Many here at the Lake went a little (more) crazy when 350.org founder and much-admired climate expert Bill McKibben folded on Keystone XL’s Tar Sands pipeline.
After staging a memorable protest outside the White House last fall, McKibben went inside – and has since loudly applauded Barack Obama’s “threats” to veto any legislation that included the approval of the pipeline’s construction, and his rejection this spring of Keystone’s permit for the cross-border section of the oil-queduct.
McKibben has cheered these developments though the only real question is which happens first: Romney’s concession speech or Obama’s approval of Keystone’s re-application to connect the pipeline at the U.S.-Canada line.
A far pithier poser: Is McKibben – whose organization is (for the moment) an ally of the New Progressive Alliance – so new to activism that he’ll believe whatever a Democrat In A Suit tells him? Or has he cashed in his activist chips for a cushy job working for Democrats In Suits?
I hate to call McKibben out publicly… okay, no I don’t.
I tried keeping it private with Cornel West. Didn’t work.
An erstwhile member of the NPA steering committee, West’s comment earlier this year that there are no realistic alternatives to the major parties was more bullshit than I could take. I told him so in an email, and suggested that if he was unwilling to even acknowledge the existence of Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, he might not be a good fit with the NPA.
West replied with an obtuse reference to perhaps having Stein and/or Anderson on his radio show, righteous upset at my “threatening” tone, and a request that he be removed from the steering committee.
Subsequent emails between us have resulted in nothing more concrete than a pep talk (“Keep up the great work, Brother Anthony Noel”) and scrupulous avoidance of my earnest inquiry as to whether the good doctor is planning to put his money where his mouth has been for lo, these past three years.
So, until we know for sure that Dr. West really wants to create electoral alternatives and agrees that putting off doing it for one more election – because, it is, after all, the most important of our lives! (just like all the others…) – only deepens the crisis, he is listed thus on our steering committee page: Dr. Cornel West
Alas, this tale, and, I fear, Mr. McKibben’s, are object lessons in how highly effective, loudmouthed activists – people who could foment and lead movements which forever banish self-interest and greed from the equation that dictates policymaking – routinely fold up their podiums and head for the hills at the critical moment: Election time.
I’d planned to contact McKibben privately as well, to ask what the hell he’s thinking. Until, that is, I heard him shilling today on Sirius XM Left. (Even for a stalwart hockey fan like me, six weeks of listening to the reactions of the Los Angeles Kings play-by-play guy to the team’s finally winning the Stanley Cup over on XM 92 is about five weeks too many.)
Leveraging this 6,000-plus word article in Rolling Stone, McKibben is promoting 350’s consciousness-raising tour with Naomi Klein. It begins – wait for it – November 7. The day AFTER we (again) elect a greed-enabling corporatist, rather than a people-supporting activist. Regardless which party wins.
And that’s when it (finally) dawned on me: Publicly ambushing say-one-thing-do-another “progressives” is no more unfair to them than what they do to those who have supported them, when they publicly renege on the stated beliefs that garnered them or their organizations our moral – and more tangible – $upport.
(And let me just add, Ms. Klein: You are fast becoming a former heroine of mine, particularly since you hail from Canada and know what’s possible. Think about what you are doing, for chrissakes. Hunter S. Thompson is spinning in his grave.)
Though it surprised me, considering both the network and the show (Ed Schultz), stand-in host Mike Papantonio did a nice job of pressing McKibben, who attempted to push the (bullshit) line that blame for our still-deepening allegiance to fossil fuels has nothing to do with politicians and everything to do with the oil companies themselves.
Papantonio asked McKibben (paraphrasing from memory, here): “If I wanted to figure out who has been responsible for the continued power of the oil companies, who would I go looking for?”
McKibben: “That becomes about vengeance, and that’s really not going to solve the core problem.”
Papantonio: “But surely there are particular lobbyists who have pushed the lie about how we are not even close to climate crisis…”
McKibben: “If you want to use names, use the logos of any of the big fossil fuel companies.”
Translation: It’s not Obama’s fault, nor the lobbyists. The president didn’t have the votes in Congress anyway. (Indeed, McKibben at one point said as much.)
If it isn’t sufficiently telling that McKibben has chosen to delay his tour until the day after the election, ask yourself this: Why would a self-described climate activist not use an election, held at a time that record numbers of Americans are self-identifying as Independents, to help point voters away from the Big-Oil-bought-and-sold “leaders” who have already signaled their intention to perpetuate the climate mess?
I wrote to Dr. West, “You could be America’s Tommy Douglas.”
The same goes for you, Mr. McKibben. And like Dr. West, you have a decision to make.
350.org has done some great work, but you are putting it all at risk by kowtowing to this – or any corporate-owned – White House.
And we think you know it.
Thirty-five candidates running for everything from school board to the presidency have followed the lead of 350.org and the NPA’s other allies in endorsing the Unified Platform.
Why would you turn your back on them, Bill?
Unless, of course, you’re okay with 350 becoming another MoveOn, or PCCC, or PDA, glad handing Democrats In Suits and taking their money, despite mounting proof that they are not friends – of you or the planet.
Anthony Noel is a facilitator of the New Progressive Alliance.