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Reverend Billy

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The Somber Act of Placing Large Pink Polka Dots on Bulldozers

Posted: 07/11/2012 4:19 pm

Someone might call this "culture-making." We step into hazmat suits and spread pink polka dots on bulldozers at the construction site for the Spectra (fracking gas) pipeline on the Manhattan-side riverbank of the Hudson. We make media of it, still pictures that can be slide-showed on Flickr, creating a sort of film. The Stop Shopping Choir composes a song -- "The River Song." We walk audience people from performances to the site, and THEY sing the song to the river with us, standing there, the citizen choir in hazmat suits.

This culture-making environmentalism should not resemble "Protest," which is used like a consumer label by the commercial press to dismiss us. And god knows they've been doing that for years. If culture we're making is more interesting than the clichéd march-and-rally, and the first response isn't to point and call us "Protesters," -- now we're getting somewhere!

"Culture" is a big haughty word, but it makes good yogurt too. We could call it "life-making." Let's be doing something fun and memorable, people. Culture-making can take the form of a flash mob of nakedness in a big bank, a re-issue of The Monkey Wrench Gang, a climate camp with parents and children that stops an aluminum smelter. The point is to add a dimension beyond the cycle of protest, litigation, legislation, blogging commentators, policy. This sea of recycling images is where the corporations want us to drown in our well-intentioned agony.

The Spectra Pipeline? Nobody wants it. But democracy doesn't work around here. All the towns and community boards and citizens' health groups along the route of the pipeline, from the Pennsylvania fracking fields to playground at the end of Horatio Street that would be incinerated by a gas explosion -- everyone's agin' it. But JPMorgan & Chase is for it, Mike "Wall Street" Bloomberg is for it, and a big Texas energy company is for it. It's a pure trinity of 1% devilishness -- money, politics and fossil fuel.

This threesome of natural Hellfire -- they mainly deal in subterfuge. They get all the regulatory panels to vote yes on the pipeline before most New Yorkers know anything about it. People can't tell you with much specificity where the construction site is located; how the pipeline is supposed to come into the West Village at an old pier where they park garbage trucks, then cross the Westside highway along Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district and turn left toward the Con Ed grid.

Our offering so far is to take audiences to the site and dress them up. Sing songs and leave clouds of hot pink dots. We're just getting started. The important thing now is for people to know where the construction site is located. What, physically, does it look like? Our costume comedies make that easier to do. We need to feel the incision point of this big pipeline; the 800-million cubic feet of natural gas shooting through the steel tube out of the river... Our reaction must become visceral. Now we are far more angry. And scared. Experience this thing.

Then people won't call us protesters anymore, or NIMBY-types, or liberals... they won't call us names because we're chasing them down the street. We're stronger than their marketing. Stronger than their shopping. We're strange agents from the Earth. With sticky-backed hot pink polka dots! Amen!

 

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