Why Rainforest Action Network Stands With The Occupy Movement

posted by Adrian Ran

“We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite — fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful — the financial resources to build the kind of society we need. The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society — while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.” – Naomi Klein, Author/Activist, REVEL Awardee

Tomorrow, many of the RAN staff will be out of the office. We will be shutting off our computers, leaving our desks, and joining hands in the streets of Oakland. We will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds who identify with the Occupy movement and Occupy Oakland’s call for a ‘General Strike.’

We’ve been getting questions about why an environmental organization concerned with protecting forests, their inhabitants, and our climate would be supportive of a movement calling out the systems and institutions that maintain our country’s wealth and power inequality?

Here’s why.

Rainforest Action Network believes the social, economic, and environmental crises sweeping the planet are inter-related symptoms born of the same root causes.

Put simply, unchecked corporate power is dangerous and destructive to both people and the planet. Mother Earth is as much a member of the 99% as any one of us.

Central to RAN’s mission is the analysis that in order to protect the environment we must strike a balance between economy and ecology. Since our start in 1985, we’ve found that the same institutions and the same logic that is destroying our economy is also destroying our environment, and that the most effective way to protect the world’s natural resources is by challenging those corporations whose business models rely on this environmental destruction.

So long as corporations are granted free reign to pursue short-term profits at the expense of the long-term health of our environment, our economy and our communities, there will continue to be a race to the bottom where environmental and social costs are externalized and benefits are concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer.

But what if that business model did not exist? What if corporations valued our environment, our health, and our well-being? What if our government worked not for the highest bidder but for the highest interests of its people and the planet? What if people from all walks of life joined together to say we’re ready for a new system because the one we have is not working? That is the promise and potential that Rainforest Action Network sees in the Occupy movement.

At RAN, we are fighting for a world where corporate accountability matters. Where our food system does not include ingredients derived from the destruction of rainforests and Indigenous communities. Where our financial system is just and does not unjustly bankroll industries, like the coal industry, that are poisoning communities and our climate. If we are going to win, if we are going to achieve these goals, we cannot do it one commodity at a time, one bad act at a time, or even one company at time. We need a broad movement willing to ask for what the world needs, and unwilling to settle for anything less.

A few weeks ago, author and activist Naomi Klein told RAN staff and supporters that what she sees with the Occupy movement is a moment that proves we are “more popular than we could have ever imagined.” It is a moment to dream big and feel what is possible. It is a moment to realize that our demands for ecological and economic sanity are not unreasonable, they are essential, they are popular, and they are one and the same.

Photo credit CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10009714-14.html

And it is not only that the problems of economic inequality and environmental destruction are inextricably connected; the solutions to these problems are intertwined as well. The key to protecting our environment and protecting each other is the same. The key is us.

We are the people who can redefine the underlying values that govern our society and rebuild our economy based on long-term needs, not short-term greed. We are the innovative people willing to take risks and to do what’s needed. We are all part of the same movement.

So whether your primary concern is rainforest destruction, climate change, home foreclosures, the concentration of wealth, or corporate power, this is your fight. You are invited. You are needed.