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03.16.11

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Anti-Climate Club

Bill McKibben calls for businesses to leave the Chamber

By Juliane Poirier


I'm a great supporter of going local. But not when it's the Chamber of Commerce, possibly feeding funds to its national incarnation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Because of where the U.S. Chamber stands (against climate protection) and how much money it gives to anti-environmental policies on the national level (more than oil giants), I stand against them and alongside all the progressive chamber groups who have resigned their membership as part of an organized civil disobedience. After the U.S. Chamber threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009, even PG&E dropped out, which is saying something.

Each Chamber is a private business club providing business owners with the advantages of aggregate marketing clout in the community, business favor-trading with other members and the opportunity to attend the ubiquitous Chamber mixer, a time-honored ritual where members drink, eat appetizers, answer phones, trade business cards and smile at one another. All this appears innocuous enough. Some members are even owners of green businesses.

But climate advocate Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy, says that when it comes to issues of energy and climate, the Chamber goes from slightly nerdy and cliquish to exploitive. McKibben, director of 350.org, is presently waging a national leave-the-Chamber campaign. He claims the U.S. Chamber is out to destroy climate protections, noting that it outspent even Exxon Mobil in lobbying for the Dark Side of politics, making them "one of the biggest barriers to climate progress in the entire world." In short, the U.S. Chamber percieves that sustainability intereferes with the pursuit of commerce.

Local chambers claim separate status. While affiliated with the U.S. Chamber, the San Rafael Chamber says it is apolitically aligned, and Santa Rosa Chamber president Jonathan Coe says the Santa Rosa organization is not a part of the U.S. Chamber. Napa Chamber CEO Lisa Batto also says her group is not a member of the U.S. Chamber and boasts that the Napa Chamber, took a stand against Proposition 23 in the last election, which threatened to overturn climate legislation in California (the Santa Rosa Chamber stayed neutral).

Meanwhile McKibben—and more importantly, for she whom Chief Arvol Looking Horse tells me the Indians call the "Great Mother"—needs help to get businesses and local Chambers to resign fro the U.S. Chamber. McKibben points out that only 16 giant corporate entities supply 55 percent of the Chamber's funding, which claims to represent small American businesses. "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," McKibben writes.

McKibben asks via the 350.org site, "When you're shopping, going to the gym, renewing your insurance, or getting your hair cut, ask to speak to the owner . . . get them to sign the pledge—make a video." In short, disobey creatively and civilly.

For more information, visit www.350.org.


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