Cherry Point to March Point
Deriving an Estimate of the Situation
By Jay Taber
As volunteer researchers, analysts and journalists at Public Good Project for twenty years, three of the questions we always ask when deriving an estimate of the situation regarding social conflict are these:
- What are the likely consequences of strategies attempting to change society?
- Are they likely to be effective in achieving the stated goals, or are they bound to fail?
- Are they likely to make things better, or possibly worse?
In attempting to answer these questions, we ask the questions used by reporters and editors:
- Who are these guys?
- What’s the deal?
- When did this all start?
- Where did they come from?
- Why are they doing this?
In the Pacific Northwest fossil fuel export war, I published a report about corporate-sponsored racism, Netwar at Cherry Point: White Power on the Salish Sea. In that report, I exposed corporate funding for organized racism promoted by Whatcom Tea Party leaders, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) members, and KGMI Radio hosts.
As a result of the success of Lummi Nation in prevailing over SSA Marine and BNSF Railway in the conflict at Cherry Point—which I noted in Lummi Nation Wins Opening Battle—Pacific Northwest tribes demonstrated how persistence, community outreach, and effective legal strategy could defeat some of America’s largest corporations. In doing so, they won the respect of the public, as well as mainstream media. No small achievement.
Soon after this victory, however, Lummi and other Coast Salish tribal members–apparently seduced by the ‘clean energy’ chimera–supported the 350-sponsored Break Free campaign, dramatized at the March Point oil refineries. In this choreographed enactment of moral theatrics, 350 followers camped two nights in the middle of railroad tracks, until removed and arrested by state and local police.
Answering the questions noted above, in my article Breaking Free: A New Age Ghost Dance, I observed that, like the 350 KXL and Divestment campaigns, the Break Free campaign is a fraud devised by public relations people working on behalf of Wall Street. As a fossil fuel industry-funded Trojan horse, I said, 350 is misleading these activists into committing excessive and misguided behavior–by definition, fanatic.
My assessment of the situation, in which 350 stated publicly that their intent is to shut down oil refineries–thus putting six million oil industry workers on unemployment, and depriving the public of the means to drive to work, heat their homes, and have electricity–is that this is a strategy that is bound to fail. What’s more, this is a public relations strategy that is likely to engender a public backlash–thus potentially squandering the public good will, painstakingly built by the tribes since 2011.
My conclusion is that the activists mobilized by 350 are overreacting to the crisis of climate change. There are more effective means of addressing it, means that do not alienate the public. In my opinion, the tribes need to disassociate from the 350 reckless showboats ASAP. We have enough to do without having a CERA/militia uprising in the Pacific Northwest again. The Tea Party is no doubt chomping at the bit over Cherry Point & March Point. No need to provide them with the fuel to recruit racist vigilantes.
The tribes have conducted themselves admirably; it would be a huge mistake for them to endorse the recklessness of 350. The misguided activists claim that they are on a holy mission, unconstrained by social conventions. They perceive that the climate crisis is the same as the Civil Rights or Vietnam War crises. It is not. America can survive without segregation and war; it cannot survive without fossil fuel.
As noted by Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions, generating alternative energy–using solar cells–requires the fossil-fueled extraction of minerals and the fossil-fueled manufacture of solar panels, that are made using rare earth minerals, and that produce highly toxic materials. Alternative energy or ‘clean energy’ from solar cells not only cannot technologically displace fossil fuel in meeting current electrical demand; it does not even reduce CO2.
To make matters worse, the toxic greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture and disposal of solar cells are 10,000-25,000 times more potent than the CO2 emissions generated from burning fossil fuel.
350 instigated this end-to-fossil-fuels nonsense, and is fanning the flames. They need to be held accountable for that.
[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]