermont’s Yankee nuclear power plant — a freeze on Fukishima.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina — a March 31 Conference for the Abolition of Mountaintop Removal.
  • Richmond, Washington — action at the Hanford nuclear power plant.
  • Las Vegas—Moata tribe will travel by foot from their homes to the federal building to shut down the Reid Gardner Coal plant, supported by Occupy Las Vegas.

Groups that have something to add as the month unfolds can contact the Disrupt Dirty Power website. “We hope this will be a model that others pick up. We have no central command for the national actions,” organizer Rebecca Manski noted.

“As we build the narrative of this movement through our direct action,” Manski added, “it is important to bring back the environmental justice message that Occupy started with. Economic justice and environmental justice are inseparable.”

Shepherd Bliss (3sb@comcast.net) teaches college part-time and farms. Read other articles by Shepherd, or visit Shepherd's website.