Why The #Occupy Movement Is An Environmental Movement

occupy everywhereschmopinions/CC BY 2.0

F. Scott Fitzgerald said "The Rich Are Different Than You And Me". He was right. TreeHugger should recognize that the 1% are cooking this planet.

We wrestle a lot with how to cover the #occupy movement on TreeHugger, how to relate it to issues of sustainability, how to make it green. Christopher Mims at Smart Planet gives it a try:

To the extent that Occupy Wall Street and the countless other Occupy protests are unique experiments in setting up off-the-grid encampments with limited finances, but using 21st-century technology, they have unintentionally become an almost unprecedented experiment in seeing just how close you can get to “going back to the earth” without giving up on the accelerating urbanism that defines the modern age.

It is an interesting point, but as Mims also notes, these "back to the earth" types for the most part have running water and portapotties. In much of the world there are people living in tents and under sheets of corrugated metal or asbestos, a billion at least in slums, favelas and tent encampments. There are thousands in America living in their cars or in tent cities around the country because they lost their houses or their jobs, when over 18 million houses are sitting empty.

yurts toronto© Martin Reis

Focusing on yurts and pedal-powered generators, as we have, is silly and unproductive when the debate is about inequality. Because the fact of the matter is, the rich are cooking this planet. According to Stephen Pacala of the Princeton Environment Institute, quoted in the Guardian,

The world's richest half a billion people – about 7% of the global population – account for half of the world's emissions. Whereas, the poorest half of the world's population account for just 7% of emissions.

Inequality is at the heart of the problem, whether the split is between the 99% majority and the 1% minority in whose interests the financial system operates, or the 7% representing half the world's emissions and the rest.

Contrastingly, a huge range of problems, including over-consumption, become easier to solve in societies that are more equal (inequality drives status competition which in turn fuels consumption).

inequality footprintPolicy Alternatives/via

In Canada, where income disparity is a lot lower than in the USA, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives actually studied the ecological footprint of Canadians by income, and guess what they found: "the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population have about 2.5 times the negative impact on the environment as those in the bottom 10 per cent." And compared to the average: "The richest 10 percent of Canadians create a bigger ecological footprint – a whopping 66 percent higher – than the average Canadian household."

system failingRyan/CC BY 2.0

As I have noted in so many posts, The Rich Are Different from You and Me. They Emit more Carbon. or They Use A Lot More Water or They get to run over cyclists. They crash the economy and don't go to jail, while Tim DeChristopher does.

less me more weRyan/CC BY 2.0

Andrew Simms writes in the Guardian:

The current economic system against which the "occupation" protest across the industrialised world are directed, both creates and depends on unsustainable consumption, and has driven income and asset inequality within and between nations.

Yurts and bike powered generators are very nice, but it's bigger than that.

we are changing thingsRyan/CC BY 2.0

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Tags: Occupy Wall Street | Toronto


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