Category Archives: Carbon Offsets

Talking Surface Travel with KPFA

I was on KPFA’s Terra Verde show hosted by Adam Greenfield last Friday. talking about surface travel, the Arco/BP protests, and what regular people can do in the face of environmental collapse.  Listen here:

http://kpfa.org/archive/id/62134

If anyone finds out what the past tense of ‘dive’ is, please let me know ;)

Don’t Mention James Hansen

This video was recorded Wednesday evening April 14th at 111 Minna, San Francisco before any of the protests or disruptions at the carbon conference that ensued on Thursday or Friday.

There is no doubt that there is massive denial about the issue of climate change in our society.   Nowhere more obvious perhaps than in the carbon offset and trading industry, where profits depend on selling false solutions while avoiding certain uncomfortable facts about the predicament that we are in.

Whenever something huge and morally repugnant is going on in a society, people use psychological mechanisms to shield themselves from the harsh reality- to try and convince ourselves that we are good and moral people after all.

In the face of our holocaust upon the natural world that is currently unfolding, we make up little stories in our heads to explain our ongoing destructive behavior.

The train drivers who brought Jews from the ghettos to the death camps during WWII were no different.  They knew- deep down- what the fate of their victims would be, but they never spoke of it out loud. To do so would break the spell- bring a reality forward that was too painful to bear.

Just as we grow very uncomfortable when questions are brought up about our inadequate and pathetic response to scientific findings that we are putting life on Earth at risk– just so the wealthy among us can fly to international conferences, buy plastic stuff we don’t really need and impress others with our cars.

A climate emergency response plan that depends on carbon trading and offsets allows us to temporarily avoid confronting the reality that we need to quit our fossil fuel addiction.  That if we are to have any hope of a livable future on this planet we need to leave oil, coal, and gas in the ground.

Since Copenhagen, there has been a marked shift in the emotional tenor around the issue of climate change.   While many of us are beginning to realize that we need to make our own plan to secure life on this planet, others are descending further into a dream that the corporations and governments will solve this problem for us through markets and offsets.

That the richest among us don’t have to cease our destructive lifestyles.  That the system is somehow robust, resilient, and sustainable rather than being wasteful, fragile, and transitory.

The Sky is Not For Sale

PROTESTERS DISRUPT SAN FRANCISCO CARBON TRADE CONFERENCE- ONE ARRESTED

THEIR RALLYING CRY: *THE SKY IS NOT FOR SALE!*

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 16, 2010

Contact: Joshua Hart- joshuanoahhart [at] gmail.com

San Francisco- A new direct action group calling themselves “Offset This!” today disrupted the “Navigating the American Carbon World” conference taking place at the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco to protest carbon trading and offsets, false solutions that distract attention from the urgent need to reduce our carbon emissions.

More than a dozen sessions were disrupted by protesters calling for real and immediate cuts to carbon emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  One protester was arrested after causing a ruckus during the plenary session. The activists condemn the conference agenda as a distraction to the urgent need to end our addiction to fossil fuels and explore real solutions to the climate crisis. One of the largest carbon trading events in the country, the conference draws hundreds of bankers, speculators, fossil fuel companies, and mainstream environmental organizations who are working together to promote carbon markets.

Far from promoting a fringe opinion, the group opposing the conference finds itself in agreement with renowned climatologist James Hansen, who (as a private citizen), issued a statement of support for a protest against the same conference organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice on April 15.

“Cap-and-trade with offsets will have little effect on business-as-usual– indeed, with the help of “offsets”, it is designed to perpetuate business-as-usual.  It not only fails to put us on a path towards ending our fossil fuel addiction, but squanders the precious time needed to prevent the crossing of disastrous “tipping points”, said Dr. Hansen

“The same corporations and individuals that brought us to the brink of financial collapse now want us to trust them to set up a market to protect the climate.   The stakes are too high to allow this to happen.  Nature- unlike the federal government- doesn’t do bailouts,” said Carling Sothoron, a local community activist.

In an ironic twist, the Marriott has been hosting the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine at the same time as the Carbon Trading Conference.  “There’s never been a better time to harness the best minds in addiction research to help treat those who are hooked on obscene profits from the fossil fuel economy,” said Joshua Hart, a professional transportation planner who was arrested at the conference.  “Denial is one of the most common symptoms of addiction, and this conference is in serious denial, believing that we can somehow ‘offset’ our emissions somewhere else rather than reduce them here at home.”

Carbon trading markets in Europe have been plagued by scandals, reported abuses and even outright fraud. It was reported by Reuters on April 13 that Spanish Police have busted a multi-million dollar carbon trading fraud ring. There is also evidence that large polluters have been increasing their emissions in order to be awarded free credits with which to sell when they subsequently “reduce” their emissions.

“Cap and trade may enrich the few but it is a demonstrably ineffectual approach toward averting climate disasters for young people.  Protesters drawing attention to this injustice deserve our gratitude” said James Hansen (speaking as an individual).

Photos and videos of the protests, and interviews available upon request.


###

Navigating a Recovery from Carbon Addiction

By sheer coincidence (or perhaps divine intervention) the “Navigating the American Carbon World” Conference — a schmooze-fest of oil executives, bankers, offset dealers, and green(wash) groups flown in to- essentially- carve up and sell the sky, perpetuating our addiction to fossil fuels- is- at this moment sharing the San Francisco Marriott Marquis with (are you ready for this?)—– the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

So, at the protest today organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice- West , we thought, why not merge the conferences? Get the psychiatrists to treat the carbon trading carbon addicts. The real victims, the ones in denial, who believe we can just ‘offset’ the damage like a papal indulgence to guilty pleasures- and we know where that leads.

White man sell sky

Denial- a common symptom of addiction- is widespread. We bury our heads in the sand against the looming climate devastation and energy crash- Can our system’s habit be treated by the latest in addiction therapy before it’s too late? Right now we’ve got the top addiction experts in the world sharing the same hotel as the Shell executives, the Bank of Americas that fund them, and the Terrapasses who pardon the sin– there’s really never been a better opportunity to admit we have a problem and enter recovery.

So we’ve created a public open letter to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, calling upon them to treat our friends the fossil fuel addicts at the carbon trading conference.  Sign our letter today!   We’ve never needed a shrink like we do today.

The Panel discussing how corporations can green(wash) themselves.

So last night at a cocktail party at 111 Minna for conference attendees put on by Brighter Planet, an offset company looking to open up west coast markets, I posed the question to Patty, the Executive Director of Brighter Planet who was on the panel…

“given that the carbon trading and offsetting industry are increasingly in disrepute over a number of scandals and abuses, such as the multi-million euro carbon trade scam uncovered on Tuesday by the Spanish authorities and given that James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected atmospheric scientists is now saying that carbon trading and offsets ‘are designed to perpetuate business-as-usual and squander the precious time needed to prevent the crossing of disastrous ‘tipping points’.’

Given all that, what is Brighter Planet doing to transition away from the sale of offsets?”

They didn’t like that question. I mean they REALLY didn’t like that question. The moderator tried to rip the microphone out of my hands, and got all flustered.

The nonplussed

Much hostility from the audience, including the drunk carbon traders on the floor who were rudely yelling over the panel discussion. This guy Trevor from Barclays capital became agitated and walked away when I offered to sell him “Cheatneutral infidelity offsets.” Maybe he has guilt issues around his fossil fuel cheating. Who knows.

Then today during the MCJ Demo on the first day of the conference, people unfurled a large banner in the middle of 4th St., temporarily blocking traffic, gave speeches and street theatre,  and disrupted the conference a number of times inside including an announcement on a live mic at the luncheon that “history will spit” on those who delay emissions reductions.

Anyway, no doubt more fun tomorrow at the Offset This! protest outside the Marriott Marquis- 4th and Market- at 8am tomorrow (friday).   We’re headed for climate chaos, and we have a message for the bankers, oil executives, greenwash groups, and politicians who profit from delaying the inevitable weaning:

The Sky is NOT FOR SALE.



Shopping Won’t Save Us: Report from the Alt. Green Festival


The Alternate Green Festival on Saturday was a big hit- we had speakers, live music, dancing, banner making- we even had a special ops “Greenwash Team” go inside to separate the wheat from the chaff. Thanks to Paul Freedman for bringing his pedal powered sound system and blender, to Chris Carlsson for speaking the truth as he always does, to Janel Sterbentz our video journalist, and for everyone else who made the day what it was!

Needless to say, the Green Festival was not happy with us. They censored me from their Facebook page- they even had security escort me off the property because they didn’t like my sign that said “Shopping won’t save us.” Is this how they treat their speakers usually?

What is so threatening about all this to a festival purporting to be environmentally friendly? Are they afraid of the truth getting out there- that much (but certainly not all) of what goes on inside the festival is greenwashing and actually environmentally destructive in its own right? You would think that veterans of the past struggles for clean air and water would understand the importance of protest, and ensure that the festival is a free speech zone. However, sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Just like the Johann Hari article that came out in the Nation recently, I suspect a lot of what ‘drives’ the Green Festival is the wrong kind of green. It’s like a beast that has escaped control of the organizations that spawned it, ‘Green’ America and Global Exchange.

Anyway, to their credit they did hold a debate about carbon offsets, where Gopal Dayaneni and I debated Scott Porter and Tiffany Potter, two representatives of the carbon trading industry (video of Scott still being located):

Carbon Offsetting Debate Part I: Joshua Hart

Carbon Offset Debate Part 2:

Carbon Offsetting Debate Part 3: Gopal Dayaneni

Now, on to the Carbon Trading Conference scheduled for San Francisco this week! I guess I’ll have to become an oil company executive to afford the $745 registration fee, though!

Alternate Green Festival This Saturday

There is more to preserving life on planet Earth than hemp jewelry! Now that the Green Festival is happening twice a year in SF, we think it’s time to ask some serious questions about the message that the festival is sending to the wider society- namely that if everyone drove a Prius, put solar panels on their home, and offset their annual flights to Thailand, that we could “save the planet.” The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

How did the term “environmentally friendly” come to mean “slightly less environmentally destructive”? The truth is that human beings have the ability to be truly “friendly” to the environment, crafting a new reciprocal relationship with nature rather than the current exploitative one, based on wisdom from indigenous cultures we’ve nearly wiped out.

What would such a modern world that prioritizes environmental health and human welfare actually look like? How do we get there from here?

Though many of the individuals who put on the festival are well intentioned, trying to “green” a fundamentally destructive culture can only perpetuate the damage and delay real solutions.

Promoting false solutions like “green” cars and carbon offsets is counterproductive to the cause. With the threat of climate catastrophe looming, it really is all or nothing if we want to avoid dangerous tipping points. Nature-unlike the federal government- doesn’t do bailouts

We want to create a space outside the “Green” Festival where ideas about real solutions can be shared, music is made, dancing is encouraged, and a culture of resistance is nourished. Come and bring your ideas (to voice, or printed on leaflets). Bring instruments, signs, and other fun stuff. The space will be welcome to all.

At 6pm, the people will enter the festival to attend a debate about carbon offsets, and whether green capitalism is a real solution or a distraction and oxymoron.

Note that this event is not sponsored or condoned by either Global Exchange or “Green” America.

It will be what you make it!

Saturday April 10th 2010 12-6pm (speakers and music from 4-6pm)
Out in front of the Green Festival
635 8th Street @ Brannan

Guardian Article from last November

Blog post from Cheatneutral action at the Green fest

More info about carbon trading debate

Alternate Green Fest Facebook page

Confronting False Climate Solutions: Exposing the Truth About Carbon Offsets

"Me and my Ford are doing something good for the planet"

With a scientific consensus having emerged that human beings are warming up the planet, risking catastrophic damage if we continue with business as usual, much of the conversation around climate change has shifted away from “why is this happening?” to “what are we going to do about it?”  The solutions being discussed range from the local and practical, such as organizing community bicycle repair co-ops to the global and fantastical, like placing giant space mirrors in orbit.  One of the ‘solutions’ that has been eagerly embraced by industry is that of carbon trading and offsetting, where a company (or individual) who doesn’t want to cut their carbon emissions essentially pays someone else to do it for them, thereby salving their consciences and improving their public image.  Many of the largest financial institutions in the world- the same ones who are responsible for ongoing climate damage- are heavily invested in the carbon market, including Goldman-Sachs, Barclays and Citibank.

Real Solutions

The solution to climate change is dead simple.   We need to stop (or at least dramatically reduce) the burning of fossil fuels as soon as possible.   Any “solution” that does not progress toward this goal is a dangerous distraction from the major transition that is required.  By providing psychological justification to continue to dump carbon into the atmosphere, the sale of offsets allows people to live within a narrative that says we can continue our existing lifestyles and still have a safe, stable future.  That’s why auto, oil, and utility companies have seized upon offsetting- because it provides ecological cover for their increasingly damaging business practices.  Just like a cigarette addict cannot imagine a life free of smoking, it is difficult for most of us to imagine a life without fossil fuels.  Because of our collective addiction, we are eager to embrace false solutions (think Marlboro lights, filters, smokeless tobacco, etc.)   The reality is that we need to overcome our chronic dependence on oil, coal, and gas if we are to avoid lasting damage to the future of life on the planet.   The sale of carbon offsets distorts this basic truth, and distracts us from implementing real solutions to the current crisis.

The Future of Carbon Trading

The carbon trading industry (that includes carbon offsets) is already a multibillion dollar industry.  Offset firms like Terrapass have grown rapidly over the past several years, with their bumper stickers proclaiming “I clean up after my car” now a common sight on Bay Area roads. With the possible passage of federal Cap and Trade legislation, carbon trading is likely to become a trillion dollar industry by the end of this decade.  Fortunately the truth about carbon markets is coming out.  A number of critical articles have appeared lately in national publications including Harper’s, the New York Times, Business Week and the Nation exposing carbon trading as a deceptive shell game.  A number of travel companies such as Responsible Travel have rejected offsets, and now believe that they are a “medieval pardon that allows people to continue polluting.”  However, millions of people continue to believe that if they pay $49.95 a year to an offset firm, they can erase the damage to the atmosphere that their driving or flying habits cause.  This is a destructive lie that needs to be exposed.

San Francisco: Ground Zero in the Battle Over Carbon Offsets

In April, there are a number of events happening in San Francisco related to carbon offsets.   This would seem to be a good time to enter into a dialogue about real solutions.  E-mail me at velorution@yahoo.com if you’d like to be involved in this dialogue or can support this campaign.

1)    The Green Festival being held April 11th/12th run by Global Exchange and Green America continues to promote the false solution of carbon trading, by “offsetting” their own emissions and allowing offset companies to have booths at the event.  If lefty environmental organizations are promoting offsets, what kind of message does that send?  Why not contact the director of the Festival and ask him? http://www.greenfestivals.org/contact-support/greg-roberts/?catid=227

2)    “Navigating the American Carbon World” will be one of the biggest carbon trading conferences ever.  It will be held in SF April 14th-16th, sponsored by Terrapass, who have amassed millions selling questionable offsets. http://www.nacw2010.org/

3)    Fossil Fools Day, an international day of action on climate change is held every year on April 1st. http://www.fossilfoolsdayofaction.org/2009/category/frontpage/

There is a long and proud history of direct action in the United States.   Without it, we would still have racial segregation in this country, women would not have the right to vote, and working people would not have weekends.  The climate emergency demands that we confront a system that is killing the planet.  This will mean increasingly doing more than just asking nicely.

But for now, we’ll ask nicely because that’s who we are.  We’re nice.  Especially to Global Exchange who is challenging the business practices of  Chevron.   So here goes….will you guys please stop pretending that the shell game con known as carbon offsetting is doing anything more than making it possible for business to continue as usual?  Pretty please?