U.S.: Coal to action: Join us March 2

Coal to action: Join us March 2 as we protest a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill

[Also see: http://www.capitolclimateaction.org/ ]

 

This is a letter to colleagues from Bill McKibben, scholar in residence at Middlebury College, a director of Grist.org, and co-founder of 350.org, and Wendell Berry, farmer, critic, and prolific author.

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capitol power plant

 

There are moments in a nation’s — and a planet’s — history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. We think such a time has arrived, and we are writing to say that we hope some of you will join us in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 2, in order to take part in a civil act of civil disobedience outside a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill.

We will be there to make several points:

* Coal-fired power is driving climate change. Our foremost climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level — below 350 parts per million CO2 — lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity.

* Even if climate change were not the urgent crisis that it is, we would still be burning our fossil fuels too fast, wasting too much energy, and releasing too much poison into the air and water. We would still need to slow down, and to restore thrift to its old place as an economic virtue.

* Coal is filthy at its source. Much of the coal used in this country comes from West Virginia and Kentucky, where companies engage in “mountaintop removal” to get at the stuff; they leave behind a leveled wasteland and impoverished human communities. No technology better exemplifies the out-of-control relationship between humans and the rest of creation.

* Coal smoke makes children sick. Asthma rates in urban areas near coal-fired power plants are high. Air pollution from burning coal is harmful to the health of grown-ups too and to the health of everything that breathes, including forests.

The industry claim that there is something called “clean coal” is, put simply, a lie. But it’s a lie told with tens of millions of dollars, which we do not have. We have our bodies, and we are willing to use them to make our point. We don’t come to such a step lightly. We have written and testified and organized politically to make this point for many years, and while in recent months there has been real progress against new coal-fired power plants, the daily business of providing half our electricity from coal continues unabated. It’s time to make clear that we can’t safely run this planet on coal at all. So we feel the time has come to do more — we hear President-elect Barack Obama’s call for a movement for change that continues past election day, and we hear Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s call for creative non-violence outside coal plants. As part of the international negotiations now underway on global warming, our nation will be asking China, India, and others to limit their use of coal in the future to help save the planet’s atmosphere. This is a hard thing to ask, because it’s their cheapest fuel. Part of our witness in March will be to say that we’re willing to make some sacrifices ourselves, even if it’s only a trip to the jail.

With any luck, this will be the largest such protest yet, large enough that it may provide a real spark. If you want to participate with us, you need to go through a short course of non-violence training. This will be, to the extent it depends on us, an entirely peaceful demonstration, carried out in a spirit of hope and not rancor. We will be there in our dress clothes, and ask the same of you. There will be young people, people from faith communities, people from the coal fields of Appalachia, and from the neighborhoods in Washington that get to breathe the smoke from the plant.

We will cross the legal boundary of the power plant, and we expect to be arrested. After that we have no certainty what will happen, but lawyers and such will be on hand. Our goal is not to shut the plant down for the day — it is but one of many, and anyway its operation for a day is not the point. The worldwide daily reliance on coal is the danger; this is one small step to raise awareness of that ruinous habit and hence help to break it.

Needless to say, we’re not handling the logistics of this day. All the credit goes to a variety of groups including Greenpeace, the Ruckus Society, the Rainforest Action Network, and CCAN. You can register and learn more about the action at our website.

From Grist

Comments

ideea

The more than 2,500 people coming to Washington to call for a solution
to the climate crisis and an end to the use of coal are still coming
because the climate is still in crisis and coal is still driving that
crisis. We should really do something about co2 and cars

reply

There is no such thing as "clean" coal, nor "clean" nuclear energy. Why
oh why must we always look backwards and not forwards. Decades of
neglect have left us reliant on foreign supplies of gas when renewables
could and should have been pioneered.

inchirieri auto

but

but clean coal does exist, and even clean chemicals, if the process of generating them is green. It's like the rental industry: once it saves something...it's greener

“In a democracy, dissent

“In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.” - J. William Fulbright

Democrats urge green overhaul of Capitol Power Plant

By ROBIN BRAVENDER, Greenwire/NYT Days before a scheduled protest against coal combustion at a Washington, D.C., power plant, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called today for switching the plant to natural gas. "The Capitol Power Plant continues to be the number one source of air pollution and carbon emissions in the District of Columbia and the focal point for criticism from local community and national environmental and public health groups," the Democrats said in a letter (pdf) to acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers. The nearly century-old plant, which sits just south of House office buildings, has been a contentious issue for years in Congress. Environmentalists and D.C. residents have continually called for the plant to stop burning coal, while lawmakers from coal-producing states have fought to keep the plant running on coal. Under Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative, the House has shifted from coal to natural gas for the percentage of hot and cool air that it uses. The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last June about reducing coal use even further, but the plant has not eliminated coal from its fuel mix. The cost of switching completely to natural gas is $7 million, Ayers told the Senate panel. But Pelosi and Reid said today that they wanted to identify and support funding to retrofit the plant, if necessary, to operate on 100 percent natural gas. "While the costs associated with purchasing additional natural gas will certainly be higher, the investment will far outweigh its cost," they wrote. Protest still happening, say organizers On Monday, a coalition of advocacy groups is planning a protest at the power plant, which organizers are calling an iconic symbol of the nation's reliance on the dirty fossil fuel (E&E Daily, Feb. 5). Protest organizers issued a statement applauding Reid and Pelosi's letter but saying their plans would proceed. "The more than 2,500 people coming to Washington to call for a solution to the climate crisis and an end to the use of coal are still coming because the climate is still in crisis and coal is still driving that crisis," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network. "Today's move reflects Congress' growing awareness that the public is demanding change." Click here (pdf) to read the letter. Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Utah Tribune take on the action

Take the train. Dial down your heat. Write your senator. Taking those individual steps surely helps in the battle against global warming. But, scientists and advocates warn, it's no longer enough to fend off climate disaster. Get ready, some of them say, to hijack oil-lease sales (like a college student did in Utah), to climb smokestacks in protest (like Greenpeace activists did in England), to trespass at power plants (like demonstrators plan to do in Washington, D.C.). It's time, these environmentalists say, for some good, old-fashioned civil disobedience -- the types of nonviolent acts proven effective by the famous (Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks) and the faceless (students at Tiananmen Square, anti-war protesters on college campuses, women suffragists in street marches). At a recent Environmental Ministry meeting at Salt Lake City's First Unitarian Church that drew more than 300 people, Tim DeChristopher, the 27-year-old University of Utah economics student who disrupted a December drilling-lease auction, called for an "uprising." DeChristopher didn't use the word lightly, he said, yet "anything short of that will not get us where we need to go." Heeding such calls, organizers are mobilizing for a mass act of nonviolent civil disobedience March 2 to protest coal-fired power plants and the damage industrial pollution has caused to the planet's climate. "We're hoping and preparing for thousands," said Matt Leonard, the Greenpeace coordinator for the event. "It will certainly be the largest such action on climate change in U.S. history. We hope it will be the first of many." Protesters will gather at the Capital Power Plant in Washington -- source of heat and refrigeration for the entire Capitol complex -- walk on to the property, sit down and thereby break the law. "Enough is enough. Action needs to be taken," Leonard said. "But to really meet the climate crisis, we need collective action. You can't do that by buying light bulbs and hybrid vehicles." » Gore's plea: The March 2 demonstration will be the first major protest since former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, in September called for moral lawbreaking. "If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," Gore told the Clinton Global Initiative gathering to loud applause, according to Reuters news service. Since then, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben and poet Wendell Berry have chimed in. Last month, they wrote an open letter, which has circulated widely on the Web, urging mass civil disobedience against coal in March. "We will cross the legal boundary of the power plant, and we expect to be arrested," they wrote. "The worldwide daily reliance on coal is the danger; this is one small step to raise awareness of that ruinous habit and hence help to break it." But the thought of moving beyond conventional acts -- voting, lobbying, giving up cars -- stumps or scares some would-be activists. Others would never dream of breaking the law. After the First Unitarian Church meeting, Robert and Amy Matheson said they felt more aware of the enormity of climate disruption but were unsure what to do next. They didn't know what civil disobedience looked like and were wary of it -- given the risks. "I'm kind of a chicken," Amy Matheson said. "I wouldn't be willing to sacrifice my family, my freedom, my life." Maybe if he were emotionally invested, Robert Matheson reasoned, he would be less afraid. » Personal stake: All humans are invested in coal, activists say, even if they don't recognize it. Coal-industry advocates point out that the United States gets about half its electricity from coal; nearly all of Utah's electricity is coal fired. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates domestic coal could last for over 250 years at current-use levels. The countries where coal is the primary energy fuel are polluting everyone's lives. Some of the evidence: unprecedented asthma rates in children, the enduring drought in the American Southwest, the worst drought in Australia in 1,000 years, crop failures in Africa, the filthy air on the Wasatch Front, the cheat grass on the Western range and the fires that feed on it. Growing awareness of coal's downside led a British jury in September to acquit Greenpeace activists who climbed a 650-foot coal-plant smokestack in an attempt to shut it down. The jury reasoned that global warming is causing greater harm than Greenpeace. DeChristopher saw his own transgression as a step toward Earth's salvation. With climate chaos looming, he said, "How could I not do this? How could I sit by and be complicit in my own destruction?" The U. student could face federal felony charges and even prison for his protest. Still, he urges more people to do what he did: If an opportunity presents itself, find your voice and stand your ground. But don't go all out without cause, warned Daniel Kessler, a Greenpeace spokesman in San Francisco. "There's no reason for civil disobedience if another [measure] is more effective."

 

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"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical world." - Thomas Jefferson

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