Readers of my articles on LikeTheDew will know that I’m not an advocate of defying the law, but I’m about to encourage this where necessary. Often focused on the joys of my grandchildren, this time I’m focused on yours too. I’m talking about Climate Change and our need to DO something about it.
I was heartened to read about two activists who set an example in May 2013, protesting about the burning of coal in an attention-seeking move, by taking a small lobster boat named “The Henry David T,” (a reference to Thoreau) to picket the Brayton Point Power Station off the Massachusetts coast, built in 1963 and the largest source of carbon emissions in the region. The pair successfully blocked access to the pier, preventing the unloading of a coal cargo of 40,000 tons. The banners displayed on their boat read “#CoalIsStupid” and “350” to leave no doubt about their motivation.
350 ppm is the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere considered the limit to avoid catastrophic human-induced climate change. They reported themselves to police and were arrested by the US Coast Guard.
Ken Ward Jr. and Jay O’Hara (A Quaker and a sailmaker on Cape Cod) were faced with years in prison if convicted of the charges: “Disturbing the peace, conspiracy to disturb the peace, negligent operation of a motor vessel, failure to act to avoid a collision of a boat.” They admitted breaking the law but claimed their action was to prevent a much greater harm, contributing to global warming. This month they went to court. The District Attorney of Bristol County, Sam Sutter, offered them a deal, to drop all criminal charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a civil offense and a fine.
D.A. Sam Sutter then stood in front of the courthouse where he announced to the defendants and their shocked supporters:
“The decision reached today….certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers….but was made with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond, in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking… we were able to reach an agreement that symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol Count District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.”
This week the World Meteorological Organization, in its latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, packed with dire statistics about the accelerating threat of climate change, announced “The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013”; the current concentration of carbon dioxide is 396 ppm.
In 1849 Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” He was a naturalist and pacifist who advocated breaking laws when necessary in order to amend them.
I applaud the moral courage of D.A. Sam Sutter in demonstrating and urging better political leadership on this issue. If humanity is to have a viable future, if our grandchildren will otherwise carry the can for our inaction now, Climate Change should be the primary concern of our politicians and the electorate, come the elections. “It’s about the Climate, stupid.”
Author’s Note: This draws on Amy Goodman’s essay “The Climate Marches On” published in Truth Dig.
Editor’s Note: To learn more, visit LobsterBoatBlockade.org.