A Time for Nonviolent Action
Now is the time for non-violent civli disobedience to convince President Barack Obama to exercise his option to block the construction of the Keystone XL oil tar sands pipeline.
The pipeline is part of an effort to develop a Saudi Arabia scale reserve of Canadian oil tar sands to be refined and then pumped across the U.S. to serve export markets. Good business maybe.
But for the climate and for any chance to stave off ecological catastrophe, according to climate scientist Jim Hansen, the pipeline means “Game over” for the climate. You know-- drought, flood, famine, war, mass extinction. No more NFL.
What's unusual about the Keystone pipeline is that the President has the power to block it without Congressional approval.The climate change deniers and Senators who have never seen an oil project they didn't love have no power here.
It's President Obama who has the singular opportunity to stand up and for once say, They shall not pass. And mean it. And stick to his words. And begin to offer us change we can believe in.
Led by 350.org, a civil disobedience campaign begun in August at the White House has led to around 1,000 arrests. But Obama has not yet been moved.
We need to change political expectations and political consequences for pillage as usual. From discussions with friends, it's clear that people understand the stakes and would appreciate the opportunity to act for a day as if they were MLK, or Rosa Parks, or Gandhi, or Thoreau.
The plan is simple. I was in Concord, NH and it occurred to me that I should visit Democratic Party headquarters to discuss the tar sands pipeline and inform them that unless the President announced he would follow the path of ecological sanity, I and my wife would return and sit down in front of the door.
Decentralized non-violent actions, aimed at Obama for President Offices -- or Democratic Party offices as logical second choice, would put unbearable political pressure on the President. They handle protests in front of the White house much better than determined actions all across the country--particularly focused in key political states in the 2012 Presidential election like NH.
The actions would also make local democratic politicians extremely unhappy. This is the dynamic in New Hampshire that led to the swift scrapping of plans for an Eastern high level radioactive waste dump in the mid-1980s under the Reagan administration. Local protest made Republican politicians very uncomfortable. They either had to support the President and take a position that infuriated the local voters, or oppose the President. Within weeks, the Eastern dump site plan disappeared.
The decentralized pipeline actions must be run in strict nonviolent fashion. First, people should ask to meet with local Obama campaign, or Party officials to discuss the matter. Second, if the project is not scrapped, people return to leaflet.
Third, people take classic nonviolent action through silent vigils, public prayer and fasting and non-violent sit downs or sit-ins at the office.
It is a difficult time. Climate disaster is becoming the new normal. An ascendant right wing denies the reality of unfolding ecological disaster. Yes, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin et.al. would be worse. But the pursuit of a, “It could be worse,” strategy doesn't win elections, or stop climate change.
But action overcomes despair. Action, the decision of a woman not to sit in the back of the bus, can have epochal affects. Now is our time for non-violent action against the oil sands pipeline. We can not stand-by and watch business as usual lead us into unimaginable catastrophe.