With a bouquet of heart shaped balloons, a group of Portland-area climate activists calling themselves the “Greenwash Guerrillas” presented a highly experimental new business model to passersby in downtown Portland on Tuesday. Drawing their inspiration from so-called carbon neutral companies like Portland’s Climate Trust, the activists claim to be launching a new company called “Cheat Neutral.”
“Have you cheated on your girlfriend recently?” Lynne Tucker of Cheat Neutral asked a passerby, “For $19.95 we can clear up your conscience with an infidelity offset, and fund someone else to be faithful and neutralize the heartache in the world.”
The prank was part of “Fossil Fools Day”, an international day of protest focused on the energy industry and climate change.
North Carolina residents kicked off the day of action in the US at 6:30am by locking themselves to bulldozers to stop the construction of a massive coal-fired power near Charlotte, NC. Police arrived on the scene and arrested 8 people, using pain compliance holds and tazers on those locked down.
Earlier, climate activists in Nottingham, England blockaded the offices of E-on, a company trying to build a new generation of coal-fired power stations in the UK, while another group in Wales halted work at one of the biggest opencast coal mines in Europe. Globally, more than 150 actions are expected on April 1st.
The events were called for by the international Rising Tide network in conjunction with Rainforest Action Network and the student Energy Action Coalition.
Portland’s action took place a half block away from The Climate Trust, which claims to “neutralize” businesses’ and individuals’ global warming impact. The activists say that this practice is akin to the Catholic Church selling “indulgences” during the 16th century. It is believed Portland’s protest was the first at a carbon offset company in the United States.
“Just like taking a faithful couple out to dinner doesn’t make cheating on your partner ok, paying money to forest parks and carpooling services does not “counteract” pollution from your car,” said Sakura Saunders of the Greenwash Guerillas. “We aren’t going to prevent a climate meltdown by asking people to plant a tree for every time they fill their car with oil. We need to revolutionize public transportation so there is no need to fill cars with oil in the first place.”
The activists point out that many offset projects of questionable integrity, relying on rough estimations and generalizations. Forest protection offsets in particular, which are a sizeable chunk of Climate Trust’s portfolio, have been exposed in the media as being scientifically dubious. Most of the carbon temporarily absorbed by the trees gets released into the atmosphere when the tree decomposes or burns, while fossil fuel carbon is inert unless it is extracted and burned. As such a tree can’t neutralize a smokestack.
“By selling the idea that climate change is something you can only address if you can pay for it, offset companies distract from these real changes that are needed to stop a climate catastrophe,” said Anthony Villagomez of Cascadia Rising Tide. “There is no way to negate our pollution; the solution to climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels.”
Brian Sloan, Rising Tide (General Contact)
971-533-7483 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sakura Saunders, Rising Tide (On site contact 10:30am – 2 pm only)