Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker‘s Washington correspondent, published an article last month that explained the defining environmental of the current generation of US citizens, according to one of our heroes. The article is mostly about a wealthy, possibly powerful financier who our hero has influenced on this issue. But it is also a good primer on the issue itself. If you do not have time for the whole article, an even more efficient primer is this podcast interview with Lizza, late in which the activist’s challenge becomes mantra; but read the article if possible. Then, if you are a citizen of the USA, go make Obama do it:
On the day of his second Inauguration, in January, Barack Obama delivered an address of unabashed liberal ambition and promise. As recently as early April, before the realities of the world and the House of Representatives made themselves painfully evident, the President retained the confidence of a leader on the brink of enormous achievements. It seemed possible, even probable, that he would win modest gun-control legislation, an immigration-reform law, and the elusive grand bargain with Republicans to resolve the serial crises over the federal budget. And he seemed determined to take on even the most complicated and ominous problem of all: climate change. The President, who had a mixed environmental record after his first term, vowed that he would commit his Administration to combatting global warming, saying that “failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
The President flew to San Francisco on April 3rd for a series of fund-raisers. He stopped in first at a cocktail reception hosted by Tom Steyer, a fifty-six-year-old billionaire, former hedge-fund manager, and major donor to the Democratic Party. Steyer lives in the city’s Sea Cliff neighborhood, in a house overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. As the President’s motorcade headed to the party, several hundred activists were assembling along the route to his second event—a dinner hosted by Ann and Gordon Getty, in Pacific Heights, on a street known as Billionaires’ Row. The protesters held banners that represented various causes, but most of them held professionally printed two-toned blue signs that said, “stop the keystone xl pipeline.” The “o” in “Keystone” replicated the Obama campaign logo.
The environmental movement was testing Obama. Would he stand by his own Inaugural Address? During the past two years, environmentalists have coalesced around opposition to the seventeen-hundred-mile Keystone pipeline, which would carry oil from northern Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. Because the project crosses an international border, it requires the approval of the State Department and the President; a decision is expected in the coming months. Supporters of Keystone consider it essential to reducing the United States’ reliance on oil from the Middle East and unstable countries like Venezuela; its critics view it as Obama’s best chance to make a clear stand against one of the dirtiest fossil fuels contributing to climate change. “What do we want from our Pre-si-dent?” the protesters yelled. “No pipeline for the one per cent!” One marcher led the crowd in a call and response: “When I say ‘pipeline,’ you say ‘kill’! Pipeline! Kill!”
At the reception in Sea Cliff, Steyer, an ardent environmentalist, was no less relentless with his guest from Washington, pressing Obama on the issue of the pipeline. In 2004, Steyer raised significant funds for John Kerry, and in 2008 for Hillary Clinton. In 2010 and 2012, he wrote large checks for statewide ballot initiatives in California that addressed environmental concerns. Last fall, he announced that he was stepping down as head of his investment firm, Farallon Capital Management, to devote himself full time to politics, especially to the issue of climate change. He has spent generously to boost pro-green candidates in the Massachusetts Senate race and the Virginia governor’s race. This month, he is appearing in a series of ninety-second, self-financed television ads in which he argues against Keystone. In October, he is launching a major bipartisan initiative on climate change with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson.
Read the whole article here.