The Common Good

A Call to Civil Disobedience Against the Keystone Pipeline

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced recently to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for disrupting a federal oil and gas lease auction in 2008 that was later deemed illegal. But don't cry for him. Having met the man, I can confidently say the last thing he wants is pity.

At a speaking engagement earlier this year, someone asked Tim how we could keep him from going to prison. He quickly responded, "I'm not sure keeping me out of prison is a good thing. I'd rather think about having you join me." After all, he didn't do it for himself.

As Bill McKibben points out in a piece published on the Huffington Post, "If you sweated through last week's record heat, if your crops are withering in the southwest's epic drought, if you watched the Mississippi swallow your town -- then Tim DeChristopher acted for you. And it's time for you take the same kind of responsibility."

McKibben recommends traveling to Washington, D.C. this month for two weeks of civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone Pipeline that will carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico:

This action won't be as risky as Tim's. People are signing up to come to D.C. for three days. On the first they'll attend nonviolence training, and on the second they'll sit down in front of the White House. No one knows for sure how the police will react, but the legal experts say jail time will likely be measured in hours, not years. Still, it's a very real way to say to President Obama (who will make the Keystone decision all by himself) that this is the great moral issue of our time.

For motivation, consider what DeChristopher read before he was sentenced this afternoon:

At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.

[This article appears courtesy of a partnership with Waging Nonviolence.]

Bryan Farrell is a New York-based writer, covering topics that range from the environment and climate change to foreign policy and militarism. His work has appeared in The Nation, In These Times, Plenty, Earth Island Journal, Huffington Post, and Foreign Policy In Focus. Visit his website at BryanFarrell.com.

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