Dirty Coal, Climate Destabilization and the Nonviolent Resistance Movement

All of the significant movements for nonviolent social change must at one point cross a line where its goals become aligned with the power of truth. In the incipient movement against climate destabilization and a destructive and dirty coal industry, I believe that line was successfully crossed on March 2. Its significance far surpasses the symbolic victory of blockading the entrances to the Capitol Power Plant. The line I speak of refers to the realm of the human spirit, the recapturing of hope, and the role of hope in liberating a truly empowered movement to address the over-riding danger that presently casts a menacing shadow over our planet.

It was impossible to ignore the earnestness and determination expressed in the faces of thousands of young people unwilling to accept this threat to their future. The reader is encouraged to visit the action website at: www.capitolclimateaction.org for many sample photos of amazing and inspiring scenes from this historic event, some of which brought this writer tears of joy.

There are historic moments when a movement becomes aware that it is tapping into this immense power. It is a time of spiritual awakening, when seekers of change suddenly realize they have unleashed an infinite force far beyond the strength of any individuals - what Gandhi referred to as "satyagraha". It is comparable to those moments in time when the peasants of India understood that an entire British empire could be defied and bus riders in Montgomery, Alabama realized that racism was not in reality an immovable fact of life.

The action in DC yesterday was more than a display of youthful exuberance. It was an aligning of this movement with the power of that truth. In a coalescing of many forces described as "historic", this is the fundamental achievement of March 2 that may indeed go down in history. When one of the most respected climate scientists in the world walked across the street and joined the nonviolent blockade at the gate, there was a palpable sense of this power being both asserted and released.

It was a moment for real celebration, and jubilant it was. While the battle has not yet been won, what was witnessed by those of us fortunate enough to be there may well have been a genuine turning point. The moral authority of our movement is now in the ascendancy, while that of the coal industry is in rapid decline.

Within the diminishing window of time we have to avert climate disaster, the imperative to take direct action has never received greater legitimacy. Even a former vice president of the United States now says the following: "If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration" (speech by Al Gore at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting).

The scope and pace of such nonviolent direct action is now quickening. Our empowerment as a movement has not come a moment too soon. The challenge is to continue to tap into the very real spiritual vitality that participants experienced on March 2 and bring it forward with us into all future actions. Wherever the coal industry attempts to continue its destructive and planet-threatening "business as usual", we must bring the deep connection to "truth power" that prevailed at the Capitol Power Plant. If we do so, this movement will be unstoppable.

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