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It’s Heating Up Out There

2011/07/29

What a week it has been!  With the backdrop of the verging-on-farcical U.S. debt credit crisis brought on by the tea-baggers in Washington, and the pieing of Rupert Murdoch, a whole lot has been going on the global warming front, and not just the extreme weather events.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • In a historic decision, the U.N. Security Council billed climate change as a global threat to peace and security. To read more, click here.
  • For a good review of the extreme weather events around the U.S. and their link to climate change, check out More Scientists See Climate Change In Today’s Extreme Weather Events.
  • And the Harper government’s muzzling of Fisheries Department scientist Kristi Miller made into onto the American Association of Advancement of Science’s radar this week:  Canadian Fish Scientist “Muzzled” By Government.
  • And that’s not all, on the Harper government/climate change front. Alykhan Velshi, Jason Kenney’s right-hand man until a few months ago, has changed from Kenney’s PR guy to the fossil fuel industry’s champion. Velshi is now running ethicaloil.org, a website which proclaims Canada’s tar sands bitumen is the only righteous oil in the world. Sounds like a heroin addict defiantly asserting that he only buys his heroin from the nicest dealers while injecting himself. Read more at Canadian Campaign Puts The Spin on “Ethical” Oil.
  • This past Tuesday, young climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in U.S. federal prison and a $10,000 fine for “disrupting” a Bureau of Land Management auction in the dying days of the Bush administration. The auction was later declared illegal, but federal prosecutors chose to make an example of DeChristopher to discourage other activists from engaging in acts of civil disobedience. I don’t think it had the effect that those in power hoped! DeChristopher, who has conducted himself with dignity and integrity throughout this gruelling experience, had the opportunity to address the court and the judge before his sentence was announced. Here are excerpts from his inspiring statement to the court after his sentencing (fyi, BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management):
…This is really the heart of what this case is about.  The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law.  Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.”  But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding.  I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned…A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration.  In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law.  In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier.  This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet.  This law was about protecting the survival of young generations.  That’s kind of a big deal.  It’s a very big deal to me.  If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens.  My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits.  I take that very personally.  Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice.  Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code.  I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this.  He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.”  That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience.  Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice.  The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

…The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation.  I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated.
…As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted.

…Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change.  They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line.  And they know were are running out of time to turn things around.  The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back.  The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people.  The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel.  The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today.  And neither will I.  I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future.  Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience.  Nothing that happens here today will change that.  I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority.   You have authority over my life, but not my principles.  Those are mine alone.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me…With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.  The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

To read Tim’s full statement, go to Peaceful Uprising.org. If you consider his imprisonment to be your call to action to build a secure future for your children, 350.org is asking each of us to stand up and help defuse the largest carbon bomb on the planet. Go to 350.org-take-a-stand for more. Or go to Peaceful Uprising for more ideas. Here’s Sandra Steinbrenner, mother, biologist, and cancer survivor, speaking after Tim’s sentencing:

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