Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Could civil disobedience at the White House block the Keystone XL?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 4:00 PM

A coalition called Tar Sands Action, which includes environmentalist Bill McKibben, author Naomi Klein, actor Danny Glover, climate scientist James Hanson, and dozens of others, is calling for two weeks of civil disobedience at the White House in an effort to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline, of course, is slated to stretch from Canada's tar sands, across Montana, and all the way to Texas.

The protest is scheduled to begin next Saturday, Aug. 20.

Tar Sands Action's invitation to attend is interesting all by itself (I first saw it posted last week at Left in the West), with the authors carefully explaining what they will and will not do, and why. It essentially declares that the Keystone is a last stand for the climate change movement.

Twenty years of patiently explaining the climate crisis to our leaders hasn’t worked. Maybe moral witness will help. You have to start somewhere, and we choose here and now.

The group warns that those who show up should expect to get arrested, albeit while acting in a dignified fashion.

We will, each day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business.

And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator ...


Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

But will it work? A lot of big names are banking on it, and McKibben told The Nation he has already "signed up some 1,100 volunteers" to partake. Plus, the same article points out that civil disobedience may be the only viable option left.

Environmental groups spent over $100 million (some estimates run as high as $300 million) urging Congress and the administration to pass climate legislation and lead international efforts to sign an ambitious agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the effort was focused on inside-the-Beltway lobbying and closed-door meetings rather than on rallying popular support out in the country, and it failed miserably. By contrast, the Beyond Coal and tar sands campaigners believe that only grassroots people power can overcome corporate and right-wing resistance and secure real progress against climate change.

If you want to learn more, visit Tar Sands Action, or join a Twitter chat tomorrow at 6 PM (MST) about the pipeline and the events planned for D.C.

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