Today DC expects the largest climate rally ever. This is another step as the climate movement moves towards more vigorous activism, towards actual civil disobedience. The leaders of the Sierra Club are expecting to be arrested for the first time in their history. The proximate reason for the rally is the Keystone XL pipeline, which will funnel extremely CO2-heavy oil through the US from Canada; but obviously the strategy is to elevate the status of climate in the public discussion.
Former On Point producer – turned climate activist Wen Stephenson lays out the case in his excellently provocative article “The New Abolitionists” in this week’s Phoenix:
It seems fairly obvious that the reason we don’t hear politicians, or the “serious” people in our media, talking (at least in public) about this situation — the true gravity of it — is that to grapple with this in any real way, to propose anything that would actually begin to address it with the necessary urgency at the national and global level, would simply sound too extreme, if not outright crazy. Leave fossil fuels in the ground? You must be joking. Why, that would mean canceling the Keystone pipeline! It would mean putting Alberta’s tar sands, the second largest pool of carbon on the planet, off limits! Who are you kidding? Be serious! (Nevermind that a group of 18 top climate scientists signed a letter to Obama last month urging him to reject the pipeline to demonstrate the “seriousness of his climate convictions.”)
This is the reality — or the surreality — of the historical moment in which we find ourselves. At this late hour in the climate crisis, with the clock ticking down on civilization, to be serious about climate change — based, mind you, on what science and not ideology prescribes — is to be radical.
[Or, as the apocryphal anecdote goes, when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau in jail, he said, “What are you doing in there?” And Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?”]
Chris Hayes sees hope is the changing, er, political climate: “After several years of painful, bewildering, infuriating exile, climate policy is back on the agenda. Thank god.” From his lips to God’s ears.
I don’t know how that happens in this Congress, with these Republicans and fossil-fuel Democrats; but surely it will happen eventually, simply because it must. It will cost too much not to change, not to transition off of dirty energy and onto clean energy. The City of Boston’s mitigation plans will cost money. “Sea level rise on the East Coast is three to four times faster than globally”, and the flooding of the coastlines is now costing money and misery. Coral Davenport’s terrific long read in the National Journal sets out the many, varied, and massive costs,
So if we’re not in DC getting arrested today, what can we do here?
Support Ed Markey. A lot. This is obvious. He has been the point person on climate in the House of Representatives. He understands the reality of what we’re up against — although, as Stephenson points out, even he is handcuffed in what he can realistically propose, because frankly climate had so little support from the grassroots as a present and motivating issue. That simply must change. And he has to get elected because of his climate leadership, not simply because he’s next in line, or an otherwise reliable progressive. There’s a reason, a necessity, for his candidacy.
Write a letter in support of strong climate action to President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, US Reps, and local news outlets. Elevate the game. If you’d like something specific to support, go with Barbara Boxer’s and Bernie Sanders’ carbon-tax bill, which puts the proceeds towards renewables. Or if you prefer, a carbon tax whose proceeds are refunded directly to the public, from Citizens Climate Lobby.
Regardless of approach, the political and media systems need to feel the exercise of power, from those unwilling to accept a terrible fate without a fight. That’s what folks are doing today in DC.