Civil disobedience campaigns have brought some massive changes in government policy and actions : the Suffragette Movement; the American Civil Right Movement; the anti-Apartheid Movement to name a few. It took ordinary people – lots of them – to be willing to get out on the streets, march, write letters, protest, sometimes get arrested, and sometimes put their own safety on the line all in order to bring about the radical change that their elected politicians, if they had any, were unwilling to act on.
Is this what is needed to bring about the environmental and economic change we need to protect our place on our planet? I say ‘our place’ because the planet itself is not in danger. But our place, and the place of many other species, very definitely is in danger.
The film “Disobedience” kicks off a month of worldwide civil disobedience actions geared to bring the era of the coal industry and coal-powered power stations to an end. Here are some quotes from the film that stood for me:
a woman activist in the Philippines: We create change through empowerment of people because we believe that is the only change that will last.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Lipa, Philippines: What must be globalised is concern for one another, the whole world is our responsibility.
Naomi Klein: The laws of nature and the laws of economics are in conflict at the moment Either everything changes because the climate changes and it changes our physical world in ways that we can barely fathom. Or we change our economy in fundamental ways. The idea that there is some middle road where carry on with our economy pretty much as is – that option is actually not available us.
First Nations Community Leader, Alberta, Canada:
The politicians say “Why don’t you negotiate with Kinder Morgan (Alberta Tar Sands developers) and take the money? Your people need it after all.” We don’t need it more than we need our land.
Ricken Patel, founding President of AVAAZ: In the US there is a level of state failure. The legislature is bought and paid for by the oil companies and other companies.
The CO2 that we have been releasing into the atmosphere over past hundred years had taken 100 million years to be captured and stored in rocks.,
The effect of civil disobedience is often to raise the cost of business as usual and so make it more expensive to resists change than to agree to it.
The limits of the possible are there to be moved. It’s the people who are engaged who determine what a government does. It’s up to us to decide to be part of that or not.
I am absolutely sure that there is going to one helluva fight.
Watch the film here:
A month later, this is what happened: 20 action on 6 continents by 30,000 people: