September 12, 2015

Setting up a Fight with the Fossil Fuel Industry, Activists Prepare for Paris Climate Talks

Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and other movement leaders lay out campaign to ‘turn off’ the fossil fuel industry and ‘turn on’ 100% renewable energy

Brooklyn, NY — Nearly 2,000 people packed into a concert hall in Brooklyn this Thursday evening to listen to Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and other movement leaders launch a new campaign to challenge the fossil fuel industry ahead of a major UN Climate Summit in Paris this December.

“Our job, as a movement, is to turn off the world’s supply of fossil fuel, and to turn on the infinite power of renewable energy,” said Bill McKibben, the writer and co-founder of the international climate campaign “Paris can send a signal that the world is moving away from fossil fuels, but it will still be up to us to get the job done.”

Back in 2012, McKibben and Klein hosted a 21-city tour called “Do the Math” to launch the fossil fuel divestment campaign. That show helped popularize the idea of the carbon bubble, the realization that fossil fuel companies are overvalued because the world cannot burn all of the reserves on their balance sheets and keep global warming below 2°C.

Thursday’s show, Off & On, picked up where Do the Math left off, telling the story of how the world can move beyond fossil fuels. The title refers to’s mission to “turn off” the fossil fuel industry and “turn on” an 100% renewable energy economy. Over the course of two hours, climate leaders from around the world told the story of a growing global resistance against the fossil fuel industry, and how communities are leading the transition towards clean energy.

“The world is waking up to climate change. There are no single-issue movements any more: the fight for climate justice is a fight for social justice. If we’re going to change everything, we need everyone,” said Cynthia Ong, the Founder & Executive Director of LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) in Borneo, who co-hosted the event. Ong helped lead a coalition of environmentalists and locals in a successful battle against a massive coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

The speakers reminded the audience, however, that the climate crisis is a race against the clock. They said that a top priority for the climate movement must be to “defuse” the world’s largest “carbon bombs,” major fossil fuel reserves that must stay in the ground in order to keep global warming from spiraling out of control. Top targets include the tar sands in Canada and coal mines in Germany and Australia.

“We can do this. This is not a technological problem. Its a problem of too much corporate power,” said Naomi Klein. “As we move to a new energy paradigm we need to move to a new world too: one that takes justice seriously.”

Other speakers at the Thursday event included Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus; Cynthia Ong, the Founder & Executive Director of LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) in Borneo; Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance; and others. The speakers represented the growing breadth and depth of the climate justice movement.

“The long history of social change should give us some guidance, and some optimism. Jim Crow, apartheid: they seemed as mighty as the fossil fuel industry does right now. It seemed like they’d be with us forever. But as people changed the zeitgeist—with civil disobedience, with divestment, with organizing—those old institutions began to crumble,” said Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, which is currently leading a tour across America called “Act on Climate” with the People’s Climate Music project. “That work is not complete, as we can see from the huge inequalities that remain. Which is why our climate solutions need to deliver racial justice too.”

Over the last few years, has emerged as a leading force in the growing climate movement, helping grow the fossil fuel divestment effort from a few college campuses in the US to a worldwide campaign, and organizing major mobilizations like last year’s People’s Climate March that brought 400,000 people to the streets of New York.

Now, and its allies are looking to dramatically expand the divestment campaign, put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets during the Paris climate summit, and pull off a series of major actions targeting fossil fuel projects next Spring. Thursday evening’s Off & On presentation will be turned into a series of videos that will be shared with activists around the world to help them plan local campaigns and further build the movement for climate justice.

“We’re laying out a strategy that we think can have a profound impact on our politicians, while keeping power in the hands of the people, so we can create the change we need to see,” said Executive Director, May Boeve. “This show marks the start of a campaign to supercharge our movement and take the fight right to the source of the problem.”