Even with President Barack Obama headlining the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City next week, something calling itself “People’s Climate Mobilization” intends to hijack the headlines this Saturday and Sunday with its “Global Weekend of Action,” including a “People’s Climate March” with thousands of protesters jamming Manhattan streets determined to “disrupt business-as-usual,” “bend history,” and convince the 120 heads of state at the Summit on Tuesday to adopt their “bold actions for a fast changeover to a no-carbon economy.”
Don’t laugh. The March has over 1,400 collaborating groups – labor unions, religious groups, green groups, social justice groups, and businesses, a number of them recipients of federal grants. One March organizer, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, has received over $540,000 in federal grants since 2002, and a participating religious group, Interfaith Power and Light, got a 2007 EPA Climate Award of $450,000, among many others.
But the NYC March is only the beginning: the Mobilization is an altogether different thing: “a mass social movement to disrupt the status quo.” It’s holding 2,620 simultaneous marches in hundreds of cities worldwide, including Moscow, Osaka, Tel Aviv, Kiev, Buenos Aires, Hanoi, Nairobi, Tehran, Auckland, Hong Kong, Baghdad, Aleppo, Havana, Singapore, Jakarta, Sydney, and towns in Fiji, the Azores, the Galapagos, and on and on.
The Mobilization’s message to the Summit’s heads of state is blunt: “Our demand is for Action, Not Words: take the action necessary to create a world with an economy that works for people and the planet. This moment will not even really be about the Summit. We want this moment to be about us, the grassroots people who are standing up to organize, to build power, to confront the power of fossil fuels, and to shift power to a just, safe, peaceful world.”
What, exactly, does that mean? It means “shredding free market capitalism,” says Naomi Klein, Canadian writer and board member of Bill McKibben’s 350.org group, the premier key organizer of the March and Mobilization. Klein’s just-released book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is a recipe for bizarre “strong government action at all levels” to “disperse and devolve power and control to the community level.” Imagine Obama doing that.
And what would the Mobilzation do then? Klein sees “community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.” One can envision their foreign policy community sending the Occupy Movement to deal with ISIS.
This huge, arrogant, demanding Mobilization is reminiscent of the gigantic global antiwar demonstrations against President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq: The Guinness Book of World Records counted as many as 60 million protesters worldwide, crowning it the largest anti-war rally in history.
That’s significant because of a New York Times front page story’s conclusion, “there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” It gave rise to the meme, “Second Superpower” implying that a global nongovernmental movement could be a world force comparable to or counterbalancing the United States. “Second Superpower” even has a Wikipedia entry.
Could this weekend’s Climate Mobilization become a Second Superpower and defeat free market capitalism? Mass public demonstrations drove the civil rights movement into federal law. Numerous environmental campaigns – DDT bans, endangered species rules trumping property rights, logging shutdowns – got results. How dangerous is this Mobilization? Could the forces behind it disrupt free enterprise on a vastly larger scale?
First, who are those forces? When you look under the hood, the motor of the whole thing is a set of highly competent event managers.
Local: Climate Week NYC is “the collaborative space for all events in support of the UN Climate Summit.” It’s an initiative of the Climate Group ($2.7 million revenue in 2011), a non-profit consultancy for businesses going green. Its board of directors is comprised of high-credential academics, business executives and interlocking board members, working from offices in NYC, London, New Delhi and Beijing. This will be their sixth Climate Week NYC and “will be home to around 100 events, activities and high-profile meetings taking place across NYC,” according to its website. Very deeply connected with global influence leaders.
The March: Various organizers work out of open cubicles in shared office space at centrally located 42nd and Madison ($12,250 per month). Their online fundraising is handled by the non-profit Res Publica (“Public Thing” in Latin).
Global Mobilization: Res Publica provides strategic advice to other non-profit organizations, educational and action-based email campaigns to citizens in every country [except North Korea]. Its executive director is Canadian/British Ricken Patel, who is also the principal officer of Avazz (“Voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages).
Ricken Patel is a graduate of Oxford and Harvard, founding president of Avaaz ($11.6 million revenue in 2012), which is the world’s largest online activist community, including over 32 million subscribers. Patel was voted “Ultimate Gamechanger in Politics” by the Huffington Post, listed in the world’s top 100 thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine and referred to as “the global leader of online protest” by The Guardian (London). He almost sounds like a one-man Second Superpower himself.
That should explain how Bill McKibben’s 350.org documentary film Disruption and his board member Naomi Klein’s anti-capitalist book mobilized the Mobilization. They didn’t. They got on the phone and said, “Ricken?”