Occupy Wall Street’s original Declaration of the City of New York, in September, listed a litany of issues, from foreclosures and bailouts to outsourcing and cruelty to animals, but it barely mentioned the environment and was silent on global warming and climate change. A resolution passed by consensus at a General Assembly this past January more than rectified the omission. It states, “We are at a dangerous tipping point in history. The destruction of our planet and climate change are almost at a point of no return.” The resolution links climate destruction to the shift in political power that lies at the heart of Occupy: “We must reclaim our democracy to protect our planet.”
The General Assembly resolution calls for a month of action, starting March 24 and leading up to Earth Day on April 22, to draw the Occupy movements across the country and around the world further into the struggle to protect the climate. “Earth Month,” which will target all fossil and nonrenewable fuels, is being spearheaded by a group from OWS called 99forEarth. The resolution also calls for “connecting the dots between the 1% and the destruction of the planet.” At one end of the chain are specific depredations on specific environments: “Our mountains in Appalachia are blasted; our drinking water in the northeast [is] threatened by fracking; our American heartland is charted for an oil pipeline; and our forests in the northwest [are] targeted for further deforestation.” Connect the dots and you find that the corporate destruction of the earth’s climate has been “financed by the 1%” and that a “small group of polluting businesses” have “hijacked our political system for their benefit.”
As the Occupy movement evolves from a wave of encampments to new forms of a densely networked, virtual and face-to-face political community, its concern with climate change and environmental devastation is growing and converging with activism aimed more directly at the economic depredations of the 1 percent. That convergence may be crucial for the future of the Occupy movement, and of the planet. Climate and environment fit naturally into the Occupy story. The Occupy movement is about reclaiming a future for people who have had their life chances rubbished by three decades of global neoliberalism and austerity. But it’s not just about paycheck economics; the destruction of the climate and environment is an integral part of the neoliberal world order. The same corporations, banks and financial institutions that destroyed the economy are destroying the global environment. The struggle to preserve the earth and its atmosphere is, by necessity, a struggle against those forces.