Occupy the Climate?

Climate activists wanting to piggyback on the Occupy Wall Street movement have their work cut out for them.

As Occupy Wall Street goes global, questions about its demographic makeup (in the U.S.) are emerging. Organizers for the movement, to their credit, have recognized the lack of black and Hispanic representation among the protesters. Outreach efforts are under way.


Greens and climate activists should take note. Similar diversity issues have plagued the environmental movement for decades. This history is a cautionary lesson for the fledgling climate movement, which in recent years has struggled to catch fire, notwithstanding the publicity generated in August by the anti-tar sands pipeline campaign.

With the Occupy Wall Street movement striking a popular chord (see the eye-opening findings of this recent New York Times/CBS News poll), climate activists have quickly moved to capitalize on the zeitgeist.

Stephen Lacy, a blogger who writes on climate and energy issues, views “this broad-based movement as an opportunity to elevate demands for climate action,” with the potential for climate activism “to become a key piece of the protests.”

That remains to be seen. As Michael Greenberg notes in an article for The New York Review of Books, “the movement’s assertion it is an ally to ‘all people who feel wronged by corporate forces of the world’ has made it a blank screen upon which the grievances of a huge swath of the population can be projected.”

Economic insecurity and outrage over rising inequities (“We are the 99 percent”) are forces underlying the Occupy movement. George Packer, in an essay titled “The Broken Contract” in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, argues that “inequality is the ill that underlies all the others.” He notes a paradox that probably makes this moment in time even harder to grasp:

“We have all the information in the universe at our fingertips, while our most basic problems go unsolved year after year: climate change, income inequality, wage stagnation, national debt, immigration, falling educational achievement, deteriorating infrastructure, declining news standards. All around we see dazzling technological change, but not progress.”

The climate movement’s challenge, given the political and economic landscape, could not be any tougher. There will be no federal climate-related legislation to rally around any time soon. Only one of the two major political parties is even willing to accept climate science. Then there is the nature of the problem itself: amorphous and unthreatening in the present, with the greatest impacts diffused and in the distant future.

Good luck galvanizing a movement around that, especially with people most concerned about the next paycheck (or any paycheck) and which bills to pay, and wondering if next month or next year will be any better.

At this point, one wonders if the climate movement might better attain its objective if it were built around a larger sustainability narrative melding the economic with the ecological. It then could speak to people’s visceral anxieties at this moment in time.


Source: USA Today.

Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a New York City-based freelance journalist who writes often about the environment and climate change.
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7 Responses to Occupy the Climate?

  1. Michael Ioffe says:

    What since 1980th influence of Al Gore on science of climate change missed in articles and books about climate change:

    Whater vapor as lighter than most gases in air is going up to clouds level, which increase power of convection forces.
    PdV work cool air with height and stopped convection­.
    In cool air some of water vapor condensed to water DROPLETS.
    It process released heat, which heat surroundin­g air and RECREATE convection forces.
    This dynamic process of evaporatio­n and condensati­on, bring all (ALL) gases up to upper tropospher­e, where all latent heat and IR radiation energy is going easy to space, than from Oceans, land levels.
    This process creates clouds. Than thicker will be clouds than less energy from evaporatio­n and condensati­on are going up-DROPLET­S of water will decrease movement of water vapor.
    But clouds cover only 1/3 of earth atmosphere (by area).
    In other 2/3 of area process of formation of clouds helps to release in space energy, as latent heat of evaporatio­n, as IR radiation trapped in all (ALL) gases, which properties of water bring up.

    Properties of water actually cooling atmosphere­, despite water vapor is GHG.

    Scientists­, which ignore all properties of water are giving wrong advice to our and world Governments what to do with problem.
    Al Gore is politic and I respect his right for mistakes, but we MUST SAVE SCIENCE FROM BAD POLITIC.

    • Bob Jacobson says:

      This comment and the two that follow appeared in recent editions of the Yale Forum word for word. Is anyone at the Forum editing this blog?

      As to the article’s point, if the media would do its job of critically reporting on the climate change issue, acknowledging each time that 99.5% of climatologists and geological historians agree with the premise that human-induced climate change is about whack our way of life in the head, perhaps politicians and demagogues who make a living misleading significant portions of the populace would be less bold about their deceits.

      Lastly, minorities are not unrepresented among Occupy. It’s just that today, it costs quite a lot to take public transportation, in every American city; and then, who’s going to stay home and take care of the kids when the chances are that the Latino and black people who have even greater needs to be represented have to work three jobs just to put bread on the table and ensure someone to stay home with the kids. Where I live minorities mostly live under the poverty line. Or didn’t anyone notice? They don’t even get to go to college to pile up those magnificent student loans. They can’t even get started.

      • Bob Jacobson says:

        PS Keith, the movement has already been galvanized. Note President Obama’s positive response to critics of the tar-sands pipeline at his recent public appearances.

        You keep repeating your “point” that it will be hard to achieve policy gains when the facts contradict such cynicism. I doubt very strongly that Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline while Occupy is still around. Occupy’s criticism of the existing state of affairs may be too holistic for some journalists to follow, but it already includes climate issues.

        • Keith Kloor says:


          I think you are right that emergence of the Occupy movement may have an effect, especially as an amplifier of the kinds of themes the anti-pipeline campaign is making. That, and recent revelations of insider influence during the review process, have made the whole affair and the final decision much more problematic for the Obama Administration.

  2. Dan Rogers says:

    “We have all the information in the universe at our fingertips, while our most basic problems go unsolved year after year: climate change, income inequality, wage stagnation, national debt, immigration, falling educational achievement, deteriorating infrastructure, declining news standards. All around we see dazzling technological change, but not progress.”

    When George Packer undertakes to list “our most basic problems,” and then heads off the list with “climate change,” you have to wonder about Mr. Packer’s priorities and where they came from. To head up the list with a “problem” that we can do nothing about is simply foolish. Why not include, after climate change, non-existent things like aliens from outer space and/or gollywoggles? It would make as much sense.

    Climate change, of course, does exist. It has always existed and always will. No one with any common sense would deny it. As our understanding of the rhythms and cycles of nature becomes greater and greater, our ability to predict future climate trends becomes ever more valuable to us. We can prepare for what is coming. But to assert that we can stop what is coming or affect it in any significant way — to change its course — merely distracts us from sensibly preparing our world for the future.

    Michael Ioffe’s comment about water vapor, while somewhat difficult to understand, is certainly on point. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, although the global warmalists would have us ignore that fact. It is a more “powerful” greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a molecule to molecule basis, and there is a heck of a lot more of it in the atmosphere than there is carbon dioxide. (Both gases, one should mention, are absolutely essential to life on this planet, and neither one of them should be considered to be a “pollutant.”)

    • Michael Ioffe says:

      Sorry, DanRogers, English is my second language.
      Please, despite of my poor English try to understand main point:

      Properties of water actually cooling atmosphere­, despite water vapor is GHG.

      If mass media will understand and promote this point we could we have good tools to change our’s and world problems.

      • Dan Rogers says:

        No offense meant.

        Alcolhol is also a greenhouse gas when it is in gaseous form, but no one is urging us to ban vodka. Why is that?