The events of the past few weeks make one wonder: If we’re just going to use solar power instead of coal to run the same sad mess of unfair and ugly oppression, is it really worth it?Photograph by Vanessa Charlot / Redux
Most weeks, we talk about how to save the world, which seems the only accurate way to put it, given that we’ve just lived through the hottest May in recorded history and that the carbon-dioxide levels in our atmosphere just hit a new high, unmatched in the past three million years. There are, per usual, dozens of interesting new reports and studies I could tell you about and dozens of dangerous new political developments, right down to the Trump Administration waiving environmental reviews for major projects such as pipelines. (Just no more review—go ahead and build.) But the pain expressed so eloquently in the richest country on Earth these past few weeks can’t help but make one wonder: If we’re just going to use solar power instead of coal to run the same sad mess of unfair and ugly oppression, is it really worth it? Despite the glad sight of Americans surging into the streets this past weekend—and even with news that the Minneapolis City Council is setting out to dismantle its police department and replace it with something else—I worry that, as with other such moments in the past, this one may slip away without our society really doing the deep work of facing our collective demons.
So I thought it would be worth listening to some of my colleagues at 350.org (a group that I helped found), who, on Thursday night, put together this Webinar. It isn’t necessary, of course, to agree with all the views expressed there; if the Webinar doesn’t make you uncomfortable in spots, your comfort meter may be pegged too high. But discomfort never killed anyone, not like a knee on the neck or a coal-fired power plant down the street. It features the 350.org activists Thanu Yakupitiyage, Dominique Thomas, Cherrell Brown, Natalia Cardona, Emily Southard, Tianna Arredondo, and Clarissa Brooks, as well as Sam Grant, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of 350. Their guests are Oluchi Omeoga, who is a Minneapolis organizer with Black Visions Collective, and Lumumba Bandele, the national strategies and partnerships director for Movement for Black Lives.
Passing the Mic
Since this is a fairly personal edition of this newsletter, let me say that there is almost no one I like working with more than the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., who is based in Washington, D.C. We’ve been to jail together on several occasions, most recently in January, at the launch of a campaign to keep Chase Bank from funding fossil fuels, and we’ve worked together in many other ways, because his Hip Hop Caucus has been at the forefront of bringing culture to bear on environmental politics. I remember him addressing people being handcuffed, in Lafayette Square, at the start of the Keystone XL mass protests. “This is the lunch-counter moment for the twenty-first century,” he told them. He and his team are currently filming a climate comedy/documentary called “Ain’t Your Mama’s Heat Wave.” (See www.Think100Climate.com for more information and a film preview.) My conversation with the Reverend Yearwood, which has been edited for length and clarity, is below.
You’ve worked hard on police-brutality issues and on climate change. Describe the intersections.