Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of Occupy Tucson or the Occupied Tucson Citizen—Editors
Does information about environmental justice want to be contained in media union contracts or does it want to be free? Apparently, the Earth at Risk conference organizers felt that it wanted to be part of the capitalist apparatus of media control. The organizers enforced a no citizen journalism policy, which greatly limited audience participation.
During the conference, the media union had a monopoly on the video information. Apparently, for the conference organizers the purpose of the video “product” was not to educate the public for free, but to create a revenue stream. Those with money can buy the online knowledge; however, the poor public who struggle monthly just to buy food and housing, of course, will be denied access because of lack of funds.
The conference held at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, the end of November 2014, became more of a professional video stage for the star performers of the environmental movement than a grass roots strategic organizing conference where freedom of speech and press were allowed. By holding the conference on private property, organizers didn’t have to abide by freedom of the press.
Even though the distinguished speakers at the 2014 conference spoke of citizen resistance and creating a warrior culture, the spirit of resistance was not allowed inside the conference venue. Many of the speakers were anti-capitalist as well as anti-corporatist, and called for revolution against the machine. However, the organizers complied with the venue rule, which did not allow independent journalists – the very ones who carry this message – to function at this event. The description of the panel “Capitalism and Sociopathology” reads, “Exploitation and domination are built into our economic system as well as our culture.” So, it is not surprising to me when the organizers come out and function as part of the sociopathic, ownership class who rule over the Palace of Fine Arts and restrict freedom of the press.
Action: The Way to Enlightenment
Now to tell you how I became enlightened to how the corporate structure at the Earth at Risk conference worked. The first row of the auditorium was reserved for speakers. Even though I thought it was elitist to segregate the stars from the crowd, the meritocrats from the body politic, I sat on the second row to follow the rules of the organizers.
We were given a piece of paper to write a question. The moderator chose what question to ask the celebrated speakers. I found this also elitist since the public was unable to ask a question to the speaker directly. In such a symposium, the only time the democratic body is able to exercise freedom of speech is through the question-and-answer period.
Anonymous questions written down on a piece of paper asked through a moderator discount, disembody, and trivialize the questioner. Perhaps this is understandable since in the celebrity culture in which we live, people don’t want to give nobodies a voice.
Face-to-face interaction with the audience is important to the principles of democracy in that it gives the public a face. Who knows? There might be some brilliant person in the audience who knows just the right question to ask, a question that is essential to be asked in order to solve our critical problems. Thus, this human interaction between the speaker and the questioner actually begins to build real resistance communities by bringing together the public and the speaker (or intellectual leader of the movement).
Everything seemed cool with taking out my video camera and rolling the on button the first half of the first day. Numerous people in the audience were recording it with their cameras, iPads, cell phones, you-name-it electronic device that was used by the public to upload bits and pieces of the conference onto the Internet! It is only human to want to record such important information either to review later or to share with others.
After lunch, it was a different story. A woman, whom I later found out was named Carol Harvey, was sitting in the first row along with several other journalists. After the second speaker, as a panelist on resistance communities began to speak, a security man came up to Carol and told her to turn off her camera. I couldn’t hear exactly what she told the security man except that she was part of the press. He came back again and also told me to turn off my camera. He told me twice before I turned my camera off. For Carol, he told her four times before she put her camera away.
I knew she was upset, and I wanted to help her come to peace with the situation. I also wanted to know more about her since she was resisting being told to stop videoing the vitally important information for the future of humanity. She had more courage to resist than I did, so I wanted to know where her strength came from. She was getting up from her seat to move out of the auditorium when I asked her if I could join her outside for an interview. She said, “yes.” We walked out the auditorium into a room set up with tables showcasing material from the various groups involved.
Two other journalists from The Syndicate were in the room. They were also upset that they too had been forced to turn off their cameras in the auditorium. Their video team was about to interview Chris Hedges. To not disturb their interview, Carol and I went into the hallway of the Palace of Fine Arts and found a quiet corner.
I proceeded to interview Carol about her environmental activism on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay until organizer, Dillon Thomson, interrupted us. He said that he heard we had a grievance towards the organizers. I thought it was safe to talk freely with him about how I felt, so I revealed I didn’t like the way citizen journalists were treated. He said it was the union’s rules that only those on the official list could take video or photos.
When I asked him why the public wasn’t allowed to ask questions directly to the speakers, he said it was because of a time factor. Thomson insisted that when the public has access to a microphone, they talk too long. The organizers were on a strict time schedule and people came to hear the distinguished speakers, not the questioners.
Carol was outraged at her treatment and began to express her indignation. After all, she had gotten into the conference with a press pass and now she was denied her right to be a journalist. The archetype of the Crone, the destroyer of patriarchal thought, came forth from her core. Historically, this female archetype has been criminalized as well as accused of being crazy—especially when she begins to challenge the foundations of patriarchal corporatism (such as copyright laws and media monopoly control).
The security men reacted to this female archetype in the way they have for thousands of years by calling the police and threatening her with spending time in jail. What was totally shocking to me was when the red-head security man told the police that we had been “cornering and harassing” people. This was a total lie. It is always disturbing to me to hear someone make false accusations about me. I started to get a sick feeling in my gut that these men were not working for women’s liberation, which was essential for saving the Earth!
Hearing his lie, I realized then that these security men had no idea what we were struggling against as women. Organizers could claim to be an ecofeminist organization since there were panels such as “confronting misogyny” and on “toxic masculinity.” But when two women actually confront misogyny through direct action when the need is called for, what do these “radical environmentalists” do? Hierarchical, toxic masculine power flowed through the chain-of-command from the head organizer to a lesser security man who was directed to call the San Francisco police!
I’m curious to know if Dillon Thomson actually stopped the interview (like he did with us) that the two independent male journalists from The Syndicate.info were conducting with Chris Hedges. Did he ask them about their grievances with the Earth at Risk organizers about not allowing them to practice citizen journalism inside the auditorium? I seriously doubt it! We were easy targets for misogynistic treatment since we had moved away from the public eye into the hallway where it wasn’t difficult for them to corner us!
The Establishment was alive and well suppressing free thought in a number of different ways at the Earth at Risk conference because our feminine point of view—the women who stand on infertile ground—were unable to be heard. Forced to leave the building, I was told that I was unwelcome to come back to the conference the next day.
The doors of the Palace of Fine Arts were closed to me. After parting ways with Carol, I walked through the gardens and pillars of the palace of the Establishment. The neighborhood around the Palace of Fine Arts was obviously owned by the upper echelon of America’s wealthy class. I proceeded to turn on my camera, look through the viewfinder, and follow the columns up to the dome where a sculpture of a half-naked, young male stood erect. He was the lone ruler who stood on top of the pillars of industrial civilization.
My Personal Reason for Attending the Conference
I traveled from Tucson, AZ to make the trip to San Francisco for the Earth at Risk conference. Even though I knew I would be using a lot of fossil fuel to travel to California, I thought my presence at the conference was important. When I decided to go, I contacted the organizers and asked them if there would be a space and a time where I could read a new poem I had written, Climate Change Yoga; I sent them a copy for their review. They never bothered to reply to my offer.
The end of the poem was not fatalistic or nihilistic, but it says that if we take responsibility for the fate of the Earth and begin building a new pattern of architectural development, we might have a chance to save ourselves. Such a shift could even allow us to expand into the Universe. The poem supports the Deep Green ecology idea that the Earth is at risk, but it gives us a way to divert the environmental holocaust by constructing a network of arcologies1 (ecological cities) on Earth and in Outer Space.
My neutopian2 perspective doesn’t look back in time, but leaps us into a global culture where technology harmonizes with Nature. I went to the conference as a futurist with a possible scenario for a positive way out of our social crisis – a way that I wanted to share.
When I didn’t hear back from the organizers, I put the poem into a pamphlet form so that I could give out my vision to interested people whom I might meet at the conference. How else was I going to be able to exchange ideas with people? I also decided to bring my video camera with me so that I could ask questions to two of the philosophers of the movement: Derrick Jensen and Guy McPherson. My goal was to challenge fatalistic thought and perhaps to inspire them with a plan of action to redesign the urban environment.
McPherson, a biologist, states that the global ecology is in such a dire situation as a result of industrial civilization, that “only love remains.” But I realize that love is not enough. As long as we have a mind and we can combine our efforts, we have the ability to change our destiny by building a revolutionary solar-powered civilization. Even in the face of unprecedented tragedy, we can and must act on behalf of the future.
Of course, all my good intentions were derailed when I saw how undemocratically the conference was organized. Getting kicked out of the conference put an end to my hopes for that day of making connections and friends who could share with me in a vision of humanity united by Lovolution3.
1. Arcology: coined by architect, Paolo Soleri. During his life, he experimented with building a model arcology, Arcosanti, in the Arizona desert; a holistic ecocity designed to blend ecology and architecture in order to create a sustainable habitat on Earth and in Outer Space.
2. Neutopia: first coined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono as “nutopia” on their Mind Games album, futurist, Doctress Neutopia, has developed their idea of an imaginary borderless global state into an alternative program to overcome climate holocaust. Neutopia: a new planetary paradigm, based on equality and love between the sexes, distributes resources fairly while, at the same time, saves the planet’s life-support ecosystem.
3. Lovolution: The evolution of revolution; non-violent social movement for individual freedom and economic global justice; the self-organizing power of love embodies the courage and wisdom needed to face corporate oppression; the fusion of erotic energies as the foundation for building a network of arcologies on Earth and, eventually, around new solar systems.