Thoughts on Aspen Institute Event, the DCEFF and the FERC protest

Panel at Aspen Institute

CAAV Founder Cathy Strickler shares her thoughts on some recent events she attended in Washington, D.C. with her husband Charlie.        

On Thursday, March 24, Charlie and I attended Finding Common Ground on Energy and Environment in America – a Bipartisan Panel and Open Discussion, at the Aspen Institute overlooking Dupont Circle. We had just left Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) headquarters where seven people were on the cusp of arrest. One short Metro ride away and we are in front of an elegant spread of fruit, cheese and sweets for the event’s audience.

On the panel are Bob Inglis, Bill Ritter, Jr. (by phone), Theodore Roosevelt IV, and Heather Zichal. (I’m aware of the last two panelists compromised history and/or current statis).  There was general agreement that a carbon tax is needed but that climate change is moving faster than the political process. During Q&A I asked that, given the historical and theoretical evidence and agreement that civil disobedience is a necessity of social change, what would they advise activists to focus on to be most strategic, assuming that they agreed NVCD (NonViolent Civil Disobedience) is needed. I said we had just come from the arrest action at FERC. Theodore Roosevelt IV said we need more actions, people need to be good stewards of their lands and stand to protect them. Heather Zichal said there is no one strategy, that multiple action fronts are needed. Bob Inglis said that change happens when people come together, the civil rights movement became effective when white rabbis and ministers got involved. Afterwards, I spoke with Theodore Roosevelt IV about fracking, he was generally supportive of its development, stating the problem is with leaking infrastructure and admitted that fixing that problem with aging systems under cities is prohibitive. That was the end of that conversation due to the setting.

No one asked me about the FERC action and only one person thanked me for my question.  There was a printed handout of registered attendees, one was Ashleigh Krick, Extern, FERC Office of Administrative Litigation (OAL). I don’t know if she attended.

Friday night we attended the Premier showing of Dispatches from the Gulf at the Washington, D.C. Environmental Film Festival (DCEFF) that focused on the science of the BP oil spill. A panel of three of the scientists featured in the film followed with Q&A.  They were asked what do they think of BP’s response to the spill and if their knowledge of the destruction has led them to activism. The first question was totally ignored; the second was responded to with a general comment about how we all need to be involved in policy decisions.

Sunday night we attended the DCEFF showing of Josh Fox’s How to Let Go of the World and Learn to Love What Climate Can’t Change. When he was accepting his award for the best environmental advocacy film of the festival, he mentioned that he had been arrested at FERC on Thursday and asked if anybody in the audience worked at FERC. Someone raised their hand, Josh said “for real?”, they said yes, Josh said he wanted to talk after the screening. (I have no info on follow up). During the Q&A, Josh said that FERC was the most corrupt agency he was aware of. The audience response was silence except for less than a handful applauding.  I can’t remember the context, but he also got off an asides jibe at Bank of America (BOA). There were a few chuckles.Tim de Christopher made the statement that the scariest time for him in jail was when he realized that everybody could adjust to prison and his fear for our society adjusting to a prison of assumed powerlessness. The auditorium was full at $30 a seat and the response to the film enthusiastic. Josh implored the audience to get involved, not to just say “That was a great movie”.

The usefulness of all this to Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) may be non-existent but I just wanted to say it in case there is something there. If there is something, for me anyway, it is the acknowledgement (lip service?) of the legitimacy and necessity of NVDA (NonViolent Direct Action), publicly stated, in a very conservative setting.  I wonder if it is worthwhile to pursue Theodore Roosevelt IV; he is involved with climate groups as is his wife. I’d like to see him write a good piece for the Wall Street Journal. I know this is not BXE’s focus but maybe somebody has a contact that could get involved. It seems like, with more info and encouragement, he could be an effective supporter.

It is also a question in my mind how much the fossil fuel industry, BOA included, control public speech at events like the DCEFF. I wonder if there is any internal, informal discussion of parameters of public statements by the panelists at DCEFF. I wonder how much money BOA gives them.

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