All of that clean, green, renewable energy needs to come from somewhere if we're gonna save humanity. Shamefully, many of those working to help produce it in rural America, including farmers and small town elected officials, have been paying an awful price for their heroic efforts, as detailed on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
First up today, a few quick news items. Speaking of farmers and the climate, last week saw hundreds of climate activists and farmers rally in D.C. in hopes of increased support for climate provisions in this year's federal farm bill. Congress is working toward passage of their latest, half-a-billion dollar, five-year spending bill for farmers and nutrition support. The Biden Administration, the USDA and Congressional Democrats have made climate and net-zero farming a top priority, as agriculture currently contributes almost 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers are on the front lines of our quickly changing climate and hope to get more help. Republicans, on the other hand, want to cut funding from the bill despite the farmer's asking for more help thanks to our worsening climate crisis.
Also, some good news out of Michigan today, where the state Senate has followed the state House in passing a bill to repeal the state's so-called "Right-to-Work" (for less!) law, adopted when the GOP controlled the state legislature in 2012. Pending final approval in the House, the measure, seen as a major victory for organized labor, will then be signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. All of that made possible by passage of a statewide ballot initiative that ended gerrymandering in Michigan, resulting in a legislative trifecta for Democrats as of last November, giving them control of both chambers of the state legislature and the Governor's mansion. And all of that is resulting in good news for the working class!
Then, speaking of farmers, the climate and Michigan, we're joined by PETER SINCLAIR, a longtime climate videographer, journalist, climate-denial debunker and Michigan native who has been documenting a disturbing --- and disturbingly under-reported --- attack on farmers and elected officials in rural communities in the American heartland.
Through a series of short videos based on interviews with folks in a number of small townships in rural Montcalm County, MI, (see here, here, and here, for example), Sinclair has been telling the story of a broad and well-coordinated misinformation and disinformation campaign, resulting in attacks, threats and boycotts against those who are daring to consider support for wind and solar projects on their own farmlands and in their small towns.
Sinclair, an award-winning climate communicator and producer of Yale Climate Connections' This is Not Cool series, and creator of his long-running Climate Denial Crock of the Week, details the chilling threats and harassment being faced by folks in these communities from clearly coordinated anti-renewable energy campaigns which have polluted local residents with a bombardment of lies about climate change and clean energy.
Today, we share a number of clips from his video series, as farmers and current and former public officials explain the harassment they have been facing; the tools used by the harassers (such as Facebook); how these campaigns mirror other, better-reported ones coming from the right in recent years, such as those town-hall meetings with angry opponents of "ObamaCare" more than a decade ago and similar scenes at school board hearings over COVID requirements, etc.
"This campaign is so well-oiled that it is kind of self-replicating," Sinclair explains. "People hear there's going to be a solar or wind project nearby, they've been primed by twenty, thirty years of Fox News, talk radio to be suspicious. They go on to social media [and] they find literally thousands of references to misinformation and disinformation that's being constantly circulated and recirculated out there. Then they replicate this template. It typically starts by forming a Facebook group, making it private, not allowing any dissension, and herding a whole lot of people into it and continually bombarding them with a stream of negative misinformation. Pretty soon you've got people that are terrified, angry, and aggrieved, and then it's just a matter of pointing them in the direction of the nearest local planning commission or township board."
He tells me: "We have evolved a generation of people who are attuned to this culture war mindset. Some of the earliest anti-wind energy memes that really stood out had a picture of wind turbines and it said, 'The production tax credit, Obamacare's worst tax.' This was ten, twelve years ago, but you're supposed to make a connection between Obamacare, which you're supposed to hate, and wind turbines, which then, I guess you're supposed to make a connection that it has something to do with Obama. Of course there's no connection whatsoever!," laughs Sinclair, "but that connection is continually made."
We also discuss the dirty fingerprints of the fossil fuel industry on these sleazy campaigns (though they are often obscured by "a lot of dark, untraceable money floating around for this kind of activity"); one of the men who seems to be "the big cheese" organizer behind many of them (a guy by the name of Kevon Martis from a climate denier outfit known as the Energy and Environment Legal Institute is cited over and over as a cult-like figure by many of the harassed locals in different townships); and what the public can do to help push back against this corrupt and dangerous madness.
"Mr. Martis follows me closely on social media," Sinclair quipped. "One of my favorite tweets is, 'Peter Sinclair doesn't just want to take your energy, he wants to take your guns!'"
Ridiculous attacks aside, all of this is going on in hundreds of counties in dozens of states across America's farm belt and, frankly, deserves much more light and attention than it has been receiving from both state and national media, as well as state and national politicians. We try to offer some of that long-overdue public attention today in our conversation with Sinclair...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)