|The Fossil Fuel Resistance
Published on Friday, April 12, 2013 by Rolling Stone
As the world burns, a new movement to reverse climate change is emerging - fiercely, loudly and right next door
by Bill McKibben
Banner deployed as blockaders engage in their latest action in Diboll, TX (Tar Sands Blockade via Flickr / Creative Commons license)
It got so hot in Australia in January that the weather service had to add two new colors to its charts. A few weeks later, at the other end of the planet, new data from the CryoSat-2 satellite showed 80 percent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared. We're not breaking records anymore; we're breaking the planet. In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They'll just ask, "So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?"
Here's the good news: We'll at least be able to say we fought.
After decades of scant organized response to climate change, a powerful movement is quickly emerging around the country and around the world, building on the work of scattered front-line organizers who've been fighting the fossil-fuel industry for decades. It has no great charismatic leader and no central organization; it battles on a thousand fronts. But taken together, it's now big enough to matter, and it's growing fast.
You don't need to go to jail, but you do need to do more than change your light bulbs. You need to try to change the system that is raising the temperature, the sea level, the extinction rate – even raising the question of how well civilization will survive this century.
Americans got to see some of this movement spread out across the Mall in Washington, D.C., on a bitter-cold day in February. Press accounts put the crowd upward of 40,000 – by far the largest climate rally in the country's history. They were there to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run down from Canada's tar sands, south to the Gulf of Mexico, a fight that Time magazine recently referred to as the Selma and the Stonewall of the environmental movement. But there were thousands in the crowd also working to block fracking wells across the Appalachians and proposed Pacific coast deep-water ports that would send coal to China. Students from most of the 323 campuses where the fight for fossil-fuel divestment is under way mingled with veterans of the battles to shut down mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia and Kentucky, and with earnest members of the Citizens Climate Lobby there to demand that Congress enact a serious price on carbon. A few days earlier, 48 leaders had been arrested outside the White House – they included ranchers from Nebraska who didn't want a giant pipeline across their land and leaders from Texas refinery towns who didn't want more crude spilling into their communities. Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham was on hand, urging scientists to accompany their research with civil disobedience, as were solar entrepreneurs quickly figuring out how to deploy panels on rooftops across the country. The original Americans were well-represented; indigenous groups are core leaders of the fight, since their communities have been devastated by mines and cheated by oil companies. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus was handcuffed next to Julian Bond, former head of the NAACP, who recounted stories of being arrested for integrating Atlanta lunch counters in the Sixties.
It's a sprawling, diverse and remarkably united movement, marked by its active opposition to the richest and most powerful industry on Earth. The Fossil Fuel Resistance has already won some serious victories, blocking dozens of new coal plants and closing down existing ones – ask the folks at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization who helped shutter a pair of coal plants in Chicago, or the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, which fought to stop Chevron from expanding its refinery in Richmond, California. "Up to this point, grassroots organizing has kept more industrial carbon out of the atmosphere than state or federal policy," says Gopal Dayaneni of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project. It's an economic resistance movement, too, one that's well aware renewable energy creates three times as many jobs as coal and gas and oil. Good jobs that can't be outsourced because the sun and the wind are close to home. It creates a future, in other words.
These are serious people: You're not a member of the Resistance just because you drive a Prius. You don't need to go to jail, but you do need to do more than change your light bulbs. You need to try to change the system that is raising the temperature, the sea level, the extinction rate – even raising the question of how well civilization will survive this century
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