Why Bill McKibben is Willing to Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal

Susan Sarandon too adds her voice to those urging action against coal burning...

Writer, environmentalist and scholar in residence at Middlebury College, Bill McKibben's name pops up fairly frequently on TreeHugger (he even gets his own tag!). Well, in a new piece for Yale Environment 360 McKibben explains why he will be heading to Washington DC on March 2 to join demonstrations to close the nation's capitol's coal-fired power plant. Check it out:I know many of you are probably thinking either 1) what good does civil disobedience do anymore, or 2) Barack Obama has already done a pretty good job with his appointments and actions so far, so why should we risk arrest to close one measly power plant? To those sort of questions, McKibben responds:

... this is just the moment to up the ante. For one thing, it would have done no good in the past: you think Dick Cheney was going to pay attention?

More importantly. we need a powerful and active movement not to force the administration and the Democrats in Congress to do something they don't want to, but to give them the political space they need to act on their convictions. Barack Obama was a community organizer — he understands that major change only comes when it's demanded, when there's some force noisy enough to drown out the eternal hum of business as usual, of vested interest, of inertia.

And those vested interests are...

Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down — or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere — will be incredibly hard. Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money — the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.


The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people's minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It's bad when you mine it, it's bad for the city where you burn it, and it's bad for the climate.

And why this coal-fired power plant?

Simple: It's owned by Congress. There's no utility company to deal with; all it would take to get the OK to shut it down would be vote in Congress. Logistically of course it's bigger than that: That power will have to come from somewhere else.

But apart from the symbolism of the act of shutting it down, as McKibben says, "it's a way to get the conversation started": The conversation that we all have to engage in, that if humans don't quickly stopped burning coal—not quickly as in next year or even five years, but quickly as in by 2030 globally and the developed world much sooner than that—we will have next to no hope to restore atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to levels which won't cause catastrophic climate change.

Interested in joining Bill McKibben, James Hansen and thousands of others in DC on March 2? Here's the protest info: Capital Climate Action

via: Yale Environment 360
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