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Movement of the Day: Fossil Fuel Resistance

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th April 2013


Excerpted from BILL MCKIBBEN:

“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.

No movement this diverse is going to agree on a manifesto, but any reckoning begins with the idea that fossil fuel is dirty at every stage, and we need to put it behind us as fast as we can. For those of us in affluent countries, small shifts in lifestyle won’t be enough; we’ll also need to alter the policies that keep this industry fat and happy. For the poor world, the much harder goal is to leapfrog the fossil-fuel age and go straight to renewables – a task that those of us who prospered by filling the atmosphere with carbon must help with, for reasons both moral and practical. And for all of us, it means standing with communities from the coal fields of Appalachia to the oil-soaked Niger Delta as they fight for their homes. They’ve fought longest and hardest and too often by themselves. Now that global warming is starting to pour seawater into subways, the front lines are expanding and the reinforcements are finally beginning to arrive.”

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