Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama: New Hope or just New Packaging?

"Clean coal." He said it. His acceptance speech sounded so good until he got to that phrase. To hear such a beautiful and inspiring speech be soiled by such a dirty myth, I couldn’t help but immediately respond by shouting expletives.

But it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. Walking the streets of Denver during the Democratic National Convention I was constantly insulted by messages of "clean coal." That’s because the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) spent more than 2 million dollars this week on a pervasive advertising campaign, targeting delegates and attendees of the DNC. During the blaring heat of the late summer days, paid programmers of the coal industry passed out cardboard fans, which read, "I’m a fan of coal." They even passed out water bottles stating "someday, coal will be as clean as this water." This is what we’re up against, people.

The industries that are killing us are lying to us. This, of course, comes as no surprise. But it is utterly alarming to see such an aggressive campaign of disinformation at what is believed to be one of the most progressive turning points of our time. And to hear the symbol of hope for the future, the O man himself, plug "clean coal" in the forefront of his energy plan (followed by nuclear, and then solar, as a remote footnote)... all I can say is, "Oh Man!" No actually I can say a lot more than that.

It’s a reality of the corporate-governmental structure, that anyone who speaks out directly against the most powerful and polluting industries could not make it to the office of President. If Obama spoke out against coal, he wouldn’t get the coal states. It’s that simple. But why is he is actively propagating the destructive and deceiving myth of clean coal?

I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s taking their money and paying them lip service, just so that he can get into a position of power where he can change things. Maybe one if his first acts as President will be to ban the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and then to take up Al Gore’s challenge of freedom from fossil fuels by 2018. But then again… maybe not.

I don’t want to get too far out here, but perhaps this is all part of the Empire’s plan. Give the people a leader that they are happy with. Someone articulate, charismatic, someone who can relate to their struggles, someone who promises change and everything they want to hear. Lull them back to sleep, back into apathy. And then continue on with business-as-usual.

Look at how involved people have become in response to the ridiculousness of the Bush regime. People (youth, especially) are actually starting to give a damn about the state of the world. Won’t it be so much easier to sleep at night when you trust the man in charge? Don’t worry. He’s got it under control. Go back to school. Go back to work. Go back to sleep.

Let’s hope that’s not the case. Perhaps what he says about McCain is also be true about himself. "It’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s just that he has no idea." Maybe we just need to help him understand. Let's offer him and Michelle a romantic flyover of the Appalachian Moonscapes of Southern West Virginia. Let's get him in the same room with Larry Gibson or Maria Gunnoe and have them tell their stories.

Whatever the case is with this particular presidential candidate, one thing is clear: we have our work cut out for us. Those promoting the myth of clean coal have all the dirty money in the world at their disposal. And the fact that they are spending as much as they are to spread lies tells us something: They are threatened by the work that we are doing. They are threatened by what we have, which they will never have: the Truth. And they know the more people know the truth, the less powerful they become.

Defeat the myth. Spread the truth. By whatever (non-violent) means necessary.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fun at the DNC, day one

It was an arduous trip from Berkeley to Denver, but we made it here last night. The city was nice enough to great us with a fireworks show. So nice of them.

Denver seems like a nice place. The people are friendly, the city is visually appealing, and with the exception of the temporarily excessive police presence, it's seems like a pretty chill place to be. We spent the day today running our "Conscious Carnival" games as part of the Green Frontier Fest, which was mostly an expo of green businesses, clean energy, and "sustainable" consumerism. (If only we could buy our way to sustainability.)

I had a lot of fun running the "Toss out Fossil Fuels" bean bag toss game. Something about encouraging small children to hurl chunks of simulated coal in order to "take out the power plants," as I like to put it, brings a tingle to my heart.

Being so busy with the Roadshow, I figured I'd miss the action that was bound to ensue at the convention, but, by chance, I heard a report of a "riot" breaking out not two blocks away from the Green Fest. I decided to borrow a bike and ride over to check it out. The "riot" consisted of a couple black flags, and a few dozen storm troopers, in full regalia. As I expected, the only visible signs of violence were embodied in the weapons of the authorities. I bet they've been waiting all year to show off their new toys! People looked on in awe, hesitating to jay-walk for fear of being pepper sprayed or hit with rubber bullets and batons. Quite the demonstration of power. Let's not forget who's in control. "Who's streets?" Their streets, clearly.

Back at the festival, I decided to spend some time canvassing for RAN's agribusiness campaign. After a few minutes talking to the festival-goers, I found that the people were incredibly responsive to the mission and strategy of RAN. Nothing like flipping the ratio, and getting 9 out of 10 people to sign your list! I walked around, casually meeting people, and talking about rainforest destruction for palm oil. I've never had such an easy time talking about such heavy material. (Ironically, as I type this, I realize that the almond butter sample tubes that I've been enjoying for days contain... you guessed it, palm oil.)

As the event ended, and we began to break down, a couple familiar faces appeared. As they began to talk in wacky voices, accompanied by a camera crew, we realized they were correspondents from the Daily Show. They were doing a bit about the giant windmill blade, and how the DNC is so green that they trucked the gigantic blade all the way from Texas. We watched them shoot and reshoot the take several times, and then some of us decided to make a move. Donning the "GMO Freakshow" posters, three of our eco-carnis silently approached the crew. It was just awkward enough to totally weird them out, and they were somehow convinced to give us some air time, with an impromptu interview! Watch the Daily Show this Tuesday, as they totally rip us into pieces! There's now such thing as bad press... right?

OK, well, that's just the end of day one at the DNC. 5 hours to sleep before a long day setting up for our full-blown eco-carnival on Tuesday. I'm also pretty psyched to be giving a short talk at the end of the "Procession for the Future," which I still have to prepare for. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

San Francisco kick-off party kicked something!

Just want to leave a note and record about send-off party we had on Sunday night. It was held at CELLspace (Collective Exploration Learning Labs) in San Francisco. Its a shared space for artists and activists, supplying a "public environment for the exploration of art, education, performance and community building." It's existence is due in part to 8 years of hard (and unpaid) work by SLR co-founder, Jonathan Yout. An old industrial factory of some sort, with high ceilings and beams, the space has been built up physically and energetically, to create quite a fun arena and gathering place. (And check out the Hunab Ku logo!)

I started the night setting up a RAN table, showing off some literature about Bank of America and Citi, and how they fund climate change. We also set up the "GMO Freak Show," an element of the carnival where you stick your face in a wacky poster and someone takes a picture. After setting up, I got started helping with food preparation. If you're going to have a gathering, you've got to have food! We threw together all the veggies we had, and made a pretty decent soup, if I do say so myself.

I was not prepared for the calibur of the entertainment that night. The music and visual acts totally blew me away. I particularly enjoyed the sounds of Beats Antique, an electronic amalgam of ancient and ritualistic musical elements. I was not surprised to learn that they'll be opening for Bassnectar on his upcoming tour.

There were also some sick visuals projected during the later performances. They were oddly familiar to the visuals I had seen the night before during the Bassnectar performance, between sets of STS9 at the Greek Theater (great freakin show, btw). I learned that it was in fact the same visual artist that performed at the show. Among other things, he used scenes from Baraka and the online video, techno plants.

The was closed out by the Extra Action Marching Band. They really know how to get a crowd going. Blaring horns, pounding drums, and a rather, umm... visually stimulating color gaurd. I think I'm going to find myself a horn somewhere along the road and get my chops back in shape... They made me miss marching band, that's for sure, although I don't remember it being quite like that, epecially the color gaurd.

The night was not only filled with amazing entertainment, but also some quality people. It was so great to see everyone come together to wish us luck on the tour. Hopefully next year we'll be able to take them all with us!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The journey has just begun...

The Sustainable Living Roadshow is ready to roll!

Hello blog world! Marty here, checking in from Berkeley, CA, where the crew of the Sustainable Living Roadshow is making final preparations before embarking on its first national tour, "Be The Change 2008." We are a caravan of entertainers, educators and activists, traveling the country in a fleet of renewable fuel vehicles, setting up off-the-grid eco-carnivals, empowering and inspiring communities to work towards a sustainable and just future. There'll be carnival games like "Toss Out Fossil Fuels," workshops, demonstrations, and some amazing musical acts. It's time to make sustainability fun!

Over the next 11 weeks, I'll be bringing you updates and pictures from the road. I'm lucky enough to be representing Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and RAN Youth Sustaining the Earth (RYSE) on this epic journey across the US. I'll be giving workshops on climate action and RAN's campaigns, and getting youth fired up about challenging corporate power with RYSE. I'm also taking an active role in logistical planning for the tour, networking with student groups along the route, and organizing educational materials. It takes a lot of work putting on a roadshow, but its going to be an incredible ride!

We're hitting the road on Thursday, two bio-diesel busses and a box truck. First stop: the Democratic National Convention in Denver! (If you'll be there, don't miss our benefit party on August 26th, featuring the Motet Trio and reggae legend Luciano.) Then it's on to the RNC in St. Paul, followed by a handful of stops at universities and festivals across the country, including, Chicago, Knoxville, New Orleans, and Austin. Check out our schedule for details as they become available.

We're looking for volunteers at all of our events, so please let us know if you can help!

Well, that's it for now, time to get back to work. See you on the road!