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A Shout Out to Climate Activists

Thank you.

That's what I want to say to everyone out in the snow doing civil disobedience [yesterday].

Thanks to Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben for their call to action:

"There are moments in a nation's-and a planet's-history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. We think such a time has arrived."

Thanks to Bill Greider, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva, and Martin Sheen and others for taking a stand:

"Ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen and with climate and energy legislation coming down the pipe, 2009 is a now-or-never moment to ensure that climate and energy decisions by our government are bold, just and far-reaching. Right now, it is up to civil society to take the lead in demonstrating in ever-more powerful ways to provide political cover for lawmakers who will face fierce pressure from business groups, like the coal lobby, to water down or vote down bold solutions."

Thanks to the Rukus Society, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) for organizing this large-scale civil disobedience. Matt Leonard of Greenpeace:

"This demonstration marks the beginning of a sustained effort to draw a line in the sand against this dirty and dangerous fuel."

Thanks to the youth who are showing up at Powershift and in their own communities to press for climate action. Joshua Kahn Russell -- thank you for standing up for survival at the global climate summit in Poland in December, and for mobilizing youth for today's civil disobedience. Here's how Joshua explains what's happening:

"We will be sitting-in at the dirty coal power station that literally powers our congressional building in DC. This Power Station is just blocks from Congress and is a national symbol for the stranglehold dirty energy sources like coal have over our communities, our climate and our future. Coal is the single biggest contributor to global warming and it will be impossible to have a safe and secure future for humankind if we continue to burn it."

A qualified "thank you" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who last week asked the Capitol architect to switch the power plant in question to natural gas -- achieving the immediate aim of the protesters without a single arrest. I'm not sure if they took that action out of concern about the climate emergency or as an attempt to pre-empt today's protests. But the protest is on, in spite of today's snow and frigid temperatures. (You can follow the action on twitter, here.)

This coal plant is just one among the thousands around the world that threaten to push climate disruption beyond the point of no return (if we aren't already there). The BBC recently reported yet another survey that shows that the damage to the climate is happening more rapidly than cautious scientists had predicted.

And, according to NASA's Jim Hansen -- the climate scientist the Bush administration was unable to muzzle -- this is a climate emergency:

"Coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and that must change. The world is waiting for the Obama administration and Congress to lead the way forward on this defining issue of our time. They need to start by getting coal out of Congress."

Dr. Hansen is joining the protest, which organizers hope will be the largest civil disobedience action on climate ever. Thank you, Dr. Hansen, for stepping out of the cloistered role of scientist to help the rest of us understand the urgency.

We are being thrust out of business-as-usual, like it or not, by the financial melt-down coupled with increasing evidence of climate disaster. The moral leadership of those risking arrest today along with the Obama administration could could bring us closer to a turn around. Thanks to everyone who is making it so.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is founder and director of, co-founder of YES! Magazine, and author of The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America. Follow her blog and connect with Sarah on Twitter: @sarahvangelder

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