People have been asking me: of all the potential targets on the planet, why is 350.org taking on the US Chamber of Commerce?
Simply put, the US Chamber is one of the biggest barriers to climate progress in the entire world.
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In the last year for which statistics are available, the US Chamber spent five times as much money lobbying as the next highest spender — Exxon Mobil. They spent more money on political campaigning than the Republican and Democratic national committees. And they used all that corporate cash to make sure that the planet kept warming, opposing almost every measure that might have made even a small difference. Not to worry, they told the EPA: when the earth warmed, humans could “adapt their physiologies.”
That’s why we’re taking them on. And if you think that they’re too powerful to hurt, you’re both right and wrong. We can’t take away their money — the Supreme Court has seen to that with the Citizens United decision — but we can neutralize their other major source of power, the claim that they “represent American business.” They don’t: most American businesses aren’t like the handful of giant corporations that provide most of the Chamber’s funds. We should be clear: the US Chamber isn’t a government agency, it’s a privately controlled front group for big corporations.
We’ve got amazing momentum for the campaign already: from Arroyo Veterinary Hospital to Zero Gravity Marketing, over 1,000 businesses have already said they don’t need the Chamber claiming to represent them on energy and climate. But the Chamber claims it has 300,000 members. So we have 299,000 to go to catch up. We can do it — you could easily sign up ten businesses yourself in the next week.
If just 500 people commit to getting 10 businesses on board this week, we’ll blow past the 5,000 business mark in the next few days. Click here to join in.
When you’re shopping, going to the gym, renewing your insurance, or getting your hair cut: ask to speak to the owner. Go over the simple talking points we’ve written up, and get them to sign the pledge — and if you’re handy with the camera on your phone, get them to make a short video. (The best ones show the boss at work as she talks — the barber with scissors in hand, for example). Hell, you probably have ten friends who run small businesses of their own.
I know that this doesn’t sound dramatic. Compared to the remarkable bravery folks are showing in Egypt and Libya (or the leadership closer to home of our friends Tim DeChristopher and Wendell Berry) this is easy — you just need guts enough to talk to the guy behind the counter.
There will be more chances for dramatic action as the year goes on—here’s our latest thinking on the growing opportunities for civil disobedience, for example. But you don’t need to go to jail to make a difference — sometimes small actions truly do add up.
If you’re sick of the power of big money in our lives, then now’s the moment to do your part.
Again, all you need to know to sign up businesses is right here. It’s really easy and it’s also really important.
Bill McKibben for 350.org
P.S. How do we know we’re getting nearer to the real centers of power? Because they’re fighting back. Read the story of 350.org, the Red Sox, and how Glenn Beck accused me of being a communist right here.
1. “The Chamber’s lobbying expenditures in 2009 were five times as high as the next highest spender: Exxon Mobil, at $27.4 million”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Chamber_of_Commerce#Lobbying
2. “Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/us/politics/22chamber.html
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350.org is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. 350.org is an independent and not-for-profit project.
What is 350? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM—a “people powered movement” that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.
Recruiting Local Businesses
Here’s the plan: If we can get thousands of small businesses across the country to declare that “The US Chamber Doesn’t Speak for me,” we can get local and state chambers of commerce to do the same. By compiling thousands of declarations, we’ll build a critical mass representing the true voice of business, and fight back against the millions of dollars of money pollution that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pumping into Washington DC.
Here’s How We’ll Start:
1. Print out a few copies of this informational sheet and this business sign-on sheet and bring them with you next time you visit your favorite local coffee shop, restaurant, pet store or any other friendly local business. You may want to go over the talking points about the chamber.
2. Collect Evidence: as you visit local businesses, try to get signatures on the sign-on sheet, and ask to snap a photo of the local business owner with a placard or window cling that says “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak For Me.”
3. Report Back: Visit chamber.350.org/declaration to log the declarations you’ve gathered from business owners and submit photos of your efforts. Take part in our weekly challenge (see the box on the right) to win sweet prizes.
See, it’s easy! If you want to dive deeper, check out the full toolkit for some tips on how to turn up the heat on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by recruiting more businesses, local chambers of commerce, and even your state chamber of commerce to make the declaration.
More Coming Soon.