“The fight to stop KXL will be one of the defining battles of our generation. A victory here will mark the close of the old carbon era, and the start of the new energy revolution—our revolution. America’s youth now have the chance to take up the torch, and light a new fire.” Conor Kennedy, youth climate activist
Revolutions are unpredictable things, literally. Was there anyone who thought that when Rosa Parks sat down in 1955 on that Montgomery, Al. bus that her action would lead to a powerful Freedom Movement which, in ten years, would force an end to legal segregation in the South? Who in their right mind would have bet that South African apartheid and the Soviet Union would both come to an end in the decade of the 90’s?
Could it be that we are literally right now, in February 2014, seeing a wave of street actions and other actions in the US that historians in the future will look back upon as the time when the “new energy revolution” began here in the United States?
What is happening that makes me think this is a possibility? It’s the fact that over a four week period, from February 3rd to March 2nd, there will be three days of visible, major actions on key climate issues.
February 3rd was the strongest rapid response set of actions the environmental movement has ever seen in the US. On that day, three days after the State Department released its oil industry-influenced Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, coordinated local actions were held in close to 300 places in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates are that 10,000 people took place.
On February 20th a broad coalition of climate and no-fracking groups are coming together for what will likely be the largest environmental demonstration ever in the city of Baltimore, Md. They will be marching and rallying against the proposed natural gas export terminal in Cove Point, Md. which, if built, would accelerate fracking throughout the Marcellus Shale region. It would make it much harder to maintain the moratoriums on fracking in New York, the Delaware River Basin and Maryland. Mobilizing for this action is taking place in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, DC and Virginia and is being actively built by national groups like the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, 350.org and Credo Mobile.
And on March 2nd hundreds of students and young people are expected to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience at the White House to pressure President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The day before the “XL Dissent” protest, students will meet for a non-violent direct action training and fossil fuel divestment conference. The sit-in at the White House will be the largest act of civil disobedience by young people in the recent history of the environmental movement. The protest is meant to send a clear signal to President Obama that the base that helped elect him sees Keystone XL as a decision that will define his entire legacy.
It’s a big deal to see young people stepping forward to engage in mass civil disobedience, but it’s not coming out of nowhere. Last October the fourth Power Shift gathering of young people, 6,000 strong, took place in Pittsburgh, Pa. The three gatherings before had been held in DC, but this one was held in Pittsburgh primarily to make a loud statement against fracking in a state and a region where it is wreaking major damage.
The climate movement that is undertaking these actions over this four-week period is a movement that gets it on the need to transition as quickly as possible off of all of the dirty fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas. It gets it that such a transition will be a positive thing not just for our destabilized climate but for millions of people who will find meaningful jobs in the renewable energy- and energy efficiency-grounded economy that must replace our current fossil fuel-dominated economy. It gets it that the specific issues of front line communities, mainly people of color and working class communities, those most impacted by the air, water and land pollution from the operations of the fossil fuel industry, must be consistently prominent alongside the climate issues.
It’s rare that the month of February is a time for mass mobilization by issue-oriented groups. The fact that it is happening on the climate issue, the fact that it includes planned civil disobedience on a large scale, and the fact that these actions will be followed by others, I am certain, to keep building the momentum is a big deal.
Information on the Feb. 20th mobilization to Baltimore can be found at http://stopcovepoint.org.
Information on the March 2nd mobilization to DC can be found at http://xldissent.org.
Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.