The former president is not collecting donations to save trees, however. He is collecting money to cut them down, specifically to cut them down at pristine public parkland in Chicago to make way for his presidential center and professional golf course. In using Greta Thunberg to raise money to "inspire a new generation of leaders" who will burn untold gallons of jet fuel traveling to his center for the privilege of being inspired by his legacy, Obama has proven conclusively that cynicism has no age limits.
You're never too young or too old to believe that everybody is exploitable and everything must have a profit motive.
It's not as though centamillionaire Obama needs the funds to pay rent to the citizens who ostensibly own the parkland on which his shrine and entertainment complex is to be built. In a sweetheart deal inked with City Hall, his organization will pay only $10 for a 99-year lease on the property. Meanwhile, rents in the surrounding neighborhood, populated mainly by poor, retired and working class people, have already started to go up even before ground has officially been broken on the Obama Center.
Once many of those oxygen-contributing, shade-producing trees started coming down last year despite a lawsuit and without a public hearing or formal approval, the fix for the neighborhood seemed to be in. This is despite Obama's glib assurances to concerned residents he doesn't have to compensate them for their financial pain because gentrification won't happen until at least the next generation, or until his daughters might be affected by it. Not that Malia and Sasha will ever be priced out of their housing because of gentrification, of course.
But if you pay attention to this reality, you're probably too cynical to get with his feel-good neoliberal program. As Obama wrote in his buck-raking email, Greta Thunberg - without her even being consulted on the matter - "embodies why Michelle and I started the Obama Foundation in the first place."
That's the power of young people - unafraid to believe that change is possible and willing to challenge conventional wisdom. Greta and her generation are making their voices heard, even at a young age. That's what's possible when we let (my bold) young people lead the way.Of course, allowing young people to lead the way did not apply when, under the Obama administration in 2011, scores of Occupy camps throughout the United States were broken up by club-wielding police in a nationally orchestrated assault. Young people are inspiring only when neoliberal government and corporate leaders give them the green light, and only when their actions can help elect the desired political party, or help line the desired pockets.
And that's the examples of the idea behind the Obama Foundation. If we foster the next generation of young leaders with the tools, resources and connections they'll need down the road, then they'll handle the rest.
It makes you wonder how Greta Thunberg and the crowds of young people all over the world who are striking and demanding policies to address climate change ever came this far without Barack Obama as their inspiration. Without his "fostering" resources and myriad connections to powerful investors, how can they possibly be the neoliberal tools they need to be in order to be properly co-opted?
Nowhere in his fundraising email does Obama even directly bring up the climate catastrophe, and how wealthy, powerful and influential elite leaders can and should address it right this very minute. That's because climate change per se is not on his bucket list. He is only here to promote the young people who are promoting clean energy, using them to burnish his own image, as well as to profit from their independent efforts.
Otherwise, people might remember his own fealty to the fossil fuel industry. He would prefer, for example, that they forget his months-long delay in barely acknowledging that the Gulf of Mexico was being permanently polluted by BP - until graphic images of dead sea and shore life and a live underwater video feed of a blown well cap spewing out tons of crude gave him no other choice but to slap Big Oil on the wrist - after taking a dip in the Gulf with Sasha to convince us it was clean, the same way he later took his tiny sip of filtered Flint water to prove that it was safe.
He also doesn't want people to remember (or maybe even learn for the first time) that mere days after ostentatiously signing the Paris climate agreement in 2015, he quietly approved the previously-banned exportation of domestic fracked crude oil and its natural gas byproduct to the rest of the world. Like so many other toxic products which harm life, this measure was tucked safely inside a thick budget bill, and received little to no media attention. For his own part, Obama was still cynically basking in the media glow of Paris. His "all of the above" energy policy combined increased pollution and windfall industry profits with measures which only very slightly ameliorate pollution and global warming. His lifting of the ban on oil exports was cynically exchanged for a pathetic five-year tax credit for wind and solar energy providers.
Obama discreetly sold out on the climate long before Donald Trump appeared on the scene to boast and bray about selling out on the climate. The two men differ a lot in style, but not so much in substance. Trump, as evidenced by Obama's own appointment of fossil fuel promoter and profiteer Ernest Moniz as his Energy Secretary, is not the first chief executive to have cynically staffed his cabinet with regulation-busting industry insiders. (Moniz, taking time out from well-compensated service on numerous energy and vulture capitalism boards, is currently embarked on an anti-Green New Deal crusade, which he describes as a "counterbalance" to the bill proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Edward Markey. He calls his own plan the Green Real Deal, because unless environment-destroying capitalism is invited to help fix what it has wrought, nothing can be real.)
As Jenny Zou of the Center of Public Integrity reported last year on Obama's reversal of the oil export ban:
“You’re giving one side something forever, and [another] something for a limited time. It didn’t strike us as the best deal,” said Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. Cohen was an aide to Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., when interest in the ban spiked on Capitol Hill. Markey was the deal’s most vocal opponent, calling it a “Trojan horse” for “pumping up Big Oil’s profits.”Climate change was an afterthought in the debate over the ban, Cohen said. Both sides were fixated on how crude-oil exports would affect energy prices, not greenhouse-gas emissions. Experts wrongly predicted exports would amount to “a trickle, not a flood.” And Democrats mistakenly banked on pollution-cutting policies such as the Clean Power Plan — one of several Obama-era regulations being tossed out by Trump — to drive investment in renewable energy.
(It's probably no coincidence that Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who owns $1.75 million worth of stock in Exxon-Mobil and Chevron and other fossil fuel companies, has just mounted a primary campaign for Markey's Senate seat.)Even though the Obama White House publicly discouraged efforts to undo the ban, it ultimately signed off on the deal. Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, called it a “pathetic compromise” driven by the administration’s pro-export agenda. “The minute the White House staff signaled that they were going to endorse the lifting of the crude oil ban, all of the Democratic opposition to it evaporated,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘Why would I go to the mat if my president isn’t going to the mat?’”
It was only a year ago, at a gala fund-raising event in Houston, for some of the same oily oligarchs who had convinced him to lift the export ban, that Obama jokingly pointed to his role as Oil Extractor-in-Chief as inspiration for them to fork over more cash to an oil-funded think tank which exists for the deadly propagation of lethal, oily, free-market ideas.
True to form, the New York Times gushed over the event, lauding the oil and gas industry-serving alumni from the two Bush administrations and the Obama administration for proving that bipartisanship isn't completely dead, and for acting ever so un-Trumpily civil to one another.
"Not only did I not get indicted, nobody in my administration got indicted," Obama also humble-bragged to the assorted oil and gas moguls. Yes, and neither have any of them, despite their best efforts to squelch scientific evidence of climate change, their cover-ups of oil spills, their poisoning of wells by fracking chemicals, and their frequent violations of the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act when they bribe tin pot dictators to allow the theft of the natural resources of other, mainly poor, countries.
Now, notice the contrast in tone and body language at Obama's meeting this week with Greta Thunberg, who appears to be less than inspired and amused as Obama clumsily tries to fist-bump her and then lamely asserts that "we're on the same team."
Meanwhile, for detailed information on the activists and Woodlawn neighborhood residents trying to stop Obama's environmentally destructive takeover of public parkland in Chicago, I encourage you to visit Jackson Park Watch for the lowdown on this sweetheart deal of a construction project and all the legal challenges to it.