Time to Take It to the Streets

Nonviolent civil disobedience has been a less effective tactic in this country in the past few decades for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is probably that our woes are more complicated than in an earlier age. If there’s an exception to this rule, it's the issue I've spent much of my life working on: climate change.

True, climate change is rooted in complex science, but at this point the mechanisms are pretty clear: Burn fossil fuel and wreck the planet. It carries a strong moral edge: The people who burn the least suffer the most. And there are a series of relatively obvious villains: oil and coal barons, who not only profit from the carbon but use their proceeds to foul the debate with endless propaganda.

Since campaigners have in many cases changed their own lives, and tried for two decades the obvious tactics, such as legislative advocacy, without result, maybe the time has come to heighten the stakes, with mass action at the most obvious sites, from coal-fired power plants to corporate headquarters and congressional offices. Indeed, brave people have already begun: More than 100 were arrested, for instance, in a recent D.C. protest about mountaintop removal coal mining.

But using this tactic effectively will require some other changes.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2011
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