Officials in the Obama administration privately admit that the science demands much more rapid emission cuts than Waxman-Markey would yield, but they say that their hands are tied by a recalcitrant Congress.
Is that so? Has President Obama provided direction or guidelines for what he expects from Congress?
This is a problem that demands strong leadership. The only special interest that should be calling the tune is the public’s special interest. Mountaintop removal should be banned. We should move rapidly to terminate coal use except where all emissions are captured.
The truth is that the climate problem cannot be solved without taking on special interests, specifically the coal industry. That is possible. The coal industry is but a fraction of what it once was; alternative industries will be far more beneficial to the nation and provide better jobs.
President Franklin Roosevelt, for the general good, took on more powerful special interests.
Margaret Thatcher showed that the coal industry is not omnipotent. This does not mean that coal workers should be abandoned – on the contrary, it would be straightforward to have programs in the affected states that provide support and opportunities for all of today’s coal workers.
President Obama is our best hope, perhaps the only hope, of achieving real change in the near term. But we have to level with him.
Another truth that has become apparent: our climate/environment leaders are not people located in Washington. The leaders are members of the public who understand the situation and have the courage to act on it.
I met a couple of them recently:
Tim DeChristopher, the University of Utah student, who, realizing that it makes no sense to be going after the last drop of oil on pristine public lands, outbid the oil companies for drilling rights. He has been charged with two felonies (because he had no money to pay for the drilling rights) and is threatened with 10 years in prison (he is facing about $100,000. in legal costs -- you can contribute to his defense at ).
You can see a rationale for Tim’s defense in the above charts. The efforts of fossil interests to go after every last drop of oil may leave his generation with a $12 trillion cleanup bill – that’s just for restoring the air (removing 30 ppm of CO2), without consideration of payment for damage due to rising seas – and what is the price of species exterminated?
Larry Gibson, the Mountain Man near Coal River Mountain who refuses to let Massey Energy blow up the mountain where he lives and his relatives are buried. These are the people with real courage – it made me nervous just to ride in Gibson’s pickup in hostile territory. Larry and I both have pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction during the protest on June 23 and are requesting a trial.
On the subject of civil resistance (Mahatma Gandhi explained why civil resistance, as opposed to civil disobedience, is a better philosophy), a recent note from Damian Carrington of the Guardian and Observer reads:
Given your involvement in the Kingsnorth trial, I thought you would be interested to know the result of the trial of the 29 people that stopped a coal train going to Drax. They were found guilty of the main charge after the judge ruled out the necessity defence. We have covered the trial extensively (unlike our competitors) and you can if you wish read more . Their is quite something. I would very much like to include your reaction to the verdict. Could you send me a line or two?
I responded that they are right to keep the focus on the necessity defense.
Civil resistance is not easy, but if governments continue to abdicate their responsibility to citizens, in favor of special interests, it seems essential. Strength comes from realization of rightness of course, and should be increased, not diminished, by temporary setbacks.
(Excerpted from )