If only…

The Yes Men and our friends at Greenpeace performed a beautiful stunt today. They released thousands of copies of a fake International Herald Tribube newspapers for December 19, 2009 with the headlines: “WORLD LEADERS SIGN PACT TO AVERT CLIMATE DISASTER.”  If only it were the real thing…

…well, it’s up us to make it real!  And the paper has some great, fake stories describing just how it’s possible.  You can read the online version of the fake paper also on a fake International Herlad Tribue website here: http://iht.greenpeace.org and here is the media release that explains a bit more of the backstory as well…

In a front-page ad in today’s International Herald Tribune, the leaders of the European Union thank the European public for having engaged in months of civil disobedience leading up to the Copenhagen climate conference that will be held this December. “It was only thanks to your massive pressure over the past six months that we could so dramatically shift our climate-change policies…. To those who were arrested, we thank you.”

There was only one catch: the paper was fake.

Looking exactly like the real thing, but dated December 19th, 2009, a million copies of the fake paper were distributed worldwide by thousands of volunteers in order to show what could be achieved at the Copenhagen climate conference that is scheduled for Dec. 7-18, 2009. (At the moment, the conference is aiming for much more modest cuts, dismissed by leading climate scientists as too little, too late to stave off runaway processes that will lead to millions or even billions of casualties.)

The paper describes in detail a powerful (and entirely possible) new treaty to bring carbon levels down below 350 parts per million – the level climate scientists say we need to achieve to avoid climate catastrophe. One article describes how a website, http://BeyondTalk.net, mobilized thousands of people to put their bodies on the line to confront climate change policies – ever since way back in June, 2009.

Although the newspaper is a fake (its production and launch were coordinated by Greenpeace), the website is real. Beyondtalk.net is part of a growing network of websites calling for direct action on climate change, building on statements made in recent months by noted political figures. (For example, in September Nobel laureate Al Gore asserted that “we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants.”)

Leading American environmentalist Bill McKibben was enthusiastic about the newspaper’s message and the methods BeyondTalk.net calls for. “We need a political solution grounded in reality – grounded in physics and chemistry. That will only come if we can muster a wide variety of political tactics, including civil disobedience.”

“Non-violent civil disobedience has been at the forefront of almost every successful campaign for change,” said Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men, who helped write and edit the newspaper and are furnishing the technology for BeyondTalk.net. “Especially in America, and especially today, we need to push our leaders hard to stand up to industry lobbyists and make the sorts of changes we need.”

“Roosevelt would never have been able to push through the New Deal if people hadn’t taken to the streets, occupied factories, and demanded it,” noted newspaper writer/editor and University of California professor Lawrence Bogad.  Segregation, British rule in India, and apartheid wouldn’t have ended without a lot of people being creatively uncooperative – even if that meant getting arrested. Nonviolent civil disobedience is the bread and butter of progress.”

The fake newspaper also has an ad for “Action Offsets,” whereby those who aren’t willing to risk arrest can help those who are.

A HOPEFUL NEWS PANDEMIC?

Today’s fake International Herald Tribune is part of a rash of recent publications which mimic prominent newspapers. Last November, a fake edition of the New York Times announced that the Iraq War was over. A few days earlier, a hoax USA Today featured the US presidential election result: “Capitalism Wins at the Polls: Anarchy Brewing in the Streets.” And this April 1st, a spoof edition of Germany’s Zeit newspaper triumphantly announced the end of “casino capitalism” and the abolition of poor-country debt.

The rash of fakes is likely to continue. “People are going to keep finding ways to get the word out about common-sense solutions those in power say are impossible,” said Kelli Anderson, one of the designers of the fake International Herald Tribune and co-designer (with Daniel Dunnam) of BeyondTalk.net. “We already know what we need to do about climate change,” said Agnes de Rooij of Greenpeace International. “It’s a no-brainer. Reduce carbon emissions, or put the survival of billions of people at risk. If the
political will isn’t there now, it’s our duty to inspire it.”

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