If our about page wasn’t enough, we have more for you!
Here you will find some of the thoughts behind our political positions, choices, and strategy.
Why we oppose Cap and Trade, offsets, and other myths of Green Business and Clean Energy:
What is Cap and Trade? Basically, it is the name for policies based on the premise that a cap is set on the amount of carbon emissions companies can produce, but they have the option to buy and sell carbon credits on the “carbon market,” meaning that whoever has the most money can manipulate reality in order to continue operating with little to no change regarding the urgency of climate chaos. Sometimes these deals include offset options, a simplified example of which is that planting trees or maintaining forest that sequesters x amount of carbon are deemed to equal x amount of carbon credits which can then be sold or traded on the carbon market. Offsets can gain political traction when they are advertised as green job creation, when really the jobs just enable the continuation of business as usual.
We don’t want to flatten a very nuanced and complicated issue when it comes to offsets. Offset programs can be a way to preserve forests when states and agencies give them a monetary value, that is, turn them into an industrial resource, that is based on the carbon sequestration rather than harvestable board feet. The argument for this approach is that this is a way to save and increase forested land, but the existence of forests is critical in itself. Offsets link forest preservation dangerously to the continued operation of carbon emitting industry. Offsets also become tied to issues of indigenous rights to land, and indigenous sovereignty. Within the continuing brutalities of colonialism, genocide and land theft the Yurok tribe has been able to leverage participating in the California offsets program to bring in money which they have used to, among other things, buy back thousands of acres of land that was stolen by white settler and the United States government, but it has been at the cost of certain concessions in their sovereignty. On the one hand, this is incredibly resourceful. On the other, shouldn’t the land never have been stolen like that, and since it was, shouldn’t it just be returned? Shouldn’t settlers learn from thousands of years of forest practices? We think the US government owes indigenous people massive reparations, not painful business deals. Shouldn’t indigenous tribes and nations in the Amazon be able to live with the forests as they see fit, and not have to consider pursuing fraught and controversial offset programs as perhaps the only way to keep a degree of autonomy and a fraction of the forest intact?
Some of you will push back and say we need to be realists. But we don’t see examples of realism being very effective in moving forward either effective climate policy or adaptation to climate change. So we’ll hold to our conviction that the realist approaches of putting every aspect of the earth systems on the market and refusing to challenge “fundamental” commitments to capitalism and colonialism are doomed.
The strategy behind Cap & Trade policies like the recently infamous Oregon State HB 2020 has, for last few decades, been that these business-friendly policies would find enough corporate and Republican support that they were “politically realistic” (unlike direct regulation, or programs like the Green New Deal). That’s essentially the same answer we’ve gotten personally when we’ve shared our concerns about HB 2020 with Renew Oregon and its supporters: nothing else is realistic right now, and it’s better to have something that we can improve over time than to pursue policies that won’t pass.
Here we are now, after years of negotiation, with nothing to show for it. We haven’t even significantly shifted the public debate about climate action: mainstream climate groups like Renew are still focusing on what’s good for business, and HB 2020 supporters (including Ashland Representative Pam Marsh) are anxiously defending the logging industry and its exemption from regulation, even though it is the single largest source of climate pollution in Oregon! In this case Republicans are right that climate bills like HB2020 are hurting people in rural areas and Oregon Democrats are just helping make the rich richer at the expense of the poor. And, we’ll add, at the expense of the climate, which is shorthand for the future of all life. Let’s make it clear- we hate bills like this, and so do many frontline communities and people working for equity and climate justice. The ugly reality is that climate change is due to people who pursue accumulation of wealth and power through the exploitation of land, people, and ecosystems. Cap and trade policies are seen as “realistic” because they don’t challenge any of that, and in fact, with their promises of context-free offsets, view the whole earth as a resource to allocate, exploit, and divide as though climate change weren’t a whole planet, whole system reality.
HB 2020’s fiery plummet to earth after four years of politicking and coalition building and negotiating with industry shouldn’t be a surprise. We can’t keep dancing around the fact that climate change is the result of industrial capitalism. The ugly reality is that our system is based on endless rapacious growth, the constant accumulation of more stuff, and the exploitation of peoples, land and ecosystems, and it is not fixable at the margins. Without addressing the root causes of climate change (much less merely being honest with ourselves about them) we can expect to keep being stymied.
But even if HB 2020 had been a much better policy, a real Green New Deal or Just Transition policy, couldn’t the Republicans have done the same thing and killed it by fleeing the state? Yes, of course. That’s the problem with entrusting our collective future to politicians who are more loyal to corporations and capitalism than our communities–our political system hasn’t stopped concentration camps from operating along the southern border, what makes us think that we could trust it to challenge capitalism, much less the fossil fuel industry?
We have to turn to each other, not big green NGOs or politicians; neither of whom have ever proven themselves willing to go up against the capitalism and the root causes of climate change or even just the fossil fuel and logging industry. If the system is breaking the planet, let’s break the system, instead of trying to play by its rules. In late June 2019, while the Oregon political establishment was smoldering in a dumpster in an alleyway, thousands of climate activists converged and stormed Europe’s largest coal mine, shutting it down for 40 hours.
There’s a need for new climate policies that are worth actually fighting for, that embody values of simplicity, resilience, and community, something that will really scare the hell out of OR Republican hacks, but speaks to people in a way that bureaucratic carbon shell games don’t, because it is of sufficient scale for the magnitude of the challenge. But let’s also take more inspiration from the folks shutting down coal mines and camping on rail tracks to prevent coal shipments. There’s no salvation coming from Salem, DC, or international conferences. We’re going to have to create it for ourselves.