Unstoppable Force or Immovable Object: Which Do You Want to Be?

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Unstoppable Force or Immovable Object: Which Do You Want to Be?

What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? In the case of the fossil fuel industry meeting the growing force of the climate movement, the answer is “change!”

(Photo: Elizabeth Stilwell/flickr/cc)

For too long, fossil fuel dinosaurs have followed a business-as-usual plan of pillaging and polluting. Stubbornly sticking to the lies they’ve had to tell, in order to keep the profits pouring in. This past week has seen two sickening oil spills by Shell, violating the waters of the Gulf and the fields just outside Tracy, California.

In the face of such blatant disregard for nature and the people whose livelihoods depend upon it being clean, safe and plentiful, it’s easy to give in to despair.

Instead the climate movement is doing the exact opposite; we’re rising up, uniting and growing stronger by the day. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of.

When Shell set its sights on the Arctic’s oil, it met resistance every step of the way, from remote Pacific waters, to Seattle, Portland and Alaska. Under the pressure, Shell quit the Arctic.

When the Keystone XL pipeline threatened to plough through the farmlands and wilderness of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the resistance showed up diverse and determined. Under the pressure, President Obama struck down the plan to build the pipeline.

And when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hinted that it was considering permitting drilling off the Atlantic coast, communities from Virginia to Florida rose up and said “no way”. Under the pressure, BOEM left Atlantic drilling out of its proposed Five Year Plan.

This is the unstoppable force of the climate movement.

From the Gulf Coast, to Colorado, Alaska, to Albany, communities are uniting to demand that fossil fuels stay in the ground, where they belong.

Some folks may doubt whether people power can really make a difference, but it’s very clear that we’ve got the fossil fuel industry running scared.  Right after protesters near Denver disrupted a government auction of public lands for oil and gas drilling last week, fossil fuel industry lobbyists held closed-door conversations about convincing the government to take the auctions online. Clearly they’d rather not deal with the “nuisance” of responding to public pressure over what happens to public lands!

Oil giant Exxon is also clearly feeling the heat. Last week, Greenpeace was among a number of organizations who received a letter signed by 13 members of Congress (on behalf of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology) claiming that we may be violating Exxon’s right to free speech. Really?! This is the company that knew about the threat posed to our planet by burning fossil fuels, as far back as the 70’s and while publicly denying these risks, built them into its business plans. It seems that the lack of free speech from Exxon when it comes to what they knew about climate change is more the problem here.

For all the hope that the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground has inspired across the country, there are still real and urgent struggles ahead of us. The Bureau of Land Management, (that oversees the leasing of public lands to fossil fuel companies) might change its auction format, but that doesn’t protect America’s magnificent public lands from the ravages of oil and gas extraction.The fight against Keystone has refracted into thousands of local fights against oil and gas infrastructure from North Dakota through the Rocky Mountain West and up and down the East Coast. And despite BOEM’s removal of the Atlantic from its draft Five Year Plan, new leases in the fragile Arctic and the beleaguered Gulf of Mexico are still very much on the table. Now is the time to be emboldened by our growing movement and be more ambitious every day.

In many cases, there’s a clear path towards solutions.

Right now, BOEM is accepting public comments on its draft Five Year Plan for offshore drilling. Shell has already reminded us this past week how dangerous drilling for oil in ocean waters is, and nobody is more attuned to that than residents of the Gulf Coast, whose livelihoods have been threatened by spill after spill. The Obama Administration will essentially has the last say on BOEM’s plans. So with your help we can deliver President Obama 200,000 signatures demanding he takes the vital first step to keeping our coastal communities safe and our offshore oil in the ground.

In other cases, we need to create our own solutions. The fossil fuel industry might be down, but like a wounded beast, it is still very dangerous. States and lawmakers–Republican and Democrat–across the country are in its pocket. Where weak lawmakers bow to the industry’s will by removing the people’s voice from decisionmaking, civil disobedience is needed to make sure the people are heard. As pipelines, drillpads, gas plants, and oil rigs encroach upon and sicken communities, we will not sit idly by.

Wherever you are across this country, or around the world, you can be certain there’s a fossil fuel project that needs to be opposed.

Now is the moment for a vast, nonviolent movement to arise, insistent that fossil fuels stay in the ground and that everyone has a clean, safe future in sight. It’s now or never. Let’s be unstoppable.

Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the executive director of Greenpeace USA, founder of the Story of Stuff Project, and has spent more than twenty years investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. In addition to the original short film, Story of Stuff,  she also created The Story of Cap & TradeThe Story of Cosmetics, The Story of Bottled Water, and The Story of Electronics.

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