Unwrapping the Victories in Climate Change

Rebecca Solnit /Tom Dispatch

 

Below is part of an article by Rebecca Solnit on Tomgram - the last for the year . Part of it is reproduced below, but the full article is available here 

“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero,” Galileo famously says in Bertold Brecht’s play about that renegade scientist, but at least, the hero has the possibility of doing something about that unhappiness, as, for instance, the Sierra Club has. It’s led the fight against big coal, helping prevent 168 coal-powered plants from opening and retiring 125 dirty coal plants.  The aim of its Beyond Coal campaign is to retire all 522 such plants in the United States, which would be a colossal triumph.

Its victories also capture what a lot of our greenest gifts look like: nothing. The regionskeystone protest that weren’t fracked, the coal plants that didn’t open, the mountaintops that weren’t blasted by mining corporations, the children who didn’t get asthma or mercury poisoning from coal emissions, the carbon that stayed in the Earth and never made it into the atmosphere.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline bringing the dirtiest of dirty energy from Canada to the Gulf Coast might have already opened without the activists who ringed the White House and committed themselves across the continent.

In eastern Texas, for instance, extraordinary acts of civil disobedience have been going on continuously since August, including three blockaders who this month crawled inside a length of the three-foot-in-diameter pipeline and refused to leave. People have been using their bodies, getting in the way of heavy equipment, and going to jail in an effort to prevent the pipeline from being built. A lot of them are the same kind of robust young people who kept the Occupy encampments going earlier in 2012, but great-grandmothers, old men, and middle-aged people like me have been crucial players, too.

Meanwhile in British Columbia, where pipeline profiteers were looking into alternate routes to transport their climate-destroying products abroad,members of the Wet’suwet’en nation evicted surveyors and politely declared war on them. In Ohio and New York, the fight against fracking is going strong. Across the Atlantic, France has banned fracking, while Germany has made astounding progress toward using carbon-neutral energy sources. If solar works there, we have no excuse. And as Ellen Cantarow wrote at TomDispatch of the anti-fracking movement in New York State, “Caroline, a small hamlet in Tompkins County (population 3,282), is the second town in the state to get 100% of its electricity through wind power and one of the most recent to pass a fracking ban.”

Everywhere people are at work to build a better world in which we -- and some of the beauty of this world -- will be guaranteed to survive. Everywhere they are at war with the forces threatening us and the planet. I usually avoid war metaphors, but this time it’s barely a metaphor. Our side isn’t violent, but it is engaged in a battle, and people are putting their bodies on the line and their lives behind the cause. The other side is intent on maximizing its profit at the cost of nearly everything.

My father, a high-school student during the Second World War, followed the campaigns closelyarctic drilling with pins on a wall map to represent troops and battles. You could map North America that way now and see, when you added up the struggles against drilling in the Arctic, fracking, mountaintop removal, and the various other depredations of big coal and big oil, that remarkable things are already being done. In this war, resistance has been going on for a long time, so overlooked by the mainstream media it might as well be as underground as the French Resistance back then.

A lot of it is on a small scale, but if you connect the pieces you get a big picture of the possible, the hopeful, and the powerful. Think of each of those small acts of defending the Earth as a gift to you. And think of your own power, a gift always latent within you that demands you give back.

If you’re reading this, you’re already in the conversation. No matter who you are, or where, there is something for you to do: educate yourself and others, write letters, organize or join local groups, participate in blockades and demonstrations, work on divestment from oil corporations (if you’re connected to a university), and make this issue central to the conversations and politics of our time.

I’ve started working directly on various projects with 350.org, whose global impact and350.0rg reinvention of activist tactics I’ve long admired.  Its creator Bill McKibben has evolved from a merely great writer to a pivotal climate organizer and a gift to all of us.

The world you live in is not a given; much of what is best in it has been built through the struggles of passionate activists over the last centuries.  They won us many freedoms and protected many beauties. Count those gifts among your growing heap.

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  • Posted on Dec. 24, 2012. Listed in:

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