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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Humanity in the Hot Seat: Civil Disobedience and Global Warming

Humanity+in+the+Hot+Seat%3A+Civil+Disobedience+and+Global+Warming

In December of 2009, world leaders gathered in Copenhagen to come to agreement on a firm reduction and eventually cessation of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that are rapidly destabilizing the global climate and, if unchecked, will have disastrous consequences for countries across the planet. This meeting came as new scientific consensus emerged that the effects of global climate change are coming far more rapid than had been previously anticipated. The coming decades, if carbon emissions are not cut, will almost certainly see rising sea levels that threaten coastal populations, ever stronger storm systems like hurricanes shattering through cities, massive drought and wildfire in some areas while ever greater levels of precipitation in others, and much more.              What the scientific consensus told us ahead of the Copenhagen summit is the upper limit amount of carbon in the atmosphere for human civilization to safely thrive is 350 parts per million (ppm). We are currently at 387ppm and growing faster every year, quickly approaching a level we cannot recede from. This was a major point going into the Copenhagen summit, how to reduce atmospheric carbon to a safe level so that we do not endanger the planet and human civilization as we know it. Unfortunately for the planet, the summit collapsed in utter failure..              What was clear from Copenhagen, and the lead up to it, is that world leaders are incapable of coming to a real agreement on reducing carbon emissions. If the US government, even the Obama Administration is not willing to make real, necessary changes to US policy, what will it take?              The case of Tim DeChristopher brings attention to the kind of action, and power, that everyday citizens have and should exercise. In the last months of the Bush Administration, the federal government decided to open up 150,000 acres of public land in Utah and auction it off to energy companies so they could drill for oil and gas. The legality of such an auction was in question but the Bush Administration did not care. Tim DeChristopher, a 22 year old college student, went to the auction to witness executives from energy companies cheaply bid on the public’s land so they could exploit it for their own gain. Then someone came up to DeChristopher and asked him if he was an executive there for the auction; to which DeChristopher replied “Yes.”              Thus began a scene where DeChristopher sat in the auction room and outbid against leaders of the most powerful energy corporations in the world, effectively saving 22,000 acres of land from being taken from the public. Of course, DeChristopher had no money to pay for this; but this was discovered only after the auction and by then it was too late to put that land back up for sale. Those 22,000 acres remain in the public domain, safe from exploitation. DeChristopher, however, now faces up to $750,000 in fines and ten years in prison for what he did. To this day, as his defense team prepares for trial, DeChristopher remains proud of what he did and says he has no regrets. For more information on his case, and what you can do to help, go to his site at www.bidder70.org              The larger purpose of the case of Tim DeChristopher is to illustrate an example where one citizen took a defiant act of civil disobedience and helped save tens of thousands of acres of land from being drilled and developed and turned into pollutants which are and will destroy our planet. Make no mistake; civil disobedience is by definition illegal; but it is in the tradition of the great movements and changes that have been made in the United States. As Martin Luther King noted, “an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust…is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” From abolition to workers rights, to the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, real change was made not by great leaders from above but by citizens below who took action, even if technically illegal, because it was the right and moral thing to do. The greatest challenges we face as a planet are the consequences of an earth out of balance if we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We know the government, essentially bought off by the energy companies, is useless at doing anything on its own. But we also know that change can happen when citizens take action. Will you?Here is a start:www.350.orgwww.theleadershipcampaign.org