This speech was delivered at the Theodore Roosevelt Statue, South Park Blocks, Portland, Oregon
I’m Janet Weil, representing the Portland local chapter of Extinction Rebellion.
The first demand of the international Extinction Rebellion movement is: Tell the Truth! Here is the truth about the government that we are forced to pay our hard-earned taxes to. The United States government does not perform its primary function: to protect its people.
The government does not protect us from the coronavirus. As of this afternoon, over 3.4 million US citizens or residents have been infected, the highest single-country level; 135,991 have died. This plague will send many more Americans to their graves before widespread vaccination is available. In the richest country in the world.
The government does not protect us from the climate crisis. As of this afternoon, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hovers around 415 parts per million. The safe upper limit is 350 parts per million. Global methane emissions have risen over 10% in the last 20 years. Our climate and our world are changed forever. To name only a few of those changes: Typhoons of unimaginable force in the Philippines. Annual wildfires devastating the Pacific Northwest, California, Australia, Brazil – and now, Siberia. Massive deforestation and crop failures. Millions of climate refugees. The 6th Mass Extinction event is already underway.
Much more is coming. That is the hardest truth to face.The Trump administration is actively evil. Environmental destruction for short-term profit by corporate buddies has been the through-line of this presidency. Through scandals and distractions, the devastation of public lands, of indigenous lands, of wildlife, of communities hard hit by environmental racism, of the climate, has continued, quickly and efficiently.
But the Democrats’ proposals, even with all the pushing from a vigorous youth-led movement, are inadequate. Out of the 538 pages of the “Solving the Climate Crisis” Report by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, 11 are on so-called “national security” – that is, on the US military, the most oil-consuming entity on Planet Earth. Is there one sentence on cutting military greenhouse gas emissions? Or cutting the military budget by even 10%, as Congresswoman Barbara Lee has proposed? What about ending the almost 19-year war in Afghanistan? Ending nuclear weapons? NO.
Instead (and I’m quoting from the document): “Require consideration of climate risks in defense procurement, logistics & supply chains; Ensure resilience planning collaboration…; … safeguard critical infrastructure & prepare for climate-driven internal & cross-border migration.”
We know what that means. MORE of our tax money to the Pentagon. Protect their bases, warships and warplanes, and weapons from the climate-change impacts the military is partly responsible for causing. Keep back the desperate migrants with fist and gun. Indeed, this has already begun on our southern border.
But we have seen the “BORTAC” so-called elite squad in Portland as well as other armed men from the Department of Homeland Security. The “border” is wherever there is an insurgency to “quell”, no matter how lightly armed (with chalk? spray paint? a few frozen water bottles?). All of it, every tear gas canister, dangerous projectile and absurdly overdone riot uniform, is paid for with our money, which we need for our lives.
The mainstream environmental movement, and now the climate action movement, has kept mostly separate from the antiwar, anti-nuclear-weapons, and anti-imperialist movements since the first Earth Day in 1970. That must end. We in the Earth Day to Tax Day coalition are an all-volunteer, cross-cultural project, showing the necessary linking of justice for people and planet. May our strength and influence increase.
Militarism, extractivism, racism, imperialism: these are the roads to death. If not stopped, to extinction.Extinction Rebellion: the name is a question and an answer. When I say “Extinction?” you say:
Rebel for Life.