From the Sierra Club conference – unplugged


by Rachel Dykoski Rachel Dykoski blogged from the Sierra Club conference in Washington DC during the first week in February.

Rachel Says – Thoughts, from the political to the personal, by Rachel Dykoski

It’s 7 a.m. February 3. And I’ve finally gained access to the freakin’ wireless. Although the Sierra Club has placed their volunteer activists at this crazy posh hotel – the posh place’s broadband leaves a lot, A LOT to be desired. Oh – there it went. That lasted perhaps 10 minutes. WTF?!

Can I just say – that I’m beyond frustrated with the WiFi access levels here in this hotel. This isn’t really going to be a man on the scene feed as I’d envisioned it would be.


Conference: Day One

The ballroom on the basement floor of the Omni is overflowing for today’s plenary.

“This is a final verdict on the failed philosophy – that if you reward those at the top, you’ll bankrupt the majority of our people. I see labor as the solution, not the problem. But if we leave this conference, when we go back home and mobilize, not afraid to speak out, do street theater, stand and demand from our state, city governments that they move us to a new green economy. Made in America. We know that our generation will some day be able to sit in our rocking chairs, and say we were there and we did our part. This is where we say to that crowd that got us into this mess, enough is enough we ain’t goin’ your way no more.” Leo Gerarrd, International Steel Workers Union.

One statistic, that 58% of imported goods from China are items that were once produced here at home is what Leo Gerard of United Steel Workers called economic treason. “That’s right!” I yelled from the cheap seats, from the actual floor against the back wall of the ballroom. As he finishes with a rallying cry for unity, the crowd gave a standing ovation.

Dr. Donald Kennedy, Sierra Club follows Leo.

“Thanks for that no bullshit introduction,” he began. “I’m a disappointing substitute for Carl Pope…well the media won’t let us forget that we’ve got two problems at the same time. 1. Global warming and 2. Financial down turn. There’s a new spirit of leadership HERE and many of you, and with now President Obama. My belief, the right combination of public investments is the right policy for economic turnaround. I’ve witnessed the surging change of what’s happening to our climate. American people strongly believe we must grapple with this probem. As far as science is concerned, science is back in this new administration!”

WOOTs from the crowd.

Mr. Achim Stiner – UN Climate Change conference on the Green Economy:

“What a special moment it is to be here, in DC with you. The UN environmental program was created in a developing country. Kenya. And on Election Day, it felt like another district of this nation’s capitol. In 2006 I met BO in Nairobi….The labor movement is a mov’t of people who worry about real issues. This is a reflection of the realties of different societies across the world. You are apart of the recycling economy. It isn’t a glamorous job.”

This guy must be smart, but he’s emptying the place – he’s so boring. This is the key note speaker – this is not what inspires here – this actually drives people out of the ballroom in search of drink and conversation. More people, stuck in the overflow room across the hall are now coming in to claim the vacant seats in this hall. Ugh, is he still talking?

“Our generation is impacted by global climate change, now. The next 30/40 years we would have over fished the world’s oceans – there will be no industrial fisheries – there will be no marine economy. In our lifetime –gone. Desertification. Deforestation. More than 25 countries have almost completely deforested their homelands in the name of the economy. Several more have created deserts where there were none. This – it’s born out of ignorance, arrogance. Why should we change course? We live in times where we are challenged to balance our economic needs with what the whole community of thinkers are saying, we have no option but to make changes now or else. In just a few weeks your new administration you’ve made new strides to begin the process to attempt to do what should and must happen. …The imperative to act – its time has come.”

Great! He’s ending now. Listening to him is like taking a warm bath in liquid halcion. Now he’s talking about fundamental shifts – if he says “paradigm” I may scream.

Maybe working at the UN forces you to speak in low-moderate tones as not to upset the sensibilities of others or disrupt diplomacy. But at a conference like this, it puts one to sleep. And whoops, there go more people out the door. More teamsters, USW members rushing out.

A Berkley union organizer comes over to ask if I work for the Berkley Daily Planet – we quickly chat about citizen journalism and she’s out of the ballroom.

Thank goodness the union speakers are engaging and up-tempo.

CWA union chief Larry Cohen continues:

1. Science-based climate change –we welcome its return to the White House
2. A clean environment
3. Canada, Columbia trade agreement = Fair trade versus sustainable economy
4. Employee Free Choice Act!

“They’re all related – we believe in a sustainable economy – we have to build something to be proud of and for the next generation – more important to focus on what we BUILD not what we consume. We can’t be just another commodity thrown in a trash heap. Workers have rights around the world. You can’t build us up and burn us out. Its about bringing back workers rights. We need each other. Good jobs, green jobs does not fall out of the sky. We have to work for it. We’re not protectionists. We’re about good public policy.

“This is not just about jobs. Slaves had jobs. This about our economic future and the planet’s future. And we’re going to effect change!”