Tagged: climate change

climate change

In central Brussels, hundreds of spectators witnessed, with approval or horror, a slick new tech startup, RefuGreenErgy, that converts the power of bicycling refugees into electrical energy—giving the refugees 24-hour periods of amnesty and 1.60 euros per day, and Belgians "green electricity" and a "guilt-free way to help others." A websitepromotional video, and Facebook and Twitter accounts helped with the illusion. The launch event was exposed when a member of the public, who happens to work with refugees, revolted loudly against the concept—almost the first time this has happened with a Yes Lab project. (See reveal video and selected Belgian media coverage.)

The hoax—carried out by WAAR (We Are All Refugees), a group of "artivists" from Belgium and abroad, in cahoots with several refugee groups—was designed to call attention to the moral responsibility of developed countries for the so-called "refugee crisis," which is partly due to climate change (caused by rich countries) and partly due to colonial and current-day exploitation.

WAAR asks that you:

  • Support the collectives and organizations of the undocumented, their occupations, and their demand for equality.
  • Support passengers who have opposed the deportation of refugees by air, who are now being prosecuted by the Belgian justice system.
  • If you are in Belgium, welcome a refugee from Maximilian Park (Brussels) into your home to allow him/her to rest and protect him/her from police raids.
  • Visit asylum seekers in the Belgian refugee centers.
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Royal Dutch Shell has spent billions on its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Despite setbacks, in the spring and summer of 2015, they were ramping up operations to go drill in areas made newly accessible by climate change. To counter the negative attention they were getting, we decided to help them out by launching a guerrilla marketing campaign to offer people a taste of the melting Arctic.

 

A Shell “street team” popped up in New York City to promote the oil giant’s big Arctic launch with a classic street food: hand-shaved ice. But it wasn’t just any ice, this was the last polar ice, shaved from ancient bergs before they’re all gone. A piraguero manning a slick “low rider” shaved-ice cart (actually artist Miguel Luciano) handed out the free red and yellow slushies, offering New Yorkers their “First Taste of the Last Frontier." Our hot-pants wearing models waved signs advertising Shell's Arctic drilling program, while we did the public outreach that Shell is too embarrassed to do themselves.

 

And it worked! Thanks to this action (and, well, thousands of activists worldwide), Shell abandoned their plans to drill in the Arctic in the foreseeable future.

 

Check out Rolling Stone’s video and article here, and more coverage on Democracy Now! here.

 

 
 
 
 
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Graduating Reed College students and their parents gave a standing ovation to an announcement by their commencement speaker that the college had decided to divest from fossil fuels. But the President and Chair of the Board of Trustees, who were sitting onstage with the speaker, quietly wrung their hands—because the announcement was a hoax, and the board had recently decided exactly the opposite.

Commencement Speaker, Yes Man and Reed alum Mike Bonanno, worked with student activists from Fossil Free Reed to show the grads, students, faculty, and families that they could be the change they want to see in the world starting with their own institution.

Democracy Now report:

Selected Press:

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To a dance-ready crowd of security and defense contractors at the Homeland Security Congress in Washington, one "Benedict Waterman"—a crazy-haired, bespectacled official supposedly from the U.S. Department of Energy—announces a revolutionary new energy plan to convert the U.S. power grid to entirely renewable sources by the year 2030, and give ownership of the new power-generation facilities to those on whose land they're built—from Native American nations (thus serving as reparations for genocide) to anyone who puts a solar panel on his or her roof. (See full press release here.)

The plan, "Waterman" announces, will give us independence from the fossil fuel companies who are leading us to ruin, and will additionally create millions of jobs, eventually save half a trillion per year on health care costs, result in lower energy costs and greater price stability, and—bonus!—give our civilization a chance of surviving well into the future. (One such plan is described in some detail here.)

Why must we do this? There are several reasons, "Waterman" explains, but one of the main ones is that if we don't, there will be revolution. The message is clear: it's up to all of us, every citizen, to force our government to do the right thing. Magic solutions will never come from anywhere on high—not from government, and certainly not from the "market." A survivable, happy future will only happen if all of us get active and do what we can, in whatever we can, to force our leaders to truly represent us. We are all the Department of Energy!

The fake DoE announcement was followed by a stirring speech by "Bana Slowhorse" of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (actually Gitz Crazyboy, a youth worker from the Athabascan Chippewyan First Nations, whose land includes the Alberta Tar Sands). After that, "Bana" and "Four Feathers" (Tito Ybarra) led the entire crowd of contractors in a "traditional" circle dance celebrating renewable energy.

There were many participants in this project, including members of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Idle No More, The 1491sYansa.orgIraq Veterans Against the War, Greenpeace, Popular Resistance, and CODEPINK. And, of course, the conference attendees.

Watch the report from Democracy Now here.

Circle dance highlights:

Scene from "The Yes Men Are Revolting" (2014):

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In 2012, Royal Dutch Shell failed to drill a single hole in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska thanks to a series of dangerous blunders and mismanagement that led to the U.S. government calling the company "screwed up." This year, they trained their sights on the much less regulated waters off the coast of Russia, teaming up the Russian oil giant, Gazprom, to open up the newly accessible Russian arctic to drilling. 

Greenpeace didn't think enough people were paying attention to this, so they teamed up with the Yes Lab to create a spectacle in Amsterdam that would get people talking. 

On August 21st, a barge filled with Russian and Dutch officials, a marching band, a young Russian child singer, and a giant cage containing what appeared to be a drugged up polar bear, wound it's way through the canals of Amsterdam to the city's zoo. Gazprom held a ceremony presenting the bear to the city as a gesture of good will and partnership, launching the Polar Partners initiative, including an interactive website and video. 

The promotional video of the event immediately went viral with high-profile Twitterers like Pamela Anderson, Adam McKay, Occupy Wall Street, and 350.org tweeting their outrage.

Selected Press:

 

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During National Asthma Awareness Month (a real commemoration), the fossil fuel industry launched one of its more bizarre public health initiatives to date: Coal Cares™ (www.coalcares.com).

The campaign, which promised to “make asthma cool” with decorative and pop-culture inspired inhalers (“The Bieber,” “Harry Potter,” “My Little Pony,” and “My First Inhaler”), was purportedly a cheeky initiative from Peabody Energy, America’s largest coal company. The slick website also announced that Peabody would offer $10 coupons towards asthma medication to families living within 200 miles of a coal-fired plant, featured a “Kidz Koal Korner” with asthma-related games for tots, an extensive asthma trivia section and FAQ (Peter the Great was asthmatic, who knew!), and a passionate condemnation of solar and wind alternatives.

The project, which unleashed threats of lawsuits and hysterical recriminations from Peabody Coal, was actually a collaboration between a group called Coal is Killing Kids and the Yes Lab. The Coal Cares campaign quickly became a major phenomenon on social media, with hundreds signing up to follow Coal Cares cheeky missives on Twitter, and tens of thousands sharing the campaign on Facebook.

More importantly it put Big Coal on the defensive at a time when they were spending millions of dollars on lobby and phony "greenwashing" campaigns to oppose important Federal updates to clean air laws. The fact that the coal industry is one of the biggest known contributors to childhood asthma in the United States got the front page attention it deserved -- it also highlighted a similar atrocious effort by Big Coal to subvert the education system by teaming up with Scholastic publishers to publish a pro-coal propaganda text book for fourth graders. A week after Coal Cares made a splash, Scholastic dumped the faux text book after widespread publicity and outrage.
 

Selected press:

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A fuzzy cell phone video of an Elijah Woods sighting in Alberta, Canada. A fake Alberta Film website touting the advantages of filming at the Tars Sands. A fake production company website, a gossip video blog, an angry press release by the Tolkien family, a fake video blog by Peter Jackson himself, director of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and now The Hobbit, and of course a Facebook campaign against Jackson, calling on him to stop filming in the Tar Sands: because it was too flattering to Mordor.

The only thing missing was a sighting of evil Lord Sauron.

This complex social media campaign, which had the blogosphere abuzz speculating as to when, how and why Jackson was shooting the Mordor scenes from The Hobbit in the Alberta Tar Sands, created an opportunity to further highlight the devastation caused by the Tar Sands. The Tar Sands, which NASA scientist and climate expert James Hansen has called Canada's "carbon bomb," is the country's single largest source of climate change enhancing greenhouse gas emissions. And at a time of worsening climate crisis, Canada is expanding operations at the massive industrial site.

The campaign was developed by a troupe of Toronto activists calling themselves Black Flood, along with the Yes Lab. The stated goal of the Canadian activists—"to stir up some hot and bubbly controversy on the Alberta tar sands"—worked like a charm.

Selected press:

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Students from Columbia College in Chicago came together with Greenpeace and The Yes Lab to take on the Chicago coal industry. The group created an elaborate scheme to announce that a new Coal Plant was planned—but instead of going in a poor neighborhood (like the two coal plants that already exist), this one would be built in a rich one.

First, a Midwest Generation website quietly appeared online.

Then, construction notices showed up on the lot where the new plant would be built:

Then, these brochures started appearing the mailboxes of condo owners adjacent to the lot:

A letter from the city of Chicago also appeared in condo mailboxes, warning residents to remain vigilant in the face of potential future health effects:

Soon, "ambulance chaser" lawyers were in on the act:

Soon enough, a protest group was formed, and these fliers went up all over the neighborhood:

The protest actually occurred and was covered in the media. The "protest group" website pointed to a very real petition in favor of the Clean Power Ordinance, and full of facts about the two coal plants that already existed in Chicago neighborhoods, albeit poor ones:

The fliers and protests got a rise out of residents, and the media coverage helped keep the heat on Chicago to pass a Clean Power Ordinance.

Selected press:

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Blame Canada?

What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century was soon revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists including the Yes Men. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress at the UN Climate meetings in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy. Canada's breakneck rush to exploit the massive Alberta tar sands, one of the most energy intensive and carbon spewing projects on the planet, is the primary cause of Canada's outsize carbon footprint.

The elaborate operation to call out Canada's obstructionist ways was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the "Climate Debt Agents" from ActionAid, art students from Denmark, and The Yes Men.

From deep inside an underground bunker in a secret location in Copenhagen, in a faux auditorium fashioned with cardboard boxes and pipe cleaners made to look like the UN climate conference center (Good COP 15), "Canadian government representatives" announced a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a "Climate Debt Mechanism" for the developing world. The ruse involved a flurry of press releases, announcements, retractions, and video footage of Canadian and African climate negotiators sparring over a number of contentious issues.

In the first release from "Environment Canada", Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."

This was followed by a press release of the Ugandan delegation's supposed reaction, including a dramatic video, and a fake Wall Street Journal article about the whole thing. These releases were then followed by a supposed retraction. Out there in the real world, Dmitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's spokesman, went mental and was filmed screaming at a hapless Canadian ecologist, accusing him of having organized the whole thing. (Dmitri was sent home the next day).

Besides leaving Canada with egg on its face for its terrible climate policy, the point of this multi-media operation was also to highlight the concept of Climate Debt. While 75% of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis come from 20% of the world's population in developed countries (according to the UN), up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are and will be experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank. The developed countries got rich by endangering the developing ones—don't they owe them something?

 

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New York's favorite tabloid got a face-lift of sorts one day before the city hosted a major UN summit on climate change. Distributed by over 2000 volunteers throughout New York City, an eco-conscious but otherwise pitch-perfect replica of the New York Post, created by a coalition of activists including the Yes Men, was handed out across the city as a wake-up call to action on climate change.

 

Although the 32-page Post is a fake, everything in it is 100% true, with all facts carefully checked by a team of editors and climate change experts. The cover story ("We're Screwed") reports the frightening conclusions of a blue-ribbon panel of scientists commissioned by the mayor's office to determine the potential effects of climate change on the City. That report was released in February, 2009, but received very little press at the time. Other lead articles describe the Pentagon's alarmed response to global warming ("Clear & Present Disaster"), the US government's sadly minuscule response to the crisis ("Congress Cops Out on Climate"), China's alternative energy program ("China's Green Leap Forward Overtakes US"), and how if the US doesn't quickly pass a strong climate bill, the crucial Copenhagen climate talks in December could be a "Flopenhagen."

 

 

The paper made its debut on the same week that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was to push 100 world leaders to make serious commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December, 2009. Ban has said that the world has "less than 10 years to halt (the) global rise in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people and the planet," adding that Copenhagen is a "once-in-a-generation opportunity." [More on that, and how it was squandered, later.]

 

The real Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., was not amused. More coverage here.

 

photo by Nate "Igor" Smith @DrivenByBoredom

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A week after the historic presidential election that brought Barack Obama to the White House, the Yes Men were joined by hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists in an elaborate project, six months in the making, to release a "special edition" of the New York Times in cities across the U.S.

 

The papers, dated July 4th of the following year, were headlined with long-awaited news: "IRAQ WAR ENDS". The edition, which bears the same look and feel as the real deal, includes stories describing what the future could hold, if we forced Obama to be the president we'd elected him to be: national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs, etc. (Less momentous, but poignant, was columnist Tom Friedman's letter of resignation, full of remorse for his consistently idiotic and fact free predictions about the Iraq war.)

 

"Is this true? I wish it were true!" said one reader. "It can be true, if we demand it."

 

"We wanted to experience what it would look like, and feel like, to read headlines we really want to read. It's about what's possible, if we think big and act collectively," said Steve Lambert, one of the project's organizers and an editor of the paper. (Please visit Steve's page about the paper for more paper, videos, and details.)

 

New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008from H Schweppes

 

In response to the spoof, the New York Times said only, "We are looking into it." Alex S. Jones, former Times reporter who is an authority on the history of the paper, says: "I would say if you've got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector's item."

 

Bringing the much needed "good news" to a war weary public required the collaboration of hundreds of activists and volunteers, including the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.

 

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Impostors posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC) representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada's largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, today.

The speech was billed beforehand by the GO-EXPO organizers as the major highlight of this year's conference, which had 20,000 attendees. In it, the "NPC rep" was expected to deliver the long-awaited conclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study. (See link at end.)

In the actual speech, the "NPC rep" announced that current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of people who die into oil.

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said "NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

"Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production," noted "Exxon rep" "Florian Osenberg" (Yes Man Mike Bonanno). "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit "commemorative candles" supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an "Exxon janitor" who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death, and all became crystal-clear.

At that point, Simon Mellor, Commercial & Business Development Director for the company putting on the event, strode up and physically forced the Yes Men from the stage. As Mellor escorted Bonanno out the door, a dozen journalists surrounded Bichlbaum, who, still in character as "Shepard Wolff," explained to them the rationale for Vivoleum.

"We've got to get ready. After all, fossil fuel development like that of my company is increasing the chances of catastrophic climate change, which could lead to massive calamities, causing migration and conflicts that would likely disable the pipelines and oil wells. Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

"We're not talking about killing anyone," added the "NPC rep." "We're talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year. That's only going to go up - maybe way, way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel."

Security guards then dragged Bichlbaum away from the reporters, and he and Bonanno were detained until Calgary Police Service officers could arrive. The policemen, determining that no major infractions had been committed, permitted the Yes Men to leave.

Canada's oil sands, along with "liquid coal," are keystones of Bush's Energy Security plan. Mining the oil sands is one of the dirtiest forms of oil production and has turned Canada into one of the world's worst carbon emitters. The production of "liquid coal" has twice the carbon footprint as that of ordinary gasoline. Such technologies increase the likelihood of massive climate catastrophes that will condemn to death untold millions of people, mainly poor.

"If our idea of energy security is to increase the chances of climate calamity, we have a very funny sense of what security really is," Bonanno said. "While ExxonMobil continues to post record profits, they use their money to persuade governments to do nothing about climate change. This is a crime against humanity."

"Putting the former Exxon CEO in charge of the NPC, and soliciting his advice on our energy future, is like putting the wolf in charge of the flock," said "Shepard Wolff" (Bichlbaum). "Exxon has done more damage to the environment and to our chances of survival than any other company on earth. Why should we let them determine our future?"

Click here for photos

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SurvivaBalls save managers from abrupt climate change

An advanced new technology will keep corporate managers safe even when climate change makes life as we know it impossible. (Speech here.)

"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a Halliburton representative who spoke today at the Catastrophic Loss conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida. "This technology is the only rational response to abrupt climate change," he said to an attentive and appreciative audience.

Most scientists believe global warming is certain to cause an accelerating onslaught of hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, etc. and that a world-destroying disaster is increasingly possible. For example, Arctic melt has slowed the Gulf Stream by 30% in just the last decade; if the Gulf Stream stops, Europe will suddenly become just as cold as Alaska. Global heat and flooding events are also increasingly possible.

In order to head off such catastrophic scenarios, scientists agree we must reduce our carbon emissions by 70% within the next few years. Doing that would seriously undermine corporate profits, however, and so a more forward-thinking solution is needed.

At today's conference, Wolf and a colleague demonstrated three SurvivaBall mockups, and described how the units will sustainably protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration. The devices - looking like huge inflatable orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient gathering capacities, on-board medical facilities, and a daunting defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

"It's essentially a gated community for one," said Wolf.

Dr. Northrop Goody, the head of Halliburton's Emergency Products Development Unit, showed diagrams and videos describing the SurvivaBall's many features. "Much as amoebas link up into slime molds when threatened, SurvivaBalls also fulfill a community function. After all, people need people," noted Goody as he showed an artist's rendition of numerous SurvivaBalls linking up to form a managerial aggregate with functional differentiation, metaphorically dancing through the streets of Houston, Texas.

The conference attendees peppered the duo with questions. One asked how the device would fare against terrorism, another whether the array of embedded technologies might make the unit too cumbersome; a third brought up the issue of the unit's cost feasibility. Wolf and Goody assured the audience that these problems and others were being addressed.

"The SurvivaBall builds on Halliburton's reputation as a disaster and conflict industry innovator," said Wolf. "Just as the Black Plague led to the Renaissance and the Great Deluge gave Noah a monopoly of the animals, so tomorrow's catastrophes could well lead to good - and industry must be ready to seize that good."

Goody also noted that Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society was set to employ the SurvivaBall as part of its Corporate Sustenance (R) program. Another of Cousteau's CSR programs involves accepting a generous sponsorship from the Dow Chemical Corporation.

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Thursday, May 20, Cleveland (video here)

 

We have been out for half an hour, and already we have collected a dozen on-camera signatures supporting Bush's new pro-America ice age.

 

We are representing the Bush campaign on the streets of downtown Cleveland on a balmy spring day. Business people pour out of high-rise offices during lunch hour. Dressed in business suits we approach with clipboards and smiles, begging folks to sign our petition and explaining in no uncertain terms exactly what it's about. We also offer copies of our "position paper."

 

The petition and paper are about global warming—as solution, not problem. Americans should embrace global warming, we assert, and even accelerate the process should it serve any tactical military or economic advantages.

 

We wish we'd invented this, but we haven't. Our petition is based on a 2003 Pentagon report (full story here) acknowledging the existence of global warming, but questioning its importance. Instead of cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, we should prepare a fortified border to protect against the influx of starving masses. Instead of trying to regulate atmospheric pollutants, we should consider the possible economic advantage that a climate change might give us over up-and-coming economic superpowers like China, Europe, and Japan.

 

The Pentagon also asks us to consider a final solution to the problem of global warming: apply more heat. As popularized in The Day After Tomorrow, the irony of global warming is that it may cause a new ice age due to interrupted oceanic and atmospheric currents. The Pentagon paper suggests that in such an eventuality, we could pump more goop into the air to heat the planet up even more. Voilà! problem solved.

 

This is the snake oil we're selling to people in the streets of downtown Cleveland: supporting the use of pollution as a weapon against our neighbors, and supporting the development of even more effective means of warming the planet.

 

When we started this morning, it looked like we would not collect many signatures.

 

Us: "Would you sign this petition to support global warming?"

Citizen: "Support global warming?"

Us: "That’s right! Would you support the coming Ice Age?"

Laughter, pat on back. We change our pickup line.

Us: "Will you sign a petition supporting Bush’s environmental policies?"

 

Many still laugh the moment they hear "Bush" and "environment" in the same sentence. Even Republicans don't think they've heard right at first—"Did you say supporting?"—but after a moment they reach for the pen. At that point, we go in for the kill.

 

Us: "Wait—first we have to explain what you're signing. This is about supporting the Pentagon's positive approach to global warming, rather than the Democrats' negative one. See, global warming could lead to a new ice age, which would freeze over Europe, turn China into a desert, sink Japan under rising water levels. That's bad for them—but they're our competitors! America would emerge relatively okay, and at a big economic advantage. So global warming is on our side. Plus, if something really bad happens, we can always spew more greenhouse gases into the air, and heat the world up even more."

Citizen: "This supports Bush, right?"

Us: "Well, yes, this is about his administration's approach to global warming—freezing Europe, sinking Japan..."

Citizen: "Where do I sign?"

Us: "Um, here..."

 

We make our explanation as brutal as we can, but people keep signing, even with a video camera shooting the whole thing.

 

After collecting two dozen signatures in this way, we sit down at an outdoor cafe to contemplate the depressing results.

 

Half the people we approached ran away as soon as they heard "support" and "Bush" in the same sentence. Almost all the others eagerly signed, and there was nothing we could do to dissuade them from doing so.

 

How can this be? In the August 4 New York Times, West Virginia resident Charlie Crouse said residents of his county "wouldn’t care if you had Krushchev on the ballot—if he were Republican we’d check it off." Perhaps we can't expect anyone to listen, no matter how strange we think we sound.

 

But we're hoping to reach at least a few. The people for whom this might mean something are those elusive swing voters, that strange animal on whom it is currently open season in the swing states, with hundreds of hunters hoping to bag one and inch their candidate closer to victory. At times it must feel like a snipe hunt. Could the swing voters simply be imaginary, part of a cosmic joke?

 

Perhaps not. Two of the people we approached this afternoon picked up the pen when we asked them to sign, but when we explained the full policy to them, said they'd like to think about it first. We gave them the position papers we'd prepared, replete with accurate footnotes and citations for further reading, and hoped it would help them to do so.

 

During the three hours or so we walked around with our clipboards, there was only one person who understood that we couldn't possibly be serious. We approached him because he was clean-cut and well-dressed, just the type we imagined might be a Republican. He immediately saw through our charade and joined in. His jovial political banter made it clear he had thought things through, knew the difference between Clean Air and "Clear Skies," and knew exactly how to pull someone's legs.

 

Then he explained to us and our camera that he was mentally ill and homeless, and that he was dressed up in order to deal with some administrative issue. He signed our petition with a big flourish, to be part of the joke.

 

When the only person who understands the full insanity of our government's positions is supposedly insane, what kind of reality are we living in?

 
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Watch the video!

 

Louise, Mike, and Andy decide to attend the Heritage Foundation’s annual Resource Bank meeting at the Renaissance hotel in Chicago, April 29-30, 2004.

 

Heritage is the biggest free-market think tank—in fact the biggest think tank period—in Washington. It has a budget of $80 million and provides "talking points" to conservative Congressmen who don't have time to do their own research. Heritage is a kind of "grey eminence" behind Congress, and very actively helps direct U.S. politics.

 

And what a bunch of radicals these folks are! Like the rare ultra-anarchist, they basically want to "smash the state"—but unlike such anarchists, they're rich, not so rare, and succeeding.

 

Heritage is very up-front about these goals. Paul Krugman and others have pointed out that the goal of the Bush administration seems to be to bankrupt the federal government; the Heritage Foundation indeed announces this vision up front: "Too many conservatives lose hope," writes Heritage president Edwin J. Feulner. "They doubt that the liberal welfare state can be brought to collapse.... In short, they doubt that The Heritage Foundation's Vision for America can be achieved." (By "liberal welfare state" he means Social Security, the Department of Education, and so on—but not the Department of Defense. Read on.)

 

 

Thursday, April 29

 

In order to register (free) for the Heritage conference, we've formed a right-wing think tank ($12 for the domain name). We've also registered for (free) table space, so when we arrive at the hotel we immediately go looking for an open table to display our wares: a foot-long Roman warship ($30) and some insane but fully fact-based "position papers." (Yes, the Bush Administration really has contemplated wafting oceans of hydrofluorocarbons into the atmosphere to help along global warming: download the full report at ems.org and search on "hydrofluorocarbons.") We eventually find an empty spot, next to the Cato Institute and not far from a table featuring books like Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Deathand How Union Bosses Have Hijacked Our Government.

 

The event teems with 650 smiling, friendly and blandly-dressed people hired by well-endowed think tanks fighting "socialistic" ideas: the Jesse Helms Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Atlas Foundation (based on the books of Ayn Rand), the Society for the Economic Study of Religion (which, a young representative tells us, has determined that Pentecostalism is the best religion for a free market, and so sends missionaries to Africa), and so on.

 

We dive deeper and deeper into the remarkable logic of conservative thought. For lunch, as brown-skinned people serve us chicken, millionaire money-manager Derwood Chase tells us about his personal efforts to help keep taxes down and end the government handouts that make people fat and lazy. Throughout the rest of the day, we attend foray after stultifying foray into the importance of bringing U.S. "socialism" (public education, public health care, Social Security) to an end. There's even a foreigner: a Chilean economist who describes the wonders of Chile's development since Pinochet.

 

After lunch, some young protesters wearing ostrich suits demand that lawmakers get their heads out of the sand and fix Social Security. When asked about their concept, the ostriches shrug and send us to a spokesperson for the lobby group "For Our Grandchildren," who reluctantly explains that the protesters are temps, hired that morning. "For Our Grandchildren," it turns out, wants to "reform" social security by letting people choose to invest wherever they want to. Perhaps their most visionary claim: Social Security is unfair to African Americans because "African Americans have lower life expectancies than other Americans. This means that in Social Security’s live-long-or-lose-out program, most African Americans lose out." That’s right: since African Americans have shorter life expectancies, we should get rid of the program that would help them in the unlikely event they make it to retirement age. We go over to the young African American woman in the ostrich suit and ask if she knows she's protesting against social security. "Against it?" she says, confused. "No, we want to fix it!" Not wanting to make a scene so early in this two-day affair, we put our heads in the sand and move on.

 

We (and the 650 other zealots) end the day with a delicious (free) dinner hosted by Ed Meese, Attorney General under Reagan, most famous for his role in the Iran-contra scandal. (Highlight of dinner conversation comes from Andy's neighbor, a young Russian turned strident American conservative: "I was there at the women's march in Washington. There were so many women, all of them single... lesbians... virgins.... DISGUSTING!"

 

The topic of the evening is “School Choice”—providing private-school vouchers instead of public-school funding—and the speakers enthusiastically let us know that public education (they call it "government education") is one of things they intend to "bring to collapse" because of the way it churns out Marxists (sic).

 

Finally, Meese presents the Salvatori Prize in American Citizenship to Virginia Walden-Ford, a woman who has managed to extract her son from DC's already gutted public education system via "School Choice," for which she is an ardent lobbyist. Now her son's in Iraq, with the Marines: standing ovation.

 

We toast the whole thing with glass after glass of free wine and later, accompanying the Heartland Institute's lovely desserts, drinks. The alcohol makes us punchy. When a publisher from Sacramento described the beauty of "population control by market forces," we strain in vain to muster a suitable reply. We do better with the Cayman Islands booster guy: when he explains that the Cayman Islands is able to have such "enlightened" pro-business laws because it's basically just "a rock," we burst out: "How can we make this country a rock?!" Later he explains the importance of the Iraq war by asking rhetorically, "What if we hadn't gone into Grenada?" "What if?" we ask. "Then Grenada would have become a dependency of Cuba," he explains. "Right!" we exclaim. "And if we hadn't gone into Iraq, it would have become a dependency of the USSR." "Right!" the Cayman guy says, before (presumably) realizing the absurdity of the concept.

 

Finally, as we're leaving the hotel, we go up to the Chilean who had explained his country's miraculous economy and gush "That was fantastic! We want to bring Pinochet to America!" Our government-educated brains are now in fine shape for thinking up what to do tomorrow.

 

 

Friday, April 30

 

The next day, Friday, we arrive just in time for the closing luncheon and another installment of free food. This time we sit right up near the front, so that we can be close to the stage—and Ed Meese. A few minutes after the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance (in that order), as the salad is being replaced by the main course, we make our move.

 

The sound of a wine glass being dinged by a spoon fills the banquet room (the microphone has been left on). The conversation of 650 zealots ceases as Andy, his face filling two screens on either side, announces a toast (video here). "To that very brave woman, Virginia Walden-Ford, who yesterday proved to us that through individual initiative and free markets, all of us can rescue our children from shoddy government education so they can learn what they need in order to compete in a free American marketplace.

 

"But there is a nine-hundred pound gorilla in the room. Instead of fighting in the free American marketplace, this brave woman's son is fighting for what I think we all, or many of us here agree is a case of crony corporate welfare, a market distortion on a truly gigantic scale.

 

"Ms. Walden-Ford's story convinced me that our political choices in the next election are simply not adequate. And I propose that on this historic anniversary of The Road to Serfdom, we take a giant step for Hayek's free markets by drafting a real free-markets candidate. And why not Ed Meese?"

 

"To the next President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, Ed Meese III!"

 

Meese, sitting directly in front of the podium, screws up his face very strangely as he hears his nomination. Applause rings out for nearly ten seconds.

 

Later, Mike dons a gorilla suit (rental: $20) and tries to get attendees to sign a "draft Meese" petition until he's kicked out by angry Heritage employees. (Fee for dropped gorilla foot that Heritage person refuses to return: $10.)

 

All that remains is to get the hell out, and to tell the world what great, cheap fun this can be...

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Deplorable Prank Announcement Untrue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Ore (May 19, 2014) -- A press release distributed by an unknown party and an announcement by the 2014 commencement speaker, both released today, contained false information regarding Reed College's divestment from fossil fuels. Reed College is not divesting from fossil fuels, nor does it intend to in the foreseeable future.

"If we divest from fossil fuels, then we'd have to divest from everything that is morally questionable," said President John R. Kroger. "It's a slippery slope."

Reed College maintains the same position on investing that it has held for decades as documented in its 1978 "Investment Responsibility Policy." Then, as now, the mission of the College requires that the provision of a high quality education must be prioritized above questions of a social or moral nature. President John R. Kroger asserts that "when faced with complex problems like climate change, colleges must do what they do best: create highly literate, critically thinking citizens."

The announcement, originally made in a press release, was propagated at the graduation ceremony, when commencement speaker Igor Vamos congratulated the school on its divestment, giving false hope to hundreds of graduates and their families.

"It was a poor decision to allow students to choose this speaker," said Kroger, "and we are re-evaluating our policies regarding the selection of future speakers."

The Reed College Board of Trustees believes that climate change is real and that fossil fuel reserves must not be extracted. Nevertheless, continuing to hold significant investments in fossil fuel extraction is necessary for maintaining the political neutrality of the endowment as a financial resource for the College.

Reed apologizes for the confusion caused by the false announcement, and assures that the college will continue to operate as normal. It will not hedge any of its operations due to the consideration of difficult and complex ethical questions. Reed College is not divesting, nor does it plan to divest, either partially or totally from fossil fuels. The College is seeking legal action against the distributors of the press release distributed Monday, May 19th and is investigating the document's relation to the false announcement made at Monday's commencement ceremony.

Contact: Mandy Heaton
heatonm@reedsustainability.org
Phone: (503) 804-9478

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Reed College

Divestment News Celebrated at Commencement Ceremony

Portland, OR (May 19, 2014) - Reed College's Board of Trustees approved with a majority vote a plan to divest its endowment of direct coal and oil industry investments and redirect funds to environmentally conscious investment managers and community owned renewable energy projects during a special meeting convened near the end of the academic term.

"This is the right time to divest," said Roger Perlmutter, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, "and even more importantly, to reinvest in the rapidly growing sustainable energy sector."

The announcement was made during the commencement ceremony the morning of May 19. Reed College is the first college in the Pacific Northwest to initiate a divestiture from fossil fuels, joining the ranks of other universities with large endowments that have recognized the compelling and urgent moral character of maintaining investments in companies characterized by fossil fuel extraction, refining, and transportation.

The Board's decision was made on the recommendation of a special committee composed of trustees, faculty, administrators, and students convened in February to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of divestment. The committee found that fossil fuel divestment was warranted under Article III of the College's Investment Responsibility Policy, particularly as a "widely-held, perhaps even universally-held social or moral position." Furthermore, increasing numbers of donors express reservation about donating to an endowment rich in fossil fuels.

"It is crucial at this moment in history for institutions like Reed to follow through on their commitments to serve the public good," says President John R. Kroger. "Climate change is likely to seriously affect the lives of our students, and financially supporting the industries responsible for it undermines Reed's Mission."

This action follows several by the college over the past few years to improve its environmental record following the adoption of the Environmental Policy Statement in February 2007, including:

  • Restoration of the 28-acre Reed Canyon watershed in the heart of campus
  • LEED certification of dorms built in 2009
  • Development of an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program in 2010
  • Establishment of a Sustainability Fund for student and faculty projects in 2011
  • Sustainable architecture of the Performing Arts Building in 2013
  • Implementation of a 3-year $5.4 million energy efficiency upgrade contract with Amersco Quantum in 2013

More information about sustainable investments at Reed can be found on the website.

Contact: Kevin Myers
myersk@reedsustainability.org
Phone: (541) 357-8604

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Environmentally Conscious Future Not Actually Planned for Reed College

May 20, 2014 - Portland, Oregon. Graduating Reed College students and their parents gave a standing ovation yesterday to an announcement by their commencement speaker that the college had decided to divest from fossil fuels.

But the President and Chair of the Board of Trustees, who were sitting onstage with the speaker, quietly wrung their hands—because the announcement was a hoax, and the board had recently decided exactly the opposite.

The college probably should have seen it coming. The commencement speaker was Igor Vamos, also known as Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men, an activist organization known for impersonating corporation officials and making fake announcements about socially responsible action. During Bonanno’s congratulatory speech to the class of 2014, he highlighted climate change as the defining issue of our time, encouraging graduates to de-normalize the status quo.

“The planet is in your hands, and if we’re going to save it we need everyone to do everything that they can. This is a revolution,” said Bonanno.

Bonanno then went on to leak the false news: “Over a delicious scone and cup of coffee with President Kroger, I was very, very pleased to learn that the board of trustees of Reed College has just now decided to divest the school’s $500 million endowment from fossil fuels.” The crowd of students, faculty, and parents cheered wildly. (Video)

“I was amused that they didn’t immediately correct the announcement. It must have seemed daunting to tell the truth after all those parents and graduates cheered for divestment,” said Bonanno.

Immediately following the announcement, Reed students and family in attendance at the commencement tweeted and spread the news through the hashtag #divestreed. The news was published on a mock Reed website. Local and national news sources, including the Portland Tribune, published the news as real.

Reed’s public relations quickly responded to the false release with their own version of the events, but not before the Yes Men sent yet another press release, also feigning to be from the Reed administration, and explaining why divestment is still not a reality: “Reed College maintains the same position on investing it has held since it refused to divest from apartheid South Africa. Then, as now, the mission of the College requires that providing a high quality education should be prioritized above questions of a social or moral nature,” read a quote falsely attributed to Reed President John Kroger.

The Yes Men launched this action following a long student-run campaign that has demanded divestment from the 200 dirtiest fossil fuel companies. Reed has a $500 million endowment, tens of millions of which are invested in fossil fuels corporations. The Reed Board of Trustees and President Kroger listened ceremonially to students’ demands at several meetings, but have not made a single commitment to change the school’s investment strategies. The administration has relied on arguments about political neutrality and academic freedom to dismiss divestment.

“It’s important to remember that there’s nothing sustainable about investing millions of dollars in fossil fuel extraction," said Austin Weisgrau, a current Reed student and member of Fossil Free Reed. "It’s profit over ethics. Colleges like Reed issue a constant stream of greenwashed branding, and it’s the civic responsibility of the student to set the record straight.”

On a national scale, divestment from fossil fuels is a growing movement with both Stanford University and Pitzer College recently announcing their own divestment from fossil fuels.

Contact:

Austin Weisgrau
(858) 692-1514
austinweisgrau@gmail.com
 

Igor Vamos // Mike Bonanno
mike@theyesmen.org

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This speech was presented on May 19, 2014 at Reed College in Portland, OR by Igor Vamos aka Mike Bonanno.
 
 
Congratulations Reed College class of 2014!
 
Such a sad day. Bye. 
 
College was fun right? 
 
The last graduation I went to at Reed was in 1990. In those days it was common still for someone to graduate naked, and that year one of my friends did. His name was Michael. Today he’s a Rabbi.
 
They do say we’re all naked in the eyes of God. Or at the very least, some of us are naked in the eyes of each other. I’m not wearing anything under this gown. That way I can find my way into a respectable profession like Michael did. If graduating naked can lead to a career as a Rabbi, then surely delivering a commencement address naked can make me a bishop in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That’s always an aspiration of mine.
 
But I’m keeping the gown on for the next 15 minutes because I don’t want it to distract from the seriousness of what I have to say. 
 
I am very excited right now, very optimistic about your futures. 
 
But before I talk about that, I want to give a shout out to the parents and grandparents here today. Well done. It’s not easy raising humans. Your kids or grandkids may be graduating today, but they started out as small, useless, rude little creatures who didn’t care a whit for the ways of civilized men and women. Thank you, parents, for keeping these college graduates alive through those first very tough years.
 
Today’s graduates: At an extremely young age each and every one of you was seriously infantile. You were impossible, but look at you all now!
 
So please, join me in giving the clap to your parents.
 
(pause for applause)
 
Now, why did they bother to keep you alive? Because you are the future. And you have a special responsibility. Never in history has it been so important to be the future as it is now. I’ll tell you why. Because you, the college graduates of today are entering into a very different world than the one that I graduated into in 1991. I’m not just talking about how mullets have fallen out of favor.
 
Your world is literally very different. Upon graduation, your world includes the definitive knowledge that our climate is spiralling out of control.  
 
A little over 20 years ago, I graduated from Reed. I loved it here. At what other school could an Art major get a nuclear reactor operator’s license? It was a rigorous education, both in class and out. That makes sense – because in some ways it can be seen as an education 10,000 years in the making. The rigor that can be found in this liberal arts education represents the culmination of a series of educational philosophies that grew and mutated since the dawn of civilization.
 
Civilization! That precious, highly complex, system that emerged in the 10,000 years since the last ice age, the geologic period that we call the Holocene. The word Holocene is derived from the Greek words holos (ὅλος), meaning entire, and kainos (καινός) meaning “recent.”  For the last 400 generations we’ve been taking great advantage of the stable climate and great weather that has characterized this entirely recent period to build our civilization. In fact, many scientists say the ONLY reason we’ve got the thing we call civilization is that we’ve had a climate predictable enough for agriculture – and eventually literature, science, and underwater basket weaving.  
 
When I graduated from here in the early ‘90s (and I did take the underwater basket weaving class as a Phys. Ed. requirement–it was a real class at Reed), I was the ultimate beneficiary of 10,000 years of a stable climate.
 
Unfortunately, I think of myself today as being among the last graduates of the Holocene era. Or at least, the last clueless graduates who were blissfully unaware of what lay just around the corner, and could imagine rebellion as a kind of hobby rather than a way of life.
 
Fast forward one short generation. There is a new word for the era that we’re in. Anthropocene is a combination of Greek roots: anthropo- meaning "human" and -cene meaning "new." This new HUMAN induced geologic era has several disturbing characteristics, the most frightening of which is how our species is affecting Earth’s climate. You are, I think, truly graduates of the Anthropocene, and that, I would argue, makes the whole project of your education an entirely different animal than that of mine only a little more than 20 years ago.
 
So I ask you, what is the goal of a great college education in a world that is going to hell in a hand-basket?
  
In the last 40 years, the ocean has become 20 percent more acidic due to climate change. A majority of scientists who study the subject believe that the Ocean’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050–just about the time that your kids will be in college, should you choose to reproduce soon. 
 
I did reproduce, and I love my kids, but I’m scared for their future. A few years ago I went on vacation to a beautiful beach in Mexico. My oldest daughter was five at the time. She could swim, and she had a little mask, and she saw all kinds of wildlife, including turtles, her favorite animal. She was blown away.
 
I found myself loving the trip, but hating the reality. Sorry, kid, these fish, these turtles: they’re the last ones. If the scientific consensus is right, and it usually is, they will be dead when you are an adult. Some scientists are now saying that by the time you are as old as your grandparents there will be NO more saltwater fish to speak of left in the ocean. Sushi is not the cause–its ocean acidification brought on by climate change.
 
But despite all this incredibly scary news, a study of media coverage done by Media Matters showed that one family of tabloid celebrities–the Kardashians–got forty times more news coverage.
 
The ocean is dying and we’re not getting the story. The land is not doing so well either. Since I was born, global warming has added 4 percent more moisture to the atmosphere, causing a dramatic increase in extreme storms, like Hurricane Irene, which flooded the Northeast, and Sandy, which constituted the largest wind field ever measured. The southwest drought of 2012 represented the driest conditions in 800 years. We’ve recently had the largest wildfires in history. 
 
Climate change has already affected the global food supply; crop yields for wheat, for example, are beginning to decline even as the human population continues to grow. And the violence, starvation, and disease that come from these upheavals are here. By 2100, several studies have indicated that there are expected to be one billion climate refugees. 
 
To say this is very bad only diminishes the gravity of the situation. 
 
Graduates of 2014: you truly have to live with the blowback of the Anthropocene era–the era in which humans leave 10,000 years of climatic stability.
 
With changes like this afoot, what is a graduate to do? What is the next step in life? When I was graduating, a mantra that often was repeated in contexts like this was “do what you love.”
 
Reed’s most famous dropout, Steve Jobs, promoted that idea religiously. In 2005, he gave a commencement speech at Stanford where he said that THE most important thing graduates must do is to do what you love.
 
Sorry, Steve, but that idea belongs to the late Holocene. Doing what we love may never have been politically okay in the first place, but it’s definitely not right for right now, when the Anthropocene is beginning to destroy everything that makes love possible.
 
What’s wrong with “do what you love?” First off, “Do what you love” reads as an insult to the vast majority of people globally who have to work shit jobs to get by. It implies great privilege. But on a deeper level the idea that we should all do what we love ultimately implies that self is at the center of the universe. This is a view that conforms very well to our current culture. But it’s over. The era of ME must transform into an era of “WE.” Community must now be the outcome of innovation. Because we will need community to survive.
 
Do what you love is no longer appropriate. When you graduate into this new era, I say find your best skills and do what you must. I say do what you must because the planet is in your hands, and if we’re going to save it we need everyone to do everything that they can. We need to very quickly change our culture, and to rewire our economy.
 
This is a revolution.
 
BE THE REVOLUTION.
 
No sane person “loves” revolution if they already live in relative comfort. We may love the idea of it, the principle of it, but the process is usually much more tedious and much less glamorous.
 
But today I am saying screw the comfort. Its over. The house is on fire. We need to act. Do what you must. If we’re going to have any love left we MUST take back the future of this planet from those that conspire to ruin it. We need a revolution.
 
There are countless ways to act.  A simple step, if you have some money, is to get it out of fossil fuels. Divest. Have you read Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math”? In that piece, he observed that right now, the known reserves of the fossil fuel companies constitute more than five times the amount that is safe for the planet to burn. If they are allowed to dig it up and we burn it, it is game over for a livable world.
 
But the market–the pyramid scheme that is our civilization’s primary engine–is pegged to the value of those reserves. If we stop digging it up and burning it, we face an economic wall. With hard math like that, the oil companies and their lobbyists are compelled to convince everyone to keep on going like so many lemmings over the cliff.
 
And thus an industry of naysayers is generated. People whose job it is to make us think we cannot change the system, or that it is not worth it, or that it is futile, or that it will be too expensive.
 
Bullshit!
 
The same kinds of arguments were used to validate slavery in the United States centuries ago. The economy would collapse without it, they said! But I’m pretty sure that outlawing slavery was the right choice.
 
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that outlawing slavery in the USA did not end the practice. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than ever in history. And strangely, despite the great value this market machine extracts for us, and despite the dirt cheap, dirty energy from fossil fuels we’ve had for the last 100 years, we now live with more disparity than ever in history. We can clearly see failure everywhere in this oil economy. Cheap energy from fossil fuels has not brought us an era of equity and justice. So why lament its passing? Why not embrace a new reality.
 
The good news for you, Class of 2014, is that you have the opportunity to make that new reality. The story is not over. We can change this.
 
This morning I had breakfast with President Kroger. Over a delicious bowl of local yogurt and granola, I was very, very pleased to learn that the board of trustees of Reed College has just now decided to divest the school’s $500 million endowment from fossil fuels.
 
This is indeed fantastic news. Reed joins 11 other universities who have made this commitment to the planet and the future. 
 
I am very excited to break the news to the graduating class of 2014, and if you want to break the news to the world, use #divestreed
 
I’m also excited for the tuition-paying parents who will no doubt be very pleased that your investment in your child’s education is not in fact ruining the chance that their grandchildren will have a livable future on planet earth.
 
So lets hear it for Reed’s divestment from fossil fuels! 
 
I am really pleased about the divestment. But I’m even more excited about Reed’s visionary plan for re-investment. The money that is pulled from fossil fuels, the President tells me, has been earmarked for community owned renewable energy projects. This means Reed is putting its money to work for a complete enviro-social justice program: pulling support from big oil while literally and figuratively putting power back in the hands of the people.
 
So this is incredibly inspiring.
 
And this is a message about opportunity for you, Graduates of 2014. As we rewire civilization to run on other kinds of fuel, there is the revolutionary chance to redistribute power–literally.  When we pay for our energy that we use every day, we need to stop handing the money over to the Koch brothers for their tar sands and coal mines, and start giving it to decentralized, community-owned renewable energy initiatives–preferably ones in your own community. Wouldn’t you rather pay yourself for your energy than pay a multinational corporation that can then use that money to corrupt your democracy?  
 
Class of 2014, look at the massive opportunity to build a better world. Do what you must. You are going to be responsible for nothing short of rewiring our civilization–turning away from fossil fuels, re-localizing, rebuilding. In your hands is revolution–a revolution to de-normalize the status quo, to turn the swords of fossil fuel into the plowshares of renewable energy.
 
Martin Luther King repeatedly said that human salvation was in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. As I look around this crowd, I’m pretty sure it was you who he was talking about. But what did he mean? Here is a bit more context. He said:  
 
"I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination... I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity. And I call upon you to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized..."
 
Today, I’m sure Dr. King would call upon you to be maladjusted to the idea that we cannot address climate change. To be maladjusted to the idea that we cannot make a more equitable world. To be maladjusted to the status quo.
 
There is no shortage of opportunity in the great transition ahead. If you are thinking about how to get a job after college, don’t worry: the revolution is hiring. When I graduated, we were not thinking big enough about the possibility. But you must. 
 
In the great change ahead there is unlimited potential for creativity, invention, innovation. There is an unlimited amount of organizing to do. And there is plenty of heavy lifting.
 
As we create a new energy infrastructure, as we create new local economies, new ways to govern ourselves, there is opportunity. Innovation is not just about making shiny new stuff, it’s about figuring out new political architecture. You are the ones who can design systems that liberate rather than enslave, that privilege freedom over oppression.
 
When I graduated, my class had to make our way in the world. But you are poised to re-make the world itself. Don’t let the future happen to you–make it.
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Press Release Authors Come Clean:
A Call for Middlebury College to Do the Same

On Friday, October 12, 2012, Middlebury College welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to campus. An announcement was made that in honor of the visit from the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, the College had chosen to demonstrate ethical leadership in divesting its endowment from war and environmental destruction. In reality, the satirical notice about Middlebury’s divestment was written by the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee, a group of students concerned that the College embraces practices inconsistent with its own proclaimed values.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama told the College, “Education is supposed to reduce the gap between appearance and reality.” The intent of the press release was to bring attention to the unsettling reality that Middlebury has millions of dollars invested in industries of violence, while it appears to stand for universal compassion and peace.

Middlebury College has not received better than a “C” on endowment transparency from the College Sustainability Report Card. While the specific companies in which the endowment is invested have never been disclosed to the student body, Investure—the firm that manages Middlebury’s endowment—confirmed last spring that they do not screen for arms manufacturing, military contractors, or fossil fuel companies. Given that these are among the most profitable industries in existence, it is safe to say that they are included in the College’s portfolio. Complicity has on-the-ground implications: US-made weapons fueling the drug wars in Mexico, drone attacks killing civilians in Pakistan, and the Keystone XL pipeline threatening communities from Canada to the Gulf. The choice to value monetary gain over human life epitomizes the declaration of His Holiness that “we have become slaves of money.”

There is a long history of academic institutions divesting to demonstrate their values. In the 1980s, for instance, over one hundred and fifty colleges, including Middlebury, divested from South African companies to oppose apartheid. Today, a new call to divest is being heard around the nation: Bill McKibben—founder of 350.org and Middlebury College Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Residence—recently kicked off the national "Do the Math” campaign. It is focused on urging universities to divest from fossil fuels because “It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on.”

The Dalai Lama stated in his final lecture at the College that “peace will come through our active action.” With this action, the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee instilled a sense of urgency in the community. The administration attempted to expel the students; however, their effort ultimately backfired. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education quickly voiced their concern regarding the school choosing to clamp down on students’ rights to free speech. The students were granted an open hearing. In front of an audience of 272 people, filling the largest auditorium on campus, they articulated the tradition upon which they drew and morals that compelled them to act. Not only did the judicial board give the students no official College discipline, they expressed their true desire to see Middlebury divest from violence and environmental destruction.

Discourse has shifted on campus and across the state of Vermont. Divestment to align Middlebury’s practices with its values has transformed from an illusory pontification to an absolute imperative. There is a growing contingent of prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are coming together to leverage their power to affect their community. In so doing, they collectively assert that while Middlebury indeed exerts a global influence, it must not do so carelessly. By taking responsibility, Middlebury can contribute towards making the 21st century, as the Dalai Lama insisted, “the century of peace.”

Tim Schornak, Director of the College Office of Communications of the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee,
AKA: Molly Stuart 15.5, Jay Saper ‘13, Jenny Marks ‘14.5, Sam Koplinka-Loehr ‘13, Amitai Ben-Abba ‘15.5, and a growing contingent

Note: Tim Schornak is not affiliated with any formal student organization.

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