According to a Yale survey on Americans' interest in global warming, few Americans are vocal about the crisis:
- Only one in three Americans say they discuss global warming at least occasionally with friends or family, down 8 points since November 2008;
- Few Americans (<8%) communicated publically about global warming in the past 12 months (e.g., online or in the media);
- About one in ten Americans wrote letters, emailed, or phoned a government official about global warming in the past 12 months;
One in eight people (13%) say they would be willing to personally engage in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse.
Rigg explains what makes civil disobedience the most effective as a tactical tool:
But I would offer two observations about what makes civil disobedience most powerful:
- When it involves taking a serious personal risk (including the possibility of extended jail time) - a genuine sacrifice. Obviously one person's sense of sacrifice will be different than another's, but no one ever inspired millions by giving up meat once a week. Those four Greenpeace women who climbed the Shard recently? That was really something.
When there is a very clear and tangible villain - one that conjures up heartfelt anger that resonates with those who witness it. When Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year-old great-grandmother was recently arrested for blocking TransCanada's bulldozers ON HER OWN LAND, I could almost feel my blood boiling.
So in answer to my own questions... Do numbers matter? Yes, I think so, though not necessarily in absolute terms. In many cases it's enough simply to exceed expectations. But getting 40 million people out on the streets would almost certainly be game changing.
I've written before about the case for civil disobedience and how civil disobedience can best help the climate movement. We've already seen these tactics work in delaying the Keystone XL pipeline and pressuring universities to divest from fossil fuel companies.
As we near the climate change tipping point, we will need to see more actions like this to put pressure on politicians at every level to enact policies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.