As a species, we are hard-wired for
response to immediate threat, rather than deliberations to change
behavior to prevent future threat. This makes responding to climate
change difficult, since most still do not experience an immediate
threat. And even with all the linkage in the press of something like
Hurricane Sandy to climate change, we know that the science only
predicts trends. We can't say that any particular hurricane is due
to climate change, only that these particular storm surges were
probably due to it. As for
an effective response, the transformation of morality and
consciousness happens one person at a time. The hope at the 12th
hour (less than four minutes to midnight -
to retool the countdown to nuclear Armageddon), is that the noosphere is going to get tight enough and comprehensive
enough for a “group mind” to develop that cares for the whole.
We have roughly three years in which this needs to happen, for the
midnight of irreversible positive feedback loops is late 2016.
have experienced many shootings in the last decade, and though
individual gun murders are down, mass shootings are significantly up.
Each time, we think the time is ripe for reform of gun-control laws.
Yet even after one of their own struggled to mouth the words after
horrific brain injuries, the House failed to respond to Gabby
Giffords' poignant cry, “Do something.” After numerous school
shootings, malls and movie theater scenes of mayhem, the US still has
the most lax gun laws on the planet.
Still more powerful than the NRA is the
fossil fuel industry lobby, deeply imbedded in our culture, our
infrastructure, and our government. So even if we get it that the
threat from global warming is real, and becoming more immediate every
day, we have to recognize how powerful the opposition is, how
responsive the system is to monied interests. It is not just a
matter of a few marches and letters to our editors and
congresspeople. It needs to be a full-on campaign, with warriors
willing to make a sacrifice, and others ready to take their places
when those are carried away in the paddywagon.
My model of the perfect action remains
the Children's Crusade
in my native Birmingham. Black schoolchildren
created a near-flawless civil disobedience action in the parks of
Birmingham in early May 1963. These parks were targeted
because they had been closed by Bull Connor rather than risk
fraternization of the races. Note that this was a campaign, not a
one-off event after which they went home and congratulated themselves
(I can't help contrast the group of women who went to jail with me
at the Keystone action in September 2011, wearing their t-shirts as
they posed for a celebratory photo upon release). The planning was
covert, with carefully crafted codes signaled by a popular radio dj.
The motivation started with the girlfriends of high school football
players, with echoes of Lysistrata
cheered their men on to non-violent action. And the numbers were
there: so many kids were arrested that fleet after fleet of buses was
barely enough to handle them. The jails filled, and the last couple
of thousand were ferried to the pigpens at the state fairgrounds.
This successful action got rid of Bull Connor and led to the Civil
Rights Act of 1965.
With 350.org's move towards non-violent
direct action, adopting the element of surprise rather than carefully
scripted events issuing from negotiation with the police (like the
2011 350.org Keystone action), the elements of this kind of action
are in place, amplified by their brilliant use of the added
dimension of the internet, which allows virtually instant
communication of simultaneous global actions. Everything is in
place, that is, but the numbers. Getting large numbers of protesters
in the streets, with trained cadres of those willing to perform civil
disobedience, remains the key, and that's where you and I come in.
There are signs the strategy may be
working in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has now been
delayed for two years at huge expense to an industry whose margins
were already thin, thin enough that several venture capitalists have
writtne them off as a bad investment. If it were not for the
overwhelming support of Steven Harper's conservative government, deep
shades of George W. Bush shrouding it all, the effort may well have
already failed. But we must remember that numerous pipelines are
being built. We are being surrounded, a deep grid of oil
distribution being burned into our geography. We are also co-opted
because we are the slaves of an oil economy that reaches far beyond
the internal combustion engine upon which we rely so heavily.
Keystone XL is an excellent choice for
drawing a line
against mining and piping that is so dirty that
it's massive sludge-pool of oil has the fossil footprint of coal- or
worse. James Hansen's statement that this activity alone is
sufficient to put us over the edge into climate doom is perhaps
hyperbolic. but Bill McKibben's effective "Do the Math"
article last summer on the cumulative danger of species endgame
represented by known oil reserves makes the broader case for which
the Alberta tarsands only stand as the worst example. Not only is it
the worst example of the madness of desperate scrambling for new
sources in the age of Peak Oil, it represents the most completely
stolen indigenous nation in history, for the very ground beneath
the Athabascans' feet is being chewed up, swallowed, and regurgitated in a
reverse alchemy that turns the gold of a pristine functioning
homeland to filthy, contaminated sludge-oil.
Our numbers in the streets need to
scale up rapidly, and the focus needs to broaden beyond KXL. We need
journalists, footsoldiers, videographers, strategists, and lots of
boots on the ground. Boomers who can afford comfortable footwear have
a golden opportunity to put them to use. Our generation can still
play a big part in preserving a livable society, sustainable because
it is not reliant upon fossil fuels. It is the youth who have the
most to lose, and thus the most to gain. But we can provide the
capital, the emotional support, and several million pairs of walking
shoes to back them up.
As I wrote before, the most powerful
speaker at the Walk for Our Grandchildren rally at the White House
was Mahan Siler, 79 year-old retired Baptist preacher.
He took back the image of the keystone as the final piece joining an arch, as a coalition of young and old awaken and realize
that their moment has come. But the Keystone Moment is far more than
stopping one monstrous, hideously misguided pipeline; it is the
moment when a new keystone of activism can be achieved by reaching
our hands high to brace each other, Boomers and the youth of the 21st
century. Let us seize that moment, for it will not soon come again –