-by Derek Gideon, Editor
Would you be willing to risk jail time to fight climate change? That’s what Tim De Christopher, an economics student at the University of Utah did. When public lands in Utah were being auctioned for oil and natural gas drilling during the last months of the Bush Presidency, Christopher decided to disrupt the auction by entering it and outbidding everyone despite not being able to pay. He says he did so with the full knowledge he would probably face jail time, and sure enough, last Thursday a federal jury convicted him. Depending on the judge’s ruling, De Christopher may now face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Says De Christopher, in the grist.org interview posted above,
“The climate movement has been really creative in trying a lot of different methods for how we can create this radical shift that we need without anybody really making any sacrifices or taking any personal risks and none of that’s really worked. And I think now it’s time we tried the path of actually putting ourselves on the line… I think it could take far fewer people than we think to do that.”
SURGE doesn’t advocate breaking the law, but I consider this blog to also be an open forum to discuss the climate movement. So, readers, what do you think? Do there need to be more acts of civil disobedience to solve the climate crisis? And if so, who should be on the line? I encourage you to watch the full video of De Christopher and leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Defend the America. Defend the EPA.
Use Facebook? Tell them to get off coal.
-by Derek Gideon, Editor
Imagine living in an America where the rivers are so polluted they catch fire. Imagine an America where the smog in New York City is so bad that hundreds of people die in a single incident. Imagine an America where companies can dump as much toxic waste into the Hudson as they please.
All these things happened in America before the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Prior to then, there was no single agency tasked with keeping America safe from environmental disasters. But today, the Republican house is trying to declaw the EPA, voting 249-177 to stop the agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
-by Regina Wang
On a Sunday afternoon in Princeton, most students are busy worrying
about some of the most important aspects of their lives – their
academic and social needs. I wasn’t sure if I could tear myself from
those things to make it to the Awakening the Dreamer symposium this
Sunday, but I’m definitely glad that I did.
As one of three Princeton students who attended the entire event, I
definitely felt like an integral part of the experience, and I now
feel awakened to really do something.
The WakeUp was organized by Generation Waking Up, an organization
based in California which seeks to “awaken” young people to the
challenges of our generation in creating a sustainable, just future.
Princeton’s WakeUp was coordinated by Princeton freshman Leland
Baldwin and included several members of Generation Waking Up (in fact,
they outnumbered us Princeton students nearly two to one).
The symposium alternated between videos and discussion about our
reactions, educating us while allowing us to engage and share. If
focused on four main questions: Who are we? Where are we? How did we
get here? And What’s possible for the future?
The event started with everyone introducing themselves as individuals,
followed by a group effort to define our generation. We then watched a
video about our generation, which highlighted our passiveness in
taking action to bring necessary change, contrasting our belief that
we can’t bring change with the activism of the 60s against war,
segregation, and gender equality, among other things.
Next, we focused on where we are now in terms of the issues we face
today. Most of the information we learned wasn’t entirely new to us –
I’m pretty sure most Princeton students know about the huge disparity
between the rich and the poor as a tiny fraction of the population
owns a majority of its wealth and the majority of the world does not
have access to everyday conveniences most of us don’t even think twice
about. Animals are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the
incredible amounts of waste and pollution we produce each day are
anything but sustainable. However, as we discussed after the video,
most of had forgotten about or unconsciously ignored these global
problems in favor of the comparatively inconsequential matters that
fill our lives.
In particular, my partner and I shared how the video reminded us of
the almost superficial nature of almost all our immediate concerns.
The video showed us how many people today are obsessed with stuff as a
means of satisfaction, without realizing that material possessions are
not bringing happiness. We both reflected on how easy it is to get
distracted by stuff so that one forgets about larger issues.
The next video and discussion focused on the challenges we face today
in bringing the change we want to see. We discussed some underlying
assumptions (many of them untrue) that prevent people from taking
action, including the ideas that individuals cannot do anything,
technology will solve all our problems, and some people just don’t
care and cannot be convinced to care. Video clips featuring Van Jones
and other activists discussed the idea that from a rationalist
standpoint, an individual really can’t do anything, but it takes an
individual to get anything done. He provided the example of the
standing ovation in a crowd of people – one person has to stand up
first, and then the crowd follows. Similarly, young people today need
to realize that nothing will happen until one person takes action.
Finally, we discussed the possible actions we can take for the future.
By intersecting things we love with things we want to see in the
world, we found actions each of us could take. We also wrote plans for
individual and group-based actions we planned to take and when we
planned to act.
Altogether, the experience really reminded me of what I already knew
but had pushed behind my own selfish, superficial worries. The
awakening really reminded me to care and take action for something
bigger than myself.
SURGE’s Rob Cooper takes on a pressing climate science question.
-by Derek Gideon
“We left—onto the freeway shoulders—
In a lecture at Princeton this past September, Van Jones noted that if Congress will not take action on climate change, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA has the authority to do so. I am quite aware that, taking a conciliatory tone with the new Republican House, the Obama Administration might be reluctant to have the EPA begin regulating carbon. But if we want to start tackling the pressing issue of climate change, something’s going to have to happen. If it comes to a fight between the president and congress over the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon, the climate movement needs to be ready to vocally support the EPA, and prepared to drown out the tea party din.
There are also a number of state and regional initiatives we should continue to support, including the Western Climate Initiative, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.
If we want to stop changing the climate, we need to change the political climate. Why did Joe Manchin see it as politically expedient to appear in an ad shooting the cap-and-trade bill? Why were climate-friendly politicians and initiatives triumphant in California but not in West Virginia?
This article at Worldchanging provides many useful links on the boom of green jobs in California, even back in 2006. Meanwhile, West Virginia is the second largest producer of coal in the nation, and produces nearly all of its own power with coal-fired plants. And people tend to vote along their percieved self-interest.
In those parts of the country that have not yet seen the emerging green economy, we need to work on it from the ground up. Everyone can work on this in some way at the community level. Those of us with a mind for entrepreneurship can work on starting green businesses, from wind power installation to sustainable food. Those of us who are good at politics and policy can run for office starting at the local level, as was suggested in a recent series of posts on It’s Getting Hot in Here. Those of us who are good at environmental education should do environmental education. We need 350.org‘s successful “Get to Work Day” to become a sustained effort to build a sustainable future for our communities.
That also includes continued organizing and action. I highly recommend this “Open Letter to 1Sky from the Grassroots” in response to 1Sky’s initial open letter to all groups fighting climate change (also highly recommended). The letter from the grassroots highlights how many of the most successful campaigns against coal plants and other dirty fuel sources have been led by grassroots coalitions centered around environmental justice.
In short, when the political climate doesn’t favor the best policies, we need to change it. Because I for one much rather change the political climate than the actual one.
-by Derek Gideon
Just when you had your Halloween party mess taken care of, a tea party comes along.
You can go pretty much anywhere on the Internet to find the endless nattering about whether the Democrats went to far to the left, didn’t communicate well enough, whether Obama is having his Bill Clinton 1994 moment or his Reagan early 1980′s moment or his first term FDR moment or his afternoon tea moment. Frankly, I find it mostly boring, so I won’t spend much time on it. I will say this though- I do hope that, amidst all the talk about what Obama needs to do to win in 2012, we don’t forget the actual policies involved and the need to do what’s right. Because the tea kettle may be steaming, but the glaciers are still melting.
Okay, now we’ve got that taken care of, let’s survey the wreckage: