Kevin Zeese is co-director of It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. He’s also an attorney who is one of the original organizers of the National Occupation of Washington, DC. He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including for state legislative offices in Maryland, governor of California and U.S. president, where he served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006 and was the only person ever nominated by the Green Party, Libertarian Party and Populist Party. His twitter is @KBZeese.
Dr. Margaret Flowers is a pediatrician from Baltimore who advocates for a national single payer health system, Medicare for all. She is an organizer of October2011.org/Occupy Washington, DC and co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us.
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
With the People’s Climate March just around the corner, taking place on September 21 (this upcoming Sunday), we’re joined in-studio by two guests to give us a preview. We’re joined by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. They’re codirectors of It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy, as well as they’re also organizers with PopularResistance.org.
Thank you both for joining us.
KEVIN ZEESE, ORGANIZER, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: Thanks for having us.
MARGARET FLOWERS, ORGANIZER, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: Thank you for having us.
NOOR: So, Margaret, our viewers will be familiar with this upcoming march. And, in fact, it’s a whole weekend and even more of actions leading up to this major UN summit happening in New York on Tuesday. Give us a quick preview of what people can expect. I know a lot of our viewers will probably be going or following events from social media and the internet as well.
FLOWERS: There are all sorts of events going on, and it’s really great, because this is a coming together of people from all kinds of movements who care about the climate. We’ve been involved with the New York Climate Convergence, which begins on Friday afternoon with an anti-oppression training at Saint Peter’s Church and then moves into plenaries and a full day of workshops on Saturday. Over 100 workshops are being planned to really talk about the root causes of the climate crisis and what the real solutions are to it and how do we build a more effective movement to address the climate crisis. And then there’s also Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is doing a conference. There’s a youth conference on Saturday. On Sunday we’ll be marching. And then there’s been a call for people to come to the United Nations and occupy it to show some resistance.
NOOR: And that’s starting Sunday night.
FLOWERS: Starting Sunday night. That will run through the whole UN Summit. And, really, because–and we can get into that more–the real corruption of United Nations and their failure to take effective action around the climate crisis. On Monday morning we’ll be participating in Flood Wall Street, which is an action down in the New York Stock Exchange area to call out the climate profiteers. There’s also a people’s climate summit starting on Monday, organized by a lot of climate justice organizations, as well as there’s festivals and art events and really a lot going on. If people want to go to our website, PopularResistance.org or ConvergeForClimate.org, they can learn about these events.
NOOR: And, Kevin, so we know that this urgency is only building now. We know that May, June, and August were the hottest months on record globally. There’s a new report out that said 22 million people were displaced by climate disaster in 2013. That’s three times the amount of people that were displaced by conflict. Is this march enough? And talk about who’s involved. And is this going to be enough to tell world leaders that action is needed now?
ZEESE: I don’t think anyone thinks the march by itself is enough. And I think there’s been a lot of criticism of the March because it doesn’t take clear positions, and some people are calling it a parade. I think that’s probably a little unfair.
But the march has become a igniter of more activity. People look at the climate situation. You mentioned a lot of statistics, and one that stands out for me is 150,000 deaths a year now, the World Health Organization estimates, from climate change, from famine, from heat, from lack of water, just these serious problems that are starting to develop. So people see the need of urgency. We missed the boat politically for the last two presidencies at least–you could say three, even. These reports about ringing the alarm on climate are going back two decades now, and we’ve not really done anything to change things. In fact, the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere is increasing rather than decreasing. It’s a real disaster that’s not being responded to.
So people saw the March is an opportunity to get out there and say a headline–hundreds of thousands of people want action on climate. They didn’t say what action. And so then you heard Margaret describe all the things that have come around around the march to start to develop the kind of things we do need. We need to have solidarity across movements. We need to have labor and the people concerned about health care, people that are concerned about poverty, housing. All these issues are affected by climate. And it’s not just an environmental movement. It’s a justice movement. And so we need to bring people together, clarify our ideas, and then sharpened our demands.
We’ve needed–in the environmental movement, we need to get people no longer compromising. The idea of cap and trade, which we knew was not going to work, was pushed because it was what’s politically acceptable. It was a market solution. It would satisfy Wall Street. It was not going to solve the climate crisis. Yet that’s what they pushed. And, unfortunately, the big green groups are very tied in with the market-based economy. Some get a lot of money from even fracking corporations and they’re very tight with the Democratic Party. So they get very limited. And there’s a big conflict between the big greens and the more active local grassroots greens who really want blockade pipelines and take aggressive action to stop mountaintop removal and stop tar sands exploration. And so we need to get the environmental movement. The big greens need to follow the lead of the grassroots and recognize that’s where the power is. If they can do that, we can get the greens stronger, get the cross-partisan movement of movements across issues and really developed the kind of effort we need to have a real impact.
There’s not much time. Reports coming out right now not only show big disasters now; they show we have very little time to make the changes that we need to make.
NOOR: And there’s been some specific, I guess, criticisms or questions raised about the corporate sponsorship of the march on Sunday. Talk a little bit about some of what’s been drawing concern about it.
ZEESE: Well, you can find all sorts of corporations that are involved in activities that are detrimental to the climate joining this March. It’s a whole panoply of energy companies. And big finance are involved. And that’s the real error, I think. You know, you can have a big tent, but you have to have a tent that at least stands for something. And that’s what people are criticizing it for.
But, as I said, a lot has developed around it. And I think the more important work beyond the march, the more important work that’s being done, really is on, before the march, and after the march. And people are already starting to call for ongoing actions in Washington, D.C., beginning in November. So people are looking beyond and seeing the urgent need to really keep the pressure up. So the march will get a headline, but the real activity is going to be before and after we’ve created that kind of solidarity and clear goals and clear demands and get people working together in more effective ways than they have in the past.
NOOR: And so, Margaret, on Monday morning, to contrast with this all-inclusive, partially corporate-sponsored and -endorsed march on Sunday, there’s going to be a direct action, as you mentioned, a sit-in on Wall Street, and it’s likely people will get arrested. Why target Wall Street?
FLOWERS: Well, what we’ve been seeing and what really happened to the United Nations process–and the same thing with the U.S. government–is that it’s been taken off course. And instead of addressing real solutions to the climate crisis, it’s become just another opportunity for big corporations to profiteer, to push market-based solutions that have been not ineffective [sic]. It gives them more ability to push the neoliberal economic agenda of privatizing everything and taking over land and displacing people. And so it’s really these profiteers that are the ones behind why we’re not seeing the kind of changes that we need to say. And that’s why they need to be called out.
And that’s one piece of it. Resistance is one piece of the work that we need to do. It’s very important. And I think there’s been a lot of great resistance going on in the United States and around the world against the fossil fuel and uranium industries, as well as the financial backers. But the other piece that we should talk about is the constructive part of what needs to be done, which is perhaps even more important.
ZEESE: Let me just add to that, ’cause I think it’s important for people to understand that the governments, the UN, are not responding. And so we can’t wait. People need to take action [on their own (?)]. That’s why the blockades are so important, to stop putting in place the infrastructure–.
NOOR: You’re talking about the blockades of pipelines [crosstalk]
ZEESE: Pipelines, of tar sands excavation, of uranium excavation, of mountaintop removal. Those kinds of efforts of the liquid national [sic] gas–
FLOWERS: Methane [crosstalk]
ZEESE: –terminal and methane gas terminal–.
NOOR: Right here in Maryland.
ZEESE: –at Cove Point, Maryland, I mean, to export methane gas.
I mean, all of this is really important, and I think we need to increase that. We need to see greater support for that from the big greens. They need to be out there with these folks. It was very nice Sierra Club today finally did civil disobedience a year ago [sic] when they stood in front of the White House. But now it’s time for real civil disobedience. Now it’s time to blockade putting in place the infrastructure that creates the climate problem. If you put that infrastructure in, it’s going to be used. And so we’ve got to stop that infrastructure.
At the same time, Margaret makes the point–and I think it’s really important–that we build what we need. And we can’t wait for government. Government is not responsive. They’re too corrupt. They’re too dysfunctional. So we have to start as communities getting together–and there are communities across the country that are doing this–getting together and starting to develop their own solar co-ops, so their community can on a community building or in a church parking lot or in an open field or people’s home rooftops put together their own solar co-op, where the whole community shares the expense of it and shares the energy. It makes the community self-sufficient. And that’s just one example of many of how we can act now to put in place the infrastructure we do need. So it’s a combination of blocking the infrastructure that’s counterproductive and putting in place the infrastructure that we need to have and let government catch up. We can’t wait for government any longer. We’ve got to recognize government is part of the problem and that big business is part of the problem. We’ve got to take it on ourselves.
FLOWERS: And really getting to the roots of it, which is the economic model that we have. And that–.
NOOR: You’re talking about capitalism itself.
FLOWERS: Right. I mean, that’s not compatible with addressing climate change, because capitalism relies on continued growth, and we’re already using our planet beyond the capacity that we’re in kind of a lag period right now, which is coming to an end where we’re going to really feel the effects of this overuse of our resources.
In addition to that, capitalism puts profit above everything. So exploiting people, destroying the planet, those are not important as long as a profit can be made. So we really have to create a new economic system. That’s why we do the work of It’sOurEconomy.us, building up these local economies.
And there needs to be a cultural shift as well, because the whole kind of way that our culture operates, a patriarchal type of model, really needs to change so that we can have a more just model.
ZEESE: And a big part of that model that we have to emphasize is U.S. empire and militarism.
NOOR: That’s one of the greatest–.
ZEESE: The greatest carbon polluter. And, you know, it’s not even counted when they count how much how much carbon we’re–.
FLOWERS: The IPCC.
ZEESE: They don’t even count military. The U.S. lobbied to keep the military excluded from that. Our greatest polluting entity is not counted in the carbon pollution that we create, plus it takes a whole lot of money that could be used to transform the economy, and it also is–these are wars for carbon resources. And so the whole militarism issue needs to be faced up as part of this.
That’s what I mean by how these issues are all connected. It’s a movement of movements, just like with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we’ve talked about on The Real News before. The Trans-Pacific Partnership brings all these issues together. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s very related to this carbon nuclear climate issue, because it’s about going in the wrong direction, it’s about making more fracking, more pipelines, more of the same that’s caused all these problems, when we need [incompr.] reducing that and ending that and moving toward a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy by 2030, carbon-free, nuclear-free by 2030. It’s an achievable goal. There are lots of plans to achieve it. And we can do that. If we put the pressure on and work together as a movement of movements, we can create the kind of political environment where that becomes inevitable.NOOR: Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, thank you so much for joining us.
ZEESE: Thanks for having us on.
NOOR: And we know you’ll be up there in New York.
ZEESE: Yes. We’ll be seeing you.
NOOR: The Real News will be in New York covering the whole weekend’s actions. Go toTheRealNews.com for all of our updates.
Thank you so much for joining us.