Why #occupy is an environmental issue

October 15, 2011
Occupy Wall Street protesters
Occupy Wall Street protesters

The occupy movement is spreading, and in more ways than one. It’s spreading across the globe — by October 11 occupytogether.org could boast of 1273 occupy events planned worldwide. But the movement, united under its slogan “We are the 99%”, is also reaching out to, and involving, other established social movements.

Environmentalists and climate campaigners have linked up with Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. Hundreds of climate activists joined a 5000-strong march there on October 5. Their message was well received by other protesters.

Justin Haaheim, an organiser with 350.org, told environmental blogger Russell McLendon that the march “was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in a long time in terms of the environmental movement.

“I was surprised by how much there was a really common message among all the protesters. It would be really easy for something like that to have a million different messages, but it was encouraging to see that the environmental message was very widespread and very meshed in with the broader Occupy Wall Street movement.”

The coming together of the two movements is a good sign because there is no way out of our ecological crises as long as the world’s richest 1% keep control over the economy and our political systems.

Climate writer and activist Bill McKibben said in an October 10 speech at Occupy Wall Street that the global 1% is the biggest environmental problem.

He said: “The reason that it’s so great that we’re occupying Wall Street is because Wall Street has been occupying the atmosphere. That’s why we can never do anything about global warming. Exxon gets in the way. Goldman Sachs gets in the way. The whole fossil fuel industry gets in the way.

“The sky does not belong to Exxon. They cannot keep using it as a sewer into which to dump their carbon. If they do, we’ve got no future and nobody else on this planet has a future.”

McKibben spoke of the climate justice movement in the Third World, which is leading the fight against dangerous climate change. “They need us to act with them and for them,” he said, “because the problem is 20 blocks south of here. That’s where the Empire lives and we’ve got to figure out how to tame it and make it work for this planet or not work at all.”

In Australia, occupy protests will take place in several Australian cities from October 15. The politics and demands of the Australian events cannot be set out in advance. Part of the occupy movement’s success is to first bring people together and then work out the movement’s shared goals in an inclusive and democratic way.

But, as the Occupy New York declaration says, we live in “a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments”.

The recognition that 99% of us share a common enemy, and that we must organise together to challenge injustice, is a central dynamic of these protests. Like in the US, there’s every reason to think that Australian environmentalists can find a place in the occupy movement.


Wrong, do some research first? The oocupywallstreat list of demands does not include CO2, climate change or greenhouse gasses. It does mention conservation and energy and reforestation and not CO2 climate crisis. System Change, not climate change is the call now and has been for quite a while in Europe. Their logic is that why should we allow banks to bankroll corporations to tax the air we breathe with CARBON TRADING MARKETS run by politicians? Hardly anti-capitalist.
Um, read the article first? Nowhere does it mention specific/official demands of OccupyWallst. It does say that lots of people joining in are concerned about climate change, unsurprisingly! Nor is carbon trading anywhere equated with tackling climate change. If you're going to accuse the author of poor research, at least have half a clue what you're on about buddy.

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