What an incredible, inspiring protest yesterday in San Francisco. Truly in awe at the raw energy from the neighborhood residents who have clearly had enough of this dangerous and awful situation that the city has failed to correct- where cars lined up for cheap (BP) gas obstruct the only level east west bike lane in the city, forcing cyclists directly into speeding traffic. It would be hilariously ironic if it weren’t so tragically awful. We got a ton of media responding to our press release, including all the local TV stations, SF Weekly, the Guardian, Streetsblog, Indymedia, SF Gate, KPFA (starting at 13:50), Pirate Radio, and others. Video will be up here shortly in the next couple of days.
People are discussing coming back and shutting the entrances every week until the holes are plugged- both the one in the Gulf, and the entrances on Fell St. that drive the fear of cycling and demand for oil. Updates will be posted here.
Here is a copy of my speech yesterday, with the help of El Arbol, Fossil Fool‘s amazing pedal powered mobile sound system:
Thank you to everyone who showed up today, and to those who spread the word and made this happen. This was truly a grassroots effort, not organized by any official non-profit organization, just a few of us from the neighborhood concerned about the way things are going.
We have succeeded in (at least temporarily) shutting down a toxic business that threatens the neighborhood, threatens the Gulf, and ultimately threatens the world. The presence of this Arco station endangers cyclists on Fell St. and finances a criminally negligent corporation.
Before we go any further, let’s have a moment of silence to remember the victims of this terrible catastrophe. The eleven men who were killed on the Deepwater Horizon and their families. The millions of Gulf residents- both human and wild who are suffering as we speak.
As we remember these victims, let’s not forget the other victims of car culture- those motorists who do not have viable alternatives to driving alone, and whose health is suffering as a result. People on bikes, on foot, and in cars who have been seriously injured or killed by cars- over 1.2 million of us throughout the world every year.
Let’s not forget all those elderly people living out the last of their days in isolation because their streets- streets like Oak and Fell have become nothing more than traffic sewers.
We must remember all those children growing up deprived of any connection to the natural world, surrounded by speeding steel and asphalt, getting to know the world only from the backseat of a car.
Now I am not pointing the finger or blaming those who drive cars- for many years I was one of them, and occasionally still am. Drivers are as much victims of this inhumane system as the rest of us.
Somehow, we need to rethink our cities as safe and pleasant habitats for human beings. The fact that they are NOT is an indication that something has gone deeply awry with our culture.
These days, cars are supposedly such a part of our lives that we are not allowed to question their dominance. But when California’s cars are the number one source of carbon emissions. When our cars are the number one killer of our children. When our thirst for oil drives the kind of disaster we are seeing in the Gulf, I think we need to begin to ask questions. These realities point to the fact that we are dangerously, hopelessly addicted to our motor vehicles.
We now know that over ONE MILLION gallons of toxic crude are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day. An Exxon Valdez of oil every 8-10 days.
The most advanced technology humans have is INCAPABLE of stopping what our technology has unleashed.
Just as if we continue to emit more than 5 BILLION tons of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere every year we will be incapable of closing the Pandora’s box we have opened.
The oil companies and the government have reassured us they have the situation under control. They say “TRUST US” we know what we’re doing. Well you know what? We DON’T trust you anymore.
If the United States government, controlled by multinational energy giants- continues to undermine climate justice on an international level and endanger the future of life on this planet for selfish, short term profits, there will be social unrest like we have never before seen in this country. It may be next week. It may be in 20 years. But I cannot accept that the people in this country will accept the sacrifice of this planet without a fight.
From individual citizens reporting what is happening in the Gulf, we know that BP IS STILL IN CHARGE, despite what Obama says. BP defies the EPA, pumping tons of chemical dispersant into the sea, not to reduce the environmental damage but to hide the extent of the spill from the public- to keep the damage UNDERWATER away from the lens of the media.
According to the New York Times, BP is ordering the US Coast Guard and local police forces to keep the media away from areas filled with dead and dying wildlife, bagging the bodies and stashing them out of view the same way we do with the bodies of civilian casualties in Iraq.
Today in San Francisco, we say NO. WE WILL NO LONGER BE SILENT IN THE FACE OF THESE BRAZEN ATTACKS ON OUR HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
Today, we bear witness to the connection between unsafe cycling conditions and our own fatal dependence on fossil fuels for transportation.
Future generations will learn about how our society treated people who opted out of car culture- how we continue to design streets that cause deaths and injuries of vulnerable road users- just to maximize traffic flow. Streets that scare people into lives of inactivity and oil dependence, and they will recoil in horror.
In response to the mentally ill man who mowed down four innocent people on bicycle the other day, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition tells us that “OUR STREETS ARE SAFE.” Well you know what? THEY ARE NOT SAFE. And they are very rarely pleasant. Riding a bike in the city could be paradise. But right now, for most of us it is a scary experience.
Instead of giving us tired old platitudes, they could have used this horrific incident to condemn the countless acts of intimidation of people on bicycles throughout the city every day, people who use cars as deadly weapons to threaten vulnerable road users, revving their engines like a predatory animal. Incidents that the San Francisco Police Department responds to only with a nod and a wink.
Our fossil fuel dependent society is neither advanced nor civilized. All the luxuries and unrestrained mobility that we take for granted are an historical anomaly made possible by a finite supply of cheap oil.
We are literally being kept alive by large multinational corporations like BP and Safeway. When the cheap oil runs out as it inevitably will, our civilization will collapse as surely as those human civilizations of the past have done.
BUT TODAY WE STAND UP TOGETHER AND REJECT THAT FATE. We know that another world is possible. A future of humans living in a reciprocal relationship with nature, not an exploitative one where we take and take and take.
A future where health and the environment are prioritized over profit. A future with networks of safe green routes for walking and cycling, lined with trees and plants, connecting the whole city, the whole bay area. Where clean, quiet, and frequent public transit connects cities.
Where we have leisure time to spend with our families and friends and we are no longer forced to waste our lives under fluorescent lights at jobs we hate just to keep ourselves and our families alive and feed our cars.
A sane world where we can feed OURSELVES without resorting to factory farms, tortured animals, poisoned fields, and genetically modified crops.
A world where we are reconnected to our fellow human beings and to the natural world.
Money is NOT REAL. It is a construct- ultimately only paper and metal. What IS real are plants, human beings, and other animals.
The love between a mother and her child. That is real. We must build a new world based on that, or we will end up destroying this beautiful planet and the living beings who inhabit it.
If any good can come out of this catastrophic situation in the Gulf, it can be an OPPORTUNITY for people to come together and start building a better world, the way we have built up this little green park here today.
Power is not taken- it is given. And if the powers that be will not face up to their historic responsibility to quickly wean us off fossil fuels, we will have to STOP GIVING THEM OUR POWER.
We solved this longstanding neighborhood problem here ourselves. We didn’t ask the government to do it for us. We didn’t give money to a non-profit to lobby for us. WE JUST WENT OUT AND DID IT OURSELVES.
It really IS that easy.