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Occupying For The Future

By Linnea M. Palmer Paton As Told To Stacy Lanyon

21 August, 2012
At The Heart of Occupation Blog

Obama Mic Check, June 15, 2012, West Village Photo: Stacy Lanyon

My fiancé and I have been involved in a lot of environmental activism in the past. I jumped into environmental activism my junior year in college by sleeping outside illegally on the Boston Common. We were asking the governor to pass a clean electricity bill leading up to the climate talks in Copenhagen. I had already done the whole sleeping out for social change and getting arrested for it. I loved it, though. It felt so good to put my whole body behind my statement. I’ve signed petitions and pledges. I’ve gone door to door knocking, and I’ve done phone banking for politicians. It’s important, but there’s really something about physically showing up, even if it’s just to make a statement.

My fiancé had heard about Occupy online, so we were watching it via the livestream on September 17th. Then, we were like, “Oh, we have to go down there.” On September 18th, we went down. I was like, “I totally get what this is about –economic justice because corporations are screwing over our planet and people and kicking them out of their homes.” It made total sense to me, just putting your body behind your convictions and saying, “We’ve tried everything, and now we're just going to be here and physically be a testament to the fact that this system is not working and that it needs to change.” I kept going down to the park every other day. At around the same time, I started an internship at the mayor’s office, so I’d be dressed up for my internship, and then I’d walk down to the park. I just got hooked. I met fantastic people and slept out a couple of times, and it felt as good as it did a couple of years ago on the Boston Common.

It’s so important because my generation doesn’t have a future if we don’t solve the climate crisis. The current negotiations at the United Nations are completely co-opted by corporations. Basically, corporations are saying, “We’ve screwed over the world by continuing to exploit fossil fuels, and we are not going to stop doing that unless we can profit from stopping.” All sorts of negotiations to actually stop fossil fuel production are not going anywhere because the corporations won’t do it unless they can make money. For me, Occupy is a life or death issue for humanity and the planet we depend on.

I was reading this study that said that if we don’t do anything to reduce our carbon emissions seriously and soon, at least one day of the year will be so hot that human beings physically can’t survive it. We’ll die of heat stroke. The likelihood of there being one day of the year like that if we don’t do anything about our emissions will be a very real threat by the end of my lifetime. I will be in my 90’s by then, but my younger sister will just be reaching retirement. It really is an issue within our lifetime. I think that also it’s just amazing to me that people aren’t more upset about the climate crisis. Even Exxon Mobil, an oil company, agrees that climate change is a huge problem and says that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is correct on their assessment. They even helped fund some of the assessment. I’m just really dumbfounded that we aren’t doing more. I know that cities are trying to do more, but we really need national solutions along with our local and regional solutions.

I hope for a peaceful world, one where we understand that we will have conflicts, but we will resolve them in ways that makes the situation better for everyone, a world where we have restorative rather than punitive justice, a world where generations and generations to come will have a planet that will support them. Rather than peace, I like the word harmony because it implies that we can all have our differences but still create something beautiful and harmonious. I definitely would want a world that’s democratic but also protects minorities, where people and the planet are put over profits. In general, I feel like profits are often used to exploit people, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the way it has to be. There are definitely alternate models. I’m really excited by what the for-benefit corporations are doing. They’re creating a new kind of corporation, one that’s not for-profit, and it’s not non-profit, but it’s for-benefit. Rather than having profit as its bottom line, it’s legally allowed to take social and environmental factors into consideration for its bottom line.

I envision a much more democratic system where we certainly don’t have majority votes. We have either proportional representational voting or approval voting or some other much smarter form of voting on issues. I keep telling people that the only way that I’d be willing to engage in politics as an occupier is if we were going to re-write the constitution completely, starting with something similar to the Bill of Rights of Mother Earth that Bolivia adopted and also the Declaration of Human Rights that was crafted by the United Nations back in the 1940’s. Those are some things that would help bring about this more harmonious future. Also, I’d like for people to have meaningful and satisfying lives. I think that there are people who do, but I think there are also a lot of people who don’t and are searching for something. They want to create meaningful lives, but they aren't finding it in the things that they buy or the cultural things that they do because all of those things are things the media in the form of corporate advertising has told them are meaningful and important, but in reality aren't. I think if we all watch less TV, buy less stuff and spend more time engaged in our political lives and our community lives, we will all be much more happy and satisfied, and it will be wonderful. I know it has made all the difference for me.

Stacy Lanyon is a social, animal and environmental rights activist who has been photographing Occupy Wall Street actions and events since October 2011. Her blog “At the Heart of an Occupation” profiles those involved in the movement in order to get to the heart of why they think this movement is so important and what kind of world they hope to help bring about. Read more Occupy stories at the http://attheheartofanoccupation.blogspot.in/



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