Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

g20 summit update: right to energy

I discussed the false choice between “jobs vs. the environment” at the Energy Rights Forum in Mexico City in advance of the G20 summit in Cabo, Mexico.

The Forum on the Universal Right to Energy was held loud and strong today in advance of the G20 summit. The meeting was held at the incredibly large and posh electrical workers union building in Mexico City. I was one of the “international delegates” speaking at the conference, the only speaker from the United States. Inside the giant auditorium inside the hall, there were about 500 workers and activists, being spoken to from the stage. Many listening were not hardened activists, but electrical workers paying a visit to their union hall.

I arrived at 9:30 AM sharp with a Russian energy advocate, Vladamir Slivyak. Indian union leader Ashim Roy, Javier Echaide of Argentina, and others, chaperoned by the fearless organizer with Our World is Not For Sale, Pierre Yves-Saint. As we arrived at the event, Pierre walked us through the giant auditorium, now almost empty except for a few camera men just setting up, and marched us right up on the stage, which was graced with giant fresh flower arrangements and bottles of water. We shook hands with an official of the electrical workers union, who said, “Voyen a esparar,” We are going to wait.

We were walked up to a top floor waiting room and offered coffee and internet. We made small talk and discussed the scenery, then popped open our laptops and went to work. We waited for about two hours. I guess this is what they say about Mexico. You can’t come to Mexico unless you are ready to wait.

Finally we were brought back to the auditorium. I had prepared remarks on the “jobs vs. environment” false choice that is often spun to us by the media. The right wing uses a variety of strategies to make people believe that you support unemployment if you oppose coal, oil, natural gas, oil pipelines, or even filters on smokestacks to keep pollutants out of our air. I believe this choice is ridiculous. We need to be investing in wind energy, solar energy, and other renewables – some studies show that government investment in wind energy creates three times more jobs than the same number invested in dirty energy. I believe we need bold, visionary campaigns to get people to want, to demand, renewable energy jobs. After all, who doesn’t want a clean, honest job that makes the world a better place for our children and grandchildren?

Part of my statement read: “I believe that progressive communications is dream work. How we talk about the issues helps people dream differently into their future. The talking points and media messages of today are the wind farms, the renewable energy grids, the sustainable communities of tomorrow… In this building, we don’t say jobs vs. the environment, we say jobs AND the environment. The right wing has succeeded in creating a false choice between jobs and the environment. Dirty energy jobs can be clean energy jobs. That job in coal mining or building that oil pipeline – that could be a good, clean, honest job in the renewable energy sector.”

The “jobs AND the environment” phrase got big applause from the audience.

The sentiment at the hall was overwhelmingly populist and progressive. Many voices, both from the international delegates and the Mexican speakers, called for an end to the privatization of energy. Many said we should make energy a human right, provided as part of the social contract that governments make with their people.

There were also delegates from Russia and India, advocates in the energy sector, union leaders, and even a scientist presenting on the state of the energy sector, displaying an alternative energy grid in TWh as vendors in straw hats patrolled the aisles of the auditorium, selling candies and snacks.

At several points, the entire crowd, from back to front, jumped up from their chairs to chant for rights for the people, pumping fists in the air. When one speaker mentioned a shutdown of parliament, whistles and shouts rose up from the crowd. Stuck on the stage for five hours next to all the other speakers, I must admit I regretted a bit that I couldn’t be in the crowd, snacking on salty-sweet Mexican candies and shouting with the crowd.

Here are a few of the highlights from the forum:

“Renewable energy is the only form of energy that can be controlled by the people.”
– Vladamir Slivuak, Russia

“For me, all this privatization process must be reversed. We cannot consider a fundamental right to be run under the politics of profit.”
– Maestro Antonio Gershenson

“Public services are fundamental to our way of living. The political platform of our resistance and our struggle to recover will be achieved through mobilization and through recognition of basic and fundamental rights to people. We cannot afford to have struggles isolated nationally or internationally. It’s important to unite our struggles from sector to sector, white collar to blue collar, across borders. The people, everone in our country should be allowed to access energy and see their rights be satisfied.“
– Speaker, Ponente de ogranizaciones sociales de Mexicali, pendiente

“Social movements against the privatization models being brought in.” We are demanding that there should be an independent regulator to decide on the question of price.” The people movement is opposed to subsidies… give low-priced power to the people. No privatization of the power sector, but a transition from different power cycles. We hope and we trust, that as we go forward we will stay unified as a workers movement.”
– Ashim Roy, India

“Public services are a result of struggles. Those are gains as a result of the social struggles since the revolution that we’ve been able to implement… We need to put in power people who want to hold the government for us.”
– Angelberto Martinez Gomez

“In each town, in each state, in each city, there have been organizing efforts. Lets keep working on building those local economies of users. We need to create a movement in this country that ill force those services to be liberated, and oppose the neoliberal model. As you know, mobilization is key. Our politicians, our senators, won’t hear us until we take the streets. And we WILL take the streets!”
– Juan Carlos Escalante

The crowd swelled to about 500 at points during the Right to Energy Forum.

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