Preoccupied: Grist readers sound off about the Wall Street protests
Photo: Eric WagnerA couple of weeks ago, we asked you all to send us your observations and insights on the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. (Then we asked again.) And man did you deliver. We received an avalanche of emails, comments, tweets, and posts on our Facebook page. Word came in from New York City, Salt Lake City, Portland, London, Oakland, Vancouver, Sarasota, New Orleans, and no doubt many places in between. Here’s the quick rundown on what you had to say:
A few of you wondered if the Occupy movement is so caught up in economic grievances that protesters are missing the looming environmental catastrophe. “I’m concerned … that the OWS groups are not aware of the urgency of the climate crisis in particular, and other environmental problems,” wrote mwildfire, who attended a protest called October 2011 that occupied Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in the fall, with an explicit agenda that included environmental protection.
“I’d like to see the environmental faction show support for this move to stand up to corporate greed and control. It plagues the earth too,” Daria Shannon wrote on Facebook.
Others assured us that protesters are making the connection. “At Occupy DC, we’re getting solar panels and regularly eat vegan meals,” wrote Drew Veysey. “Many anti-pipeline protestors are camped out at McPherson Square with Occupy DC.”
And it’s obvious that the connection is not lost on all of you. Here’s Allthink, who has been participating in Occupy San Diego:
[I] support OWS because I have had enough with Exxon, BP, and the like, making record profits built and maintained on false premises. They are corrupting our natural earth, degrading its perfectly evolved ecosystem — the very system that supports their own fundamental needs … I hope the 1% will enjoy the view of clean, smogless air, fresh blue streams, and happy & healthy citizens from their jail cells.
Reader Enviroshow has been spreading the gospel:
We went to Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Boston/Occupy Springfield/Occupy Northampton & Occupy Amherst to remind our sisters and brothers that the corporados & the banksters have turned the planet into a commodity. We went to ask that they include The Rights of Nature in their declarations and statements.
Others commented on the political significance of the Occupy protests. “I do think this is an important movement that could gain the political clout of that other movement, the one on the opposite side: the Tea Party. So I think Grist should keep an eye on where the movement is going and what it means for … both U.S. and world politics,” wrote REWonk.
“From what I have seen, the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street folks have more in common than they want to acknowledge,” replied tawster. “The biggest difference between the two ‘movements’ is that OWS has no direction, offered solutions, or coherency.”
Them’s fightin’ words. Here’s Julia Willebrand:
I’m down at Zuccotti occupying Wall Street most days. Yesterday a friend’s remark stunned me. She asked why I was still doing this since we, the “occupiers,” had achieved our objective. I asked what she thought we had achieved and she said, “Well you got the public’s attention. Surely you don’t think more can be achieved?” I’ll keep on keeping on until we achieve real change not just media attention.
For those who haven’t gotten the message yet, MiddleClassSupporter sums it up this way: “Oppose the system of big corporations and the incredibly rich that selfishly exploits our democracy at the expense of the common person.”
Several readers sent links to stuff they’ve been writing about the movement, including Susan in London, who writes the 100 Days to Change the World blog, Erin Silva, who blogs in Salt Lake City, and James A. Robichaux, who writes Nola Post from New Orleans. And then there are the penguins at the Portland Zoo, who have taken up residence in the Polar Bear den under the banner “Occupy Polar Bears,” refusing to return to their home aquarium until a new, water-efficient filtration system is installed. (Perhaps those displaced birds could use some sweaters?)
Reader Lawrence Ziese sent us an essay about his visit to the occupy encampment in L.A. that we decided to publish in Grist. You can find it here.
You also had gobs of great suggestions for how Grist can add to the conversation: “More coverage on unusual ideas for restructuring our economy,” said ak. “More coverage about sustainable industries and jobs,” wrote Allseasuntrails-personal. “Articles that can inform the movement … showing how our environment and well-being are harmed by the nexus of money and politics,” said Laurie Dougherty.
Ken Ward suggested that we go one step further:
Perhaps Grist could serve as a friendly critic and prod, pointing out the connections between corporate players … but also taking a strong editorial position urging Occupy Wall Street to focus on “game over” matters like Tar Sands and the overarching reality that if we don’t force a debate on climate, opening some prospect for last minute action, nothing much else is going to matter.
There were sage words of advice. “Stick with the issues. I can already see this getting sandbagged by too much coverage of side issues like whether the park protesters will be allowed to camp out over night etc.,” wrote Kato And Co.
And a few more whimsical proposals as well, like this one from Tar Sands Action Arrestee:
More Bee Hugs: Seriously, send Umbra out in her bee costume and have her interview folks at OWS and/or Occupy Wherever. Bill McKibben was absolutely right when he observed, “It’s good that we’re occupying Wall Street, because Wall Street is occupying the atmosphere.” It’s also occupying the biosphere and threatens us all, bees included. Their collapse might presage our own.
Amid all the buzz, one thing is abundantly clear: We all agree that the Occupy movement is important, and that Grist should be watching it. “This could be THE movement of the 21st century,” wrote Veysey.
You can find all of Grist’s coverage of the Occupy movement here. Watch for stories inspired by your comments in the coming weeks — and keep the ideas coming. We’re all ears.