Why Environmentalists Should Care About the Occupy Wall Street Protest


photo: David Shankbone/CC BY

Perhaps many TreeHugger readers don't need to be convinced that the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan is a green event, but it is. Even if ostensibly about economic issues more broadly construed, many of the protestors' articulated aims in the occupation has environmental implications, for the better.

Here's an explication of the latest Occupy Wall Street communiqué, though a green lens (I'm skipping the demands with only a very tangental environmental connection):

On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more than half of the country's population.

Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.

Should be no great secret to anyone following the news that the US is in some pretty dire financial shape. Poverty is at record levels, with great spikes along racial lines (10%+ higher than the national average) and for young families with children (incredibly 37%) as is wealth inequality.

Though it's not entirely accurate to say that living an environmental aware life is more expensive than not doing so, the make do and mend version of frugality is perhaps one of the greenest virtues out there, when your entirely financial life is in tumult for all but the most committed person there are more immediately pressing concerns than the environmental welfare of all.

Not to mention that once personal wealth hits the astronomical levels of those 400 Americans owning as much as some 150 million of their fellow citizens, by virtue of your spending and lifestyle habits your carbon and ecological footprint tends to shoot through the roof.


photo: David Shankbone/CC BY

On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.

Ending political corruption is our one demand.

The pages of TreeHugger are filled with examples of lobbyists for the corporate polluting class subverting the democratic process in the United States. From the activities of the Koch brothers lobbying octopus in opposing any environmental constraints on business, to the vast subsidies the oil industry maintains even as profits are at record levels, to dirty tricks lobbying against meaningful climate action.

The government of the United States in 2011 is fully in the hands of corporations, at times bordering on the unification of corporate and government interests embodied in fascism--at least in spirit if not every single platform point as outlined three quarters of a century ago.


On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.

Ending joblessness is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.

Ending poverty is our one demand.

Beyond the connection to wealth inequality made above, pervasive joblessness is a byproduct of the systematic dismantling of the American manufacturing base under the ideological pretext of free market absolutism and neoliberal globalization, an economic system disconnected from place and person. Re-localizing, re-regionalizing our economies, focusing on domestic needs first and export needs second, whether in so-called developing or developed nations (both inadequate words) is key factor in making our communities more environmentally resilient, more climate resilient, and in supporting local economies and jobs.


On September 21st, 2011, American had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.

Ending American imperialism is our one demand.

Besides the destructive environmental consequences of war, the United States outspends the entire world in its militarism. And it is bankrupting this nation. If this nation's military spending was just cut back to doubling its nearest rival, China, it would free up funding for domestic environmental programs, job creation programs, and programs to directly help people at home.

From another angle, if the US wasn't so utterly dependent on fossil fuels it would not have to spend so much money supporting the national and corporate goals of ensuring that the oil keeps flowing, in the process supporting despotic regimes, even supporting friendly governments trying to peddle their environmentally destructive oil as a better alternative to those regimes, and de facto supporting rampant environment destruction in some of the world's poorest regions.

Clean energy may not bring an end to war, or an end to international economic conflict, but it will end the need to protect oil and natural gas fields around the world.

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Tags: Activism | Economics | Environmental Justice | Occupy Wall Street | United States

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