First, let me begin with an introduction: my name is Ethan Frey. I’m a senior International Politics major (+ a few minors) at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA.  I am serving as one of Americans for Informed Democracy’s Northeast Regional Coordinators this year, with a focus on  Global Environment. There’ll be some great, exciting and substantively significant events happening through the Fall (Power Shift Pennsylvania and Copenhagen, most namely) and I’m excited to organize around them – for and against them – with you all. Thanks for the opportunity!

Now on to the G20…

Unfortunately, I was only able to roam the streets of Pittsburgh Thursday, and not Friday. I’ll set the scene: driving south into Pittsburgh signs read “road closings for G20”, “Pittsburgh welcomes world leaders”, “Use caution: police forces on high alert”, so once we get into the  city, we realize that, in reality, the streets are bare aside from what seems to be a government crackdown in a policed state.

Our first stop: the press tent to assist with an Avaaz photo-op at the Media Check-In outside Mellon Arena.  They were marketing “SurvivaBall” – the newest chic invention by the zillionaires that (attempt to) run the world.

“SurvivaBall” is the G20’s answer to the climate crisis: corporate accountability; save our CEOs.

It’s oozes satire, as the Avaaz folks attempt to display how spending 1 billion to insure the CEOs and executive directors that run the largest corporations and countries is not going to be enough.

Their message: we need to spend the money now to ensure the safety, and provide the ability for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate. International Adaptation Aid is an issue that must emerge on the political scene once the U.S. Senate returns to negotiations around a Climate bill.

After the action, I left to meet up with Sarah, AIDemocracy’s Global Development Campaigns Coordinator, Kristen Moe, of the Sierra Student Coalition, and my new friend Anais spending a semester in the States, to attend a great conference: People’s Voices: A Global/Local Exchange. The discussion I chose to participate in focused on redefining the way we look at Climate and Environmental Justice issues, relative to the discussions happening at the G20 a few blocks away.

Jihan Gearon from the Global Justice Ecology Project and Indigenous Environmental Network was most eloquent, speaking of her refusal to simply accept an inadequate climate bill from the House in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), passed this summer, and her commitment to continue inserting the voice of the people and the planet in conversations increasingly dominated by fossil fuel lobbyists and right-wing talk show hosts.

True, the leaders of the 20 most industrialized nations agreed, in principle, to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies in the medium term.  President Obama even reportedly stated that he would phase out all subsides to the dirty fuels by next year (!).  But, this exclusive summit left many of these major decisions on the table, unanswered, unfinished, unresolved.  They met two months before Copenhagen, where the next global framework on Climate Change will be made (or unmade) and they discussed WHAT!?

What the G20 ought to do is explain to people that wehave plenty to gain by scaling down.  Using less, being more efficient and deliberate in our daily routines would, save large amounts of energy and secure more sustainable futures for our populations and planet.

Our Climate and Environmental Justice discussion–the voices and perspectives of 8 rag tag activists meeting in a church on the North Side of Pittsburgh discussing the most aggressive path to affecting change on the local, national and international levels–taught me to go back to my community and continue fighting.  To prepare and organize for the next two months of back-and-forth between India, China and the U.S. before all the heads of state sit down in Denmark.

We have until December 7th to let President Obama and all of the international community know that we are sick of neglecting the needs of our planet and the people most affected by our changing climate. Not only is taking bold action the right thing to do, it’s fiscally responsible and economically viable.

Honestly, if we’re going to debate about taxing something these days, let’s talk about taxing the harm that’s inflicted every day to our planet; the pain that people from pacific island nations feel when they must leave their land – this is what we should tax.