I recently moved back to my home country, the United States, exchanging one distrito federal, Mexico City, Mexico, for another, Washington, DC.  After a year of organizing with 350.org in Mexico City, I’ve experienced some culture shock upon my arrival home as I find myself grapping with questions like, where can I find some good enchiladas, why can’t I buy tacos on the street, and why do people look at me funny when I accidentally begin speaking in Spanish to them?  But the greatest culture shock of all came today when I joined some excellent organizers from 350’s sister organization, 1Sky, to go meet their senator’s staff on Capitol Hill (no need to disclose which one, or which party). 

The meeting started jovially, the organizers sharing the type of work they’d been doing at home to energize the grassroots, before getting into the specifics of the senator’s attitude towards climate change.  That’s when it came out, that line that has become more and more unbelievable to me the more I organize outside of the U.S.: “Well what we really need is an international agreement, because the real problem is India and China and all of the other countries need to do something about climate change too”.  So I agree with the first part, but the latter part they must realize is just absurd at this point.

Later that afternoon, I got back to the office and received two pertinent emails.  One detailed the pledges that developed countries have made so far, all of them failing to meet the latest science, and the vast majority conditional on someone else moving first.  Next, I received one with this headline: “UN releases pledges by poor countries to curb climate change”.  I opened it up and nearly started to laugh thinking about the line I had heard earlier as I read through commitment after commitment: “Mongolia says it will erect solar power plants in the frigid Gobi Desert. The Central African Republic says it will expand its forests to cover a quarter of its territory. Mexico promises to slash carbon emissions by 30 per cent by the end of the decade. Costa Rica and the Maldives aim to become carbon neutral and even chaotic Afghanistan is promising to take action on climate change.”  Mongolia, the Central African Republic, and Afghanistan are some of the poorest countries on the planet, and yet they understand the gravity of the issue and aren’t childly waiting around saying, “no, you first”.  And India and China?  Both are moving forward cap and trade programs this year.  US politicians surely should realize the irony of pointing their finger at the rest of the world when they couldn’t even reach a vote on cap and trade last year.

So what planet are they living on here in Washington?  Well they’re living on one where not only the atmosphere is polluted, but the political system itself is polluted by corporate money and entrenched interests trying to maintain the status quo of our fossil fuel-drenched economy.  We’ll be doing all we can this year to clear the air, and hope you’ll join us over at chamber.350.org to take action.

24 October action in Mongolia

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