John McAndrew

Posts Tagged ‘Keystone XL’

Making Our Activism Count

In environment, Thoughts on November 28, 2015 at 9:44 AM
The Native Peoples of Canada and the US Know

The Native Peoples of Canada and the US Know

Petitions? Marches? What’s that old definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? When do we give up on tactics proven not to work and begin to fight as if the survival of our and many other species is at stake?

I do want to be supportive of whatever activism people are up to, so long as it isn’t a kind of self-delusion. I’m not getting a sense that anyone is taking notes on our effectiveness or our lack, maybe because the movement is decentralized. Whose job would that be?

Isn’t it essential that whatever we do actually work? Questioning the efficacy of activism – and what else is activism for but to be effective? – seems to be taken as rudeness. Like noticing a naked emperor. I can’t imagine Sun Tzu or Clausewitz being satisfied that their army is big, even though the enemy has not fled before it, and is, in fact, having a leisurely picnic nearby. The stakes are existentially high, we are being backed off a cliff, and we seem unmotivated by the fact that all of our victories, taken together, have not yet resulted in a reversal of course.

I’d much rather have a multitude of direct actions from which to choose. I’d rather have 300 Spartans, or their modern day equivalent, than 400,000 ineffectual but well-meaning marchers. Many of those marchers must feel the same way: “I will do this because it’s what we’re doing, but I’d rather be doing something more effective.” Isn’t it a little late to be asking nicely for the rich and powerful to become Gandhi-like?

It is in the interest of the rich and powerful to keep things as they are, to maintain an immensely profitable status quo. It’s in their job description. Unless they are a B Corporation, it is literally illegal for them to do otherwise. If they are not spending millions or billions on fighting us, it’s because our “activism” has not even been noticed by them, much less qualified as a threat.

If our elected representatives (let’s not call them leaders just yet) come home from COP21 in Paris with a watered-down proposal while expecting accolades for “making progress,” we will criticize them for that. Online. Where it’s safe. If we are not prepared to take matters into our own hands in the event of their failure, how are we any different, much less better, than they are? We criticize them for not making the difficult choices that need to be made. Are we making those choices ourselves?

Petitions do nothing but salve our consciences, but are fine for invalids who can do nothing more. Letters to editors or members of Congress are better.

Marches are worse than useless, since they cost carbon to travel and are easily ignored by media and the people whom they pretend to oppose. They are a simulacrum of activism: they make participants feel good, even morally superior, without asking anything of substance of them and without solving any problems. They are what Bonhoeffer called, in a different context, “cheap grace.”

So what do we do?

The work of the Good Cop part of the movement, as represented by 350.org’s divestment movement, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend, has to continue. It’s what makes COP21 a credible effort as opposed to just the next ineffectual meeting in the series. It’s essential, but slow, work, steeped in details of science and policy.

But I also think we need, and do not have, a ubiquitous Bad Cop contingent, like ACT UP, the AIDS direct action group. The two kinds of action complement each other. Tim DeChristopher once wore a T-shirt that said “I am the carbon tax.” In other words, I am a threat to your bottom line. I think we need to take a page – please, not the mic check page! — from Occupy.

There have been isolated examples:

  • Tim DeChristopher’s pranking of an oil and gas lease auction in his beloved Utah;
  • Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara using their lobster boat, the Henry T(horeau), to block a coal barge in Boston Harbor;
  • Idle No More and other Native groups in the US and Canada who have blocked the pipelines from the tar sands.

If we had 400,000 surrounding Congress, or Reagan Airport, or Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, or every coal-fired plant in the country, for extended periods, then the good cops would be able to say, “Gee, Senator/Governor/Congress member, if you’d put a price on carbon, and end subsidies to these destructive, dishonest companies, maybe these ruffians would leave everyone alone. Sign here.”

I bet if we blockaded the Paris airports, so COP21 negotiators couldn’t leave if they didn’t come up with a decent deal, they would notice.

I bet if Anonymous messed with Exxon’s internal data, they would notice.

My plumb line is, if their quarterly reports are not affected, they won’t even begin to fight us. My other plumb line is, if CO2 emissions are inexorably dropping year after year, our activism is working; if emissions aren’t dropping, our activism is not yet working.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, do we want to be effective, or are we just content to be right? Being right is, in this context, synonymous with failure. We have other tools in our tool chest. Why are we afraid to touch them?

A Warning and a Plea to US and World Leaders

In environment on March 8, 2013 at 8:34 PM

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/there-is-little-hope-left-of-keeping-global-temperature-in-the-safe-zone/273860/

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/03/new-hockey-stick-graph-scarier

I saw both of the above-linked articles today.

We Are Toast. Burned toast.

I still believe – though that’s all it is at this point – that we can reverse this. We have done remarkable things in the past. But we have to get on a true global war footing to do so, and we have to date shown no signs of being willing to do so. That must change now.

We think we will survive and die peacefully of old age in our beds while the bees die, the rains stop, the seas rise, the crops fail, and the wildfires rage? Some form of the world will go on without us. Life, of some form, will likely survive even this – though not the forms we love, or not many of them. What environmentalists are really fighting for is not Nature, which will survive us, but a fighting chance for human civilization to continue its journey.

Congress and the President – and the leaders of other industrialized nations, as well – Must Act Now and put us on a war footing. No compromise, no more time wasted.

Forget Keystone XL. We cannot permit that. If the government permits it, the people must prevent it.But the problem is, by all scientific accounts, so much more dire. We must be proactive. We must do more than we believe to be necessary, faster than we believe possible, because we have less time than we thought. Time’s up. We cannot delay another month.

  • We must reduce our emissions of CO2 this year, this month, in real terms, and help China, India, and the EU to do so.
  • We must begin building 4th generation nuclear plants, if we can do so responsibly and safely, decommission all coal plants, and go all in on renewable energy.
  • We must now stop and reverse the exponential growth in the population of humans.
  • We must reforest the nation and the world, beginning this year.
  • We must ground planes and park cars in significant numbers – 20%? 50%? 75%? – without any delay.

We must not wait for anything before acting. No new Earth Summit. No new studies. No economic impact studies. We may already have delayed too long. We must hope we have not. We only have the present in which to act. We are increasingly foreclosing the possibility of a future in which to act.

I do not understand: the President and Congress must have in hand facts that are even more detailed  and disturbing than the information I have linked to above, and what I heard from NASA’s Dr. James Hansen a couple of weeks ago. President Bush’s administration was vilified for ignoring the warnings of Al Qaeda flying planes into buildings. Surely President Obama is receiving dire warnings about the march of climate change. The consequences of ignoring these warnings will make 9/11 look like a minor tragedy in comparison.You and I will live to see the catastrophic effects of inaction. This is a current, not a future problem. We, not our children or grandchildren, are responsible for taking action. We Must Act. Right Now.

Humans have risen to great challenges before. We have shown an enormous capacity for courage, self-sacrifice, and vision. We have developed the capacity to see farther and deeper, and to make finer measurements, than even scientists a hundred years ago would have imagined. We must now heed the warnings that our long quest for knowledge have brought us. This is our generation’s challenge, and it is greater than any that have come before. We will either respond in a manner worthy of mythic story, or we will twiddle, while all stories and knowledge come to an end in us.

Consider what and who you love, and act with all urgency. Do not wait for others, or for permission. The decision is yours. The lives of those you love depend on what you do right now.

Urgently,

John McAndrew

[To see how to contact your elected officials, go to this link]

We Hit 7 Billion in 2011 – two years early
Fleeing Colorado Wildfires
Texas Drought of 2011
Superstorm Sandy: Not a Thrill Ride. A Disaster
Noon in Beijing. How Can We Think This Has No Consequence For the Planet?

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