Environmental Activist Scales NYT Building in Times Square

June 5, 2008

Alain Robert, nicknamed the French Spiderman, scaled all 52 stories of the New York Times’ spanking new building on Eighth Avenue in Times Square this morning. He climbed in observance of World Environment Day.

robert_nytAccording to news reports and eyewitnesses, Robert had hitched himself up over a glass awning on West 41st Street and began climbing with nothing more than his bare hands and feet. (Designed by Renzo Piano, the horizontally-piped facade which allows maximum use of natural light also seems to function quite well as a ladder. Who’d have thought.) At one point, Robert stopped to unfurl a green fluorescent banner announcing: “Global Warming Kills More People Than a 9/11 Every Week.” He then continued climbing.

The NYPD received a 911 call at 11:30am, proceeded to the scene, and arrested Robert when he reached the roof at about 12:22pm. He had scaled the entire building in about 40 minutes.

The 45-year-old environmentalist claims to have climbed over 70 skyscrapers and monuments around the world as a call to action. Robert writes on his website:

I have climbed in New York, as a peaceful way to create support for far greater and urgent action from world leaders on global warming. Emissions are still climbing. So am I…

World leaders meet again next month at the G8 conference in Japan. YOU can help make sure they get the message…

Some are calling Robert insane. And his Spiderman strategy may already be inspiring copycats. This evening, NYT reports that a second person climbed the very same building on the southwestern corner facing Port Authority Bus Terminal on West 40th Street. He was arrested at 6:38pm when he reached the roof.

I suppose the city just got itself another tourist attraction.

(Seriously: In 2007 Robert was deported from China for illegally climbing its tallest building. Officials later invited him back to legitimately climb a mountain as a tourist attraction.)

Olympic Protests Hint at a Global Revolution

April 7, 2008

Just as the IOC’s decision to host the XXIXth Olympic Games in Beijing signaled a massive shift in the global balance of power and capital, so has it pried open the floodgates of a transnational movement for revolutionary change. This is an unprecedented struggle for multiple worlds that has multiple authors, multiple constituents, multiple visions (not one world running on a neocon-neoliberal feeding tube; see my 3/28 post). This photo in today’s New York Times captures vividly the disjuncture between the old orders (represented by the vertical elements: gilded monument in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the background) and the bodies of the multitude (the horizontal socialscape of living and mobile people):


The protests in London and Paris that today extinguished the Olympic flame (for the first time since the torch relay began in the 1936 Nazi Games) are just one node in a larger constellation of contemporary, emerging forces. This constellation is vast, complex, and ever-changing, connecting the Zapatistas in Mexico, the poor in Thailand, the landless in Brazil, Sans Papiers in France, and countless unreported others. This constellation is radically different from the struggles of the American revolutionaries in 1776, the Paris Commune in 1871, the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the student revolutions in 1968. In “We Are Everywhere“:

“What is emerging now is a dialogue of a million voices which is building the first truly interconnected global uprising, an unprecedented transnational social revolution, a revolution made up of thousands of revolutions, not just one. A revolution that is not predetermined or predictable: not going around in circles but moving in every direction simultaneously. What we are witnessing now is actually a lot more like evolution, a work in progress that makes itself up as it goes along, constantly adapting to each others’ needs. An unprecedented global (r)evolution, is taking place and many of us don’t recognize it.

… As networks grow more connected, by webs and actions, wires and stories, many things will emerge that we, as mere neurons in the network, don’t expect, don’t understand, can’t control, and may not even perceive. The only way to understand an emergent system is to let it run, because no individual agent will ever be able to reveal the whole. The global movement of movements for life against money, for autonomy and dignity, for the dream of distributed direct democracy, are following an irresistible logic. It is a logic as old as the hills and the forests, an eco-logic, a bio-logic, the profound logic of life.”