To act not to act
I regularly receive a letter from Ted Glick, the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council, who recently was arrested for hanging a banner on the NOAA building to protest their mishandling of climate information. He has joined with others in calling for a fast on September 4th:
We are calling on thousands of Americans to voluntarily give up food for one day on September 4th, 2007. Other participants will fast even longer beginning on that date, some for weeks. Our appeal to you is to consider joining us in this climate initiative called, “So Others Might Eat: The Climate Emergency Fast.” …
What will we be calling for? Three things: no new coal or coal-to-liquid plants; freeze greenhouse gas emissions and move quickly to reduce them; and a down payment of $25 billion for energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.
Ken Ward has recently posted here about the efficacy of protest.
The problem as I see it is that in the past, direct action and protest have had very clear achievable goals, whereas in the case of global warming, we know we want drastically reduced carbon emission, but the devil is in the details.
I’ve recently also been reading Paul Hawken’s new book, Blessed Unrest, which includes an excellent discussion of direct action, from Thoreau to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. But in each of those cases, the goal was clear: Thoreau was arrested for not paying a poll tax, which he refused to pay because it was burdensome to the poor and African-Americans; Gandhi protested (and fasted) to try to end apartheid in South Africa, and more famously, to end India’s subjugation to the British; and King protested to end segregation laws.
Recently, a group called “Rising Tide” (thanks to Colin Wright for the link) has been practicing civil disobedience in specific circumstances, such as chaining themselves to trucks so that the trucks couldn’t deliver coal to power plants. But it also seems to make sense to try to create a national set of protests that would target national policy. The question then becomes, what national policy?
My first proposition is that there should be some piece of legislation that some good Senator(s) or Congresspeople have already introduced that could be the focus of rallying public support. It could be the package that Glick mentions above, or something broader.
Which brings me to a second proposition, that to create a large enough critical mass of public support, global warming must be connected to some other issues. For instance, the Apollo Alliance is trying to link job creation with renewable energy; this could be extended to transportation as well, wherein we could create networks of intercity and intracity train systems.
It could be mandated that all new energy and transportation systems would have to be built in the U.S., and even the machinery to build those systems would be built here, thus moving toward a reindustrialization of the country, pulling in unions and helping people in all lower- and middle-class communities, white and minority, all across the country.
So let me propose a “Swords into Plowshares Act” that would use a few hundred billion dollars from the Pentagon budget to rebuild the country’s manufacturing and infrastructure base in order to create a sustainable, carbon-limited economy.
Any other broad-based legislation that might be the focus of direct action efforts?