Seizing Our Power: Why Now Is the Time for Creative, Courageous, Nonviolent Action
by Phil Radford
March 7, 2011
Below is a group letter from Becky Tarbotton (Director, Rainforest Action Network), Phil Radford (Director, Greenpeace USA), and Bill McKibben (Founder, 350.org). Inspired by recent events, the climate movement is reaching a pivotal turning point.
Last week, a jury in Utah found Tim DeChristopher guilty for standing up to the oil and gas companies in an effort to protect our health and our climate.
Just in case the federal government thinks that it’s intimidating people into silence with this kind of prosecution, think again. In fact, this is precisely the sort of event that reminds us just why we need creative, nonviolent protests and mass mobilizations.
Over the last six months we’ve witnessed big changes in the world that affect our need for creative, nonviolent protest which include:
* The wild and extreme weather that marked the end of the warmest year on record, with flooding in almost every corner of the planet
* The complete collapse of efforts on Capitol Hill to do anything about climate change
* The passing of Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which grants corporations unfettered influence over our elections
We’ve also seen a historic outpouring of people power to combat these environmental crises, reclaim our democracy and disrupt corporate influence. From the exhilarating outbreak of the freedom movement across North Africa and the Mideast to the amazing stand for democracy and worker’s rights in Wisconsin, we are seeing the strength and effectiveness that average people can have when they we stand together.
There have been a growing number of inspiring examples of civil disobedience across the United States to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that we depend on. On February 17, Greenpeace activists scaled a coal plant in Bridgeport, CT as part of an escalating campaign against the dirtiest coal plants across the country. Just five days before, one of our great environmental sages, Wendell Berry, joined a sit-in at the Kentucky governor’s office to protest mountaintop removal coal mining.
Taken together, all of this confirms our belief that we need to continue to escalate the struggle for climate action.
It is not one event but a wave of actions that trigger social change. Paul Revere was not the only rider to warn of the British advance, and many people refused to move to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks. It is actions like Tim’s that can create ripples that expand exponentially.
In a recent interview, Tim issued a challenge to all of us to seize the power we already have to make a difference:
“We think we have no power when in fact we have more than enough power. Right now, we have a big enough movement to win this battle; we just need to start acting like it. That’s the message that the climate movement really needs to internalize. On an individual level, it means making the commitment that we’re going to be powerful and effective agents of change; on the movement level, it’s about making the decision that we’re really going to win this battle.”
We worry sometimes that we may have waited too long to get this battle going in earnest; the science is dark, and the politics are tough. But we know, from watching our inspiring colleagues around the world who are facing great dangers head on, that the best time to act is now. Over the coming weeks, each of our organizations, working together and individually, will be pursuing a variety of strategies to try and spark more mass, direct action.
Tim DeChristopher took a brave and lonely stand; it’s time to make sure that in the future bravery comes in bigger quantities.