Handcuffs, jail cells, rap sheets, and Climate Change

get-out-of-jail-free-greenpeaceIt’s been a good week for get out of jail cards — just don’t let any­body tell you they’re free.

At the begin­ning of the week, I had two lots of friends who were fac­ing the prospect of spend­ing this week­end in jail. One set in South Dako­ta fac­ing sen­tenc­ing for drap­ing a ban­ner on Mt Rush­more remind­ing Oba­ma that his­to­ry hon­ors lead­ers, not politi­cians, and his chance to make his­to­ry is in turn­ing the tide on cli­mate change. In Den­mark, the Red Car­pet Four had already served 20 days in jail with­out tri­al, across Christ­mas and New Years, with no vis­i­ta­tion rights. They were being pun­ished, in effect, for mak­ing mon­keys of Dan­ish secu­ri­ty when they breezed into a Head of State din­ner host­ed by the Queen. A lim­ou­sine, a Tux, an off-the-rack dress, and a motor­cade with the Green­peace logo and the words “Plan­e­tary Emer­gen­cy, Autho­rized Per­son­nel” on it was all it took to get an audi­ence with 120 world lead­ers, whom they asked to drop the caviar forks, put a cork in the cham­pag­ne, and go make a cli­mate treaty.

In both cas­es, pros­e­cu­tors likened the activists, in words or deeds, to ter­ror­ists. Threats to democ­ra­cy. Law break­ers.

Law Break­ers? We’ll take that. But ter­ror­ists they are not, and when it comes to Democ­ra­cy, those who take up civil dis­obe­di­ence in the name of a cause are Democracy’s cham­pi­ons, not its ene­mies.

Rosa Parks was not a ter­ror­ist. Gand­hi was not a ter­ror­ist. Law is made when law is bro­ken, and tru­ly big change sel­dom hap­pens from with­in the sys­tem. Some­body has to throw the tea over­board to get things mov­ing.

Right now, our elect­ed lead­ers are fail­ing to address the gravest threat our world has ever faced. The longer the inac­tion pre­vails, the more action we’re going to see by civil soci­ety. More and more peo­ple, most­ly, but not all, young, will choose to take non-vio­lent direct action — because civil dis­obe­di­ence is a last resort. It’s what a move­ment does when the legal chan­nels have been exhaust­ed. When the courts and the politi­cians and the cor­po­rates have been asked, and failed to respond. The peo­ple who make that choice are not crim­i­nals. They’re heroes.

I found it some­what iron­ic that in the case of the Mt Rush­more folks, most were given sen­tences that involved com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice. Now that’s a case where the pun­ish­ment fits the crime. Because in fact, a com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice is exact­ly what they ren­dered when they raised their voic­es, as big as a moun­tain, to let Oba­ma know that we’re not the only ones watch­ing — the future is.

And when the his­to­ry of cli­mate change is writ­ten, the real crim­i­nals will be out­ed, and they were not the folks who faced the pos­si­bil­i­ty of jail this week­end.

4 thoughts on “Handcuffs, jail cells, rap sheets, and Climate Change”

  1. Glob­al Warm­ing and Cli­mate Change is the biggest envi­ron­men­tal issue that we face the­se days. the long term effects of the­se envi­ron­men­tal changes to a nations econ­o­my is quite dam­ag­ing. there would be a short­age in food sup­ply as well as on water sup­ply too.

  2. Beth, your com­ment has noth­ing to do with the issue in the arti­cle. Nobody is deny­ing Al Gore’s heat­ing bill, or John Travolta’s jet fuel con­sump­tion. In fact, they should both be con­front­ed, and called out. 

    The­se two men’s seem­ing issues have no bear­ing on the great prob­lems fac­ing us. Glob­al warm­ing march­es on in spite (may­be because) of the­se two, and we need to stop point­ing fin­gers (it is a huge waste of time). We need solu­tions, and we need every­one to fol­low them.

  3. Inter­est­ing Arti­cle!

    OK, I am a con­vert. I see the light. I will fol­low the exam­ple of our eco-lead­ers.

    I com­mit here and now not to use more than 80% of the ener­gy every year that Al Gore uses, and no more than 70% of the amount that envi­ron­men­tal­ist John Tra­volta does.

    Mr. Gore main­tains a mod­est $30,000 heat­ing and cool­ing bill for his res­i­dence in Ten­nessee alone for 2008. And, Mr. Tra­volta is cur­rent­ly in pos­ses­sion of five high pow­er jet planes, any one of which uses more fuel than my entire fam­i­ly would ever dream of using. Yet, for some rea­son, we look to both the­se men for eco-lead­er­ship. Are we insane?

    It will be a strug­gle, but with my 1700 square foot home, my heat­ing and cool­ing bill will be about $3,000 this year. To get it up to 80% of Gore’s foot­print will be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. How­ev­er, I can only try.

    With lead­ers like this, I know we will, work­ing togeth­er, even­tu­al­ly win this bat­tle.

    ToysPe­ri­od is a lead­ing online shop spe­cial­iz­ing in lego sets and mod­el rail­road equip­ment.

  4. Com­mu­ni­ty, Ser­vice and Lead­er­ship are the respec­tive, food, water and oxy­gen that feeds civil soci­ety. As long as world lead­ers offer eco­nom­ic and envi­ron­men­tal incom­pe­tence and moral cor­rup­tion, many more of us must join and sup­port the lead­er­ship of those who risk incar­cer­a­tion on behalf of all of us. Thank you “Red Car­pet Four” and “Rush­more” for rais­ing the alarm that civil soci­ety can not win the chal­lenge of corrupt/incompetent pow­er with­out all of us work­ing for real solu­tions.

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