Martin Luther King And The Call To Direct Action On Climate

Martin Luther King in Birmingham jailVan Jones and I have an op-ed in “The Miami Herald” and many other McClatchy newspapers. I will have more on the moral dimensions of climate change in later posts.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The Atlanta-based King was explaining why he was in prison for nonviolent demonstrations so far from home, responding to a critical public statement by eight Southern white religious leaders. His words are timeless and universal in part because King was a master of language but primarily because he viewed civil rights through a moral lens.

The greater the moral crisis, the more his words apply. The greatest moral crisis of our time is the threat posed to billions —  and generations yet unborn — from unrestricted carbon pollution. Now more than ever, we are “tied in a single garment of destiny,” cloaked as a species in a protective climate that we are in the process of unraveling.

Many have criticized the demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would open a major spigot to the Canadian tar sands, as unwarranted and untimely — unwarranted given our broad dependence on fossil fuels and untimely because of our struggling economy. We disagree.

We think there has been far too little direct action, given the staggering scale of the threat. As the International Energy Agency has explained, we must leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to preserve a livable climate and avoid levels of warming that “even school children know” will be catastrophic for us all. The tar sands would be near the top of any list of the largest, dirtiest pools of carbon that must be forsaken for the sake of humanity.

King explained in his letter, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.”

Has there ever been a problem where more facts from more unimpeachable sources have been collected and ignored than climate change? Every major scientific body and international group has taken to begging and pleading for action.

Last fall, the World Bank — no bastion of eco-consciousness – issued a report aimed to “shock us into action.” It warned that “we’re on track for a 4-degree Celsius warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”

If we don’t act now, then, within decades, a large fraction of the world’s 9 billion people will find themselves living in places whose once stable climate simply now can’t sustain them – either because it is too hot or arid, the land is no longer arable, their glacially fed rivers are drying up, or the seas are rising too fast.

The overwhelming majority of those suffering the most – in this country and especially abroad – will be people who contributed little or nothing whatsoever to the problem.

This would be the greatest injustice in human history, irreversible on a time scale of centuries.

Has there ever been a problem subject to more failed negotiations? The international climate talks have been going on for a quarter century, full of sound and fury, but thwarted in large part by a U.S. Senate that itself talks to death every serious climate bill.

By “self-purification,” King meant preparing the group of protestors for the rigors and trials of nonviolent demonstration. But it’s his thoughts on another group that strike nearest now: “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” he wrote in words that apply to today’s moderate, status quo intelligentsia of every color. “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

We understand why the fossil fuel industry works to block Congressional action and funds what has become the most effective disinformation campaign in history. We are bewildered by those who claim to accept climate science, but feel no urgency to act.

As King put it, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Especially relevant are King’s words about time: “All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.”

As King explains, time “can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will.” We feel the same.

Certainly nothing compares to the centuries of racial injustice King was impatient about. But each year brings an ever-worsening array of megadroughts and superstorms juiced by global warming like a baseball player on steroids. Each year brings higher emissions and ever more dire studies.

We know we’re fast approaching climatic tipping points — the loss of Arctic sea ice, the disintegration of the great ice sheets, the release of vast amounts of carbon from the permafrost, Dust-Bowlification of much of the world’s arable land — that are irreversible and catastrophic.

Even once-reticent climatologists are speaking out because, as Dr. Lonnie Thompson has written, “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” Others, like James Hansen and Jason Box, have themselves joined direct action and been arrested for it.

It is past time for many more to speak out, and for many more to join direct action.

We end with King on the need to act now: “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”


Van Jones is president of Rebuild the Dream and author of “Rebuild the Dream.” Joseph Romm runs and is author of “Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.”

46 Responses to Martin Luther King And The Call To Direct Action On Climate

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    Here is something that would raised get serious attention if women’s groups embraced it…. a sex strike is brought in to the equation. See…
    In 2003 Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace organized nonviolence protests that included a sex strike. As a result, the women were able to achieve peace in Liberia after a 14‑year civil war and helped bring to power the country’s first female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.[11]
    I am wondering if this could be effectively employed here as a campaign targeted at Obama in particular and congress and CEOs in general.

    In any case it will certainly get a lot of attention and highlight even more the issue in the press and on social media.

    Any brave women’s groups out there?

  2. Kay says:

    What kind of direct action would be useful? Shall we brainstorm?…Certainly divestment in the fossil fuel industry is good. How about work sick-outs? I would love to hear ideas.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Inspiring words, but the climate tribe is way too small. Corrupt autocrats who are in control of government, industry, and media have no problem with a population that is about 1/3 awake. Far fewer than that number know anything about the World Bank report, or others like it.

    Pleading with politicians has failed, and direct action remains a curio, irrelevant to those in Red states who still hold veto power in Congress.

    King eventually succeeded because Americans became repulsed by Southern cops beating and murdering peaceful civil rights protestors. These days, Koch and Tillerson are the ones who put gas in our tanks and keep the lights on. Going after them involves connecting to future scenarios, an abstract and difficult proposition, tougher than what King faced.

    The oil companies have gamed government and the media, and even stuck their snouts into schools and universities. They must be confronted and defeated, through finding new and better ways to reach the people.

  4. One critical area involves stopoing the construction of coal export terminals in the US. There are always opportunities for public comment as well as other ways to put pressure on politicians to stop such boondoggles. These are very concrete examples of the kinds of infrastructure that simply needs to be stopped if we’re to turn this around.

  5. Fully agree, Mike.

    The might be why all we have is speaking the truth. Speaking out, calling out deniers as climate criminals.

    The US Justice system is asleep to this, just like it was to Civil Rights. And the horrid climate change denial and deliberate misinformation leads to harm – and it is criminal deception. Not just skepticism.

    I refer you to some eloquent words in a blog by psychologist Doug Craig – about the struggle to control the language around this issue, he writes

    “…this has always been the issue with conservatives and Republicans. They have understood from the beginning that the facts of anthropogenic climate change mean we cannot carry on with business as usual. We can’t keep burning fossil fuels. Bottom line, that is the meaning of this. That is what worries them. Not the facts but the implications….”

    “…They immediately get paranoid and think that somebody (who, exactly?) wants to control them, take away their freedom and their land. I am OK with giving all power to solve this to the Republican and Tea Parties as long as they actually solve this. Who cares how we get there as long as we arrive? The truth is, however, the deniers are only interested in denial and delay until it is too late. For those of us who love our children and have hope they will have a future, that is unacceptable. We are not willing to trade their lives so fossil fuel companies can continue to amass endless wealth and power.”

    So first step is to clean up the ethics of misinformation. Permitting their denial, distraction and misinformation just permits criminal harm. Not just skepticism “I’m not sure” is one thing. But real deception “there is no global warming and humans are not causing it,” We have been crippled by the delay from the last 20 to 30 years of highly paid PR distractions by the fossil fuel industry and their paid government lobbying. It is like smelling smoke, and listening to the voices telling us to go back to sleep, instead of facing the flames early when it is easier to put out the fire.

    Now here we are. Without justice. Without retribution. But very angry.

    Justice and truth will be painfully faced as we face weather and climate calamities. We will not forget who pushed this catastrophe forward.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    So many factors came together to make the civil rights movement succeed. We can learn more.

    Labor unions were stronger and had the logistical expertise for direct action. It didn’t have to mean they were all in favor. Lyndon Johnson desired to give history a worthy sequel to FDR’s New Deal, and he was a pro at moving legislation through Congress. News media brought fire hoses, attack dogs, and human faces to our TVs and magazines.

    Then there was the fellowship of veterans. It might not seem so important to others, but it touched me.

    In 1967 I went out to raise money for the Poor People’s March, and the most generous donor was a white veteran of VietNam who’d shared foxholes with persons of color. He emptied his pockets for the cause, except for the cost of a pack of cigarettes, for which he apologized.

    If proactive climate protection is to succeed, we need versions of all of the above.

  7. Superman1 says:

    What you have is a logistics network for supplying fossil fuels, where the nodes are the suppliers, distributors, and consumers, and the links are the transport lines that connect the nodes. You need to take out some combination of nodes and links to minimize the flow through the network.

  8. Superman1 says:

    The Civil Rights movement succeeded because, like the anti-smoking movement, there was a national majority that wanted it to succeed. That majority does not yet exist with regard to climate change.

  9. Paul Klinkman says:

    Follow Dr. King’s teaching because you want to be effective. Talk with your adversaries. If talking fails, protest. Then talk with your adversaries again. If talking fails, move on to civil disobedience. Then talk with your adversaries again.

    With tobacco, our only real adversaries were (and are) the tobacco companies who stood to lose profits from their immoral business. With climate change, our only real adversaries are the owners of fossil fuel companies and anyone in their employ. I include big fossil’s hired congresspeople in this group.

    I explicitly don’t include Christian conservatives in this hardened group. The idea of frying most of God’s creation, making millions of species extinct for relatively gratuitous mammon reasons, should be unacceptable. Who shall we send to talk to them, early and often? Bill McKibbin is a Methodist, so that’s a good start.

    We need to talk to all sorts of borderline groups. Labor should come down firmly on the side of local renewables jobs as opposed to pumping Iraq and Iran dry. What is labor doing in bed with Keystone?

    We need to reach the small conservative farmers, who vote, and tell them about what fracking is doing to their often-dwindling water supplies, also about how they may become the new Okies, foreclosed one by one, because of the way they voted for a rich denialist.

  10. Paul Klinkman says:

    The more diverse, the better. For some awful reason the advertiser-supported press often won’t give a hoot because fossil companies buy big ads in their papers. Exxon, for example, likes to buy column-inches right on the New York Times’s editorial page. Why depend on the Times’s editorial board when you can write your own junk?

    So, really unusual civil disobedience forces the papers to cover the issues.

    Social disobedience (my term) is when you’re not quite breaking the law, but your actions really cause some kind of trouble. Probably the most creative action from the civil rights movement was at the New York World’s Fair. Hundreds of people went to pay for their World’s Fair tickets with jars of pennies. Sometimes they challenged the ticket-taker’s counting. In the end, nobody else could get in to see the fair. The City of New York changed their discriminatory hiring practices.

    Then Congress rushed through a law that any merchant only has to accept as many as 25 pennies. Important note for down the road: The same law said absolutely nothing whatsoever about nickels!

  11. Paul Klinkman says:

    Some things shouldn’t exist. An entire website,, grew up around people giving the finger to gas-guzzling Humvee 2 SUV cars. Soon there wasn’t any social cachet to driving one of those energy pigs. GM, facing bankruptcy, got out of the Humvee 2 business.

    We don’t need a port in Oregon to ship U.S. coal to China, where they ship the carbon dioxide and other pollutants right back to us. We don’t need a leaky tar sand sludge pipeline running across our property to China.

    We don’t need any more oil and gas leases. One relatively poor man got 3 years in jail by putting in a high bid on some leases, a high bid that he couldn’t pay. It sounds like jamming the finances is a REAL crime against big fossil.

    The Yes Men don’t commit crimes. They just punk the oil companies. Jamming communications is interesting. A protest outside of a big fossil event such as the annual ALEX conference of crooked state senators would be interesting. Bring cameras, try to get embarrassing indoor photos of these guys drinking or smoking cigars, and put the photos on signs back home before the state senators get home. So who was that servant guy who video recorded Mitt Romney addressing the millionaires in the 2012 election?

  12. Joe Romm says:

    Actually it does exist. Has for a while.

  13. Raul M. says:

    Thanks Joe,
    Article so good I emailed the link to myself.
    I’m sure I will want to read it again.

  14. Joan Savage says:

    Rolling boycotts.

    Over a year ago on Climate Progress, Mike Roddy, Lou Grinzo and I, with Bill McKibben’s encouragement, had a conversation about boycotts of various Koch Industries products. Having had time to think about it (!) I would like us to consider the possibility of rolling boycotts, changing the target from week to week.

    In this, a particular product or brand is avoided for a brief but economically significant time interval (a week) followed by another week, another boycott of another product by another company.

    An example would be a week of not buying a particular brand of gasoline, and then shifting to something else, like a brand of unsustainably harvested paper products, followed by a product that had relied heavily on coal-fired electricity in its manufacture.

    CEOs take heed of even a single percentage point drop in sales, so the effect is made even without a majority of the country involved. The sheer anticipation of being on the list, or having a calendar that shows which week they are “up” would be part of the process.

    Now that we have rapid social media, communicating what’s up for boycott this week is straightforward.

    Seems possible. Reactions?

    Onward – Climate Protectors, Climate Hawks.

  15. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent Joe (& Van Jones) speaking the truth out there in mainstream media…thank you!

  16. Jean says:

    I think we need to at least surround a Fox “News” station since the lying media is the problem

  17. It takes just a bit of imagination to see that climate change is a civil rights issue of the first magnitude. No one has the right to impose a degraded future on anyone else to maintain a lifestyle.

    I share everyone’s anger toward the the big-money deliberate obstructionists.

    It’s an insidious problem, though. None of us comes to this situation with clean hands. We’re all using fossil fuels at this very moment.

    We say that we can maintain our modern technological world of seven billion without them, and we can–but not without a painful abandonment of investments in the facilities that use fossil fuels: not just the coal, oil, and gas companies themselves, and the pipelines, the ships, the filling stations, and the businesses that support these industries, but power plants, cars, trucks, furnaces, and pretty much everything made out of plastic, right down to the Saran Wrap you so frugally stored that half-sandwich in.

    What does this do to everyone’s retirement investments? It impairs them by multiple decile percentages, at least. That happens as soon as we pass a law that means leaving fossils in the ground, because the stock market is an anticipatory mechanism.

    At the same time, we have to redirect what wealth remains to the new technologies that may, one day, allow us to approach the level of ease, convenience, and freedom that the present energy-dense fossil world does. (Of course that ease, convenience, and freedom is being unfairly consumed by us at the expense of the future as long as fossils persist.)

    That’s where the situation is very different. If the heads of Exxon and Peabody were siccing police on renewables advocates, or turning fire hoses on organic farmers, and we ourselves weren’t using fossil fuels, we could work up the indignation and outrage to take to the streets. But it’s not like that.

    The fossil fuel companies are doing whatever they can to ward off this threat to their survival. That is the legal and fiduciary imperative of any corporation: to do what is right by shareholders. That’s why divestiture makes sense. But when the level of participation actually starts to affect stock prices, things are likely to stall as we ourselves face the halving of our own retirements.

    Many of us would do this if we had a strong sense of common commitment, like the Abolitionists had.

    At the core of this problem is the power of corporations, and the fantastically efficient economic structure that they underpin. Step one to really solving the climate crisis is to say corporations are not people, and money is not speech. It is to redefine the legal status of the entire system. It is to weaken and upset our economic system, at least in the near term. It’s a revolutionary proposition, not a reformatory one.

    Like slavery, climate change may have to come down to a confrontation. I think the path of violence that was taken to end slavery may have to be taken again. I’m not advocating this; I fear it. But revolution won’t happen until things get really bad, until the weather is doing to all of us what the Alabama state police did to the marchers following Dr. King across the Selma bridge.

    Unless we can find ways to create that common willingness to sacrifice.

  18. Superman1 says:

    Only on paper, as reflected in ‘soft’ polling data.

  19. john atcheson says:

    As clear a clarion call to action as any I’ve seen from two of the best communicators out there … I envision a hunger strike of 10,000 in front of the White House … it’s come to that.

  20. Jeff Huggins says:

    Finding “Integrity” in the Movement, and Building Credibility

    Imagine two people who have the same goals and who consider themselves to constitute a movement to achieve those goals. (In other words, for purposes of understanding my point here, think of the “movement” as consisting of two people with the same goals.)

    Now, imagine that one of the people, who has the right end in mind (but perhaps hasn’t learned an important lesson yet), persistently votes, in essence, for the status quo by voting for the “lesser of two evils” and, thereby, enables leaders to stay in office who are unwilling to make the necessary changes to address climate change. (It was not long ago that a rather large majority of the climate movement was unwilling to make their potential votes for Obama contingent on his saying and Doing certain things before the election.)

    Now imagine that the other person in this two-person movement is considering direct action, non-violent civil disobedience, and is willing to do it. So, we have one of the people voting, in essence, for the status quo, and the other person considering and perhaps engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, risking jail and so forth.

    Do you see the problem? Such a “movement” lacks internal integrity and necessarily suffers from diminished credibility. By enabling status-quo politicians, and repeatedly rewarding them by putting them back into their positions no matter what they do or don’t do, the one hand is undermining a great deal of the potential impact of the direct action. These two people may have the same goal, and may both be well-intentioned, but the actions of one of them substantially undermine, or at least greatly diminish the potential impact of, the actions of the other one.

    Think about it.

    Cheers for now,


  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Lysistrata Option, eh? I remember a production we saw in high school, and we roared with mirth at the Spartan with his ‘scroll’ tucked under his tunic. The Greeks were less sexually repressed, however, so, today, under the influence of the monotheists, things might go awry, I fear, in unpredictable ways.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A mole at the Bilderberg meeting would be revelatory.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’ve always liked the idea of boycotts, but worried about the effects on workers. However, now, when workers face low pay, casualisation, ‘zero hours’ contingent employment, brutal working conditions etc, all absolutely certain to worsen as neo-feudalism tightens its grip, I’m convinced that they have nothing much to lose. Of course the Right will try to turn affected workers against the ‘evil Greens’ who are taking away their highly exploited ‘work’, but any way you look at it, things are about to get really ugly. With luck boycotts will also receive support from massively exploited workers, who must surely be near the point when they realise that they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from bringing down a truly evil economic system.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Civil Rights movement ‘succeeded’ because segregation and prejudice was a bad propaganda look in the Third World during the Cold War. Once the victory was ‘won’, it was undone by the ‘War on Drugs’, mass incarceration of African-Americans, economic neglect and Clintonite ‘welfare reform’. Since the GFC began its latest phase, in 2008, black and Hispanic households have seen their meagre household wealth reduced by around 50%. The only problem with the ‘victory’ in the Civil Rights campaign is that it was made Pyrrhic by the unchanging malevolence of the Right.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Hunger strikes of the non-incarcerated are a grand idea, but the strikers would need to take it to the limit. Who wants to die, or damage themselves, in order to just possibly get a beneficial political reaction? It must, I believe, come down to mass disobedience, mass arrest and mass incarceration, whereupon the forces of darkness will, you can bet on it, respond with vigour. However, there remains a faint chance that it will provoke a healing crisis in society. All other options that I can think of have zero chance of success.

  26. Kota says:

    I’ve no idea if there are such things as ‘specialty’ banks, but if one can be created to transfer 401ks and IRAs to, that would lend the money to solar installations and windmill installations I would be happy to move my funds there. They could call them 40sunKs and IRAirs. There is no use having these accounts if there is no future, and the only way there will be is to get these funds moving on installations NOW.

    Also I would REALLY like to see people in the know actually say what the future actually could be like instead of “really bad” or “we don’t want to go there” or all the other things I read when it comes to 11 degrees F or 6 degrees C at the end of the century. Too many think it will be ‘uncomfortable’ not the actual horror. In Mark Lynas book – ‘SIX DEGREES’ – that chapter on six degrees would terrify anyone, well enough the degrees to get there. People should know REALLY the horrors of what they are facing. It’s nothing like ‘oh gee, I guess there won’t be any more sking or something’. Tell them in nice vivid detail what happens to the human body when the car breaks down in 130 weather in the middle of a drought with sandstorm. We are way too protected from the physical horrors of what climate change actually portends. The fact that we are the only humans in our human history that are constantly breathing this much CO2 in our air is creepy! We didn’t evolve in this stuff and it just keeps getting mega tons worse.
    Stop with the gentle and lay out the last 95% extinction event nasty detail by detail as well as we know it and then hammer home that we are doing it thousands of years faster than that one.

  27. Solar Jim says:

    Slavery was immoral and was abolished.
    Destroying the integrity of the planet’s biosphere, or man-made “climate change,” is immoral and also should be abolished. And that means abolishing the concept of fossil fuels. We know now how to do this.

    The fierce urgency of now calls for abolition. Think of public “fuel” subsidies as legalization of slave trading. As long as they exist anywhere we all live immorally.

  28. Solar Jim says:

    No one “really knows” exactly how the worse case scenario would unfold (we are not Gods), although there are possibilities for a geologic scale extinction event. Suffice it to say, if we kill the phytoplankton through acidification and heating and the forests through drought, infestation, heat waves and resulting forest fire etc. then atmospheric oxygen concentrations could fall precipitously.

    What we poorly call “climate change” is a man-made biogeochemical phenomena. It is not only about the changing weather, or even sea level rise. But it certainly is centered on the conversion of lithosphere carbon into carbonic acid gas, aka carbon dioxide, by us.

  29. Mik Aidt says:

    “I have a dream that one day humanity will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: that all generations — including those to come — are created equal and have the same right to enjoy life on this planet.

    I have a dream that one day even our country, a desert country sweltering with the heat and wild weather of global warming, will be transformed into an oasis of security and stability.

    I have a dream that my three little children [replace with your own number] will one day live on a planet where they will not have to fear whether the civilisation they grew up in and helped build will still be there in just a few decades.

    I have a dream that one day this country, whose politicians are presently saying that climate change is a massive scam, will be transformed into a situation where solar panels, wind farms and hydroelectricity power the entire nation, including all vehicles we drive on the roads, and where even our planes fly on renewable energy.

    With this faith we will be able to work together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for climate safety together, even without knowing whether we will ever actually achieve that goal.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Inspired by a public speech by American activist Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered on 28 August 1963 to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, USA.

  30. Brian R Smith says:

    Joe & Van. People who have not encountered the moral argument for direct action on climate need to hear it. You have put it eloquently, put it into the mainstream and I look forward to the rest of the series. (I found it at 4 other papers. There was only one comment among them, with other papers offering no comment option, making reader interest in those papers questionable. Still, the effort has to be made..) The argument, for its purpose, is intentionally in the abstract, not mentioning KXL, etc., and that’s appropriate. But for your readers here, and an army of moral siblings around the country already looking for action solutions and seeing the minimal effect Tarsands Whitehouse actions have had on the President, for example, …the questions around how to go forward while waiting for mainstream citizens to catch up are in the desperate zone.

    No doubt sustained, multiple direct actions have built movement strength. But it’s not settled that direct actions so far have had much effect on White House policy, media attention to energy & climate or the prospects for Dems to regain the House in 2014 – to name a few of the important targets. In this case, and to get a grip on how to improve direct action outcomes, questions that need to be asked may include these:

    If direct action has to reach critical mass involvement to be effective and it’s not getting there fast enough, why not & what can be done about it? Is there enough collaboration in the works to better coordinate actions nationally? Is money a problem? Or are we doing all the right things but have to just wait for momentum to build?

    What about direct action via media? Climate scientists delivering a televised & all media State of the Climate address to the nation, backed by every known ally to the cause is well imaginable, doable and would do more to inspire activism and break the national silence than anything I can think of. Is there any interest from big greens to work with scientists, business, mayors, policy orgs like CAP, etc. to sidestep the President’s inaction by going direct to the public in a major way? And if not, why not?

    Just lookin at my watch…

  31. Paul Klinkman says:

    OK out there, which credit union or other fund wants to take people’s longer-term investment money and put it into a bond portfolio of local photovoltaic systems, wind turbines, small hydroelectric systems and cow power? Also, do all of the 70 1/2 years old paperwork and other IRA papers for your customers. Local credit unions already offer CD IRAs.

  32. Paul Klinkman says:

    Don’t forget to make big signs. To be seen by drivers on an interstate, print one letter per printed page in 600 point type and scotch tape the letters together. For city streets, 80 point letters might be big enough. Note the size of the lettering, “I AM A MAN!” in the Memphis sanitation workers strike.

    Holding down the ALT key and hitting the PRINTSCREEN key takes a snapshot of your screen when a cartoon is on the screen. Then you can print out 1/4 sections of the cartoon and paste them together with scotch tape onto a poster board. Cartoons reach people in a way that words don’t.

  33. Here’s an idea that I had awhile back about boycotting Fox news, but it could just as easily be used for this application (I tried to get the Move On founders to take it on, to no avail). The idea still needs work, but here goes:

    We need some web programming/marketing wizards to track all web fossil fuel advertising (automatically, of course, using bots), where they are being placed, which products they are supporting, what other issues the ads are supporting, so that we have some sense for where and how the fossil fuel folks are spending their money. This also has the benefit of giving insights into which news media are most beholden to the fossil fuel interests through advertising revenue.

    Then you need someone who can figure out which companies make which products (because there are often layers upon layers of corporate structure between the owner of a brand and the ultimate beneficiary of the profits from that brand). This information needs to be in a web database so that ordinary people can figure out who to boycott. In the beginning, centralized decisionmakers can call for boycotts of specific products (and it’s a bit easier when the companies sell directly to consumers, like many of the oil companies) but ultimately you’ll need some way for people who want to take a stand to have accurate information on which giant conglomerates are responsible for which products. You need grassroots action, and having such a database enables it.

    I haven’t fully thought this through, but it’s something worth considering. I’m not sure it’s a project, but I’ll email Bill McKibben with the suggestion.

  34. Brian R Smith says:

    Mia culpa, you did mention Keystone & I missed it.

  35. Raul M. says:

    Direct action-
    1) eye docs could take action on the contact lenses for uv protection. You know contact lenses that stop uv rays but don’t have corrective power could protect eyesight. The concept of protecting eyesight should be high on the list of things eye doctors find important. I think that the number of people who would benifit from protective contact lenses would far outnumber those who would be disadvantaged by such. Also the lasting disadvantage of uv damage seems far worse than the discomfort of incorrect contact use by those who might be disadvantage otherwise.
    Looking at the uv index by sunwise EPA shows a small island to the lower right of Florida that is projected to be at 14 on the scale. Now 11+ is rated at extreme. The scale should havean increase in the terminology at 13 so 14 would be half way into the next descriptive word after extreme but what is the descriptive word after extreme?

  36. Raul M. says:

    Also I’m thinking that the minutes to skin damage would be less than 5 minutes at a level 14 on the index. Is it the WHO who figure such things out?

  37. A word or two about the “appalling silence of the good people”: During the civil rights era, a critical mass of people could either look around their own cities or at least watch TV and see that something terrible was wrong. But the temperature rise so far just doesn’t hit you on the head like southern sheriffs did to voters. Now you know, and I know, that storms and droughts are more intense. But we have all seen storms, and it takes math and graphs to see the difference. Math and graphs don’t bring most people into the streets.

    We also know there is some very good scientific work pointing to the coming problems. But people hear that about so many subjects, from so many different directions, so often, sometimes real and sometimes imaginary, that it is pretty hard to sort them out. Heck, my inbox daily brings a half a dozen different demands that I become outraged about a half a dozen different things. Many of them are brand new to me, and I ignore almost all of them because I have already adopted enough stuff to work on.

    Maybe direct action is needed to make this one stand out, but it should not be attempted without making it clear why this particular problem is an emergency. Seeing it as an emergency is the obstacle to public understanding. There was recently a good Climate Progress post about one reason for that. People are just too used to waiting for their homes to become too warm and then turning down the thermostat for a quick remedy. That won’t work for global warming, as everyone here probably knows, but members of the public don’t realize it. They don’t have experience with the sluggish response of the climate system.

    Another problem is that warming of 5 or 10 degrees Fahrenheit just doesn’t sound too severe to people who regularly see swings of 70 or 80 degrees from winter to summer. Furthermore, enough warming to turn winter snow into winter rain just doesn’t seem so bad to people in the Snow Belt. You and I understand the problems with 5 or 10 degrees, but it is just in the direct experience of most people that dangerous warming should be much larger.

    So I guess what I am asking here is understanding of something. Ordinary folks who understand the potential problem but not the emergency do not really deserve to have the fire, brimstone, and damnation rhetoric directed toward them. They are more worried than they were. But they still have not had the opportunity to understand why the problem won’t wait.

    And I am also asking, whether direct action is taken or not, that the effort to educate the public not be abandoned in favor of political pressure. I have seen it before that people involved in pressure and action start to regard education as trivial and beside the point. But education is neither of these, and it is starting to work. I can see this in the groups I talk to. I am sometimes invited to talk about either climate or glaciers (I have been out to see for myself what they are doing). I see audiences more worried than before, just needing some more information to see the emergency.

    Wow. 552 words. Sorry.

  38. bill mckibben says:

    This is a great piece. Thanks to you and Van for it!

  39. It’s not a bank, but there is a way to directly loan money to solar installations. It’s called Mosaic, and it’s been a runaway success so far:
    You should be a relatively sophisticated investor to put money into these kinds of loans, but it is a way to get returns of about 4.5%. I have no financial connection to the company, I just think it’s a cool idea.

  40. Leif says:

    Progressives need to jump on a issue that is black and white enough for even the tin hats to understand on a personal level. IMO that is the unfair taxation of “We the People” to be taxed in such a manor that it leads directly to the astronomical profits of the few and the pollution of the commons for all of us. The original “Tea Party” was the rebellion of taxation without representation. Today the “socially enabled capitalistic economy” is far worse. Taxation in support of the ecocide of the planet as witnessed by all who have the guts to look. All the taxes that I, have paid in my life time would not cover one day’s worth of subsidies to the top five richest fossil Barons out there. The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why do progressives allow our taxes to subsidize the richest fossil Barons in the world? The the rape and pillage of the Earth’s natural resources? The ecocide of the Planet. The very future of all life forms evolved since the dawn of time itself? The future legacy we leave for our children? The mystery, IMO, is not that the Tea Party is gullible to the big money propaganda but that most of progressives are so passive.

  41. Joan Savage says:

    I agree that having a transparent data base is a solid way to develop either your version, in which people make private decisions at any time, or my version where there is a detectable blip in sales due to a group action over a few days or week.

    If a company makes progress they could be rewarded by dropping lower on a list. Less CO2 emissions per product is basic.

  42. Joan Savage says:

    That’s why I stress a ROLLING boycott where a company, like a maker of plastic toys, has to sit on its inventory for a few days, but not long enough for massive lay-offs.

    Another example that came to mind are the small independent gas station owners. Even a 24 hour interval of no sales for a brand would be enough to bump tanker deliveries and upstream of that, the distribution plant schedules, without putting the franchise owner completely out of business. It would just send a message.

  43. Sasparilla says:

    I really like that idea Joan…long enough to affect the values of the quarter’s results (CEO’s don’t like their quarterly results coming up short) but short enough not to cause layoffs – beautiful.

  44. perceptiventity says:

    Germs. Destiny? Go lick progress? leming free society is no longer possible what else am we does here but tu rezist

  45. perceptiventity says: