Protesters at Duke Energy
- Protesters at Duke Energy headed off by police
The convention in Charlotte is over and I can’t help but write down some thoughts. Lots of environmentalists are happy that President Obama at least made some mention of climate change in his speech last night. I am too. That said, I think there are some systemic issues that I’d like to point out with what happened in Charlotte.
This city was unnecessarily locked down. Groups of between 15 and 20 officers on bike and on foot were everywhere. Tinted black Suburbans cruised the streets while massive checkpoints dominated the major thoroughfares. All areas of uptown Charlotte were gated and pathways were walled off. I saw one estimate that five miles of barricades have been ordered. That seems like an understatement.
Freedom of movement and speech should not be severely restricted in a functional democracy. It simply wasn’t this way 4 years ago in Denver.
Something is different.
Charlotte is the corporate headquarters of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy. Here, these companies run the show. As Duke CEO Jim Rogers spoke last night about a “grandchildren test,” I couldn’t help but think there was a good deal of hypocrisy in the air.
He wants new nukes – those create radioactive waste that has a half-life of thousands of years. He is putting two new coal plants online within the next year – these will scour the land, poison generations of people and destroy the climate. He has no plans for new wind and solar.
Then again, this convention has been all about contrasts. Though called the “people’s convention,” it has been paid for by corporations. Despite the token displays of solar panels and recycling centers, there are four coal-fired power plants and two nuclear plants that ring the city.
Again, this is a corporate convention.
It’s infuriating that corporations can dictate the scope of our Constitutional rights to free speech, association, and movement has become surprisingly normal. The lines of police around the banks and energy companies headquartered here makes that abundantly clear.
That’s why I came to Charlotte and that’s why I’m an activist: to make things better. Not to be a partisan. We have an environmental objective in mind: a more just, diverse and ecologically sustainable world.
Whether Republican or Democrat, the next administration is going to have to make sure to keep that in mind.