As the Occupy Wall Street protests move into their third week, we decided to take a look at what the protests mean for environmentalists. The primary fuel behind the protests is economic inequality, big corporate deregulation and the major lobbying influence in the US democratic process. Inhabitat has reported in many of our articles that lobbyists for major oil companies frequently seek to subvert green initiatives and alternative energy projects. In relation to the protests, many are angry at the huge tax breaks that major oil companies receive, which in turn, further widen the gap between rich and poor. We headed to the center of the protests in Downtown Manhattan to get a better idea of the green sentiments many of the protestors have.
Many may not think that Occupy Wall Street is a green event, but it most certainly is, seeing that much of the lobbying and subsidies that the protestors are rallying against are for dirty-energy companies — mainly, Big Oil. Recent quarterly earnings from by oil companies, for example, are quiet shocking, numbering in the billions. Many of these oil companies, however, continue to demand tax breaks and subsidies.
Many protestors (some who are also veterans), are also rallying against the US’s massive military budget, which many believe should be redirected to more domestic matters such as alternative energy, in order to end the US’s addiction to foreign oil. The US spends more on defense than the top 23 militaries in the world combined, and some have even argued that if the US were to cut military spending by half, it would still be 3 times more than what China – the second largest military power – spends.
What ties all the above together is the lack of investment and development in green initiatives by the federal government in order to satisfy the current status quo, which is responsible for causing wealth inequality and big corporate deregulation. While the demonstrators do not have a centralized set of demands or any specific goals they are trying to achieve at the moment, the solidarity that the protestors echo is grounded on the fact that many feel that the government has not looked out for their best interests. Instead, they feel that the government has decided to support the top 1 percent in the economic ladder. This is why a common rally in the protests is “We are the 99,” as in the 99 percent of the rest of the population. Part of the concerns of the protestors is grounded in a green philosophy, which has frequently been undermined by big oil.
Although some have called the Occupy Wall Street movement liberal, there are actually many different political views represented within the protestors. Some for example, consider themselves Libertarian, others socialists. Some, simply progressive, while others maintain to be conservative. What they all have in common, however, is their desire to see a change in the current economic system, which is based primarily on favoring major corporations, who have a profound influence in the American political system. As the protests continue to spread to other cities across the United States, environmental activists should seek to become more involved in the protests as an organized whole, rather than just as scattered individuals.
Our original reporting & opinions are supplemented by Treehugger’s great piece on why environmentalists should care about Occupy Wall Street.
Photos © Will Giron for Inhabitat