Direct Action and Climate Change

Earlier this week I was reading in Orion Magazine about these people who took action to shutdown the tar sands oil pipelines last year. I’ve never seen news of their court dates in the mainstream media until actively searching for it to find a semi-recent article in Newsweek.

They face 22 years in prison for cutting a fence and turning an emergency shut-off valve. Felony charges and a gag order so that they couldn’t testify with their explanation, their beliefs, their reasoning for taking this action.

Of course, they will be punished with the full force of the judicial system because anything less might inspire slightly less brave individuals to take action. And once more than just the most courageous, and the most virtuous, are inspired to resist complicity – the oil industry will have something to fear.

Thinking about how our society defines sanity. How we use the law to enforce criminal misguidance and to persecute the ethically-guided.

I don’t have one ounce the courage of these people and I lament the lack of widespread support and awareness that their actions should have brought. They took a bold stand to resist a Goliath that we have inadvertently given permission despite our deepest knowing that its motivation is for profit alone at the expense of all life.

No matter how much we oppose the extraction of earth’s ancient carbon, we are still complicit every time we turn on the lights or drive over to a friend’s house. This thought paralyzes me. If I’m not brave enough to break the laws of a broken society; not powerful, smart, or wealthy enough to build an alternative energy source; and not willing to exit entirely the system that is actively destroying life – I’m the problem. And then coping with this thought: that you’re stuck in this sticky web of horribleness. Where is my agency?

Think about the mental work it takes to realize our reality: we live in a world that is on the brink of disaster and the people who could help us avert catastrophe are unwilling. We live in this surreal world where we keep tumbling closer and closer to collapse (and we see it happening with our own eyes: mass ocean-life extinction, starving polar bears, catastrophic hurricanes, fires, floods, massive refugee movements, etc) while the government, the corporations, the media refuse to acknowledge the problem, making us feel – and also labeling us – insane.

So it’s people like these who are able to break through the veil and remain situated in their own sanity who are the heroes of our time.

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