An open letter from Climate Action Rhode Island to Governor Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo
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Dear Gina,

Congratulations on being named Chair of the Democratic Governors Association. Our organization, Climate Action Rhode Island, decided to write you a letter about how you could use this new position to push for a stronger response to the climate crisis. But deciding what to write has been a challenging process of navigating a seemingly impossible set of political dynamics. Perhaps you too feel trapped by a set of political dynamics similar to those that have paralyzed us.

Everyone in our group wants to be as effective as possible in every opportunity to inch forward on climate action. We recognize that every small step forward is worth taking, and yet we also realize that none of our political leaders, from either party, have ever put forth a climate action plan that would preserve a livable future for our civilization. With each passing year, the response of our political leaders becomes increasingly inadequate in the face of a rapidly intensifying crisis.

Some in our group think that we ought to articulate our requests in the reasonable tone that advocacy groups often use to appeal to politicians. We could present ample facts about the climate crisis and common sense responses like a Green New Deal and no new fossil fuel infrastructure. But that moderate tone is dishonest to the extremely immoderate reality of the climate crisis at the dawn of 2019.

We don’t feel reasonable or moderate. We feel some combination of outraged, terrified, broken-hearted, freaked-out, shameful, and many more things that seem too extreme to fit into the common political discourse. And the profoundly unprecedented nature of the climate crisis inherently means that the impacts we are facing are outside of any frame of reference we have. Those impacts are shocking, extreme, and perhaps literally unthinkable. As journalist Stephan Faris wrote, “It’s no longer possible to delve into our relationship with the global environment without drawing conclusions that make you seem like a raving fanatic to those who have yet to delve.” This is our quandary.

We seem to be caught in a paradox in which the more honestly we state the truth, the less believable we make ourselves. In this paradox, dishonesty triumphs and we drift ever farther from the goal of a livable future. Politics as usual is not only failing to address the climate crisis; it is silencing our ability to even have an honest conversation about that crisis.

Furthermore, many of us have been doing this work for decades, and we have witnessed the absolute futility of proven facts, good ideas, and well reasoned arguments about climate change in the political discourse. We are well aware of the likelihood that you have stacks of letters from climate organizations and concerned citizens, filled with unimpeachable arguments for the necessity of transforming our economy to a carbon-free one, and yet you and most Democratic leaders continue to promote new fossil fuel infrastructure, accept donations from fossil fuel lobbyists, and prioritize short term economic growth over the survival of our civilization.

Some of our disagreement has involved how to appreciate the obvious fact that your climate politics are better than that of the president or most of the Republican Party. But it’s important to recognize the context that Republican climate politics is a gleeful assault on civilization and will certainly be remembered as one of history’s greatest crimes against humanity. Theirs is a sociopathic politics. Personally, I have never been thanked for not being a murderer. That would be absurd, because that is such a basic prerequisite of being a person in the world that to express such thanks would suggest offensively subpar standards of decency. In the same vein, some of us are deeply uncomfortable with the practice of thanking Democratic politicians for not unapologetically selling the world for short term financial gain.

Every attempt to try to communicate with you on climate change seems like an impossible attempt to bridge the wide divide between the world of political feasibility and the world of physical necessity. This growing chasm seems to lead to an increasing stridency, alienation, and resentment in our political discourse. We are so far apart that even when we try to meet you where you’re at and begin a discussion on your terms, we find that we are living in such different realities that we have trouble even imagining how to connect in a language that resonates with your perspective.

Frankly we would love to know what’s going on in your head. There are some in our group who think you lack a depth of understanding of just how catastrophically serious the climate crisis is. Others think you are simply a ruthless politician, applying a Wall Street analysis of short term expediency to all your choices. Still others think that you are doing your best within a system designed to constrict moral imagination and isolate leaders like you within a closed loop of unreality. And as you certainly know, this year our organization strongly endorsed your primary opponent due to his strong climate platform and our frustration with your unwillingness to push for a bolder climate platform. But we recognize that there are systemic failures that run much deeper than individual politicians.

The obvious near term implication of this divide between political feasibility and climate necessity is that the power of the status quo is insulated from change. But this divergence builds tension in the system. Every new generation of young people faces increasingly desperate threats, which encourage increasing hostility toward an intransigent political status quo. As you continue your rise in national politics, this rising tension will eventually reach a breaking point.

We don’t know where we go from here, but we know that no politician, no matter how smart and talented, will be able to induce the physical reality of our climate to conform to the needs of political feasibility. We wish we could offer some solutions for relieving the tension of this divide, but the failure of our wide range of efforts over decades is a testament to our inability to heal this situation alone. We would be glad to sit down with you to see if we can find a way to transcend this divide.

Sincerely,

Climate Action Rhode Island


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About Climate Action Rhode Island 1 Article
We are concerned citizens working to build the climate movement in Rhode Island. An affiliate of 350.org, we’re fighting for 100% renewable energy, a clean and sustainable earth, and environmental justice for all. Join us!

2 Comments

  1. I hope you publish her answer, and I am guessing it will be pathetic. Govbernor Wall St only does what the rich tell her to do.,

  2. I was wondering who wrote this piece today. So, just for fun, I went to the CARI website. I thought I might find some information on their “About” page. I went to it but couldn’t find any board or staff information. I just went back, though, and found the inconspicuous “bylaws” button, so now I have a better idea of who might have written this piece but still realize I could be altogether wrong if I assumed that one of the signatories at the bottom of that page actually wrote this.

    I went to the 350.org mother page, earlier, out of frustration, and finally found the “About” button amid all the clutter, and, then, finally found their “Financials” page. Individual donors are not listed but foundations are.

    Here, I should add that I was, previously, deeply impressed by Naomi Klein’s work, particularly her Shock Doctrine concepts and, here, I think, more importantly, her No Logo ideas. I think I’ve become disillusioned, however. I think Naomi is now one of the board members of 350.org.

    At another page, from what I think is probably a right wing information page, I found a list of the biggest foundation donors to 350.org. I am not that bothered by the source. I’m very bothered by false dichotomies, however. Facts are facts, regardless of who discusses them. It seems that among the biggest foundation funders of 350.org. are foundations founded with Big Oil money – for instance, the Marisla Foundation, created by the Getty Oil heir Anne Earhart, and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, founded by the father of the Rockefeller Brothers, John Rockefeller, Jr – oil money heirs, and one of whom was responsible for the moral obligation bond, as well as the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Then there is Tom Steyer of Goldman Sachs fame and who ran a hedge fund invested in coal mines and Corrections Corporation of America, etc., etc., etc., and who is now with The Hamilton Project, which was founded by Robert Rubin, the person most responsible for ending Glass-Steagall and one of the people most responsible for tanking the economy in 2008. Going on from there, is a foundation formed by an heir to the Duncan Hines fortune, and one founded by an heir to Home Depot, of all hegemonic, monopolistic corporations . . . “No Logo”???

    I read an interesting article by David Sirota just recently about Beto O’Rourke, and remember the piece he wrote about Robert Rubin’s influence at the White House in 2008, just after the last big crash and just after Barak Obama took office. Sirota has received a lot of criticism for both articles. I commiserate with David Sirota, one of the few who has the nerve to tell it like it is.

    So, as I still wonder who wrote this article, I also wonder how Naomi Klein could sign on with such a group. I read a piece in Wikipedia about carbon pricing which stated that some proposals include paying for homeowner climate change mitigation measures by putting liens on the houses of homeowners who take on debt for climate change mitigation improvements, with payments for improvements to be made as part of property tax payments – with a tax sale conducted by the city or town one pays taxes to in the event the debtor is unable to pay, one wonders? What a perfect P3 arrangement for everyone but the common former citizen who is now a customer of the privatized state. Another proposal involves paying directly to the corporation that controls the local energy grid, which will have the power to discontinue service in the event of non-payment? Seems like a perfect arrangement where debt financed is almost guaranteed payback w/out default. Big Finance will be allowed to lend and lend and lend with very little risk exposure under such arrangements. I wonder how much that would be to the liking of the funders of 350.org. Then there are all the perqs of possible asset forfeiture for those well situated.

    If one accepts the exigencies involving climate change exist, does that mean we should accept that the self appointed leadership above should be able to lead us blindly and without question? Maybe things are even worse than portrayed in this anonymous post if the climate change we’re facing is as bad as it is portrayed. Who is it up to to determine what is the greatest good and who is to be included in the greatest number?

    Is this just another example of the crab calling the snake crooked? – this quote appearing in this piece:

    “Others think you are simply a ruthless politician, applying a Wall Street analysis of short term expediency to all your choices.”

    If one were to condemn Wall Street, and then in the same sentence mention how oil monopoly heirs, heirs to the Home Depot monopoly fortune, and Tom Steyer are all gonna save us from us from the Charging Bull, I wouldn’t be able to think of anything but a classic good cop/bad cop routine. When I read the Resilient R I Act’s references to “market based solutions to climate mitigation” all I can think of is what a boon to the most well invested. Surely, when the time is right, our governor will come around, and when she does all I can think is that we all had better watch out.

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