The Earth is not for sale to business

January 19, 2010

NEW YORK--Some 100 people gathered outside the Embassy Suites in the heart of the financial district on January 13 to rally against the Second Annual Carbon Trading Summit, where the world's most powerful institutions and industries discussed new opportunities at profit in the pollution market.

The summit brought together representatives from some of the top polluting industries, including carbon financiers, bankers, government officials and corporate environmental groups. Some of the big names included Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Duke Energy.

One of the top strategies for climate control proposed during last year's summit in Copenhagen was "cap and trade," in which a yearly limit (or cap) is supposed to be placed on carbon emissions. A certain amount of permits are distributed to producers, regulating the amount each company is allowed to pollute without being taxed. This is supposed to give companies an economic incentive to shift toward newer and "greener" technology.

The more such companies invest in cleaner alternative methods of production, the more "carbon credits" they acquire, thus allowing them to sell off excess permits, or "carbon credits," to those companies that have exceeded their limits. Basically, it's the invention of a new carbon stock market--the same strategy that brought us subprime mortgages and the "exotic" investment schemes based on them.

Despite the cold, the crowd was alive with energy. Many protesters held signs that read, "Capitalism kills the environment," while others chanted, "The Earth is not for sale!" A sense of urgency enveloped the crowd. "Real change in the realities that are destroying the Earth's climate means developing the kind of people's movement that can take the power back from these corporations," said Brian Tokar, an organizer from the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont.

A handful of activists went inside to join the 65 to 70 conference participants as they dined for lunch. There, protesters voiced their opposition to the agenda of cap and trade.

The rally was marked by almost poetic symbolism, as protesters stood between the prestigious Embassy Suites and the Irish Hunger Memorial garden, which was erected to raise awareness of the thousands killed during the Great Irish Famine of the mid-19th century.

With the world population already facing the severe consequences of climate change, including hurricanes, droughts and floods, world leaders continue to provide little to no relief. In addition, they have concocted a plan for climate control that is bound to be a failure, with the exception of lining corporations' pockets.

Organizers recognized the need to make connections between the environment and broader social movements around the world. "The climate crisis is a justice issue, the climate crisis is a labor issue, the climate crisis is a crisis that effects everyone...Making those connections is absolutely central for moving forward," said Tokar.

The rally further demonstrated the backward priorities of those in power and of a broader capitalist agenda--not for those who profit but for those who really matter, those who are tired of having their very humanity and environment subjugated under the no-longer-invisible hand of the market.

Among the organizations that attended the rally were the Climate Crisis Coalition, Climate SOS, Rising Tide North America, Beyond Talk, Institute for Social Ecology and The Change You Want to See Gallery.

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