Sharing a jail cell with Mike Brune of the Sierra Club would be an honor

by Phil Radford

January 23, 2013

Greenpeace US Executive Director Phil Radford is taken into custody by police after Greenpeace deployed a banner from a construction crane near the State Department. Greenpeace urged government ministers from the world?s 17 biggest greenhouse polluters to "Stop Global Warming" and "Rescue the Planet" from the devastating effects of climate change as ministers gathered for climate talks under the Major Economies Forum (MEF) process.

© Mannie Garcia / Greenpeace

Greenpeace US Executive Director Phil Radford is taken into custody by police after Greenpeace deployed a banner from a construction crane near the State Department in 2009.

Nobody takes going getting arrested lightly, but when youve tried everything else, and the people with power have refused to listen or are dragging their feet, sometimes the only reasonable thing to do is to press harder with every peaceful tool you can conjure to make change, even when that lands you in a jail cell. Around the world, people are standing up to fight the dirty energy projects that pose the greatest threat to the climate as if lives depend on it which, of course, they do.

Appealing to energy companies sense of decency and to politicians sense of duty within the confines of the law has not worked in the fight to stop global warming. Greenpeace activists have broken the law as a part of this struggle. Weve felt moved to put ourselves in the way of something wrong, or to act to make sure the world knows it when powerful actors try to commit crimes in the dark of night. We expect to do so again.

Next time though, we may have a powerful ally sharing a jail cell with us: the Sierra Club. Executive Director Michael Brune said yesterday that the Sierra Club is, for the first time in its 120 years, willing to use peaceful civil disobedience as a new tactic to achieve its objectives.

Brune and the Sierra Club will enter a new chapter in their history when they join me and thousands of others outside the White House next month to demand that President Obama follow through on his commitments, and secure his legacy, by taking bold action to address global warming. That includes stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, cleaning up coal plants, and moving our country toward an energy revolution.

As Brune wrote, the Sierra Clubs defiance of the law is more than justified by the looming threat that global warming poses to our way of life. Greenpeaces latest report shows that if we let the 14 most dangerous coal, oil and gas projects in the world proceed as planned including US-supported projects like the Canadian tar sands, fracking, Arctic drilling and coal exports we will go over the climate cliff, ensuring an increase in more devastating fires, droughts and storms like Sandy.

Given the desperate need to stop these coal, oil and gas projects, its no surprise that the climate movement is increasingly showing its willingness to peacefully break laws when nothing else has worked.

The Sierra Clubs willingness to use every possible tool to fight for justice and sustainability will make them more powerful than ever, and thats a good thing for all of us who want to prevent more droughts and stronger storms.

Social change has only happened when countless people take to the streets and, peacefully breaking the law if necessary. White papers and cocktail parties with politicians didnt pass this nations environmental laws; millions of people in the streets passed environmental laws, and thats what it will take to move this country beyond polluting forms of energy and a destructive climate.

Today, Greenpeace celebrates the growing diversity and number of leaders willing to cross the line, and stand up for the future we want. When you do, you will have allies in groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

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