"There are nicer ways to do it. But the nice ways always fail.”
The 1960s folk singer Malvina Reynolds wrote a song: “It Isn’t Nice,” singing, “It isn’t nice to block the doorway. It isn’t nice to go to jail. There are nicer ways to do it. But the nice ways always fail.”
Keep Malvina in mind as you read about the climate protests next week and in the days to come, including Climate Defiance blocking the doors to Citigroup because of their financing of new oil and gas projects. Prepare to witness a militant escalation of tactics aimed at the fossil fuel industry and their role in delaying society’s response to climate change.
After a summer of floods, fires, droughts, record heat, and weather disruption, we are clearly moving into the “new abnormal,” fueled by increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet even President Biden can’t seem to mouth the words “climate emergency.” As part of the June budget deficit deal, Biden approved an expedited Mountain Valley gas pipeline project along with an unprecedented legal shield against delaying lawsuits.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead.
A new United Nations global climate report card finds countries need to catch up in meeting their Paris Agreement goals in reducing emissions. We would be making more progress if an unrepentant fossil fuel industry wasn’t using its considerable clout to block the transition to a clean energy future.
As global leaders gather in New York City for Climate Week and other United Nations meetings, hundreds of thousands will join the March to End Fossil Fuels. Some of them will be “blocking the doorways.”
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Actions in Europe presage US coming attractions. Extinction Rebellion UK has blocked roads and building entrances, Just Stop Oil activists threw soup at paintings and disrupted cultural events, while other European activists blocked private jet runways.
Their focus on fossil fuel corporations makes sense. Investigative reporting has revealed that the largest fossil fuel companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, have known about the dangerous repercussions of burning coal, gas and oil for decades. And this week The Wall Street Journal offered its own expose about Exxon’s internal strategy to downplay climate risk.
If governments and the public had known what these corporate leaders knew four decades ago, we could have moved more quickly to a safe energy transition. Instead, the industry has “run out the clock”—making low-hanging fruit adjustments impossible and putting our planet on a trajectory towards ecosystem collapse right up until the present moment.
The leaders of a couple dozen global energy corporations are making conscious decisions to build new infrastructure to extract and burn billions of tons of carbon and methane presently sequestered. AGuardian expose identified 195 carbon bomb projects that would each burn a billion tons of carbon over their lifetime. Private airports are making plans to expand capacity for private jet travel, one of the least defensible forms of luxury excess.
In this context, more people are abandoning our political system as the arena for making change, focusing on private sector responses, such as carbon capture technologies, and militant direct actions to block new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure.
Disruptive direct action, such as efforts by Extinction Rebellion and Climate Defiance, are critical to drawing attention to the fight, an urgency that will only grow as ecological stability unravels. On Earth Day last year, a Colorado activist, Wynn Bruce self-immolated himself on the steps of the Supreme Court as they handed down a decision undermining climate protections.
More people are abandoning our political system as the arena for making change, focusing on private sector responses, such as carbon capture technologies, and militant direct actions to block new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure.
The collision course between ecological realities and our insufficient societal responses will only intensify. The coming decade will see more Wynn Bruce acts of desperation and eco-sabotage, like that depicted in the dramatic new film,How to Blow Up a Pipelineand the nonfiction book by Andreas Malm with the same name.
Works of future fiction may be preparing us for what may lay ahead. InMinistry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson depicts a murky “black ops” group that leads to private jets falling from the sky and hostage-taking.
In my novel, Altar to an Erupting Sun, a group of terminally-ill grandmothers calling themselves the Good Ancestors self-immolate themselves in the lobby of ExxonMobil, a wake-up call that mobilizes humanity. Other fictional activists focus on preparing their New England communities to face a disrupted future by building local food resilience, mutual aid, and the capacity to welcome climate refugees. In The Deluge, author Stephen Markley describes the radicalization of right and left-wing activists to rising sea level rise and economic collapse.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead. What we need is a bold “just transition” program that ends fossil fuels as soon as possible, including a declaration of a climate emergency, a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and the elimination of government subsidies for oil, gas, and coal, and its timely phase-out.Until this program can move forward, be prepared to find people blocking the doorways.