The U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.7% in July, the highest rate since 1983. Information about the August unemployment rate will come out at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time on October 2, so MoveOn is helping to organize "Will Work for Clean Energy" events across the country to bring attention to the potential job creation of investment in renewable energy. The group is encouraging people to dress up in their best "depression-era" clothing and organize in groups of 5 to 25 to form symbolic unemployment lines.Participants are encouraged to bring green jobs petitions to gather signatures to lobby senators on the Senate climate bill, rumored to drop Wednesday. Before the events, MoveOn is inviting participants to join them on a national host conference call at 9 p.m. EST. To join, dial (212) 812-2800 and enter 6031 9796.
In Good Taste?
I'm often uncomfortable with this sort of event--one that uses imagery and associations from history as a basis for action today. We live in a unique time, and comparisons between the 1930s, which saw unemployment reach a painful 25 percent, and today are a bit of a stretch.
Clean energy proponents also like to link today's political struggle with that of the civil rights movement. In this analogy the moral urgency seems to be comparable, while the tactics and strategies of each movement greatly differ. Perhaps the most obvious difference is tactile. In the civil rights era, one could see with one's own eyes injustice. When discussing climate change, the enemy, greenhouse gases, are actually invisible. All the more reason to concentrate messages on jobs, clean energy investment, polluters, and on environmental justice issues like displacement and public health.
I hope MoveOn is reaching beyond its normal constituency to reach those who have been hit by this financial tsunami so the people organizing the "Will Work for Clean Energy" events are actually those directly affected by the economic forces that are changing the country and our planet faster than our lawmakers can keep up.