In the last few years, it has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas. It may not be winning the way gay marriage has won, but the movement itself continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.
That’s not despite its lack of clearly identifiable leaders, I think. It’s because of it.
Environmental debates are often framed with an Us Versus Them dynamic. If we are to achieve our goal of protecting the environment for future generations, we should strive not to let the debate be seen as a fight between environmentalists versus fossil fuel workers, but rather a fight between moral or immoral choices.
The elephants were killed close to the Chad border with Cameroon and their ivory hacked out. It is the worst killing spree of elephants since early 2012 when poachers from Chad and Sudan killed as many as many as 650 elephants in a matter of weeks in Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park.
“This is completely shocking,” said Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in France and Francophone Africa.
“Elephants in Central Africa continue to be under siege from unscrupulous poachers. The killing of 86 elephants, including pregnant cows, is evidence of the callous brutality demanded to feed the appetite of the ivory trade.”
Last month, after the Sierra Club announced they were encouraging civl disobedience for the first time in its 120 year history, 48 individuals, including Sierra Club director Michael Brune, NASA climate scientist James Hansen and 350.org founder, Bill McKibben were arrested outside the White House. Following those actions and the climate rally in Washington D.C., I wrote a post making the case for civil disobedience for climate change. Looking back at my post, I see I am talking about why people feel compelled to engage in civil disobedience, but not the effectiveness of those actions. With the decision over the pipeline looming and speculation that Obama will approve the construction growing, it is a good time to think about the role civil disobedience can play in the climate movement and where it can go from here.
As Lloyd has noted on TreeHugger before, stopping the Keystone pipeline won’t keep the tar sands in the ground or the carbon they will produce out of the atmosphere. Trans Canada could build a pipeline to the west or continue shipping the oil by rail, but as KC makes clear, to not speak out against this pipeline is to concede defeat. And when the stakes are a ruined atmosphere or a chance at preventing catastrophe, what choice do we have?
So here’s where we go from here: If you were happy to hear Obama mention his desire to address climate change, you have just opted-in to the movement that will force him to act on this pledge. The cynics among us may claim that Obama’s pledge was empty, merely soundbites he won’t back up with action. To the cynics I say, call his bluff. Join the earnest among us and let us all together pressure this President, this Congress to act. What actions you take will be up to you, but act you must. If we don’t, we too are making empty promises. It was fitting then and it is fitting now to quote Ray Bradbury’s line on optimism: “Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.” Let’s make 2013 a good year. Let’s help this President achieve the lofty goals he’s set for himself. Let’s make Obama’s second term the one upon which future generations look back and say, I’ll be damned, they really did it.