Climate Crisis Pushes Sierra Club to End Civil Disobedience Ban

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Climate Crisis Pushes Sierra Club to End Civil Disobedience Ban

After 120 years of using 'lawful means,' group's executive director says 'time is running out' to stop climate disaster

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

After 120 years of advocating on behalf of nature, one of the the nation's largest and oldest environmental organizations—The Sierra Club—has at last decided to end its refusal to participate in acts of civil disobedience.

In a letter to the group's membership, which numbers over one million, executive director of Sierra Club, Michael Brune, announced: "For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every 'lawful means' to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further."

What spawned the decision? As Brune explained—and recognizing that many will comment "what took you so long?"—the change in direction was spurred by recognizing "the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet's climate."

Specifically, Brune said, "the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance" at the White House next month on President's Day weekend.

Brune continued:

We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it -- would be unconscionable. As the president said on Monday, "to do so would betray our children and future generations."  It couldn't be simpler: Either we leave at least two-thirds of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, or we destroy our planet as we know it. That's our choice, if you can call it that.

The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We've worked hard and brought all of our traditional tactics of lobbying, electoral work, litigation, grassroots organizing, and public education to bear on this crisis. And we have had great success -- stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants, and helping grow a clean energy economy. But time is running out, and there is so much more to do. The stakes are enormous. At this point, we can't afford to lose a single major battle. That's why the Sierra Club's Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

That protest, organized by Sierra Club and the climate justice organization 350.org, hopes to see thousands of Americans heading to Washington to create "the largest climate rally in history." The aim will to be to urge President Obama and other political leaders to cancel plans for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and spawn meaningful climate action.

The organizers for the protest released this on video on Tuesday to urge support for attendance at the rally:

The decision to rescind the long-held ban on civil disobedience was made at the highest levels of the organization.

Allison Chin, board president of Sierra Club, added: “The recent decision made by the Board of Directors is not one we take lightly. As a nation, we are beginning to achieve significant success in the fight against climate disruption. But allowing the production, transport, export and burning of the dirtiest oil on Earth now would be a giant leap backwards in that progress. The Board is answering the urgency of this threat with our decision to engage, for one time, in civil disobedience.”

And the San Francisco Chronicle adds:

This is a major symbol of how The Club — and enviros in general — are jacking up pressure on President Obama. Yeah, they say, he gave a major shout-out Monday in his Inaugural Address to taking on climate change, but now is the time to back up the talk with action, they say.

We know that because major enviro — and major Obama donor — Susie Tompkins Buell told us almost a year ago that she was going to hold up giving Obama more cash unless he showed more “leadership” on climate change issues.

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