Tagged ‘Vickrey‘

Revolution: The Commercial by Cindy Sheehan and Gregory Vickrey

Revolution: The Commercial
by Cindy Sheehan & Gregory Vickrey

Cue the


Enter Activist: I really enjoy hanging out with a close-knit group of friends at Saturday rallies that end before dinner, and posting a bunch of articles and commentary on Facebook and Twitter so friends can ‘like’ them. It makes me feel like I am doing my part, and appreciate solidarity.

Music turns


Activist: But I began to experience a sense of emptiness when I realized that feeling self-important didn’t really change much on this planet. In fact, things seem to be getting worse no matter who is in office, no matter which huge organization I join, and no matter how many petitions I sign and share and send.



Voice: Reality dawns.

Activist: So at the last Saturday rally, I took a chance and separated from my friends. I approached one of the more aggressive presenters who spoke truth-to-power and seemed an expert on, well, actual action. I told her I do my part, and nothing changes. I asked: what’s wrong?

Expert: You are suffering the effects of Clicktivism.

Voice: Clicktivism is a disease, epidemic in nature, that drives us away from reality and into a land of fairy tales and lollipops where everything is “successful” when we get 50,000 signatures, or 2000 people socialize for 3 hours, or 500 pictures of “actions” are put up on a progressive website. Humane, meaningful responses to difficult life conditions (war, climate change, poverty) are usurped by symbolism and marketing emails and educational campaigns, often to the point where the potential for cure is lost. Ecocide, perpetual war, and massive loss of life often result.

Cue the


Voice: But now there’s Revolution.


rids the sufferers of clicktivism of indulgent

Activist: With

, I now see reality for what it is; I see
that are
; I see my
the pavement and disrupting the rapacious system today, tomorrow, and every day.

Voice: When

. When using
, avoiding

. Tear

Interview With Bill McKibben, Winner of Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and Gregory Vickrey, Winner of International Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize

February 24th, 2011

Climate reality writer and activist Gregory Vickrey. (L) ( Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Founder of, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben. (R) (Photo: Nancie Battaglia /

Bill McKibben, Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” (1989), regarded as the first book for a general audience about global warming. He is also founder of the global grassroots climate movement, which organized what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Most recently, he was the recipient of the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Of this honor, McKibben said:

“I’m a beginner as an organizer; it’s a great honor to be included on this list of people who have changed America for the better. I am deeply grateful to The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute for this recognition of my work. I am even more appreciative that this award is representative of a shared conviction that now is a singular moment in our history for all people of good conscience to come together in defense of the planet. Our work has never been more urgent.”

Gregory Vickrey, Peace of the Action distinguished board member and generally unknown writer and activist, is the author of not a few critiques of environmental organizations, including “Environmentalism is Dead”, likely one of the least read articles on Counterpunch, ever. He has been lucky to work with Cory Morningstar of Canadians for Action on Climate Change; otherwise, he’d be extra-unknown. Most recently, he was the recipient of the $0 Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize. Of this honor, Vickrey said:

“It sucks to be broke and targeted, but what can I do? The entire world is at stake. So few of us stick to our guns and speak the truth about climate change – recognizing it as the greatest crime against humanity in history – I’d hate to cull myself from that group. Even if it meant I could also afford jelly on occasion.”

On that note, I interviewed Bill McKibben and Gregory Vickrey and would like to share our conversation with you.

Mickey Z.: You’ve noted that this award highlights your shift from writer to organizer. Can you tell us more about how and why you made that shift?

Bill McKibben: At some point, it became obvious to me that we were losing badly in the global warming fight, and that one reason was we had no movement. All the scientific studies and policy plans on earth don’t get you very far if there’s no movement to push them. So we’re doing our best to build that – too late and too slowly, but as best we can.

Gregory Vickrey: I think Bill is genuine here. He did realize we are losing badly in the global warming fight – and we still are. It is important to question ourselves when we endeavor to build a movement. In Bill’s case, I think one of the first questions was funding. And that’s can be a dangerous question, especially when one considers the history of the environmental movement, and even recently sees organizations like The Nature Conservancy cutting deals with Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, with the incarnations of what was to become, we find seed money from the likes of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (think big oil), and we find a pronounced effort to create a brand, rather than a movement – and that strategy was created by Havas, one of the world’s largest marketing firms.

MZ: Of your work, Derrick Jensen has said: “One of the problems that I see with the vast majority of so-called solutions to global warming is that they take industrial capitalism as a given and the planet which must conform to industrial capitalism, as opposed to the other way around.” How do you respond to this critique?

BM: It strikes me that the single biggest variable explaining the structure of the world today is the availability of cheap fossil fuel – that’s what happened two hundred years ago to create the world we know, especially its centralization. I think if we can put a serious price on fossil fuel, one that reflects the damage it does to our earth, then the fuels that we will depend on – principally wind and sun – will push us in the direction of more localized economies. Those kind of changes have been the focus of my work as a writer in recent years.

GV: What strikes me is that Bill did not respond to the question that was asked. What Bill says instead is that we should depend upon the political system that got us into this mess to get us out of it by taxing the crap out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we could elect Bill (or me!) as president and we still wouldn’t get the policy in place to force corporations to kill the carbon economy. Jensen is on point with the quote you provided, and Bill and corporate brand ignore that part of reality.

MZ: So many people believe they’re already “doing their part,” e.g. recycling, using CFL bulbs, bringing their own bag to the grocery store etc. How do we help them see ASAP that this isn’t even remotely enough?

BM: Well, I think we keep encouraging them to become politically active too, not instead. It’s good to do what you can around your house; and our job is to help people realize that there are ways they can be effective in a larger sphere too. That’s what movements are. And especially with climate change, the feeling that you’re too small to make a difference can be crippling.

GV: This is another arena where Bill has no forthright response at the ready, because he and are not in the business of systemic change. They believe in green capitalsm, so changing light bulbs is good, recycling is good, etc. See, the “feel good” in recycling allows us to continue consuming at preposterous rates. Changing light bulbs damns us to suffer Jevons Paradox, and corporations love that. So loves that. Instead, we should be making people aware of reality: our only chance is effective zero carbon emissions, and we must get there in a matter of years. That means dramatic systemic change. That means drastic lifestyle changes. It’s apolitical, in the end, because Mother Nature doesn’t care about having a seat at the table in DC. She doesn’t need it.

MZ: The US Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter, the planet’s top gas guzzler, and recipient of 53.3 percent of American taxpayer dollars. How does your work address this situation and the concurrent “untouchable” status the US military has among the majority of American citizens?

BM: I’m not sure it really does, directly. Indirectly, I think the biggest reason we have the oversized defense that we do is that we rely on distant and unstable sources of energy as the core of our economy. I remember one sign in particular from the early Anti-Iraq-War rallies I went to: “How did our oil end up under their sand?”

GV: Bill’s work doesn’t address militarism at all. We need to drastically cut military spending in order to subsidize systemic change in the short term, and that mechanism is the fastest way to start cutting carbon. You won’t find that on the website.

MZ: Since 51 percent of human-created greenhouse gases come from the industrial animal food business, are you encouraging people to adopt a plant-based diet lifestyle?

BM: I’ve written time and again that industrial agriculture, especially factory livestock farming, is a bane – not only for its greenhouse gases, but for myriad other reasons. Interestingly, though, scientific data from the last couple of years is leading to the conclusion that local, grasspastured, often-moved livestock, by the action of their hooves and the constant deposition of manure, improve soils enough to soak up more carbon and methane than they produce. (This would explain why, say, there could have been more ungulates on the continent 300 years ago than now without it being a curse to the atmosphere). So there may be hope for meat-eaters as well – but only if you know and understand where your dinner is coming from.

GV: Again, Bill misses the point. Beyond eliminating militarism, we can cut into our carbon budget most drastically and immediately by scrapping the agro-meat industry. In time, Bill’s scenario providing hope for voracious meat eaters may come into effect, but we do not have the time to gradually shrink agro-meats. If we implement a strategy of incrementalism here, we are doomed to suffer the worst effects of climate change.

MZ: Is there a question you’ve always wished to be asked during an interview? If so, please feel free to ask and answer now.

BM: I’ve … done a lot of interviews.

GV: How do we get to zero? In short, the United States, Canada, and Australia must get to zero emission before 2020, with most of the cuts occurring over the next 5 years. Europe, Japan, China, India, and a few other countries must accomplish the same before 2025. The rest of the developing world must accomplish the same before 2030. Even in the best of circumstances, this scenario does not protect us from the feedback loops that are not included in any of the predictive models. But it gives us our best shot. Assuming policy-makers balk at this, we need an all-out global uprising to overcome, overwhelm, and overtake the system, and to be prepared for massive sacrifice. The system and its masters will not be easily returned to the masses. We must give them no choice.

MZ: What do you like to do when not engaged in writing, organizing and activism? What inspires you outside of those realms?

BM: I like to be outdoors – cross-country skiing most of all, or hiking. That’s why I live in the woods. And that’s why it’s tough to be on the road so much organizing. But I love the people, especially the young people, who are my colleagues.

GV: I chase dogs and kids and soccer balls. I succumb to the “need” of college basketball. I wonder where my next meal is coming from.

MZ: How can readers connect with you and get involved with your work?

BM: By going to and signing up. We spent what little money we had on a website; it works in about a dozen languages, and we think it’s pretty sharp.

GV: People can learn more about Bill’s work here and here. People can go to my website to get in touch and learn more about climate reality; it works in one language – occasionally two when I can manage to get a translator – and it’s pretty sharp considering I still owe the guy who helped me with it some cash. Maybe I can fix him a peanut butter sandwich instead.

Note: The preceding interview is not real. Mickey Z. and Bill McKibben held an interview that may be found here; their sections remain the same. Gregory Vickrey’s sections are a fictitious addition meant to bring the reality of corporate brand to the fore, and to urge everyone to get serious about climate change. Wake up. Tear down. Rise up.

Manufacturing Discontent

Manufacturing Discontent
by Gregory Vickrey

This piece continues the series being presented by Cory Morningstar and Gregory Vickrey and is part of their anticipated and controversial book and multimedia project due out in 2011.

It is safe to assume that in modern political arenas, an approach to the climate change emergency through conventional directives will not work. Indeed, across every movement, from single payer health care to American wars and occupations abroad, the conventional has failed. And while we are very skilled at making excuses and providing analysis for some aspects of that failure, we are not very good at determining other, alternative mechanisms for change. The climate change movement is no exception to this reality.

Ineffective and otherwise corrupted major political parties in the United States and elsewhere reflect the failure of the masses to control our own political will, expand the solution sets we may desire, and reconstruct the fabric of society at its foundation. Corporate control of those parties, and more directly, elections and political offices, limits our collective effectiveness on the policy-making playgrounds of Washington DC and other capitals. And again, recent history on the global and national stages shows the climate movement no less co-opted by the rapacious institute of corporate control.

Capitalism is a sacrosanct concept for most, even though the modern system of capitalism isn’t pure by any means – in both positive and negative ways. Yet observing the modern capitalistic approach to the global economy through the climate lens demands we become critical of the very system that, to one degree or another, has provided for our lives of comfort in the first world. For instance, any analysis of a modern company like Nike demonstrates that both LeBron James and you and me can wear the hottest kicks as basketball season arrives, but those kicks are manufactured through the modern capitalistic directive of cheap labor – by the exploited hands of men, women, and children in southeast Asia in sweatshops and hell holes – and shipped worldwide via inefficient container ships and trucks wholly dependent upon fossil fuels.

Our shoes and sense of fashion, like nearly everything else in life, are intimately connected to the carbon economy.

Given that those in the climate change movement stand to piss off multi-national corporate conglomerates, the politicians they control, and LeBron James with any sort of meaningful approach, most have gone the way of standardized emails, sanitized campaigns, and symbolic actions.

NRDC was a lead author of the worthless bills peddled in the US Congress in 2010 that would have continued to subsidize fossil fuels and nuclear power, enriched the corporations behind their largest funders, and sacrificed future generations. wasted time, money, and activists organizing symbolic parties around the globe in the hopes that some leader somewhere would do something sometime, while selling a bunch of tshirts (guess where most are made) and propelling big oil (350 funders are dripping in it) back to the top of the greenwashing list.

The Nature Conservancy continues its close “win-win” partnership with BP.

Pensacola Beach

All three, and plenty more, would like to keep us convinced that if only we green our consumptive way of life, we can keep it, with little or no sacrifice.

They are wrong.

And that means we are wrong.

Realistically, we know at best we have until 2020 to fully enact the changes necessary to overcome the fossil fuel economy and all if its derivatives. There is nothing comfortable about that reality, but it is the only opportunity we have to stem the tide of the global climate emergency. No part of the current economic and political systems has the flexibility to bring appropriate leadership, action plans, and strength of will to the fore. To quote your favorite American Democrat, Barack Obama: “It took a hundred years for health care (d)reform.” The psychology of entrenchment alone prevents significant movement from happening within 10 years; further, the fossil fuel aspect of the economy is the engine that drives the thing, controlling or having a powerful hand in nearly every facet of life, as well as policy. Knowing that, what makes anyone one of us believe the powers-that-be will wake up early enough in the 10 year period to acknowledge the need for removal of the carbon economy and the corporations that drive it, implement that removal, and maintain civil society as it currently is all at the same time? For argument’s sake, if a person is put in power to dismantle it against the will of the fossil fuel stasi, what sort of civil unrest will the fossil fuel economy create in order to stall the mechanics of change and sustain themselves?

Critical reflection should quickly allow us to answer these questions.

We no longer can afford to be afraid to read the truth. We no longer can afford to be afraid to reflect on our failure. We no longer can afford to avoid answering. We no longer can afford to avoid challenging the system for what it is.

Manufacturing discontent is an important method for the climate movement to employ in order to implement sound reasoning for moving away from modern capitalism and its predatory effects to something of the people. It is probably the most important component, because learning the truth about corporate control of our lives inherently leads to discontent amongst all but the richest in society. In order to spread the truth, the movement must create the mechanisms to deliver it in light of the greenwashing, debtwashing, status quo delivery of commercial policy and politics. Yet the calculus for creation isn’t difficult. Most people are burdened to the point of despair by debt, disease, and disaster. The discontent rests uneasily beneath the surface.

We simply need to set it free.

It is a scary notion to think about enacting. Few things are scarier than recognizing the system that allows us our creature comforts will fail – whether we control it via transition or not. Knowing that we probably have 10 years to implement the change required is frightening. Afraid as we are, however, an alternative is coming, and the question remains as to whether or not that alternative way of life will be one we collectively design. Climate reality is forcing the decision upon us. The system is preventing any semblance of action designed to preserve life. The responsibility is ours.

Positive systemic change as a goal can profoundly effect our ability to salvage what we can under the climate emergency, and alter other despotic modern conditions besides, from resource wars to global poverty to individual health. Implementation of that change beyond the impacts of our collective dissent will require a new brand of strategy and tactics, employed under the banner of humanity.

Discontent will drive components of change from beginning to end, perpetuating failure or manufacturing success.

One significant baseline where discontent rages and appears ready to be shaped lies within the constructs of the modern financial system, and there are reasons to believe allies across the political spectrum can unite in common purpose – overwhelming the status quo. Those engaged in climate activism – and most types of activism geared towards the collective – tend to lose these potential allies from the start, typically because the issue in hand has been given false AKA’s or due to the general perception of the movement itself.

Take five minutes now to silently consider the peace movement over the last few years. Your judgment at the end of those moments will likely be sound and profound.

Now look around the globe, and observe France, Portugal, the UK, Greece…

Do you see what can be seen?

When the opportunity to do what is right presents itself, as well as the means, we need to rise up and grasp it; for when it comes, there are only two ends: prevail or fail.

Up next in the series: Streets and Policies – Actions and Enactions for Everyone, From Darfur to DC.

Gregory Vickrey is a consultant for various projects and may be reached at: gregory.