Occupy the planet


Look into the environmental aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and you quickly find yourself wading through competing interpretations of reality. Granted, one of the protests’ defining features is its inclusiveness: All kinds of issues find a home under the OWS umbrella, and people tend to see what they want in such a complex mosaic of ideas.

So it’s unsurprising that some commentators think the movement mistakenly downplays environmental concerns, while others claim that those issues–especially energy and fossil fuels–are being emphasized to the point of cancelling another of the protestors’ major complaints, namely lack of jobs.

To me–and I haven’t been there in person–it sounds like eco-issues are a part of the mix (Bill McKibben spoke in Washington Square Park, for example) but not an explicit highlight. That may be a lost opportunity. This piece (the best I found) maps the connection between OWS’ economic and environmental facets, and includes this clarifying statement from a 350.org director who attended the protests: 

"We’re a climate change advocacy group. The reason that we haven’t had any change on climate change is because coal companies, gas companies, oil companies, and their Wall Street financiers have rigged the system and bought out our politicians."

In other words, planetary sickness and economic distress are all part of the same system–one that devalues life, human or otherwise, and overvalues growth and profit. Amen to that, brother.

The term "commonwealth" feels apropos. OWS rightly targets our country’s vast wealth disparity. But the true wealth that we hold in common isn’t monetary; it’s physical–air, water, soil, and living things.