Is it time for civil disobedience at coal plants? Would you get arrested to help save a livable climate? Here’s your chance Monday in DC.

Inarguably, “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet” as our top climate scientist, James Hansen, has explained.

Hansen will be joining more than 2,500 people who have registered to participate in “the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience on global warming in the country’s history” — this Monday, March 2 at the Capitol Power Plant. The Plant is owned by Congress and burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill. Details can be found at the Capitol Climate Action Coalition website, where you’ll find this video from Hansen urging participation:

If you still need persuading, read the open letter from two of America’s leading men of letters, Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben (see McKibben and Berry call for civil disobedience at DC coal plant: “Bear witness to an evil”).

I will repeat my thoughts on civil disobedience against coal below — and I am quite interested in hearing your thoughts.

Certainly we should have stopped building new coal plants in this country a long time ago. Indeed, we are going to have to start shutting down existing plants as soon as possible (see “Hansen et al: We must phase-out coal emissions by 2030 and stabilize at or below 350 ppm“).

The coal industry has no one to blame but itself and its allies. The industry, together with the Bush administration, decided not to take the threat of global warming seriously and therefore walked away from the central effort to develop a coal plant that doesn’t destroy the climate (see “In seeming flipflop, Bush drops mismanaged ‘NeverGen’ clean coal project“).

Thankfully, we have more than enough affordable and practical low-carbon alternatives to coal available right now (see “If Obama stops dirty coal, as he must, what will replace it? Part 1” and Part 2).

I can’t argue with the call for civil disobedience. If any issue cries out for civil disobedience and marching in the streets, it is this one. That said, each person must decide on their own how best to express their conscience in the public arena consistent with their values.

I am very fortunate to have this blog and many other means of communicating the dire nature of the effort to stop humanity’s self-destruction. Therefore, I am not going to participate in this activity — although I do reserve the right to change this judgment if President Obama and Congress fail to take the strongest of actions to reverse U.S. emssions trends. So I don’t see how I can call on others to do so (see “Gore calls for civil disobedience to stop coal. But will he lead like Gandhi and King?“)

But Hansen’s plea (and Berry’s and McKibben’s letter) deserves to be widely seen — and their call to civil disobedience needs to be seriously considered by anyone who understands what it means that humanity is headed inexorably towards over 850 ppm and more than 5°C warming this century (see “Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and “M.I.T. joins climate realists, doubles its projection of global warming by 2100 to 5.1°C“).

14 Responses to Is it time for civil disobedience at coal plants? Would you get arrested to help save a livable climate? Here’s your chance Monday in DC.

  1. Nancy says:

    Would I be willing to get arrested to help halt climate disruption? You betcha! I’ll be there.

    Hope you change your mind, Joe. I’ll be looking for you. Bring your daughter…..that little cutie will remind us what we’re fighting for.

  2. Lewis says:

    Unless disobedience actually shuts down plants for a time and actually inconveniences those who don’t accept the evidence or don’t bother at all or enough if they do it will just be noise.

    Until the media accept that there are not two sides to empirical scientific fact it will be uncovered and unnoticed and ‘look at these crazy people you should be scared of because they’re trying to shut off the electricity to save polar bears.’

  3. I agree with Lewis — a far more effective form of protest is a physical interruption of the process itself. Ghandi didn’t make salt from the sea for nothing.

  4. paulm says:

    Well come to the fold.

  5. Daphne says:

    I suppose spending a few hours in jail is worth a healthy planet, I wonder how the air quality is in prison. I’ll be with you in spirit!

  6. paulm says:

    Can you blog on climate change from there?

  7. Gail D says:

    The time is NOW. Let’s not wait to see if this country once again fails to meet this crisis with appropriate bold measures – for it will be too late then. It is the job of all of us who get it, to create opportunities and make best use of them to push this Congress and this President to face the harsh reality and respond decisively.

    I have been debating with myself for weeks now… will I go to DC or not. I, like you Joe, feel that I can do my part in other ways to help get the message out there. And besides, this is a rough time for any additional expenses (transportation & hotel). To top it off, I have motion sickness issues and I get a bit queasy just thinking about the 10 hour train ride.

    But, once my brain finished tallying all the pros and cons of the will I or won’t I dilemma, there was space for my heart to be heard. In an instant, I knew that of course I need to be there. I must be there…. We ALL do.

    All the blogs and articles have said it. The science has said it. This is IT. The time in NOW. This is our one, last chance to get it right.

    May the passion in our hearts be the spark that ignites this movement and makes possible a future for us all.

  8. paulm says:

    well said Gail.

  9. I have come to believe that targeted closures of coal plants, Congress, the Senate is essential. More importantly the narrative about the issue needs to change. No one wants to be without energy, coal fire, nuclear, oil and gas.
    For how would we communicate the disrupting of commerce to get a point across of our pending complete energy shut down in the coming years will be important; it will be the most powerful message if the message could be managed to bring solutions.The blow back from electricity disruption may close more minds than open them.
    Building and providing alternative sustainable energy jobs is the way and it means we have to start manufacturing things again. Being that Protectionism has set in, we must build our own life rafts quickly. How we do this, where and when we give support for green technology who has access will define our ability to step up to our earthly challenge.
    It is the energy companies lobbyists that we need to out do. Congress needs its “Ut O moment.”

  10. A breaking update for y’all:

    Pelosi and Reid call on Capitol Power Plant to stop burning coal. Read the press release on Speaker Pelosi’s website:

  11. Ernie Huber says:

    We will know we’ve won when people like Nancy Pelosi also joins the civil disobedience or when Obama comes to address the gathering on the Mall, or comes to bail us out.

  12. Roger says:

    Thanks for mentioning this again, Joe. This event has grown big legs.

    Look what happened when our leaders in DC heard that we were serious about not having coal warm them in winter, and cool them in summer. After years of delay, word came down to stop coal use at the Capitol now!

    By the way, because of the symbolism of the Capitol coal plant for the country, the action is still on for Monday, so all of you who haven’t yet decided to join us, you can still change your minds–you too, Joe (:>).

    Like so many others, I have tried writing letters, blogging, organizing community actions, lobbying, tabling, going on multi-day walks in three different states, you name it. Now is the time to put words to action!

  13. Harry says:

    I was there and it was a great event. No one got arrested however but it was a great kickoff for further protests. I has to be done this way. This is the only thing that the fossil fools understand. Every event should get bigger and bigger. We need your bodies if at all possible at every event you can attend.

    I flew from Wisconsin to Washington on the spur of the moment. I had some airline miles from my job and a place to stay. See if you can figure out some way of getting to the next one by hook or by crook.

    As you all know this is important. We have to lead with our bodies as well as our minds.