Letter to Bill McKibben | 350.org | Communication & Discussion on Orion

From: Lorna Salzman <lsalzman1>

Date: July 30, 2010 1:43:59 PM EDT

To: wmckibbe

Subject: Green Council Eco-PAC petition sent to you in Dec. 2008

Dear Bill:

Thanks for your response on the Orion site. See my response to it.

Meanwhile, here is what I sent you on Dec. 16, 2008. You might consider making this the main activity of 350.org, since it is the US congress that will be deciding the fate of the earth. Or do you disagree?

Feel free to adopt it for your campaign.

The printed version, for activists’ use on the ground, was intended to be prefaced by a statement that those signing the petition vowed to support any candidate for congress that supports these positions, and to oppose (or run against) anyone NOT supporting them. This is the ultimatum we need to give to congress.

In addition, those signing would be asked to write to their representatives informing them that they will vote for them or against them depending on whether they support these positions.

It probably needs tweaking now: to specify cap-and-dividend, and to reduce CO2 down to 300 ppm. While it does not include a ban on nuclear power loan guarantees or tax breaks, this can be added. Scientist George Hendrey of Queens College endorsed it, but it has not been circulated widely yet. Perhaps 350.org can do that, after it changes its name to 300.org.

Best regards

(distributed by Green Council, December 2008. The web site was never completed).

This is our short petition/purpose, which will be the central part of our Eco-PAC that we will be initiating shortly on our web site. Note that in addition to stressing renewable energy, it addresses the things that need to be done to reduce energy consumption and provide incentives for renewables –  mandatory efficiency standards, end of fossil subsidies, carbon taxes, stopping carbon trading, etc. Unless we do these things we will never be able to bring renewables on line fast enough. We urge all groups to adopt these positions in their own work……LS (for Green Council)


Credible scientists and climate studies are urging a reduction in CO2 emissions by 80% over the coming decade in order to prevent the “tipping point” – a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperature which could throw the planet into a new climate regime, with catastrophic consequences for humans and global ecosystems. Unless we stabilize energy use immediately and cut it sufficiently to reduce the average global CO2 concentration to 350 ppm as urged by the science community, we face dire social and economic chaos.

Therefore, we undersigned citizens urge our government to embark on a massive “Manhattan Project” to curb energy use rapidly and substantially through various means:

ending tax breaks and subsidies to fossil fuels, including corn-based ethanol; taxing all fossil fuels and rebating revenues to citizens; accelerating renewable energy technologies and incentives; rejecting cap and trade; imposing a national gasoline tax so price equals that of western Europe; mandatory energy efficiency standards for vehicles, buildings, appliances, and industry; ban construction of new fossil fuel plants unless 100% carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is achieved; phase out existing coal plants within ten years; prohibit direct and indirect support for fossil fuel plants abroad; fund and expand public transportation (Amtrak, regional and local light rail)international sanctions and wood tariffs to prevent deforestation; impose Border Tax Adjustment (BTA) to place tariffs on high carbon-footprint imports;

COMMENTS: (to read all comments visit: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/discuss/5621/P0/

21 linda on Aug 01, 2010

Thanks, Ms. Salsman, for raising this critical and constructive criticism of the 350 brand. For years, I’ve been a member of 350 and have urged the ‘leadership’ to add substance to our feel-good efforts. McKibben has been taking the high-profile easy way out of challenging inadequate climate policy coming out of the US Congress. While rallying people and speaking on CNN, he has refused to name a single sponsor of legislation which clearly aimed for stabilization targets much much greater than 350 parts per million. Why? Is he a weakling? Are his Rockerfeller Brothers sponsors telling him not to make too much (effective) noise but to spin wheels as much as he wants? Is he too chicken to unmask the grossly deficient pork barrel climate bills known as Waxman-Markey, Kerry-Boxer, Kerry-Lieberman-Graham, and Cantwell’s CLEAR by naming those legislators and thereby having an effect on them? Why is he willing to ignore the many members of 350.org who give such recommendations and who come away from a march with unfocused demands for ‘fair, ambitious, and binding’climate action feeling unsatisfied,  frightened, and a bit silly with the way that such calls are immediately coopted by Senators pushing nukes, clean coal, more offshore drilling more hydrocarbon extraction and carbon markets?

22 Lorna Salzman on Aug 01, 2010

It is dismaying to discover Rockefeller Brothers Fund money supporting 350.org but not surprising.  The history of American grant making is a sordid one that has studiously avoided funding any group that might contradict the purpose of these foundations: to fend off serious challenges to the status quo or serious critiques of crucial societal issues like global warming. Small wonder that they would open their purses to 350.org. which has yet to address thedominant paradigm of endless, mindless economic growth and consumption. It is discouraging to see nonprofit groups taking money from those whose interests lie in perpetuating the precise problems they are supposed to be addressing and solving. This is not the first time nor, tragically, the last that leadership in the environmental community has been prevented from initiating any meaningful action.  It is time for the rest of us to look elsewhere for the principled independent leadership we deserve. We can’t find it in congress and we can’t even find it among our ranks. Isn’t it time to get mad and not take it any more?

25 mike k on Aug 02, 2010

Lorna Salzman is right on target.  Throwing pebbles at tanks is great heart-warming theater, but it is totally inadequate to stop a powerful force like the corporate/military industrial/energy monopoly/ fascist government complex that rules the United States.  If you are still dreaming that your colorful kumbaya demonstrations are more than futile exercises waisting what could be energies mobilized to stop the Goliath that bestrides our world, then your first task should be to wake up and get real about what it will take to change our world from its current death march to extinction.

It is hard to criticize a love-able, sincere man like Bill McKibben, but this kind of clear opposition needs to be brought to bear on such a waste of precious possibilities.  “Solutions” that are nothing more than a toothless charade should be abandoned in favor of a movement that speaks and acts the only language our enemies understand: power.  Thank you Lorna Salzman for speaking truth to power, and pointing out a more realistic direction for our efforts.